Search the rolls of honour for men from the Caribbean who served in the British armed forces during the First World War. The record set currently includes men (and a few women) from six different islands within the British West Indies.
The amount of detail included varies according to the source of the original information. In general terms, these World War One records should provide at least the following details:
• First name(s)
• Last name
• Army service number (for NCOs and Other Ranks; officers had no numbers)
• Details of death (where applicable)
We strongly recommend that you read the "Discover more..." section below before searching this record set.
The term “rolls of honour” is here used in the broad sense. It includes nominal rolls for all who served, whether they died or survived, as well as rolls of honour which contain only details of those who were killed.
The presently available Caribbean rolls of honour for the Great War include records for the following island groups:
• St Kitts & Nevis
• Trinidad & Tobago
Our records for the Bahamas include the three numbered Bahamas Contingents (troop ship departure dates from September 1915 to May 1916) and the five Drafts that followed them (from August 1916 to September 1917). All these men served in the British West Indies Regiment.
In addition, there are a number of records for men of various ranks who served in other corps including the Royal Air Force.
The Barbados roll includes men who left with the three numbered Barbados Contingents (troop ship departures from September 1915 to December 1917). As with the Bahamas roll, these men served with the British West Indies Regiment – all those with Private or NCO ranks will have been Black or mixed race men.
The records also include those men who went out with the so-called Citizen’s Contingents, which were numbered from 1 to 12 and departed Barbados between December 1915 and November 1918). These much smaller contingents comprised white officers and other ranks (perhaps with some mixed race men as well). A significant number joined the ranks of the 28th (County of London) Bn, London Regt (Artists' Rifles).
There are also records of Barbadian men who enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (and other Canadian corps), a good proportion of whom would have been Barbados expats living in Canada at the outbreak of the war.
This section of the record set primarily includes men who served with two different units.
These are the riflemen of the Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps, which went out in two numbered Active Service Contingents, and the gunners of the Bermuda Contingent, Royal Garrison Artillery.
In addition, there are numerous entries for men who served in various corps both within the British Army and the Canadian Expeditionary Force.
Jamaica provided the largest Caribbean contingent to the British and Allied war effort. There are two types of record. Firstly, there are records of army officers from, or connected with, the island. Detail varies from officer to officer but is generally extensive. Secondly, there are records of the non-commissioned officers (NCOs such as corporals and sergeants) and other ranks (privates, gunners etc) who died during the War. In other words, currently there are no records for NCOs and other ranks who served but survived the war.
The Jamaican NCO and other ranks records contain useful information about the background of each soldier. Nearly all of them give the town, parish and county of origin. You can search by town or parish or county using the Optional Keywords field. For example, searching for Mandeville will bring back a list of results for men from that town; searching for St Catherine will return results for men from that parish; and using the search term Cornwall will give you the search results for all soldiers known to be from that Jamaican county.
St Kitts & Nevis
The St Kitts & Nevis nominal roll covers those men and women of this Presidency within the British West Indies who saw active service during the First World War. It includes both those who survived and those who died in WW1.
For men who served with the British West Indies Regiment, the main source is separation allowances, which record the daily rate paid to nominated dependents. Separation allowance payments came partly from the soldier’s own pay but in large part were paid by government, on the basis that a breadwinner was being taken from the family. Payments varied from man to man, with a higher daily rate paid to a man with a wife and children. Lower daily rates were paid to the dependants or kin of unmarried men – parents or sisters, for example. Generally speaking, the British Army did not recognise or pay out to unmarried cohabitants (common law wives).
For men (and the two women, both nurses) who served in other corps within the Allied forces, the primary source is a notice published in the St Kitts-Nevis Daily Bulletin dated 21st January 1919 (vol 5, no 1046).
These two main sources have been supplemented by extra information gathered from army service records, medal cards and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
The records cover the Leeward Islands of St Kitts (also known as St Christopher), Nevis and Anguilla, these three islands being colonies of the then British Empire united, after 1883, in a single presidency centred on St Kitts. However, the majority of service personnel featured are Kittitians from St Kitts itself.
The population of St Kitts & Nevis is small and the contingents from the islands who fought in the Great War were correspondingly small. Even if there are only 165 names within this record set, each individual is family to someone and worthy of remembrance.
Trinidad & Tobago
The Trinidad & Tobago record set is more complete and comprehensive. It is believed to contain the great majority of men who served in the First World War, including some who served with the French Army. As with the Jamaican officers’ records, the Trinidad records include all men born or resident in, or in some way associated with, Trinidad & Tobago. For example, some men from the Trinidadian diaspora in Canada who served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force are included.
The records for Trinidad & Tobago in most cases also include details of the contingent, which was a group of men enlisted in the islands who travelled together via Jamaica to England to join the war effort. There were two types of contingent, both numbered – the so-called Public Contingents (largely Black, and forming the rank and file) and the Merchants’ Contingents (largely white, and usually but by no means necessarily destined for the officer class). The Public Contingents were numbered from 1 to 5 and embarked between September 1915 and December 1917. The Merchants’ and Planters’ Contingents were numbered from 1 to 17 and went out from October 1915 to September 1918.
In general, there was a distinction between ranks at the time of the First World War. The officer class was overwhelmingly white, although we know that a small number of mixed race men were commissioned or promoted through the ranks. Black men were virtually confined to service as NCOs or other ranks. This distinction held in the British West Indies Regiment, formed in 1915, which was essentially a Black regiment led by white officers.
As well as soldiers of Afro-Caribbean descent, there are men from the Indian Sub-continent, presumably in most cases the descendants of indentured labourers. Some of these men are recorded with just one name; where that is the case, that name is shown in the forename field. Examples include Private Abdula and Private Ramgoo. In other cases, such men have both a personal and a family name, as in for example Privates Nagir Khan and Bagwan Singh.
You will also find men of Latino and Jewish heritage. Many of the Sephardic Jews had Hispanic names such as DeCordova and Henriques. While the combination of names may suggest the likely family background, a surname in isolation is not always reliable. The name Lindo is, for example, a Sephardic Jewish surname in Jamaica and elsewhere in the West Indies, but it is also used in the Latino community and, following the historical pattern of names being taken from merchants and plantation owners and other slavers, among the descendants of Black slaves.
Releases for other parts of the British West Indies are to follow.