Express & Star

Caribbean monument is a step closer

Campaigners are moving forward with plans for a lasting legacy to honour the contribution of soldiers from the Caribbean.

At the National Memorial Arboretum were retired RAF Warrant officer Donald Campbell with left , Pauline Milnes, Winston White , Barabra Campbell , LTCDR Suzanne Lynch , Joan Gregory - Bartosch , LN Enmund Grandison, Carol Curtis , Roland Lisk-Carew , Deborah Nicholls , PO Fred Perry and Martin Levermore

The National Caribbean Monument Charity is working to raise £500,000 for a monument which will stand within the grounds of the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas, near Lichfield, Staffordshire.

A shortlist of possible sites for the memorial which will pay tribute to those who fought alongside British soldiers in both world wars and other conflicts has now been drawn up.

Trustees visited the 150-acre National Memorial Arboretum this week to view the suggested locations for the monument which will represent the Army, Royal Navy, Royal Air Force, the Auxiliary Territorial Service and the Merchant Navy.

One of the trustees of The National Caribbean Monument Charity is retired Royal Air Force Warrant Officer Donald Campbell, who lives in Tipton and finished his military career with seven years of service at RAF Cosford in 2006.

He said he was pleased that the campaign was gathering pace and they still hoped to be able to unveil the new memorial by 2021.

"I think the message about how important it is to make sure the story of the valuable contribution that was made by people of the Caribbean is told is getting out there.

"We have a sketch of the proposed monument which will be worked into a full design. A decision will be made on the most appropriate site and the National Memorial Arboretum will check that the scale of the design and the symbolisms are appropriate. It's all going well so far," he added

Trustees have announced two major fundraising events to help generate the cash needed for the monument.

They include a charity parachute jump on May 26 at Hinton Airfield, Banbury which will see four fundraisers including Mr Campbell jump from a plane.

The group will also host a charity ball at the National Conference Centre in Solihull on October 13.

"We really hope these are well-supported because so we can raise the money we need for this monument," said Mr Campbell.

He said he was also delighted because the charity has been invited to attend the RAF Cosford Air Show on June 10.

The campaign started when army veterans Pauline Milnes, Carol Curtis and Patsy Davis along with civilian Valdene James visited the National Arboretum Memorial at Alrewas around three years ago.

The only mention they could find was of a 17-year-old Jamaican called Herbert Morris, who was shot at dawn during the First World War.

Private Morris joined the 6th battalion of the British West Indies Regiment during a recruitment drive in Jamaica in 1916.

But a year later, having seen seven of his comrades become casualties, Private Herbert absconded.

He later told his court martial that the reason was because he couldn’t cope with the sound of the gunfire.

The 17-year-old was arrested in Boulogne, France after being on the run for two days and executed at dawn by firing squad on September 20, 1917 in Poperinge, Belgium where he was later buried.

It is believed he was one of the youngest soldiers to be executed, though not the only one underage.

Private Morris was pardoned under Section 359 of the Armed Forces Act 2006, recognising that execution was not a fate he deserved.

He was just one of around 15,600 men of the British West Indies Regiment who served with the Allied forces.

Jamaica contributed two-thirds of these volunteers, while others came from countries, including Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, the Bahamas, St Lucia and St Vincent.

In total, 81 medals for bravery were won and 49 men were mentioned in despatches.

In the Second World War,16,000 West Indians volunteered for service alongside the British with more than 100 of them women who mostly chose to join the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force).

In total 236 Caribbean volunteers were killed or reported missing and 265 wounded during the conflict.

Once the war was over, many who returned to the Caribbean discovered that jobs were scarce and came back to Britain to help rebuild its devastated towns and cities.

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