RELATE: THE STORY SLAVERY. SLAVERY By the end of the 18th century the Army had become the single biggest purchaser of slaves.

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1 By the end of the 18th century the Army had become the single biggest purchaser of slaves. Slave account, NAM War with Revolutionary and Napoleonic France spread to the Caribbean, and the Army needed men. Many European soldiers sickened and died in the tropical climate: black soldiers were thought to be tougher. The West India Regiments included units made up of locally raised men, and escaped American slaves who had fought for the British in the American War of Independence ( ). But numbers were made good with slaves. An account in the papers of the Commander-in-Chief of Jamaica at the time details the cost of buying and clothing 272 African slaves for service in 5th and 6th West India Regiments, and their transport to Honduras in March 1801 The final cost of buying and equipping the slaves listed on this account was over 32,600, worth more than 1 million in today s money. Between 1798 and 1806 the Army bought 6,376 slaves for the West India Regiments, 7% of all slaves sold in the British West Indies during the period. Between abolition in 1807 and emancipation in 1834, the Army recruited slaves liberated from illegal slaving vessels, and black soldiers from the recently captured French and Dutch colonies in the Caribbean. PAGE 45

2 Escaped slaves recruited in America to fight Patriots Early in the war Lord Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia, offered slaves freedom in return for military service: I do hereby declare all indented Servants, Negroes, or others, (appertaining to Rebels) free, that are able and willing to bear Arms, they joining His Majesty s troops as soon as may be. The final cost of buying and equipping the slaves listed on this account was over 32,600, worth more than 1 million in today s money General Sir Henry Clinton, NAM In 1779, the British general Henry Clinton made a more complicated declaration: rebel slaves taken prisoner in battle were to be purchased for the public service deserters were to be given their freedom. The offers worked. Many men of African descent, including escaped slaves, fought on the British side. These units included His Majesty s Troop of Black Dragoons, His Majesty s Corps of Black Artificers and His Majesty s Corps of Black Pioneers. At the end of the conflict these troops were amalgamated into a single unit called The Black Carolina Corps. After the British defeat 20,000 Loyalist African-Americans remained with the defeated British. Washington demanded that former slaves be returned. The British refused, but agreed that the colonists should receive financial compensation. Many of these former slaves settled in Nova Scotia, the West Indies, and Europe. PAGE 46

3 1795 West India Regiment numbers made up with slaves From the 1790s the Army recruited heavily in the West Indies, and in addition raised 12 regiments of black soldiers for service there, in the hope that they might be better suited to a climate that had proved devastating to the health of British soldiers. They were composed primarily of European officers and non-commissioned officers and black soldiers. Although some free men were recruited, the Army mainly relied on the slave trade to provide recruits for these units. Between 1798 and 1806 the Army bought 6,376 slaves for the West India Regiments, an estimated 7% of all slaves sold in the British West Indies during this period. 3rd West India Regiment, Guadeloupe, NAM The West India Regiments saw a lot of service during the period of the Napoleonic Wars, including participation in the British attack on New Orleans (1815). PAGE 47

4 1807 Abolition of Slave Trade 1834 Emancipation of Slaves With the abolition of the slave trade in 1807 and emancipation of slaves in 1834, the Army recruited free men into the ranks. These included liberated Africans who had been released from illegal slaving vessels and black soldiers from the recently captured French and Dutch colonies in the Caribbean. Private of the 5th West India Regiment, NAM PAGE 48

5 Legacy LEGACY A tradition of black and Asian service in the British Army has built up over the centuries. The legacy of this service is apparent in British Army recruiting today, which sees new generations of soldiers joining up from across the globe. Such recruits outnumber British-born black and Asian soldiers significantly. Experience and pride handed down from generation to generation or stark economic reality can play their part. But the links that remain between Great Britain and its Commonwealth enable the legacy to continue whether you are a Gurkha from Nepal or a recruit from Fiji. Soldier, 3rd West India Regiment, NAM PAGE 49

6 Legacy Late 19th century The West India Regiment served in various campaigns and, ironically, anti-slavery actions in West Africa including the Asante War ( ) Music cover for The Ashantee March, NAM PAGE 50

7 Legacy The West Indies and the World Wars In the First World War while the West India Regiment was serving in Palestine, East Africa and the Cameroons, many more West Indians travelled to the UK to enlist. In 1915 the British West Indies Regiment was created to deal with the influx. The Caribbean Regiment played a similar role in the Second World War: women from the West Indies also joined the ATS West Indian member of the Auxiliary Territorial Service, NAM PAGE 51

8 Legacy 2000 Modern recruitment The British Army still holds regular recruitment drives on many Caribbean islands. High unemployment, as well as historical ties, are often given as reasons for the interest among young islanders in joining the British military. Commonwealth soldiers at a repatriation ceremony, Iraq, NAM Crown Copyright PAGE 52

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