El Cuento de Juan
Moment In Time Drafts
Research Notes Event Description
Eleven BWI battalions from France, Egypt and Italy were brought together in Taranto, Italy for demobilization just as the war was coming to an end. Over the course of their involvement in WWI, British West Indies soldiers were treated as less than equals by their White officers. The British did not believe in recruiting men from the Caribbean, but in 1915 they did begin accepting volunteers. These volunteers were expecting to be able to show their loyalty to the british. They also wanted to fight that they were more than some men of african descent, that they deserve to be treated with more respect, that they were more than just the red-headed step child. British West Indies troops were used only as labourers except in special circumstances when fighting troops were insanely sparse. As labourers they were allowed only to do things such as, load and unload ammunition, carry/deliver supplies to the front, lie telephone lines, and dig trenches. They often were discriminated against, got low pay and barely to never got pay raises as other soldiers did. BWI troops worked until they were beyond fatigued. Not to mention that they rarely had an adequate place to sleep, nor were any prepared for the climate or conditions since they came from a tropical climate. Many suffered from frostbite, missing appendages due to frostbite, as well as numerous diseases. Eventually, after repeated advocation and concern for the way they were being treated, the British West Indies’ 9th battalion attacked their officers on December 6, 1918. These troops were later dispersed to other disarmed battalions. Later that day 180 sergeants got in touch with the Secretary of State to report on the ways BWI troops had been treated for the last three years, things such as unequal pay and discrimination. This mutiny lasted for four days with a bombing and one soldier shot and killed by authority. Three days after the first outbreak of mutiny, on December 9, 1918, the BWI’s 10th battalion refused to work. An Italian senior commander was assaulted, resulting in a separate battalion and machinegun company called in to restore peace. 60 soldiers were tried, receiving anywhere from 3 to 20 year sentences, one was even executed. Just as men from the BWI suffered throughout war, they also suffered through this mutiny in Taranto, Italy, as they Were fighting for their equality and rights as humans. On December 17 a meeting was held to discuss black rights, specifically those of BWI soldiers. A second meeting was held three days later for the same purpose. Discussion shifted from the rights and treatment of BWI soldiers to that of black men vs white men. Following this meeting BWI soldiers held a strike for higher wages amongst return to their homes in the BWI.