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Ainsley Harriott

Ainsley Harriott - how we did it

The West India Regiment

Ainsley turned his attention to Oscar Chesterfield, his grandfather and Mina Love's husband.

Great-grandfather: Ebenezer Harriott

Step 1 - Family information and heirlooms

To begin research into Oscar Chesterfield's line we went back to the family once again, asking Chester's brother Oscar Jr and his cousin Derrick for help.

Ebenezer Harriott in WIR uniform
Ebenezer Harriott in WIR uniform

Oscar Jr. had a photograph of Oscar Chesterfield's father Ebenezer, and a military medal. Ainsley was told that Ebenezer was a soldier in the West India Regiment, and had fought in Sierra Leone. Oscar Jr. knew that Oscar Chesterfield was born while Ebenezer was stationed in Barbados.

Step 2 - War records

The West India Regiment was part of the British Army, so many of the relevant documents are held in London at the National Archives (see Related Links).

We found records of Ebenezer being awarded the medal, and muster rolls showing that he travelled around the Caribbean. Through these documents, we could trace his rise through the ranks to sergeant.

As proven by the medal, Ebenezer fought in the Hut Tax War of Sierra Leone, a brutal and bloody guerrilla war. Though they rarely name anyone below officer rank, field diaries are invaluable, as not only do they detail the specific movements of a regiment, but they also evoke the conditions and challenges the soldiers would have experienced.

The West India Regiment field diaries for Sierra Leone are explicit in their criticism of the conduct of the war, the woeful undersupply of ammunition and water, and the terrifying tactics employed by the enemy.

Step 3 - Garrison and experts

In Barbados, Ainsley visited the garrison where Ebenezer worked and raised his family. The vast garrison, once vital in the defence of the Caribbean, is still a historical area in Bridgetown. The parade ground where Ebenezer would have marched is now a race track, and the Barbados Museum is in the former military prison (see Related Links). Other parts of the garrison remain occupied by the Barbados Defence Force.

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Ainsley traces Ebenezer's rise through the ranks

At the museum, Ainsley met with Barbados historian Kevin Farmer, who placed Ebenezer's military career in its historical context.

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