The Friary School Lichfield
It was an unexpected email from the National Memorial Arboretum(NMA), Staffordshire, containing 4 letters from pupils who were on a class visit from The Friary School, Lichfield. The writers were incensed with stories of unfair lack of representation of some Military Personnel for their contribution to free Britain.
On contacting the Friary School it was revealed that an article about the The National Caribbean Monument Charity(TNCMC), in the Express and Star newspaper, sparked the interest of a couple of pupils who promptly approached the Headmaster to enquire what could be done. A letter writing competition was introduced, as a project for Black History month, and one of the outputs was a set of letters of support for the Caribbean memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum, hence a selection of them were taken to the NMA.
With such enthusiasm shown by the Friary School TNCMC offered to do a presentation and the idea was well received by the Staff. The presentation took place on the 2nd of February to an assembly of approximately 100 pupils age 17 to 18.
Left to right: Introduction of TNCMC Trustees Pauline, Deborah, Ken (Member),Winston and Donald to the Assembly.
Trustee Pauline addressing the assembly
Demonstrating the Kings African Rifle and TNCMC Standards
Trustees replying to questions from pupils and Staff
Pupil volunteered to read a poem about Herbert Morris, written by members of TNCMC
A copy of the poem being presented to the School. Far left, Alex (pupil) Centre Mr Matt Allman (Headteacher) 3rd from right, Nicole McDonald (pupil and one of the main enthusiasts)
This visit and presentation to the School was very well received. There was a brief explanation of how and why the project was started and the aim and objectives of TNCMC. After a session of questions and answers a copy of the poem was presented to the School. TNCMC regard the initiative of pupils and Staff of The Friary School to be noteworthy and would like to thank all concerned, especially Assistant Headteacher Carrie Cain, for the positive outcome, including the visit. The Headteacher, Mr Matt Allman, has kindly agreed that the School will be affiliated to TNCMC and for a return visit of Members of the Project towards the end of this year to give an update on progress.
by DC 11 Feb 18
PRIVATE HERBERT MORRIS BRITISH WEST INDIAN REGIMENT
The National Caribbean Monument Charity arranged for a wreath to be placed on his grave to mark the centenary of his execution (20/09/1917)
Herbert was born in Jamaica in 1900, to Ophelia and William Morris. We know very little about his early life, but it is possible that he was employed on fruit or sugar cane farms like many people living in the area.
In 1915 Britain’s War Office, which had initially opposed recruitment of West Indian troops, created the British West Indies Regiment (BWIR), which served in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The formation of the BWIR did not give black soldiers from the West Indies the opportunity to fight as equals alongside white soldiers. Instead, the War Office largely limited their participation to ‘labour’ duties.
Herbert joined 6 Battalion British West Indies Regiment sometime in late 1916 or early 1917, meaning that like many other young men at that time he enlisted underage. After a long sea voyage in which many troops died from illness, the unit arrived in France on 17 April 1917.
BWIR troops were engaged in numerous support roles on the Western Front, including digging trenches, building roads and gun emplacements, acting as stretcher bearers, loading ships and trains, and working in ammunition dumps. This dangerous work was often carried out within range of German artillery and snipers. Indeed, Herbert reported to the army doctor that ‘I am troubled with my head. I cannot stand the sound of the guns.’
This testimony suggests that Herbert may have suffered from war-related trauma, known at the time as shell shock. He was fined for fighting in his billet on 3 June 1917, and received punishment for being absent without leave on 16 July. On 20 August, he again left his post without permission and was arrested the next day in Boulogne.
Herbert faced a court martial on 7 September 1917.
The accused has never given me any trouble. He is well behaved – Lieutenant Andrews
His commanding officers gave a good account of his behavior and work ethic, but unfortunately the blemishes on his record counted against him and he was sentenced to death.
Although around 3,000 men were given the death penalty during the war, the vast majority of them had their sentences commuted to imprisonment or forced labour. However, because of mutinies amongst the Allies and in light of the continuing offensive in autumn 1917, Herbert’s sentence was carried out in order to deter other potential deserters.
He was shot in the courtyard behind Poperinghe Town Hall at 6.10am on 20 September 1917, and buried nearby. Today, he lies in Poperinghe New Military Cemetery alongside more than 670 other men, 16 of whom who were also ‘shot at dawn’. Herbert’s headstone does not reveal the circumstances behind his death, reflecting the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s principle of equality amongst the dead.
The 2006 Armed Forces Act pardoned Herbert Morris as “one of the many victims of the First World War … execution was not a fate he deserved.” He is remembered at the ‘Shot at Dawn’ memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, and is united with other men who shared his fate.
by DC Jan 2018
ALLAN CHARLES WILMOT
Allan volunteered first for the Royal Navy in 1941 when there was a call for servicemen from Jamaica. He saw an advertisement in the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper when he was sixteen and a half years old and it stated that the British government needed recruits for the Royal Navy. Allan applied, passed the test and was accepted. His service on HMS Hauken had its dangers which came mainly from German submarines in the area, and they often sank British and allied tankers as well as cargo boats. For instance, on May 25, 1942, the SS Empire Beatrice, an unescorted and unarmed cargo ship, was sunk by a torpedo fired by a German U-boat (or submarine). At the time, Allan was among the team that rescued nine survivors from a raft and took them to Kingston, Jamaica. However, he felt his career was not progressing fast enough. At the same time, the British government began to recruit Jamaican volunteers for the Royal Air Force ground crew, and advertisements were published in the Jamaica Gleaner in late 1943. He applied to the RAF and was accepted.
After WWII ended, the British were quick to demob thousands of West Indian servicemen and women. Allan was among them, and having returned to Jamaica in 1946, he felt that it was not the place in which he would settle down, and so he returned to London. Life in London in the Winter of 1947 was not pleasant, but he survived. It soon dawned on him that he could employ his talent in London's show business, and he did so with a degree of success with The Southlanders, a male singing quartet that dominated the entertainment scene from the 1950s to the early 1970s. The Southlanders shared the stage with most of Britain’s popular performers, including Jimmy Young, Marty Wilde, Max Bygraves, Tommy Trinder, Petula Clark, Tommy Cooper, Tony Hancock, Bruce Forsyth, Helen Shapiro, David Frost, Norman Vaughan, Shirley Bassey, Tommy Steele, Cliff Richard and the Shadows, to name but a few. Also, The Southlanders’ hit records were produced by George Martin whose production, in the 1960s, made the Beatles’ music national and international favourites.
After 24 years in the business and with stiff competition from young talented groups, he realised his days as an entertainer were numbered.
Allan was successful in obtaining a job in the Post Office's Telecommunications Department in 1974, and he retired from the service in 1990. During the two decades that followed, he has played an important part in the establishment of the West Indian Ex-Services Association (now the West Indian Association of Service Personnel).
During the 1980s they obtained a permanent meeting place at 161, Clapham Manor Street, London, SW4. They had all served King and country during WWII, and often reminisced about those years. It has always been their aim to ensure that their contributions and service would not be forgotten by present and future generations of British people. The members provide social services voluntarily to the community. Allan has held positions of responsibility (including being President) in the Association over the years, and since 1998 has been a member of the Memorial Gate Council, which is chaired by Baroness Flather, JP DL FRSA.
The Memorial Gates, a war memorial, located at the Hyde Park Corner end of Constitution Hill in London, commemorate the armed forces of the British Empire from Africa, the Caribbean and the five regions of the Indian subcontinent including Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka that served in WWI and WWII. The memorial was officially inaugurated in 2002 by Her Majesty The Queen.
Allan published his memoirs in a book titled: NOW YOU KNOW. He was age 91 in August 2016.