On the 7th August 1914, three days after the declaration of war by Britain against Germany and its allies, a group of soldiers from the Gold Coast Regiment (Ghana) were making their way through German-controlled Togoland (West Africa) advancing towards the capital. En route, the regiment encountered a German patrol force which opened fire on them. Sergeant Alhaji Grunshi returned fire, and in doing so became the first soldier in the British forces to fire a shot at the start of World War One (WWI).
The First World War was effectively the world’s first truly global conflict; it would go on to become the bloodiest conflict in human history, and was described as the “war to end all wars”. It impacted, involved, and encompassed the entire globe in a deadly fight that cost the lives of at least 15 million people and dismantled 3 global empires in the process. Britain’s colonies played an essential role in the deliverance of victory over enemy forces; but the role that the men and women of the Caribbean Islands and the African Continent played has been totally unappreciated and disregarded by today’s British government, it’s national institutions, it’s media, and also it’s general public. Three decades later the world was again at war.
In the Second World War, like WW1, Britain was again able to rely on the solidarity of its armed forces abroad; beyond their presence in the foreign theatres of war, islands in the Caribbean for example, had key attributes to make victory happen – Trinidad has the largest natural harbour in the Western hemisphere and became the most enclosed and defendable terminus for convoy routes in the Battle of the Atlantic. Aruba had the largest oil refinery in the world at the time, and after the British Navy stopped using coal in 1917, Aruba provided the oil that kept the engines and machines of war in action.
The period from 1914 to 1945 was pivotal, tragic, and heroic; the support, reinforcement, and defence by millions of African and Caribbean Soldiers during both World Wars still remains unheralded. Many made the ultimate sacrifice for Britain, without receiving recognition for their service… until now!
It is of critical importance that generic populations in the Commonwealth particularly, begin to recognise and understand the neglected and marginalized contributions made by African and Caribbean Service People of that time; to harness the inherent values that enabled these colonized personnel to rise above the discrimination, and increase these virtues for better inter-racial cohesion and dialogue.

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