Birmingham churches to honour WW1's African and Caribbean servicemen

Sun 02 Jul 2017
By Eno Adeogun

A World War One centenary event is taking place today to honour the contributions of millions of African and Caribbean servicemen during the war.

Up to 1,000 people are expected to attend the remembrance service at the New Testament Church of God in Birmingham with guest speaker Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Chaplain to Her Majesty the Queen.

Dr Joe Aldred, from Churches together in England is one of this evening's organisers. He told Premier why the event is so important: "There's something about living in the diaspora that means that the major narratives tend to tell the story of the majority community and in that regard the world wars and the participation of African and Caribbean people in the world wars from Britain's colonies - that is no exception.

"Why are we not represented when it comes time to commemorate?"


The 'They Also Served' research project - led by the event's second organiser - historian Dr Angelina was set up to raise awareness among the black church membership and the wider community about African and Caribbean contribution to WW1. Aside from celebrating the servicemen, the 18 month project that will soon end, creatong a portable exhibition that can be displayed in public spaces such a churches, schools and libraries is another aim.

Dr Joe Aldred said tonight's event is long over-due and speaking about the service of African, Black British, and Caribbean soldiers, he added: "For too long, their exclusion has fed the assumption that it was a war that had only European participants, and consequently was a 'white man's war'.

"By uncovering stories of their courage, in the face of the enemy and of the discrimination they experienced by their own side, I hope that the awareness we have raised is a useful addition to the efforts undertaken by other historians… to remember these brave men, and to remind us that Black British history is a global history, and a shared history, and should be regarded as such."

Speaking ahead of the commemorative event, Revd Hudson-Wilkin said: "Last week I attended the unveiling of a permanent memorial in memory of those from Africa and the Caribbean who volunteered to help Britain in its fight for the freedom of Europe. That event and this upcoming service marks a seminal moment in the history of this country, where we honour their contribution…"

Listen to Dr Joe Aldred speaking with Premier's Eno Adeogun:

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