The proposal to recruit men in Jamaica for His Majesty's Army took origin in the following letter which appeared in the "Gleaner" of 23rd April, 1915:-


Dear Editor,
There has been, and is correspondence in your valuable paper re Jamaicans who are desirous of going to the war, but who are unable to bear the necessary expense.

Enquiry at the Military Headquarters proves that £15 will equip and feed a man in England. If ninety-nine other men will subscribe £30 each, I will give an equal amount to send two hundred native born Jamaicans to the front.

Like myself, there must be many men in the Island, who though unable to volunteer would like to feel they were doing even a very little bit to help.
I am, etc.,


On the 26th of the same month the first Meeting of the War Contingent Committee was held in the office of Mr. William Wilson, who with Messrs. Baggett Gray, Michael deCordova and Frank Jackson, formed the first provisional committee.
To this Provisional Committee were afterwards added His Excellency William H. Manning, K.C.M.G., C.B., Brigadier General Blackden, the S. Couper, with Messrs. John Tapley and John Barclay.

The proposal as set out in the above letter developed into the idea of a West Indian Contingent consisting of men from the West Indies and British Guiana, and in a message to the Legislative Council dated 16th September, 1915, the Governor of Jamaica, Sir William H. Manning, was able to state the War Office had approved of the suggestion and that the conditions of service should be:

(1) That Jamaica should pay the cost of transport of its Contingent to the United Kingdom where the men would be clothed, equipped and trained.
(2) That the Imperial Authorities would repatriate the Contingent upon the cessation of hostilities.
(3) That the Imperial Government would pay the charges for Separation Allowances if any, and for gratuities in lieu of pensions.
(4) That Jamaica must be prepared at its own cost to send monthly drafts to replace casualties of 15 per cent. of the original Contingent.

A motion embodying the above was introduced in Council but was amended so that Jamaica should provide expenses of Recruiting, clothing for the voyage, transport of the drafts to England, and also Separation Allowances with disability Allowances, gratuities and pensions on a scale to be arranged with the War Office. The amended Resolution was agreed to on the 23rd September, 1915.

The King's message of the 23rd October found recruiting proceeding with enthusiasm and on the 25th October, Sir William H.  Manning telegraphed to the Secretary of State his belief that a considerable number of men could readily be enlisted.

On the 5th of Noyember a Deputation from the Elected Members of the Legislative Council met the Governor and as a result he was able to telegraph the Secretary of State to the effect that they were willing to provide an increased number of men and pay all attendant expenses to the extent of £60,000 for forty years. The matter was fully dealt with by the Governor, in a message to the Council dated the 4th March, 1916, and on the 8th of March the Council by resolution approved of expenditure being incurred to the extent named to meet interest and Sinking Fund of a portion of the National Debt, or as interest and Sinking Fund on a loan to be raised in the Colony itself.

These Financial arrangements were finally embodied in a Bill which passed the Legislative Council on the 9th March, 1917, (No. 5, of 1917) and under which a sum of £60,000 will be paid yearly to the Lords Commissioners of His Majesty's Treasury for a period of forty years; the first payment being due twelve months after the termination of the war.

On the 25th of September, 1915,  Brigadier General Blackden issued a Circular letter to the Custodes of the various parishes and to leading gentlemen and officials throughout the Island inviting their co-operation, and at the same time the Staff Officer Local Forces issued a Circular setting out the conditions of Enlistment with rates of pay, Disability Pensions and Separation Allowances. A few days later the General Officer Commanding issued a further Circular covering Notice forms to be given to intending recruits and forms of application to be used by men desiring to join. A Guide setting out the Medical Standard required was issued about the same time.

The general idea of these circulars was that recruits were to have themselves medically examined by Medical Practitioners resident near their homes who would fill up for them their form of application, advising them if they were likely to be found suitable , in which case they were to present themselves for enlistment at Up-Park Camp on a date to be published later. Free Railway transport was to be provided for them on presentation of their application forms duly filled in at any railway station.

The terms of enlistment were to be for the duration of the war, the pay of a private was to be one shilling per day with free rations, housing, fuel and light. For a private rendered totally incapable of earning a livelihood as a result of war service, the pension was to be 9d per day. Separation Allowances were to be paid to wives but the enlistment of married men or men having dependents was, if possible, to be avoided.

Meanwhile the Contingent Committee had not been idle, the 200 men in the original proposal had grown to 500, and later at the request of the Secretary of State for the Colonies had been increased to 550, while a sum of £9,964. 19/1 to meet the expenditure involved had been collected from voluntary subscriptions.

After considerable delay due to the shipping companies finding it inadvisable to carry troops and the work having therefore to be transferred to the Admiralty, the first Jamaica Contingent sailed in the "Verdalla" on the 8th November, 1915.

The Contingent Committee held that with the despatch of over 500 men at the expense of voluntary subscription their pledge to the public had been fulfilled, and the duty of finding the drafts as set out above amounting to close on 1,000 men yearly, then devolved on the Government of the Colony.

To provide for the enlistment of the necessary drafts the Governor by a notice in the "Gazette" of 24th November, 1915, appointed a Central Recruiting Committee in Kingston. Parochial Recruiting Committees in each parish were also appointed.

At a meeting held on the 14th December, 1915, in the office of the Staff Officer of the Local Forces, at which representatives of these various Committees were present, matters connected with recruiting were discussed land a general plan of action arranged.

In view of the uncertainty of the dates on which transports would be available and of the possible need for a large number of recruits at short notice the desire of the Military was that men willing to volunteer should register their names with the Secretaries of the Parochial Recruiting Committees as being willing to come to Camp to enlist whenever called upon to do so.

It was necessary that the number registered should far exceed the number required in any draft, experience having already shown that a large proportion of the men presenting themselves at Up-Park were unfit for military service. Further, as a superior class of men was required for the rank of N. C. O., the men registered were to be divided into three grades: suitable for N.C.O.'s, fit for service, unfit owing to some temporary disability or to illiteracy.

These points were all made clear at the meeting referred to above and they were further explained and amplified in a memorandum prepared by General Blackden and issued by the Central Recruiting Committee in February, 1916. For the purpose of carrying out the proposals registers were issued to the Parochial Secretaries and loose leaf register sheets on which the names of men with other information could be recorded at recruiting meetings, the sheets to be transferred to the Secretaries thereafter.

About this time a large number of recruiting meetings were held in various parts of the country. At these meetings patriotic speeches were made by local gentlemen and members of the Legislature, while the ser-vices of Sir Wm. H.. Manning, Brigadier General Blackden, Mr. Wm. Wilson and Miss Annie Douglas were in constant demand. Suitable recrujts were readily obtained and as transports were available, the men were accepted at Up-Park immediately on enlistment and few delays occurred. The second Contingent sailed on the 7th of January, 1916.

The demand, however was still for men and it having become clear that with the increase in their number the duties of the Staff Officer Local Forces were becoming more and more onerous it was decided to relieve him of the work of Secretary to the Central Recruiting Committee and to transfer the office of the Committee from Headquarters to the Public Works Department. The transfer was accordingly effected on the 21st January, 1916, from, which date the Committee became responsible for practically all recruiting and as time went on the members accepted further responsibilities in connection with disabled men, assistance to dependents, demobilization and the settlement of returned soldiers. As a recruiting Committee they held over thirty meetings prior to the end of April, 1918, when recruiting in Jamaica finally ceased, and issued over ninety circulars to the various Parochial Committees. Every detail in connection with recruiting has come before the Committee at one time or another and they can fairly claim to have been the chief agency in despatching from Jamaica to the various fighting fronts a force of 243 officers and 10,180 men.

Recruiting proceeded steadily until the 1st February, 1916, on which date all the men necessary for the third Contingent had been obtained and the men left Jamaica on the 6th March.

Towards the end of March it was announced that fourth and fifth Contingents would be required before the end of the year. Arrangements were made to collect the men in Camp from the 10th April onward, but before that date the orders were cancelled, due to the transport being delayed and collection did not begin until the 15th of May. So well did the men respond that the fourth Contingent was complete by the 3rd of June and enrollment for the fifth had to be suspended until the departure of the next transport.

The delay in the departure of the fourth Contingent had so far been due to a misfortune to the third. The transport carrying the latter had been caught in a blizzard before her arrival in Halifax. The men had not been supplied with clothing to suit such conditions, the boat was not provided with heating apparatus, and as a result several hundred casualties from frost-bite occurred. The worst cases were landed in Halifax, while the transport conveyed the balance to Bermuda.

Between the 30th of May and the 8th day of September, 1916, out of a total of 2,991 men who had left the Island for service, 573 were returned as unfit, of which number no less than 391 belonged to the third Contingent, and were reported to be suffering from the effects of frost bite. It might have been expected that an accident which had incapacitated over 35 per cent. of the men in one ship would have seriously affect recruiting. It appears in the long run to have had very little effect.  The delays in the departure of the fourth Contingent were not, however, yet ended. The arrival of the transport was again delayed, measles broke out at Up-Park Camp and was riot stamped out until August, in which month it was decided to send the men to their homes on furlough in order to thoroughly sanitate the Camp.

Early in September notice of the probable arrival of a transport was given and it was then found that from one cause or another the number of men available was much below requirements, and a call for a further four hundred recruits had to be made. The sudden call was met with little difficulty, the fourth Contingent finally left Jamaica on the 30th September, and recruiting was for a brief period suspended.

A difficulty had arisen early when recruiting was in progress. It appeared that while men might volunteer for service abroad they could not under the conditions obtaining be properly enlisted for service either in Jamaica or overseas. In order to remedy this defect a Law "To regulate the procedure to be adopted by persons enlisting Recruits for the Jamaica Contingent" was passed by the Legislative Council, and assented to by the Governor on the 14th April. Under this Law (No. 19 of 1916) men could be enlisted by any "Recruiter" appointed by the G.O.C. and attested for service with the Jamaica Contingent by any Justice, and should a man thereafter fail to obey a summons to report at Up-Park he could be punished under the Volunteer Force Law of 1914. It still, however, remained impossible to properly enlist a man in Jamaica for service overseas, and the men therefore left the Island voluntarily, and only became members of the regular army, after attestation abroad.

The passing of the Law made some alterations in the forms employed for enlistment necessary, and these, four in number, were printed and put into circulation early in May, 1916. Members of the Parochial Recruiting Committees and others being appointed Recruiters.

About this time also steps were taken to furnish returns to the Parochial Recruiting Committees showing the names of the men rejected with causes of their rejection. It had been the custom to give every rejected man a card, blue if he were finally rejected and, white if he was, after medical examination at Up-Park, found unfit for service , on account of some temporary disability of which he could have himself cured by treatment.  Experience showed the men generally destroyed these cards and a Recruiter who might have been at considerable trouble to persuade a man to offer his services was left in ignorance of the .cause of rejection.

To cure this defect, the cards were collected in Kingston, by the Central Recruiting Committee and passed to the Recruiting Secretaries of the parish from which the men had come, together with a list giving the names of the men and the causes of their rejection. The cards were then passed on to the men through the recruiter and the cause of rejection noted in the Parish Register. In some parishes, this work was well done, in others neglected. Where it was carried into effect it ensured that many men were cured of temporary disabilities and finally accepted.

In May of the same year (1916) badges were issued to men rejected as medically unfit, but it was found they were seldom or ever worn and their issue was therefore abandoned.

In November, 1916, the Military Authorities asked for a fifth contingent to sail in January. It was very specifically stated the men were to be of "good physique", and that on this occasion men unable to read and write would be accepted.

It was hoped that with the withdrawal of the literacy test the rejections for medical causes would be reduced; the hope was not realized, as rejections for medical reasons increased and did not diminish, and this, in spite of the fact that rejections for Venereal Disease ceased, the men being retained for cure when possible.

To assist in recruiting, arrangements were made whereby Military parties attended recruiting meetings. These parties consisted of officers from the J.R.R. or K.I.V., with the band from one or other of their corps. Later these parties were accompanied by speakers and doctors, and while following more or less predetermined routes held their meeting as opportunity offered. Generally they were conveyed by motor mail cars or lorries belonging to Government, and these were also used to Convey recruits to the nearest railway stations. These parties ultimately scoured every parish in the Island; there is no doubt they were very popular, the band proving a great attraction, and while circumstances frequently precluded a careful medical examination of the intending recruit the work of selection at Up-Park Camp was simplified.

As the war progressed, however, it became impossible to obtain medical men to accompany such parties, while local practitioners were so occupied they would give little assistance. Under these circumstances the officers in charge of parties had to depend on physical tests coupled with their own judgment.

While the work was proceeding in Jamaica on the lines above, the Central Recruiting Committee had turned their, attention to another quarter. It had been frequently stated there were large numbers of West Indians on the Isthmus who desired to enlist.  In February, 1916, men had come from Panama at the expense of residents there, and men had also come from Bocas del Toro by means of voluntary subscription raised amongst the British Colony in that place. With the entrance of the United States into the war it became possible to enlist men for the British Army in what was no longer a neutral country. In May, 1917, Lieutenant L. W. Hitchens was sent to Panama with letters to the British Consul, Sir Claude Mallet, who gave his hearty cooperation.

Between the beginning of May and the end of August no less than 2,091 recruits were obtained from the Isthmus and sent to Jamaica at the expense of the island, the United States Government carrying 750 of this force free on a transport which chance rendered available.

This recruiting campaign was short but highly successful, not the least satisfactory feature in it being the physical fitness of the men who joined; as a. whole they were superior to the other recruits and the rejections on medical grounds were less numerous, under 300 being returned to Panama as unsuitable.

Yet another factor was at this time at work to assist in the readiness of men to volunteer for service at the front. The feeling had been growing that in some cases service was being avoided by men who were well able to volunteer.

Resolutions in favour of enforced military service had been passed by some Parochial Recruiting Committees. The Hon. E. F. Cox, Member for St. Andrew, had also proposed in the Legislative Council to introduce such a measure. Finally on the 7th March, 1917, the Hon. H. A. L. Simpson moved a resolution in Council requesting that a Bill Rendering Military Service Compulsory be introduced. The motion was seconded by Mr. Stedman and agreed to. Accordingly on the 22nd March, the Attorney General introduced "A Bill entitled a :Law to make provision with respect to Military Service in connection with the present War"-the Bill passed rapidly through the house and was assented to by the Governor on the 1st June, (No. 16 of 1917).

The Bill provided for the Registration of every male in Jamaica between the ages of 16 and 41, and for the carrying of into effect the writer was by a Gazette Notice dated 1st June, 1917, appointed Central Registration Authority and the Clerks to the Parochial Boards were appointed Local Registration Authorities for their parishes, while Mr. D. Balfour became Local Registration Authority for Kingston.

The Registration Authorities gave their services voluntarily and they were assisted by 1,296 Deputy Registrars who also gave voluntary assistance.

The forms to be used during Registration had already been approved by the Governor and prepared at the Government Printing Office, and Registration was therefore carried out during the month of June.

The completed forms were collected at the Mico College in Kingston where a Register for each parish was prepared by a paid staff, the men being divided into three classes according to their marital condition. Each class was further sub-divided according to age and the names in the subdivision arranged in the Register in alphabetical order.

The whole work was finished by the 31st August, 1917, and a full report upon it will be found in the Supplement to the Gazette of 7th February, 1918.

The cost worked out at 2 1/4d. per man registered.

With the different agencies described at work the formation of Contingents had proceeded rapidly. The fifth Contingent was to have sailed in January, 1917. Delay again took place, and men had to be sent on furlough for two or three weeks at a time. These men were granted railway passes to bring back recruits to Camp, and a bonus was given for each such recruit accepted. A considerable number were so obtained and it was remarkable of what good quality they proved to be. This Contingent ultimately sailed on the 30th March, 1917.

The sixth Contingent, followed on the 1st of June, the seventh on the 20th of July and the eighth on the 26th of August and the ninth and last on the 2nd of October. Recruiting for the year was suspended, on the 5th October, it being now definitely recognized it was inadvisable to take West Indians to Europe during the winter months.

The two last Contingents consisted largely of Panama men, and on their departure a nucleus for a tenth contingent was retained at Port Royal, which had become a recruiting camp when Up-Park was crowded in the earlier part of the year.

The change from Up-Park to Port Royal had proved very satisfactory. Up-Park due chiefly to its proximity to Kingston had not been found very suitable and the decision to use it only for the reception of recruits and to pass on the accepted men to Port Royal met with general approval.

In view of the proposed application of the Military Service Law, officers from England took charge of the Contingent, and the men remaining were trained with a view to being employed as N.C.O.'s when recruits were again enrolled.

The payment of Separation Allowances and of Allotments had always given trouble, it was now settled that these should in future be paid in Jamaica from the time of a man's arrival in Camp, it being recognized that when a man was enrolled compulsorily provision for his dependents was immediately necessary.

In January 1918, instructions were issued to the Central Registration Authority to prepare lists giving the names of the men to be first called up for service. Accordingly on the 16th January a Circular was issued to the Parochial Recruiting Committees in which the following extract occurs:

"One of the objects of Registration was to ascertain the number of men who should be enlisted from each parish in proportion to the number available. To do this I propose to take the numbers between 18 and 40 on 1st January, 1918, and add thereto for each parish, the men enlisted 15th September, 917, therefrom according to the recruiting returns. On the total so obtained I shall estimate the 'number required for a Contingent of 25,000. From this number I then deduct the numbers already enlisted and find the balance to be obtained. The number of men enlisted, somewhat exceeds the number sent abroad, due to discharges here, but the difference is not of much consequence as the discharges are fairly in proportion to the enlistments."

The essential thing required was that from any given number of men a definite proportion should be ultimately drawn, and the arrangement proposed seemed to ensure that.

The office of the Central Registration Authority had been removed from the Mico, to the Public Works Department in Port Royal Street and there the names of the men "To be enlisted" were drawn by lot the lists of the names made and the calling up notices prepared.

The details of the procedure to be followed were all worked out in advance. The men were to attend on specified days in buildings within their postal areas to be medically examined. If found unfit they would have been given exemption, and if found fit an opportunity to at once apply for exemption.

Exemption Committees had been appointed, and arrangements made for these to sit at the various Court Houses; none of these Committees ever acted except in Kingston where for a number of months one under the Chairmanship of Mr. H. I. C. Brown, K.C., the Registrar of the Supreme Court, held frequent meetings to consider the cases of men desiring to leave the Island.

The entrance of the United States of America into the war had, however, completely altered matters. Every available transport was required for men from the States. In May, 1918, it was definitely decided that no further men could be recruited from Jamaica for some considerable time come; the men at Port Royal were, therefore disbanded, while their officers sailed for Europe on the 26th of May. Finally in November the Exemption Committee ceased to sit and no further steps were taken to maintain the registers under the Military Service Law.

Recruiting for the British West Indies Regiment may be correctly said to have ended in October, 1917.

The following table shows the dates of the departure of the various Contingents with the numbers of officers and men in each:

Contingent... Date.......... Officers... Men.
First: 8th November, 1915, Officers 12, Men 722
Draft: 24th December, 1915, Officers 2, Men 53
Second: 7th January, 1916, Officers 22, Men 1,100
Third: 6th March, 1916, Officers 25, Men 1,115
Fourth: 39th September, 1916, Officers 36, Men 726
Fifth: 30th March, 1917, Officers 30, Men 1,656
Sixth: 1st June, 1917, Officers 33, Men 1,656
Seventh: 20th July, 1917, Officers 22, Men 851
Eighth: 26th August, 1917, Officers 31, Men 1,304
Ninth: 2nd October, 1917, Officers 18, Men 985
-----: 26th May, 1916, Officers 12, Men -
TOTAL................ Officers 243, Men 10,180

A detailed, list giving the names of the officers of each Contingent will be found in the Jamaica Hand Book for 1919.

... Accepting, however, the registrations as representing population the greatest proportional number of recruits came from Westmoreland, the lowest from Clarendon.

Every class in the Island was represented in these Contingents-Government officers, planters, professional men, merchants, artisans and labourers, all joined with the same eagerness to do service for the Empire of which the Island forms a part.

No record has ever been prepared to show the occupations or ages of the various men who unlisted, but the following tables give for the first 4,000 men the callings and ages of the rank and file.


Bakers, 245
Boot and Shoemakers, 176
Butchers, 33
Barbers, 10
Cultivators, 657
Clerks, 249
Coachbuilders and Wheelrights, 24
Chemists and Hospital Assistants, 17
Chauffeurs, 43
Coachmen, grooms, drivers,etc, 159
Carpenters & Cabinet Makers, 356
Coopers & Sawyers, 20
Cigar Makers, 20
Constables, 42
Engine, motor drivers & track-
men, 52
Engineers, smithers & mechanics, 196
Fishermen, 56
Foremen & Overseers, 17
Goldsmiths & Jewellers, 9
Hat & Basketmakers, 8
Labourers, 1033
Musicians, 9
Masons & Builders, 102
Occupation not stated, 40
Plumbers & Tinsmiths, 20
Printers, 69
Printers and Binders, 17
Potters, 1
Sugar Boilers, 1
Shop Keepers, 39
Servants, 37
Seamen, 11
Saddlers, 21
Shipwrights, 7
Tanners, 5
Tailors, 165
Teachers, 40

Total, 4000



Age..... number of men that age
17 Years .... 3
18... 11
19.. 887
20.. 794
21.. 520
22 .. 432
23.. 313
24 .. 218
25.. 197
26.. 117
27... 86
28.. 114
29... 75
30... 67
Total 4,000

In the Tables it is remarkable how small is the number of men who appear to have been in any way connected with agriculture while as might have been expected, about three-fourths were men between the ages of 19 and 25.

The writer calculated in November, 1916, that between the ages of 20 and 35 the male population of the island was 93,178, and that of that number there should be available for War Service, 32,500. Registration under the Military Service Law places the former figure at 96,472, but events have shown the rejections would probably have been quite three-fourths of that number.

It has never been possible to arrive at any correct estimate of the number of men who offered to enlist at recruiting meetings; but as regards the men who came to and were actually examined at Up-Park the following figures are substantially correct:

Left for Service overseas............................ 10,180

Finally, disbanded in Jamaica........................... 465

Discharged or died in Jamaica after enlistment........ 2,082

Rejected as medically unfit.......................... 13,940


It would seem, therefore, that over one man in three suitable for service came to Up-Park.

The causes of rejection of the 13,940 were as follows:-

Cause of rejection not known, 379
Illiterate... 255
Under age... 143
Over age... 96
Refused to sign on... 13
Defective speech ... 63
Flat chest... 68
Enlarged glands... 84
Periostitis, stiff joints
Sundry causes..... 208
Sight... 230
Rejected by M.O. as not likely 347
Hernia, Rupture... 348
Deformity, (includes phimosis)... 399
Varicocele, varicose veins... 442
Flat feet, Knock knees 493
Undersize... 514
Teeth... 706
Anemia, heart, lungs, pulse 1,151
Poor physique...1280
Skin diseases, scars, sores, ulcers 1,297
Venereal diseases.. 1,512
Undeveloped, underweight 3,765
Total.... 13,940

For further details in connection with the causes of rejection a paper in the Jamaica Public Health Bulletin of 1917 by, the writer can be consulted.

The expenditure incurred under the Central Recruiting Committee on recruiting may be detailed as follows:

Recruiting in Jamaica, £8,923
Recruiting in Panama, 2,243
Registration, 1,375
Maintenance of Military Service Registers 642

Total.. £13,183

Of the total sum, £4,455 actually appears in the Colony accounts, whilst the balance, £8,728, has been charged against the Imperial Government as an advance. These figures refer to recruiting only and do not include expenditure on equipment and transport of men incurred by the Military and separately charged.

The fact that the Central Recruiting Committee undertook duties in connection with  but not  necessarily a part  of recruiting has already been explained. These duties were passed on to a Central Supplementary  Allowances  Committee  formed early in 1918;  this  committee still exists and must continue to exist for a considerable time to come.  In their hands has been placed not only the matter of Allowances from Colonial Funds to discharged men and to dependents, but also all matters connected with the settlement of demobilized men.

Details of the work of the Central Supplementary Allowances Committee need not be given here; it will be sufficient to state it has made a greater call on the time of its members than even recruiting did, and that  the  British  Government  has  recently recognized it  as  forming a "Statutory Committee" for Jamaica.

This brief history may fittingly terminate with some details in regard to the demobilization of the British West Indies Regiment.

So far back as December,  1916, the Central Recruiting Committee had been called upon to make suggestions in regard to the course to be followed when the regiment was disbanded. Their recommendations form part of Appendix 26 of the Legislative Council Minutes for 1917.

The difficulty of dealing with large bodies of men in Kingston had been amply demonstrated during recruiting. The prevailing belief was that when the men were returned several transports might be expected to arrive at one time.  It was suggested therefore that the men of each parish should be paid off in the chief town of the parish by their own officers, the feeling being that the day would probably be a memorable one in the parish and one on which the men would be warmly welcomed by their friends.

The proposal appears to have been generally on the lines adopted for demobilization in Great Britain, and accordingly Demobilization Regulations for the British West Indies Contingents were worked out in detail at the War Office and copies sent to Jamaica early in 1919.

It was decided locally that the men in each transport should be welcomed by the Governor on behalf of the island. The men for each parish would then be conveyed to their parishes to be paid off and disbanded by the Imperial Authorities, and they would there be welcomed by the Custodes on behalf of their parishes.

So far as possible conveyance of the men from the railway to places near their homes was to be met partly from Colony  Funds and partly  from private  sources. The  Central  Recruiting  Committee  also  arranged to supply food to men who had to proceed for considerable distances by train.

The transports arrived singly and not several at a time but this was probably an advantage, as the shortage of rolling stock on the railway made the conveyance of men in numbers difficult and caused delay.  The arrival  of the  boats also was  very irregular,  some  came before,  others after,  the  time first  announced.

When the first batch of men belonging to Kingston, St. Andrew and St. Thomas landed in Kingston the gaily-decorated streets were packed with a cheering crowd. On that occasion the speeches were delivered in the Victoria Park but on subsequent occasions they were made in the Parish Church with vastly increased dignity and effect.

Possibly as the number of "Welcomes" increased the enthusiasm decreased, but this was offset by the greater expedition with which as experience was gained, the work was carried out. In spite of the difficulties the programme as outlined was generally adhered to and the majority of the men must have reached their homes within about thirty-six hours of the arrival of the transport at Port Royal.

There are still a few men to be returned to Jamaica, but the majority of those under  the head of "unaccounted for" in the following table are men who belonged to other West Indian Colonies, who came to Jamaica from Panama to enlist, and who have been returned direct to their homes without notification to Jamaica.

Died abroad to October 20, 1919, 968
Returned invalided , 1772
Returned to be demobilized, 6954
Unaccounted for, 486

Total 10,180

As regards the officers, thirteen died abroad and one died in Jamaica out of the 243 who left the island. The number who have returned is not yet known as many elected to be demobilized in England.

The above Table shows that 968 men of the British West Indies Regiment were killed abroad or died of wounds or disease. Of those returned to the Colony as medically unfit a not inconsiderable number have since died.

In proportion to the losses  of some famous regiments the  number may seem small but it roughly represents a death rate of 45 per thousand per annum or double the ordinary death rate in Jamaica, and that, too, amongst a young and specially healthy portion of the population.  The employment of West Indian  Troops on European Battlefields has been an experiment; it has proved a severe physical test and one calculated to try the strongest constitution amongst the men. It is to their lasting credit that they stood the test with distinction to themselves and credit to the colonies they represented.

The above briefly sets out the history of recruiting in Jamaica. It does not seem necessary here to draw any deductions or to make any suggestions for future recruiting should need arise. Possibly we are still too near to events to express definite opinions; but the writer would like to say that in his view the greater number of the men of the British West Indies Regiment have profited by their experiences both physically and. mentally. Since their return he has had letters from thousands and has probably dealt personally with hundreds. He has found the men anxious to better their position and surroundings and willing to exert themselves in order to do so. He confidently believes these men will in the future prove a real source of strength to the island and he feels sure that by their energy they will be an example to others.


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Transcriptions from Registers and Wills (Church of England, Dissenters, Civil Registration)

Jamaican Roman Catholic Church Registers - transcriptions

Jamaican Methodist Baptisms - transcriptions

Jewish births marriages deaths - transcriptions

Slaves and slavery in Jamaica

Photographs, maps, prints, etc.