largest group in Britain at this time, in terms of occupation, was
seamen. Many settled in ports such as Cardiff, Liverpool and London,
but most were laid off and found it virtually impossible to find work
and so became destitute.
government repatriated some, but many West Indians were not welcomed
back to the islands. Along with other colonial subjects, especially
those from India, the numbers and the plight of these seamen and
servants brought to England and abandoned, or forced to leave through
ill-treatment, became the subject of a parliamentary inquiry.
The outbreak of the First World War, in 1914, provided a solution
to this problem for many blacks already resident in Britain. Labour
was needed for the war effort in factories and seamen were required
for the merchant service to replace men who joined the Navy.
were required for the merchant service, to replace men who joined
were among the thousands who died in the German U-boat attacks,
bringing supplies to Britain.
men were needed to fight in the Army for 'King and Country'. Thousands
played their part. In the Caribbean and Africa, as elsewhere in
the Empire, there were public meetings to encourage people to get
involved in the war effort.
discrimination confining some recruits to the more menial tasks
required of soldiers, troops from the Caribbean and Africa fought
in many of the arenas of war, under the command of white officers
in regiments such as the British West Indies Regiment, the Gold
Coast Regiment and the Kings African Rifles. Thousands died
and many were honoured as heroes.
demobilisation, many black soldiers stayed on in Britain, thereby
sharply increasing the countrys black population.
as soon as the war ended, the need for black labour decreased as
quickly as it had grown when the war started. Black sailors were
sacked in favour of white sailors, as were black factory workers.
Troops from the Caribbean and Africa fought in
many of the arenas of war
was resentment from returning soldiers who were unemployed and saw
black workers in jobs they felt they should have had.
addition, many black people who had married white people faced prejudice
and discrimination. In 1919, riots broke out across the land - in
Cardiff, Newport, Liverpool, and Canning Town in London. Four people
died following attacks on individuals and homes were destroyed.
were also made on black people in the newspapers of the time. There
were unsuccessful attempts to repatriate the ex-soldiers and sailors,
but also concerns about the possible consequences of the return
of these disillusioned subjects on the colonies.
followed a distinct rise in black consciousness and anti-colonialism
in the West Indies. Organisations such as the Society of Peoples
of African Origin, the African Progress Union and the League of
Coloured People in Britain, and the Pan-African Congresses of the
1920s sought political solutions to the situations black people
found themselves in at home and abroad.
Second World War
Second World War, as did the First, saw people of the Empire joining
with the 'Mother Country' to fight and work for victory. Men and
women arrived from the Caribbean in their thousands to work as civilians
or in the armed forces. Some arrived as early as 1940 - these were
the children of professionals in the Caribbean, many of whom may
well have intended to travel to Britain to study.
with the Mother Country to fight and work for victory
main group of recruits, however, came after 1943 when, in preparation
for the invasion of Europe, the need was for more support staff
such as ground crews and technicians.
the war, many ex-servicemen and women stayed on in Britain, and
in the following years a combination of 'push' and 'pull' factors
led to large-scale migration of Caribbean people to Britain.
'push' factors were high unemployment, low wages, over-population
and a general lack of opportunities in the Caribbean.
'pull' factors were in the form of the great labour shortage as
Britain attempted to rebuild its economy, along with active recruitment
drives in the Caribbean.
See 'Black Britain: A History'
'A Gloucestershire history'