Million citizens of the British Empire

October is Black History Month and throughout this month we’ll be looking at some of the war memorials around the UK that commemorate the contribution of Africans and Caribbeans.

MEN OF THE NIGERIAN BRIGADE DURING THE GERMAN EAST AFRICAN CAMPAIGN, 1918Unveiled shortly after the First World War in Westminster Abbey, is a memorial tablet and a wooden triptych to the million citizens of the British Empire who died during the war.

The triptych lists the number who enlisted from each country in the British Empire.  This includes South Africa (136,074), East Africa (26,300) Nyassaland (now Malawi – 10,800) Rhodesia (7,200) Nigeria (15,567) Gold Coast (10,287) Sierra Leone (694) Gambia (371) West Indies, British Honduras and British Guiana (15,950) and Bermuda (360).

Many of these troops saw action in their own countries during the First World War, defending them from neighbouring German territories and then driving the Germans from Africa. 

However, many others served far from home.  This included the British West Indies Regiment that was formed in 1915 and sent volunteers to fight in Palestine, Italy and the Western Front.  Many Africans, including 60,000 black South Africans, served in Labour Units providing support to front line troops.

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