Caribbean Wars Untold, Humphrey Metzgen and John Graham
Humphrey Metzgen and John Graham, Caribbean Wars Untold: A Salute to the British West Indies. Kingston: University of the West Indies Press, 2007, 256 pp.; Cy Grant, A Member of the RAF of Indeterminate Race: World War Two Experiences of a West Indian Officer in the RAF. Bognor Regis: Woodfield Publishing, 2006, 113 pp.; and John Miggins, British Other Ranks: Memories of John R. Miggins, A Caribbean Veteran of World War II. Tobago: The Empowerment Foundation of Tobago, 2006, 62 pp.
By David A Granger
Colonialism, enthusiasm and racism converge in these three books − Caribbean Wars Untold: A Salute to the British West Indies; A Member of the RAF of Indeterminate Race: World War Two Experiences of a West Indian Officer in the RAF and, British Other Ranks: Memories of John R. Miggins, A Caribbean Veteran of World War II. Separately and together, they create highly readable narratives of West Indian participation in the two World Wars that so badly wounded humanity during the 20th century.
The main theatres of the wars were far away in Europe, Africa and Asia. Despite the distance, however, the people of the West Indies – one of the most intensely colonized regions on earth – felt committed to support Great Britain and its allies on both occasions. They flocked to enlist in military forces in droves but their enthusiasm was often misplaced and their efforts requited with rejection and racism. In the end, their experiences reflected a mixture of satisfaction over their participation in these historic events and frustration at having been regarded as less than equal to combatants of European birth.
The wars were significant for several reasons beyond merely sending soldiers overseas to participate in the quarrels of other nations. They marked a rise in consciousness of West Indians who participated. Eventually, they marked also the germination of the desire of the populace to change the status of the colonies and the start of the movement for self-determination and independence.
These books, although not the first of the genre, have appeared nearly seventy years after the start of the Second World War. They go a far way towards filling an information void and correcting the lack of knowledge about the West Indian experience, although not far enough. They all set as their objective the intention to tell the story of West Indian involvement which, hitherto, has been ‘untold.’