Living Memorial | Project Overview
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Project Overview

Our World War Two Digital Living Memorial website features the previously untold and newly discovered stories of the men and women from different races, cultural backgrounds and service experience who made a huge contribution to Britain’s victory over Hitler’s Nazi Germany.

 

Join us in watching video summaries of the veterans’ lives during the war, as told by them, and be informed about the war’s impact on their families and communities in the UK and abroad.

 

At the time, Britain laid claim to a large proportion of the world as its Empire and so called on the colonies to make generous contributions to aid the war effort. We take a special look at the often ignored personal stories of volunteers from Africa and the Caribbean.

 

These captivating accounts will tell of the veterans’ individual sacrifices and legacies through film, as well as letters, photographs and wartime memorabilia. With the then Empire’s overall population approaching 500 million people, you will learn about the sometimes harrowing experiences of African and Caribbean servicemen and women who expressed their loyalty to the flag of the “Mother Country” by volunteering to fight in the war.

AFRICAN AND CARIBBEAN RECRUITMENT

More than half of black people faced unemployment under colonial rule during the pre-war years. This was often due to the infamous “colour bar”, which saw the best jobs in the colonies denied to black people and given to white people instead. As a result, for many black people life was at a standstill and the harsh colonial conditions they had to endure meant that any opportunity to go to a Britain was met with much excitement.

 

It presented a great opportunity to earn wages and send much of the money to impoversished families back home as part of what is called “the remittance economy”.

 

When jobs were given to black people under the yoke of colonial rule the workers often had few rights and were poorly paid for their hard labour.  This inequality led to both the high levels of joblessness and workers, including in key oil industries in the Caribbean, striking, marching and protesting for better wages and working conditions. In addition to the strikes and riots, residential areas were heavily segregated between black people and white people, resulting in social and political unrest throughout the immediate pre-war years.

During this period Britain laid claim to a large proportion of the world as its Empire, and so called upon its colonies to also make generous contributions to aid the war effort. We take a special look at the often neglected and ignored personal stories of volunteers from Africa and the Caribbean.

 

These captivating accounts will tell of the veterans’ individual sacrifices and legacies through film, as well as letters, photos and wartime memorabilia. With the then Empires’ overall population approaching 500 million people, you will learn about the sometimes harrowing experiences endured by African and Caribbean servicemen and women who expressed their loyalty to the flag and “Mother Country” by volunteering to fight in the war.

REACHING OUT TO THE COLONIES

With the outbreak of war, Britain desperately needed the help of its Empire. As a result there was a stream of propaganda to aid in the recruitment of men and women throughout the Caribbean to help in the war effort. Newspapers and posters used phrases such as “‘Your Empire needs you” and “Together”. It became clear that the Caribbean population were willing to support Britain with thousands of young men and women enlisting.

 

The vital contributions that came from the Caribbean are largely overlooked. People from the colonies were encouraged to invest in war bonds. Individuals and voluntary organisations also joined together to raise money and goods to send to Europe. A number of men from the Caribbean who joined the Royal Air Force were decorated for their valour – 103 in total.

 

Jamaica funded a “Bombers for Britain” campaign advertised in the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper that saw millions of pounds donated. Trinidad further contributed more than 800,000 dollars to the bomber fund. The same fund had supplied three of the combat aircrafts to the RAF by 1942. In addition, West Africans donated more than £1.5 million to various British wartime collection pots.

 

It has been estimated that the monetary contributions alone from the Empire amounted to £48,000,000 made up of gifts and interest free loans along with many other vital resources such as ambulances and tanks.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened. He will fight savagely

General Dwight Eisenhower