Centenary 1915 – 2015 of the Formation of the British West Indies Regiment
Blue Plaque Commemoration event – Alfirston Road Cemetery & Seaford Railway Station
Seaford is an old coastal town situated at the foot of the South Downs in East Sussex. In the autumn of 1915 soldiers from Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vincent, Grenada, Guyana, and Barbados were garrisoned at “North Camp” in the town. In October of that year the British West Indian Regiment (BWIR) was created in the town by the War Office and ratified by King George 5th. The troops from these four countries became the 1st Battalion of the BWIR.
During their time in the town they experienced a modicum of good will as well as a challenge to their fighting for Britain. Coming from a Caribbean climate to wintry Seaford was a massive shock to most of the soldiers. Many succumbed to the mumps epidemic of that year as well as pneumonia which is said came from harsh training at the camp; between October 1915 and January 1916 nineteen soldiers died. They were all young men, and their Commonwealth War Graves can be seen at Alfriston Road Cemetery.
In this centenary year, Nubian Jak Community Trust formed a partnership with Seaford Museum and Heritage Society, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Lewes Council, Seaford Town Council, East Sussex Council, and Sussex Community Rail Partnership to install Blue Plaques at the Alfriston Road Cemetery, and Seaford Railway Station. These historic markers of “Black Presence” in Seaford are now available for all to see and remember the contribution and experiences of people of African and Caribbean descent during WWI.
The unveiling ceremony was opened by Professor Gus John who poured libation in the traditions of West Africa, and most present drank from the libation cup to honour the men laid to rest there.
The Chair of Lewes District Council, Councillor Ruth O’Keeffe, gave a beautiful and respectful presentation that told these soldiers story.
Tribute speeches followed from (left to right) Councillor David Argent, Mayor of Seaford Town Council; Glenn Hearnden, Education Manager at CWGC; Beulah Coombes, Relative of a Soldier of BWIR; Miles Jenner, Chief Executive Harvey’s Brewery – sponsor of the event.