West Indian Women at War: British Racism in World War II

West Indian Women at War: British Racism in World War II

West Indian Women at War: British Racism in World War II

West Indian Women at War: British Racism in World War II

Synopsis

West Indian Women at War documents the hitherto unrecorded contribution made by West Indian women in the British forces during the Second World War. Based on original research and interviews, the book charts the obstacles placed in the way of the recruitment of black women by a very reluctant war office. The documentary evidence of British racism uncovered by the authors makes compelling reading. But the women interviewed in this book are inspirational; they emerge as doughty fighters, as capable of taking on the war office as they were of joining the battle against Hitler.

Excerpt

To be asked to write a foreword celebrating the achievements of West Indian ‘women of colour’ during the second world war must be considered an honour of the highest calibre, since no expression of sympathy or empathy on my part can ever hope to match the traumas and indignities which confronted them before, during and even after their magnificent contribution to the war effort.

It is only right and just that we should seek to recognise the tremendous part played by these women, determined to ensure that their patriotism for the mother country did not go unnoticed. That determination was channelled in the performance of good works by their assimilation into the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS).

Fired by their imagination of the ultimate dream of giving of oneself where it was needed most, this common, enduring trait of West Indian ‘women of colour’ led in most cases to some satisfaction that at last the challenge which they sought outside of their own beleaguered, strife-ridden colonies was being met. Intellectually able, intelligent and highly articulate, for many of them it was worth the risk of venturing into the unknown, to escape the relative poverty of their positions in the islands in order to prove themselves; to reject the indignity of being continually seen as second, or even third class citizens, after their white counterparts. At last their loyalty to the ‘mother country’ could be repaid.

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