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Memorial to 'overlooked' African and Caribbean war veterans

WELL-KNOWN: Walter Tull

BRAVE BUT largely unsung African and Caribbean soldiers who fought valiantly for Britain in the First and Second World Wars will finally be elevated beyond a "footnote in history" with a permanent memorial unveiled in their honour.

The two-and-a-half ton sculpture in Windrush Square, Brixton, will be revealed to the public for the first time on Armistice Day (Nov 11) following the observation of the traditional two-minute silence at 11am.

Every name of the African and Caribbean regiments which contributed to Great Britain’s war effort to remember the servicemen and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for the ‘mother country’ will be engraved for all to see.


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It coincides with the 100th anniversary of the First World War and is the vision of the Nubian Jak Community Trust - the only national BME plaque and sculpture scheme in the UK and Europe - in partnership with the West Indian Association of Service Personnel (WASP), with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Black Cultural Archives (BCA) and Lambeth Council.

ULTIMATE SACRIFICE

Vince McBeam, chair of WASP, said: “We are honoured and pleased to present this memorial in memory and dedication to the sacrifices and contributions made by African and Caribbean Servicemen and women.

"Stand tall our brave heroes as this befitting monument is unveiled in recognition of your contributions and ultimate sacrifices and that you gave your yesterdays for our today’s democracy and world peace.”

Jak Beula, chair of the Nubian Jak Commemorative Plaque Scheme, said: "The efforts of military contribution to both World Wars by African and Caribbean have for too long remained overlooked and unheralded.

"This memorial will correct that omission and give justice and dignity to the tens of thousands of African and Caribbean servicemen and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for the mother country."

The tribute is part of a six-month project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund called From Sea to Land and Sky which looks at the contribution of black service men and women from 1914-1948.

CRITICAL ROLE

It has the firm backing of the Jamaican High Commissioner, Her Excellency Aloun Ndombet-Assamba. She called the memorial a “fitting permanent tribute” to those who played a critical role in the war effort.

“This year, as the one hundredth anniversary of the start of the First World War is observed, it is fair to say that the role played by the Caribbean, Africa, India and other parts of Asia is still not widely known by many in Britain,” said Ndombet-Assamba.

She added: “The Caribbean and Africa were profoundly affected by the war as manpower, materials, and funds were sent by them to the aid the war effort to protect Britain and Europe. Although troops from the Caribbean and Africa played a critical role in the war, they were never properly compensated or recognized and their work and sacrifices are still treated as a footnote.

"This memorial is a fitting permanent tribute to those thousands of men and women from Africa and the Caribbean. I hope that it will go some way to highlight that we were also an important part of this shared history."

Dawn Hill, chair of BCA board of trustees, said: "This memorial will establish a constant source of inspiration to our Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities of the valuable contribution made to Great Britain and the continuing heroic role of our soldiers in the present day."

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