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This is a download that can be used to explain the WW1 to children

A Return to Slavery if we lost the War -John J Blair

“While we were fighting we never thought about defending the Empire or anything along those lines. We just knew deep down inside that we were all in this together and that what was taking place around our world had to be stopped…Few people think about what would have happened to them in Jamaica if Germany had defeated Britain, but we certainly could have returned to slavery.” Flight Lieutenant John J. Blair
Black SAS war hero who held off 250 rebels single-handed to be immortalised in statue 
He was fighting a secret and brutal war in a dusty land far from home.

But while the 1972 clash between British forces and Communist rebels in Oman has long passed into history, the actions of Sergeant Talaiasi Labalaba have not.

Instead, the Fijian soldier's exemplary courage under fire places him high on the pantheon of SAS heroes.

Labalaba is remembered to this day. Next month, a statue of the soldier will be unveiled at SAS headquarters in Hereford in the run-up to Remembrance Sunday.

And in a week when the British National Party was accused of appropriating the British military for their own ends - and airbrushing ethnic minority personnel from history -  his story seems particularly poignant. 

The sergeant and his nine-strong SAS unit were part of a clandestine mission to protect the Sultan of Oman from the People's Front for the Liberation of the Occupied Arab Gulf.

By July 1972, they had been in the country for a year and the assignment - codenamed Operation Jaguar - appeared to be going well.

But then the rebels stuck back. On the morning of July 19, around 250 elite fighters stormed MIrbat, a small town on the Arabian sea, leaving the SAS pinned down inside a fort.

As his comrades fought an increasingly desperate battle to hold off 250 insurgents, it dawned on Labalaba, 30, that they were about to be overrun.

With no cover and facing certain death, he sprinted across 800 metres of exposed ground to reach a 25-pound field-gun.

It was a brave - but apparently futile manouevre - as the huge weapon took three men to operate.

That, however, did not deter Labalaba. Nor did facial injuries which would have rendered a lesser man helpless.

As British forces watched in astonishment, Labalaba turned the cumbersome gun on the enemy and opened fire at near point blank range.


First VC winner in 20 years: Private Johnson Beharry after being presented with his medal
But they clearly felt that giving him such an honour was simply too much.

There was no such bar to Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry receiving the Victoria Cross, the military's highest award for bravery, in 2005.

Grenada-born Beharry was given his medal - the first VC awarded in 20 years - for saving 30 colleagues by guiding them through an ambush in Iraq.

He suffered serious head wounds in a rocket-propelled grenade assault that left him in a coma. Beharry will bear his scars for life but has made a good recovery.

 He went on for six hours, decimating the rebels and ultimately paying for his courage with his life.

His comrades found him slumped face down by the massive gun. His selfless actions undoubtedly saved many of the British soldiers holed up inside the fort and won him a posthumous Mention in Despatches.

For many, his statue will be a long-overdue memorial to one of the SAS's greatest heroes.

It is also some small recompense to thousands of ethnic minority servicemen, many from Commonwealth countries, who feel their courage and devotion has not been recognised in the same way as their white counterparts.

Labalaba and his comrade Trooper Sekonaia Takavesi, a fellow Fijian who rushed to his aid after he was wounded, are two of the most celebrated examples.

But there are countless others.

Among those are Second Lieutenant Walter Tull, born in Kent but the son of a former Barbados slave, who volunteered for the army just a week after the declaration of World War One.

He survived many battles, was the first British Army black officer to take charge of white troops and eventually died on the Western Front in 1918.

Tull's career, however, was blighted by prejudice.

Despite being recommended for the Military Cross for 'gallantry and coolness under fire', he never received it.

Senior officers had defied a rule which prevented soldiers with 'Asiatic or negroid features' being commissioned to make Tull a second lieutenant.

But they clearly felt that giving him such an honour was simply too much.

There was no such bar to Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry receiving the Victoria Cross, the military's highest award for bravery, in 2005.

Grenada-born Beharry was given his medal - the first VC awarded in 20 years - for saving 30 colleagues by guiding them through an ambush in Iraq.

He suffered serious head wounds in a rocket-propelled grenade assault that left him in a coma. Beharry will bear his scars for life but has made a good recovery.

Events that were held in Oct 2014 at the IWM and information for WW1

A Closer Look: Black Soldiers in the First World War
IWM North, Sun 12 October 2014 – Tue 28 October 2014 (Sundays and Tuesdays only at 3:30pm)
To mark Black History Month this year, IWM North are holding free 20-minute ‘walk and talk’ tours exploring the stories of Black and Commonwealth soldiers who fought in the First World War, such as Walter Tull, a professional footballer, who signed up as a Private and became one of the first British-born black men to rise to the rank of Officer and was promoted to Lieutenant in 1917.
Black Poppies: Britain's Black Community and the First World War
IWM London, 12 and 19 October 2014, 2pm-3:30pm
Historian Stephen Bourne presents an illustrated talk about his latest book, Black Poppies, as he discusses Britain's black community during the First World War.
On Active Service - what were black people doing during the First World War?
IWM London, 11 and 18 October 2014, 1.30pm - 4pm
Join Tony Warner as we examine the crucial role made by the Empire and Commonwealth countries overseas and on the Home Front during the First World War.
This illustrated talk will use recorded interviews with First World War veterans - including the West India Regiment in Palestine - and other conflicts from across the globe.
Whose Remembrance? screening
Grand Hall, Brent Civic Centre, London, 29 October 2014, 1pm-1:45pm
As part of Brent Remembers IWM presents an exclusive screening of Whose Remembrance? a film highlighting knowledge of the experiences of the peoples of Britain’s former empire in the two world wars. 

Discover a range of WW1 events
A range of other First World War-related events are taking place to mark Black History Month and further details can be found on the First World War Centenary Partnership website:
ree online resource guide
Researching the British Empire in the First World War which is available to download from the  website:

An article on the Caribbean soldier's involvement in WW1 by Stephen Bourne
A short version of the Caribbean soldiers in WW1 is attached as a word document

Sites with further details

1  National Archives: 



2  British Library resources: 



3  BBC for secondary schools: 



4  IWM: 



5  2 Caribbean soldiers books by African heritage 


6  Muslim soldiers: 


7  Indian VC recipients: 


8  Injured soldiers that were treated in Birmingham: 


9  Some digitised items from Library of Birmingham collection: 


10  Black Studies course at BCU:

What are the legacies of WW1
Jamaican family research
Award for Walter Tull appeal

The officer who refused to lie about being black

Today it's taken for granted that people of all ethnic groups should be treated equally in the armed forces and elsewhere. However, during World War One black officers in the British armed forces faced a system with prejudice at its core.

When war was declared in 1914, a Jamaican, David Louis Clemetson, was among the first to volunteer.

A 20-year-old law student at Cambridge University when war broke out, Clemetson was eager to show that he and others from British colonies like Jamaica - where the conflict in Europe had been dismissed by some as a "white man's war" - were willing to fight and die for King and Country.

He did die. Just 52 days before the war ended, he was killed in action on the Western Front.

For more details go to

50 years on, nothing much has changed. Black ex-servicemen still feel neglected by the military establishment and believe they are not afforded the same privileges and facilities as veterans from the white Commonwealth countries. Last year they felt snobbed at not being included in the D-Day Commemorations, and it has only been through a last-minute interventions from leading black figures, such as Bernie Grant, that has ensured invitations for the V.E.Day have been extended to the Gov. Gen. of Jamaica and the president of Trinidad.

The old black British soldiers have not been so lucky. Earlier this year and the West Indian ex-service men and women’s association was sent some forms inviting its members to apply for seating at the VE day commemorative events, but none has been successful. Unsurprisingly, the Association has decided to hold its own commemorative program. Since the vast majority of black and Asian veterans were fighting in the “Forgotten” war in Burma, Malaya and Africa, and most accounts of the war have been written from a Eurocentric perspective by white historians, there has been an inbuilt tendency to discount the contribution in their literature.

Yet, even in those books which focus on the campaigns in which black and Asian troops were involved, there has been a predisposition to be little better role. Colonel Ismail Khan who served with the Indian Army in Malaya has particularly strong feelings about this.

“There is always the sense that the Indian troops weren’t quite as good as the British, and the writers have tended to easy to ignore their efforts or to contend them by attacking their fighting spirit or exaggerating the desertions.”
For those children whose grandparents ER either dead or living overseas, the opportunities for learning even an oral history are extremely limited. Many black and Asian ex-servicemen now recognise that they have a responsibility to write their own history.

One institution firmly behind such moves is the Imperial War Museum. Anita Ballin: the museums education officer, says:

“There is material on the black war effort here at the moment, but you have to look pretty hard to find it, and many people have asked for more information.” In response to such requests the museum has assembled in multimedia resource pack entitled to gather for use in schools and which will also be available through public libraries. Ballin hopes that it is just the first step. “In time I would like the Museum to stage either a special exhibition or for more material to be included in the permanent displays.”
Such efforts are more than welcome, but the black and Asian ex-servicemen realise that it will take a great deal more to shift the underlying attitudes.

During the war, and black people were still a comparatively rare sight in this country, the racism they encountered was minimal, but that soon changed in the post war years. While the rest of Britain set about building a country fit for heroes, black people found that the country for which they had fought was denying them access to equal jobs and accommodation. “It seem as if no sooner had one to many and then another began,” says Laurent Phillpotts. “But just like the last war it’s a battle we are slowly winning.”

The Caribbean’s Great War is a Heritage

The Caribbean’s Great War is a Heritage 

 The West India Committee was the heart of the Caribbean’s war effort in Britain and in 1915 established the West Indian Contingent Committee in response to the British Government’s decision to raise a West Indian army. 

The records held by the Committee provide a rare insight into the Caribbean’s role in the First World War, and much of what is now available has not been seen for a century. As a part of the project, a temporary exhibition has been put on at the Museum of London Docklands which features a Roll of Honour to the British West Indies Regiment. The exhibition is housed in the London, Sugar and Slavery gallery at the Museum of London Docklands and runs from 6 November 2015 – 2 May 2016.

How Britons welcomed black soldiers during WWII

Why Britain's first black officer who gave up Tottenham football career to fight deserves Military Cross