Friday, 14 November 2014

Britain’s first African-Caribbean war memorial unveiled

By YEMI DIPEOLU - Fri Nov 14, 10:13 am
On The 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th minute of the 11th hour, Armistice Day 2014, Britain’s first memorial commemorating the contributions and sacrifices of African and Caribbean soldiers during the First and Second World Wars was unveiled in Brixton, south London.
The general sentiment on the day was the expected feelings of awe and respect coupled with bewilderment as to why it has taken so long for this to happen.
“This year, as the one hundredth anniversary of the start of the First World War is observed, it is fair to say that the role played by the Caribbean, Africa, India and other parts of Asia is still not widely known by many in Britain,” Her Excellency, The Honorouble Aloun Ndombet-Assamba, High Commissioner for Jamaica said.
“The Caribbean and Africa were profoundly affected by the war as manpower, materials and funds were sent by them to the aid the war effort to protect Britain and Europe.  Although troops from the Caribbean and Africa played a critical role in the war, they were never properly compensated or recognized and their work and sacrifices are still treated as a footnote. This memorial is a fitting permanent tribute to those thousands of men and women from Africa and the Caribbean. I hope that it will go some way to highlight that we were also an important part of this shared history,” she added.
Dignitaries from various segments of the community were in attendance, including WW2 Veteran Sam King, who came to the UK after the war on the famous Empire Windrush, as well as Lambeth’s Mayor Cllr Aminu and representatives from seven African and Caribbean High Commissions.
The momentous historical event was made possible by heritage charity Nubian Jak Community Trust in collaboration with the West Indian Association of Service Personnel. The event was also supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Lambeth Council and the Black Cultural Archives, where the event was held.
Sue Bowers, head of Heritage Lottery Fund, who helped to sponsor the memorial stated: “This memorial project will help to tell a story that is often overlooked in the history of the two World Wars and will employ a variety of imaginative ways to engage audiences of all ages.”
The monument itself weighs two and a half tonnes and is made from the rare Scottish Wint rock, which has been used to sculpt war memorials all over the country.
It is engraved with the names of all the African and Caribbean regiments which contributed to both World Wars. Over 165,000 African soldiers sacrificed their lives, but their contribution has, until now, largely gone unnoticed.
Jak Beula – Chair of the Nubian Jak Commemorative Plaque Scheme said: “The efforts of military contribution to both World Wars by African and Caribbean soldiers have for too long remained overlooked and unheralded. This WWI memorial will correct that omission and give justice and dignity to the tens of thousands of African and Caribbean servicemen and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for the mother country”.
It is hoped that, with the help of more funding, the memorial will take permanent residence on Brixton’s famous Windrush Square, where people from all over the capital can finally pay their respects to the brave African and Caribbean soldiers who gave their lives for our freedom.