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|'All in the Same Uniform'? The Participation of Black Colonial Residents in the British Armed Forces in the First World War
|Jenkinson J (2012) 'All in the Same Uniform'? The Participation of Black Colonial Residents in the British Armed Forces in the First World War. The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 40 (2), pp. 207-230. https://doi.org/10.1080/03086534.2012.697611
|Black colonial people volunteered for the British Army and Royal Navy during the First World War because they regarded themselves as Britons. However, many, including those white crowds which attacked black colonial war veterans during the seaport riots of 1919, did not. Similar racist attitudes were also demonstrated in the wartime deliberations and policy making of government and the military hierarchy. Historians writing about the Second World War have demonstrated that ‘British identity' became more sharply defined in the period 1939-45. This article suggests that the constructed hierarchy of ‘Britishness' in which back Britons from the empire were ascribed a lesser identity was also evident in the period during and just after the First World War; as demonstrated by the outbreak of the 1919 riots and the subsequent government decision to repatriate black people to the colonies. By drawing upon detailed individual profiles of hundreds of black colonial Britons included in local Liverpool police records submitted to the Home Office to aid the process of repatriation, this article examines the role of black colonial people who enlisted in the home British armed forces during the First World War. Little has hitherto been written about black colonial people who joined the ranks of the regular British armed forces; as opposed to involvement in native regiments and labour battalions. This article redresses this imbalance using detailed Liverpool police authority information to show that more than 1 in 7 of the many hundreds of male black colonial British residents in that city served in Britain's regular armed forces in the First World War.
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