NALIS BLOG


REMEMBRANCE DAY: POPPY DAY

REMEMBRANCE DAY: POPPY DAY

American humanitarian Moina Michael wrote “And now the Torch and Poppy Red, we wear in honor of our dead…”

On November 11, Trinidad and Tobago joins the rest of the world in celebrating “Poppy Day”, also known as Remembrance Day.  This is the day on which we honour those service men who died during World War I and II. World War I, commonly known as “The Great War” lasted from 1914 – 1918, and World War II spanned the period 1939 – 1945.

Initially during WWI, West Indian Service men were not welcomed. It was only after the intervention of King George V in 1915 that a special regiment named the West India Regiment (BWIR) was created. These men mainly provided support to the other troops. According to the Imperial War Museum, this involved “digging trenches, building roads and gun emplacements, acting as stretcher bearers, loading ships and trains, and working in ammunition dumps.”

Today we take for granted that all races should be treated equally in the armed forces, but during WWI black servicemen faced a system of prejudice and discrimination.  Despite this and the ridicule at home in the Caribbean, they were not deterred in fighting for King and Country.

Many persons alive today will only think of World War I and II as a matter for the history books, but the West Indians who participated in those conflicts, especially World War II, changed West Indian Society.  These servicemen were exposed to new ideas that resulted in the introduction of universal adult suffrage and the end of colonial rule in the Caribbean.

 On Poppy Day, November 11, let us remember our servicemen’s sacrifice, and their contribution to  the evolution of Trinidad and Tobago society.

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Image of clothing used by servicemen from the British West Indian Regiment. Image taken from Gunga Din. No 1 Trinidad. Published by Shamus O.D. Wade

 

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Dr. Keith Rowley, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, laying a wreath at Memorial Park, Port of Spain, to honour fallen service men.  Photo credit: Image courtesy Office of the Prime Minister.

 

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Memorial Park, 1924. Photo credit: Winer Collection: Heritage Library Division.

 

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Memorial Park, 8 November 2023. Photo credit: Photographic Collection: Heritage Library Division

 

Visit the Memorial Park, located at the top of Frederick Street in Port of Spain, where a cenotaph stands with the engraved names of those Trinidad and Tobago nationals who lost their lives in the first and second World War.

 

"And holding high, we keep the Faith

With all who died."

Excerpts taken from “We Shall Keep the Faith” by Moina Michael, November 1918

Authored by:  Gerada Holder, Librarian IV, Heritage Library Division

 

Resources:

Some Resources on Trinidad and Tobago experience during World War I and II held at the Heritage Library Division,

  • Stuempfle, Stephen.  Port of Spain. The Construction of a Caribbean City, 1888-1962. Jamaica, The University of the West Indies Press,  2018.
  • Brereton, Bridget and Karen E. Eccles. Islands at war. Trinidad and Tobago during World War II. Paria Publishing, 2019.
  • Mc Shine, Arthur L. Victory at Damieh 1918. Cipriani’s Soldiers in Palestine. Kubik. 8, 2014.
  • Gunga Din. Commonwealth and empire Series, No 1 Trinidad.  London, Shamus O.D. Wade

 

Sources:

  • Michael, Moina. We Shall Keep the Faith. “The Miracle Flower” Dorrance Publishing Co. Inc. 1918

More information on British West Indian Servicemen can be found at:

  • BBC.  The Caribbean honours its overlooked WW1 soldiers

           https://www.bbc.com/ews/world-latin-america 6110120#:~:text=Despite%20receiving%20a%20heroes'%20welcome,building%20roads%20and%20railway%20lines

  • Gunga Din. Commonwealth and empire Series, No 1 Trinidad.  London, Shamus O.D. Wade

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