1. I thought the RAF the best in the world.. In all, we prayed for British victory and every British success was hailed with much joy … we accepted the Allied slogan We Fight for Freedom quite literally. Chief Anthony Enahoro (Nigeria) 2. We were British! We were proud to be British. We didnt want to be anything but British. England was our mother country. Connie Mark (Jamaica) 3. I wanted to see England … I boarded the ship in great excitement. It was a childhood dream fulfilled. Eric Ferron (Jamaica) A
1. We knew that the Japanese were very cruel. We had an impression that they will be far worse than the British. Mahinder Singh Pujji (India) 2. She wanted to prove that white people were not any better than black people. This was an opportunity to see them at their own back door. about Odessa Gittens (Barbados) 3. Hitler denounced Jews and Negroes. We were described as undeveloped human beings … and it stung me – I felt really stung by that. I said, Im going to do my part to prove that hes wrong … I want to fly and Im going to be up there in a Spitfire and Im going to show some German. Im going to beat him, up there. Dudley Thompson (Jamaica) B
1. We had been told that unless we joined up Kenya would be occupied by Germans and Italians. To keep out these monsters and also to escape the boredom and difficulty of being unemployed in Nairobi, I enlisted. Waruhiu Itote (Kenya) 2. I had to support my parents, and my sisters and brother, on my teachers pay. I volunteered to join, but unfortunately I couldnt face my parents. I left without telling them… Frank Sexwale (South Africa) 4. Life was hard. We knew by joining the Army wed go to hardship; but youll have a stomach full, youll get some food to eat. Paul Gabine (Seychelles) 3. I wanted to further my studies and I was not able (because my father and mother had died) to pursue courses which you had to pay for. I thought this was a good opportunity to do my duty to Britain and to myself. Odessa Gittens (Barbados) C
During 1943 an international cricket match was to be played at Lords and I as asked to take part. I booked rooms at the Imperial Hotel for my wife and daughter and myself, and having had unhappy experiences in the past, at the time of booking I enquired Have you any objection to coloured people? the answer was: No. I arrived at the hotel with my superior officer from the Ministry of Labour and the manager of the cricket tour … The hotel manageress said to my superior officer: We will not have niggers in the hotel because of the Americans. If they stay tonight their luggage will be put out tomorrow. Learie Constantine, Colour Bar 1954
In a village near Newcastle called Silverdale I found a family who were very friendly to me and to the other East Africans …In was used to bossy settlers at home. I had known mostly arrogant and rude army officers who had no sympathy for African advancement. The Evans family were different. They toiled in the coal-pits during the day, and at home they did not have a single servant. Mrs Evans did everything at home, just like my mother. As workers, they were very close to Africans. They were friendly and understanding, and I found them willing and sympathetic listeners. They wanted to know about East Africa, and especially about Kenya. They were surprised and indignant to hear how their own government was oppressing Africans. This was news to them. At that time the majority of English people believed that their government in the African colonies was a benevolent one which worked very hard to uplift the African. They felt ashamed to hear that the main task of their government was to exploit Africa and to do everything possible to keep Africans poor and backward. Bildad Kaggia (Kenya), Roots of Freedom 1975
Up in Cumberland the camp was near a small town by the sea. There were only a few Jamaicans there. One hot afternoon four of us were lazing around on the beach when two children came by, a boy about eleven and a girl a few years younger. They stared at us very hard but didnt say anything… Our teacher told us that black men live in trees and they dont wear shoes and they dont wear clothes and they dont have houses. You can tell your teacher now that you met some black men who do wear shoes and clothes. My friends were furious now. Why should we educate these stupid kids just because their teacher was ignorant? … Are the teachers really so ignorant or do they tell the children lies? We were angry with the teachers but I couldn't be angry with the children. Eric Ferron, Man Youve Mixed, London 1995.
We are quite prepared to accept any suitable European women from the Colonies for enrolment into the ATS and would hope that you would arrange with the Treasury for their fares to be paid … I must emphasise that this applies to European women only and that we cannot agree to accept coloured women for service in this country. Letter from the Foreign Office to the Colonial Office 1943.
Part of the story of the British Commonwealth in the Second World War took place in a climate of stark racial prejudice. In one quarter at least, black men were not even permitted to lie as corpses alongside the white corpses of their fellow men, let alone to receive equal levels of pay or promotion while still alive. Somerville, Our War 1998.
He wandered the cities with very little money in his pockets. He did not know which places had a colour bar and which had not, and he was a bold African indeed who entered a NAAFI meant for British troops. In some cases he was welcomed, but in others he would be cold-shouldered. I have the impression that this segregation was never part of a deliberate plan in NAAFIs but depended on the whim of local commanders or even of the men running them. It must be added here that the individual British soldier was invariably kind to the African and refused to recognise any sort of colour bar. In the army itself, however, there was strict segregation since the British sergeant was senior always to the African sergeant. H Barber, Africans in Khaki 1948
Waruhiu Itote, MauMau General 1967 In 1944 we returned to India from the Kalewa battlefront. I took back with me many lasting memories. Among the shells and bullets there had been no pride, no air of superiority from our European comrades-in-arms. We drank the same tea, used the same water and lavatories, and shared the same jokes. There were no racial insults. The white heat of battle had blistered all that away and left only our common humanity and our common fate, either death or survival.