Did you know that in June 1915, while the British House of Parliament were still deliberating as to whether or not to accept black West Indians into the army, St. Lucians were already joining the military units in Britain, France and Canada?
When black volunteers were finally deemed acceptable, a recruiting committee was immediately established in St. Lucia to sign up 100 volunteers. The local government agreed to pay for their passage (estimated to be £5000) and a ladies’ committee also started preparing warm clothes. A front-page advertisement in The Voice of St. Lucia dated August 1, 1915, immediately attracted 80 young volunteers and more young men followed closely behind.
Did you know during September 1915, 101 St. Lucian recruits and 18 men from neighbouring islands received basic military training at Morne Fortuné? On October 2, the first contingent of St. Lucian troops left the island for England. Nine more recruits left November 13 to join the newly established British west Indian Regiment (BWIR).
In January 1916, Private Dennis Fevrier died overseas of natural causes. On March 23, 1916, another group of 100 St. Lucians sailed for Europe. In August, one Ferdinand Bundy was killed in action while serving with the 28th Royal Fusiliers. Later that year, more casualties hit the regiment, as soldiers from the BWIR came under fire at the frontline. The survivors received praise for their courage while under attack.
On December 12, 1916, three soldiers from the contingent returned home from Egypt, all of them in ill health: George Beausoliel, Nelson Shadrock and Joseph Ernest. Three days later, news was received of the death of Private Felix Roque, and in February 1917, Lieutenant Kennier Ferguson also died. Shortly after, a supplementary vote of £2000 pounds from local revenue was approved to raise the 3rd St. Lucia Overseas Contingent, and by March 1917, volunteers were undergoing training at Vielle Ville barracks.
Source: A History of St. Lucia by Harmsen, Ellis & Devaux – 2012
This feature runs every Tuesday and Thursday. It is compiled by daughter of the soil Anselma Aimable, a former agricultural officer and former correspondent for Caribbean Net News, who has a deep interest in local culture and history. Send ideas and tips to [email protected]