The Trinidad Contingent of the West India Regiment in World War I, serving in Egypt and Palestine
Lieutenant Colonel Harragin and Lance-Corporal Julien
Lieutenant Colonel Harragin joined the Police Force (then Constabulary) on 1st February, 1905, as a Sub-Inspector and rose to the rank of Deputy Inspector-General on 5th September, 1936. Colonel Harragin left the colony on 5th August, 1915, with the first battalion of the B.W.I. Regiment to serve in the Great War, in which he and his battalion distinguished themselves against the Turks in the charge on the Damieh Bridgehead in the Jordan Valley, Palestine. The charge drove the enemy from his entrenched positions, the B.W.I. Regiment capturing 200 prisoners and seven machine guns with one killed and some wounded. Colonel Harragin was awarded the D.S.O. as a direct result.
Amongst those who saw action in the Jordan valley that day was Lance-Corporal Julien, a former Policeman as well, who received the D.C.M. for valourious service.
On his return to Trinidad, Colonel Harragin took up his regular duties in the Police Force. Lieutenant Colonel Harragin and Sergeant Julien were two of many Police officers and Constables who saw action in both the First and Second World Wars and served with valour and distinction.
Capt A.A. Cipriani
Captain A. A. Cipriani
It was on the historic Jordan that the little band of West Indians was destined to cover itself with glory. ‘Damieh’—the name that will be always nearest the heart—here it was that we put paid to the Turks and gave the lie to our detractors who said that our men would not stand up under fire. The Battalion, supported by the Auckland Rifles, went into action in artillery formation with the same calm as if they had been on ordinary parade, and in spite of being subjected to heavy fire in the early stages of the advance, never faltered for a single moment, seemingly heedless of the enemy’s fire.
This steady advance rather ‘put the wind up’ the already demoralised Turk, who nothing loath, cut sticks very speedily. Driven from Chalk and Barka Hills he made for the Damieh bridgehead where he came foul of the 1st Batt. Lewis-gunners, who opened such a terrific fire that not a single Turk succeeded in crossing. Failing in this, the Turks made their last turn for the Es Salt Hills, the battle resolving itself into a chase.
Earlier in the day, part of the 1st, under Major Harragin, charged up the Damieh hillsides, driving ‘Johnnie’ from his entrenched position and capturing 200 prisoners and 7 machine-guns, with one killed and six wounded. The 2nd Battalion had 6 killed and 40 wounded in the assault on the Chalk and Barka Hills.
The Turkish army was now in full flight, making their way home up the Es Salt Hills 3,000 feet up and over goat tracks. Our men, flushed with victory, followed without any rest, with little food and water, in the hope of coming up with them again at Amman, where the Divisional Commander had promised them another scrap. After a few hours’ rest, a forced march through the night brought them to Amman just too late, as our friends the Anzacs had already captured the village.
From this point onward there was no further use for infantry, and the little Regiment that had acquitted itself so well at the first time of asking were thereby deprived of any other chance of showing their mettle. To add insult to injury, our tired and disappointed chaps were ordered back to Jericho to refit, and the march back was left to the Second-in-Command, a Major Bensley, a rare old ‘fuss-pot’, very intelligent and learned but without an ounce of ordinary horse sense. The men were marched nearly the whole of the next day, without a halt, through a blinding, suffocating dust, and a temperature well nigh 100% in the shade.
Already the effects of that terrible malaria which claimed such a toll from the British forces in Palestine had begun to be felt in the Regiment, and officers and men fell by the road-side like flies. Many who had escaped the Turkish bullets two days previously were now being flurried through Clearing Stations to the nearest hospitals, where a great many paid the supreme sacrifice. Of 2,300 men and 40 officers who took the field on that October morning only 500 returned to Jericho. Nearly 90% had contracted pernicious malaria, and up to this day a great many are suffering from its effects.
The work of the B.W.I. Regiment was a revelation to G.H.Q., who were not slow to mark their appreciation. On the day following the battle General Allenby called in person on our wounded in the hospital at Jerusalem and thanked them for their good work. Recognition from the great soldier in person was a very great compliment, and one which will always be remembered by officers and men.
Major Harragin was awarded the D.S.O., Captain Craig the M.C., Major Thomas bar to the M.C., Sergeant Julien the D.C.M.
Apart from those mentioned in despatches, Lieuts. Knaggs, Perkins and Boyd did specially good work and were unlucky not to score a ribbon.
The following was issued to all units:—
“I desire to convey to all ranks and all arms of the force under my command my admiration and thanks for their great deeds of the past week, and my appreciation of their gallantry and determination, which have resulted in the total destruction of the 7th and 8th Turkish Armies opposed to us.
Such a complete victory has seldom been known in all the history of war.”
BWI Troops Palestine; RSM P Flynn with foot on wheel
BWI Troops outside Church Palestine 1914-1918
BWI Troops Palestine 1914-1918
The Sergeants of the British West India Regiment in Palestine, First World War
(four photographs courtesy Paul Ironside)
Postcards from Trinidadian Soldiers in World War I
Trinidadian Officers of the 8th W.I. Regiment stationed in Italy in 1914–1918
Lt. Col. A. de Boissière, Mayor Smith, Capt. McLelland, Capt. Arrindell, Capt. Mac Minn, Capt. Niblock, Lieut. Pittam, Lieut. Massy, Lieut. Morton, Lieut. Ince, Ho. Lt. & Q.M. Wilshire, 2/Lieut. Smith, 2/Lieut. Smith, 2/Lieut. Cooper, 2/Lieut. Skeete, 2/Lieut. Kirton, 2/Lieut. Manning, 2/Lieut. Walcott, 2/Lieut. Elridge, 2/Lieut. McDonald, Capt. Henry, Capt. O’Brien, Surg-Capt. Deane.
Letter by Capt. A.A. Cipriani to Col. Dueros, 1914
October 27th, 1914
49 Marine Square,
Port of Spain.
Colonel A. Dueros,
Your notice in The Times asking Colonials who wish to join the Colours to write to you or to apply in person at the White City has attracted my attention. And there are many men of good physique and education in the Colony, and throughout the West Indies, who are eager and who will be proud to enlist. I called on Saturday last, the 24th instant, asking if you will accept a contingent from this place. l am awaiting your reply. It is necessary that I should fully explain the object of my cable and facts as they are in these parts.
Trinidad is an island, the most southern of the British West Indies; a reference to a map will show they are like stepping stones in the Caribbean. The population throughout is very mixed—white, black and all shades, from the weakest cafe-au-lait to the strongest black, East Indians, Chinese, etc.
Those willing to enlist are of the better class and educated. The cables and papers are read with avidity by them, and so far as West Indians are concerned, the addresses of Lord Kitchener, Messrs. Asquith, Churchill and Lloyd George will not be in vain if their respective local legislatures will but vote the pittance needed to get the men to the Old Country.
We are four thousand and some odd miles from the Old Country and the lowest fare is £17.10. A few men have left, and a few more are leaving on their own, but the majority cannot afford it.
I have little doubt that if the services of our men will be accepted by the War Office, our local Government, or public will see that they are sent to the Old Country.
West Indians have realised that it is a fight to a finish, that not only is the existence of the Mother Country at stake, but the very Empire, of which we are all proud to be apart. We should feel not only isolated, but slighted, if our services are declined when men are still wanted to keep the flag flying. In this Colony, at least 500 men between the ages of 20 and 40 can be mustered within a few days; men of education and good physique, and I have no doubt 4,000 similar men can be mustered throughout the West Indies in a short time. All we need is just the consent ‘Come along.’
In Major de Boissière, who was one of the contingent at the Diamond Jubilee of the late Queen Victoria and the late King Edward’s Coronation, and who has acted as A.D.C. to Her Highness Princess Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein, we have a man who commands a following of all classes and colours. He has volunteered for service, but for some reason our Government will not grant him leave of absence. Our men are of no earthly use in these parts, as invasion is most improbable. Transatlantic Zeppelin flight has not yet been dreamt of and the enemy has no available transport, as their nearest possession is in Africa. We are bottled up here, but we are eager to get out to assist the Mother Country. If you would use your influence in getting our little lot taken into service, this Colony, and the West Indies, will be deeply grateful.
I beg to remain,
ARTHUR A. CIPRIANI.
List of some young women from Trinidad and Tobago serving abroad during the First World War
The following are but a few of the many representing Trinidad who were employed in the Great War:
ALSTON, MILDRED —Refreshment Branch, War Work (Now Mrs. Martin).
ALSTON, WINIFRED —Red Cross Nurse.
ATKINSON, HAZEL —Ambulance Work, France.
AUSTIN, MARIE ESTELLE BRUCE —Admiralty Office.
BRODIE, ALICE MAY —Red Cross Nurse.
GOODEN-CHISHOLM, MAIRI —Associate of the Baronness de T’serclases in the work of rendering First Aid to the wounded at Pervyse, and succouring Belgian soldiers in the trenches under shell fire.
CLARKE, MAY RADCLIFFE.
CORDER, GRACE —Acting Matron, Q.A.I.M.N.S.R. Awarded the Royal Red Cross Decoration, 1st Class. (Assistant Matron Colonial Hospital, Trinidad).
DAVIDSON, GRACE —Red Cross Nurse, Edinburgh.
DICKSON, ISABEL RAEBURN —V.A.D., Darrel Hospital (Now Mrs. Taperell).
DOYLE, KATHLEEN —V.A.D., hospital near Regent’s Park.
FENWICK, STELLA —V.A.D. Hospital, Margate. Owing to frequency of bombs in that locality, this hospital was closed. She is now at Michie Hospital, Queensgate.
GREIG, DOROTHY —C.P.O. Women’s Royal Naval Service. Was 6 months at R.F.C., and 6 months at Tank Station. In charge of 22 cars and girls.
HARRAGIN, MAVIS —V.A.D., 3rd London General Hospital.
HAMEL-SMITH, MAY —V.A.D., London Hospital.
HAVELOCK, Mrs. E.W. —Red Cross Nurse.
HATT, EDNA —Steno-typist, Air Board, London.
HENDY, MAY EULALIE —V.A.D. Serving in St. John’s Red Cross Hospital, Great Malvern, Worcestershire, (England).
KNAGGS, RUTH —V.A.D., Cheltenham.
KNAGGS, BARBARA —Munition Worker, Newcastle.
KNAGGS, PHYLLIS —V.A.D., Cheltenham.
KNAGGS, HILDA —V.AD., Cheltenham.
LAMBIE, DORIS —Red Cross Nurse.
MILLEE, ETHEL —V.A.D., Hospital, Aberdeen.
MUNN, MAUD A. —Red Cross Nurse. Died 1st December, 1918, U.S.A.
RAPSEY, GERTRUDE —Red Cross Nurse, London Hospital. (Now Mrs. Hird).
RUSSELL, Mrs. LEILA —One of three Adjudicators on Objectors to Active Service. (Other two being men).
SCOTT, SYBIL —Driver of Automobile at Naval Base.
SOLlS, MARIA —Red Cross Nurse, U.S.A.
TAYLOR, ElSIE —Red Cross Nurse.
THOMSON, GRETA —Red Cross Nurse, London.
THOMSON, MINNIE —Red Cross Nurse, London.
WHARTON, MURIEL —Munition factory.
WHARTON, VIOLET —Red Cross Nurse.
WILSON, Mrs. TERTIUS —Refreshment Branch —refreshments to Returned Soldiers at Victoria Station.
List of some French men from Trinidad who served in World War I
‘They would not have us weep,
Dear boys of ours whom we have lost awhile.
Rather they’d have us keep
Brave looks, and lips that tremble to a smile.
They would not have us grieve,
Dear boys of ours whose valiant hearts are stilled;
Nor would they have us leave
OUR task undone; OUR service unfulfilled.’
Roll of Honour
AGOSTINI, HENRI —Brigadier to the 31st Regiment of Artillery, DIED in Hospital, 28th January, 1915. (War Cross).
DUBANTON, MAXIME-ALBERT —Pte. to the 7th Regt. of Colonial Infantry. DIED in Hospital, 19th May, 1915.
DECORI, DOMINIQUE —Private to the 8th Regiment of Colonial Infantry. KILLED in action at Manastir, 9th May, 1917.
LIMONGI, JOSEPH-JEAN —Pte. to the 144th Regt. of Cavalry. KILLED in action at Craonne, 13th May, 1917.
DRANGUET, GEORGES-LOUIS —Sub-Lieut. to the 92nd Regt. of Infantry. KILLED in action at Verdun, 23rd August, 1917.
NOUAIS, HENRI-MARIE —Interpreter in the British Army. KILLED on the 4th February, 1918. Awarded War Cross Posthumously.
BARIOU, ANTOINE-CLAUDIUS —Pupil Officer to the 358th Regt., of Infantry. KILLED in action 21st July, 1918, at Sept-Saulx. (War Cross.)
LOTA, ANTOINE-JEAN-BAPTISTE —Sub-Ljeut, to the 59th Battn., of the Alpine Chasseurs. KILLED in action at Bois is Tournelle (Fére en Tardenois) 28th July, 1918. (War Cross.)
FORTIER, JEAN ROGER —Auxiliary Doctor to the 152nd Regt. of Infantry. KILLED in action at Ostniewkerke (Belgium) on the 30th September, 1918. (War Cross).
AGOSTINI, LOUIS-ANDRÉ —Quarter Master to the 31st Dragoons.
AGOSTINI, MARIE-JOSEPH-FRANCOIS (alias ‘Frank’) —Sergt. Postman to the 4th Regt. of Zouaves.
AGUTRRE, JEAN-BAPTISTE —Pte. to the 142nd Regt. of Infantry.
ALBERT, PIERRE-CHARLES —Corpl. to the 11th Regt. of Foot Artillery. Trans. to 75th Regiment, and was in many battles on the Western front. In action at Verdun, and Fleury. Was GASSED once. Honoured as Marechal de Logis. Returned to Trinidad 28th February, 1919.
ALBERT, VICTOR-HUGHES —Pte. to the 166th Regt. of Infantry.
CARLIN, DURAND —Pte. to the 144th Regt. of Infanry. COLONNA, JEAN-MARIE —Pte. to the 7th Regt. of Artillery.
CREMONE, ISRAEL —Pte. to a Regiment of Infantry.
DICANOT, JULES —Pte. to the 129th Regt. of Infantry.
DUMAR, TÉLESPHORE —Pte. to a Regiment of Infantry.
FORTIER, ROGER —Auxiliary Doctor to the 152nd Regiment of Infantry. (War Cross.)
JOAS, JUSTIN —Pte. to a Regiment of Infantry.
LOTA, VICTOR —Auxiliary Doctor to the 4th Engineer Corps. (Was taken prisoner in Belgium and released).
MAJANI, DOMINIQUE-ANDRÉ —Chauffeur, Section of Tractors of Heavy Artillery.
MAJANI, JEAN —Pay-Sergt. to the 44th Regt. of Infantry.
OLIVIERI, ANTOINE —Pte. to the 44th Regt. of Infantry.
PALAZZI, JEAN-PIERRE-FÉLICIEN —Sergt. to the 69th Regt. of Infantry. (War Cross.)
PERRIN, ALPHONSE —Sailor in the Mediterranean Sea Fleet. Returned to Trinidad, 28th February, 1919.
PHELAN, JOSEPH-GREGORY —Sergt. to the 123rd Regt. of Infantry. Now Sub-Lieutenant. (War Cross). Left Trinidad 3rd August, 1914.
PIERI, CHARLES-PHILIPPE —Pte. to the Corsican Regt. of Infantry.
QUESNEL, ANDRÉ-ROBERT-MARIE-ALFRED —Quarter Master Interpreter in the British Army.-Awarded British Military Medal.
QUESNEL, MAURICE-ROBERT-HENRI-GEORGES —Interpreter in the British Army.
ROLLIN, PIERRE —Pte. to the 99th Regt. of Infantry. (War Cross).
SAULNY, EUGENE —Pte. 23rd section of the Medical Corps.
SOTER, CEUEN-FLORIUS —Pte. to the 129th Regiment of Infantry.
Taken from a publication that gave the ‘List of Public Contingents from Trinidad’. This material was made available to us by Gregor Duruty.
List of Silver War Badges awarded to Trinidadians serving in World War I
Presented to the following Returned N.C.O.’s and Men of the British West Indies Regiment, at the Queen’s Park Savannah, on Saturday 19th October, 1918, by the Commandant of the Local Forces, the Hon. Colonel G.H. May; V.D. (in the unavoidable absence of His Excellency, the Governor and Commander-in-Chief).
Returned to Trinidad 3/11/1915. Ex. R.M.S. ‘Magdalena’
Returned to Trinidad, 5/5/1916. Ex. S.S. ‘Siena’
Returned to Trinidad 26/8/1916. Ex S.S. ‘Europa’
Returned to Trinidad 22/9/1916
Ex. R.M.S. ‘Chaudiere’
ST. CL&IR, McKAY
Returned to Trinidad, 8/12/1916. Ex. R.M.S. ‘Magdalena’
DE SILVA, R.
DOTTIN, A. MCD.
WATSON, CL-Lance —Corporal
Returned to Trinidad, 3/7/1917. Ex. R.M.S. ‘Magdalena
Returned to Trinidad, 4/12/1917. Ex. R.M.S. ‘Magdalena
IA CAILLE, J.
First Trinidad Contingent British West Indies Regiment Officers, World War I
Trinidadians flock to enlist at the start of the First World War. This photograph was taken in front of the Town Hall on Knox Street, Port of Spain, by Gregor Duruty in 1914.
Major ALLASTAIR MURRAY MCCULLOCH, —now Captain.
Capt. ALFRED ERNEST ALBERT HARRAGIN, —now Major (MC.)
Capt. ERNEST BOVELL CONNELL, —now 2nd Leut.
Capt. HERBERT JAMES LAWRENCE CAVENAUGH.
2nd Lieut. UALLEAN HAMISH MCU. GOODEN-CHISHOLM, now Lt. R.A.F.
2nd Lieut. ALEXANDER STURROCK LOWSON, —now Capt. and Adjt.
2nd Lieut. LEONARD RICHMOND WHEELER, —now Lieut.
2nd Lieut. ROBERT PHILIP JOHNSTON —now Captain.
2nd Lieut. EDWARD VIVIAN BYNOE, —now Lieut.
2nd Lieut. JOHN PATRICK THOMPSON —now Lt. (Ag. Capt. and Adjt.)
2nd Lieut. EDMUND RICHARD UCKFOLD, —now Lt. (attached RA.F.)
Surg.-Capt. Albert James Clarke.
ABRAHAM, HUBERT BERTIE …DIED 23rd October, 1918.
ACHE, LOUIS FELIX.
ADAMS, AUBREY-Sergeant. Wounded in thigh.
ADAMS, NORMAN A —Lance-Corporal, Egypt.
AKIE, HENRY-Returned Medically unfit.
ALEXANDER, LUCIEN …… Accidentally killed, 19th June, 1917.
ALEXANDER, HENRY CLAUDE —Returned Medically unfit.
ALEXANDER, ‘WILFRED —Lance Corporal.
ALLEN, JOSEPH. ALLI, SIRDAR —Returned unfit.
ALLUM, CHARLES RAMSEY.
ANDERSON, CHARLES —sent back from England.
ARNEAUD, EMANUEL —C. Co., 1st Batt. B.M.E.F.
ASHBY FITZ CLARENCE —Corpl. Mesopotamia, Acting Quarter-Master.
ALBERT. AUSTIN, FRANK …DIED 12th October, 1918.
AUSTIN, HENRY AUGUSTUS.
BABB, EDWARD —Machine Gunner.
BAGWANSINGH —Returned from England.
BALWANT —Returned unfit.
BAPTISTE, ANDREW DE VIRE.
BAPTISTE, FREDERICK MOSES.
BAPTISTE, JERRY A. —Lance Corporal, Egypt.
BARNWELL, ADOLPHUS ERNEST —Sergeant, Egypt.
BARTHOLOMEW, WESLEY —Returned Medically unfit.
BASTIEN, JOHN. BEHARRY, LAL —Returned unfit.
BERNARD, NORMAN. BERTETE, HENRY —Private, Egypt. BHOLAH —Returned unfit.
BHOORISINGH —Returned unfit.
BLENMAN, GEORGE WILBERT.
BLENMAN, HUBERT —Returned Medically unfit.
BOMARSINGH —Returned unfit.
BONNETT, AARON … DIED 27th April,1916.
BOUCAUD, JOHN —Returned Medically unfit.
BOYD, HENRY…DIED October (?) 1918.
BRACKENREED, JAMES-Sergeant, E.E.F. Egypt.
BRATHWAITE, MALCOLM ATHELSTAIN… DIED October (?) 1918.
BRIDGEWATER, URIAS —Drummer, O. Co., 1st Sew. Battalion.
BRIGGS, GEORGE HUBERT AUGUSTUS.
BROWNE, LEONARD FITZGERALD…DIED 19th August, 1918, Italy.
BRUCE, JAMES DOLLY —Signalling Sergt. B. Co., 1st Bat. M.E.F. Egypt.
BRYAN, CHARLES ISIDORE —Lce-Cpl. Served Ger. E.A.F. Invalided Egypt
BUDALOOSINGH —Returned unfit.
BUNTIN, ALFRED WASHINGTON…DIED 13th January, 1919.
BURKE, FRANCIS ALBERT.
BURNETE, JOSEPH NATHANIEL HERBERT
CAINS, FITZ HERBERT… DIED 4thJanary, 1916
CALLAN, SILENCE —Returned unfit.
CAMPBELL NEWTON —Gr. No. 3, Armd Tm. E.E.T. Egypt.
CALLENDER, LUTHER JAMES.
CALLENDER, SCIPIO AUGUSTUS —Corporal, fought German E. Africa.
CALLISTE, JONIAS —Returned Medically unfit.
CAMPBELL, LEONARD JAMES —Accidentally Wounded 17th April, 1918.
CHARLES. CARTER, DOUGLAS —Returned Medically unfit.
CASIMIR, PHILIP —Returned Medically unfit.
CASSIDY, PATRICK JOHN-Sergeant, E.E.F., Egypt.
CATO, JOHN LOUIS —Private E.E.F.
CHAPMAN, ARTHUR MALCOLM.
CHARLES, JAMES NATHANIEL.
CLARKE, MILTON —No. 1 Platoon.
CLARKE, RUFUS ADOLPHUS.
CLEMENTS, JAMES WILLIAM —Returned Medically unfit.
CUFFIE, JOSEPH ALEXANDER —Returned Medically unfit.
COLLINS, VINCENT —Returned Medically unfit.
COURTENAY, CORNELIUS WILLIAM.
CROOKS, JAMES EGBERT YEATES.
CROUCHE, ALEXANDER CYRIL.
DALLOO —Returned unfit.
DALRYMPLE, GEORGE SAMUEL
DANIEL, GEORGE ALEXANDER.
DARLINGTON, ALBERT PRINCE.
DARMANTE, EMANUEL —Returned Medically unfit.
DE CRAY, MCFIELD.
DE GANNES, ALBERT HUGH-Corporal, EA.E.F.
DE PAIVA, ANTONIO.
DE SILVA, RAYMOND —Returned Medically unfit.
DES VIGNES, JAMES ARTHUR-Lce.-Cpl …DIED 29th October, 1918.
DES VIGNES, JAMES RAYMOND —Corporal, Egypt.
DICK, GEORGE ALEXANDER —Pt. Awarded MILITARY MEDAL, 1918.
DILLON, JOSEPHUS THOMAS-Sgt. Dispenser 3rd Ser. Batt., B.F..F. France.
DONALDSON, THOMAS ARMSTRONG.
DOOKAL —Returned unfit.
DORSET, HENRY JOHN.
DORSETT, JOHN EDWARD.
DOS SANTOS, ALAN PERCY CARLYLE —Sergt. Egypt, now Mesopotamia.
DOS SANTOS, JOSEPH —Pte. B. Co., 6th Platoon, 1st Serv. Bat., E.E.F.
DRAYTON, PHILIP WILLIAM.
DYALL, VICTOR LEOPOLD —Private I. Co., E.E.F., Egypt.
EVANS, EDWARD —Capt. 6th Battn., B.W.I.R., Flanders.
FENWICK, ALDFRED —Lance-Corpl. C. Co., 1st Serv. Batt., Egypt.
FLYNN, PETER PAUL.
FOX, MATTHEW WALTER.
FRANCOIS, PERCY DILLON —Lance Corporal.
FRANCOIS, ST. HILL.
FRANCOIS, THEODORE AUGUSTUS —Sergt. B. co., 1st Serv. Batt., Egypt.
GAJADHAR, PAUL OLIVER —Returned Medically unfit.
GEORGE, SEIFORT —Returned Medically unfit.
GLAUDE, CLEOPHUS MATHEW.
GONSALVES, ARTHUR (or GAFFOOR) —Returned unfit.
GONZALES, BERTIE ANTHONY ETHELBERT.
GONZALES, FREDERICK —Corporal, Egypt.
GOULD, GEORGE ANTHONY.
GRAINGER, URIAS PHILLIP.
GRAVES, FITZ STEPHEN MAURICE.
GREENIDGE, JOSEPH BENJAMIN.
GRIFFITH, BANIFIELD BERNARD CECIL —Corpi. B. Co., Egypt.
GRIFFITH, FRANCIS SAMUEL —Sergeant Farrier, Egypt.
GUDGRAJ, JOHN —Returned Medically unfit.
HAMILTON, MORRIS DONALD IFIL.
HARLEY, AUGUSTUS CHAPMAN —Corpl. B. Co., 1st Serv. Batt., Egypt.
HARPER, CLAUDE WALLACE —Sergeant, Egypt.
HARRINGTON, LLOYD GUSTON.
HARRIS, CHARLES HENRY.
HARRIS, REYNOLD SYLVESTRE.
HARRISON, LESLIE. HARRY, THEOPHILUS.
HENDY, HAYNES O’CONNELL —Sergt. E.E.F., Palestine.
HENLEY, HENRY ADOLPHUS —Returned Medically unfit.
HENRY, RENE NORMAN —Returned Medically unfit.
HERISSON, MELVILLE —Sergeant, Egypt.
HOLDER, CECIL FREDERICK.
HOLDER, THEOPHILUS DUDLEY.
HOOSAMBOCUS —Returned unfit. JOOSEIN, JAFFUR —Returned unfit.
HOYTE, GEORGE —Sent back for Misconduct.
HYNDMAN, CHRISTOPHER ADLOPHUS —Military Medal, 7/11/17.
HYPOUTE, PATRICK FLEMMING.
ISAAC, RANDOLPH. ISON, GILBY.
ISURA —Returned unfit.
JACKSON, MICHAEL —Private, Egypt.
JACOB, ADOLPHUS WILLIAM.
JACOBS, GEORGE HAMILTON …DIED January, 1916.
JAMES, CHARLES MONTGOMERY.
JAMES, WILLIAM. HEREMIAH, LEO DIED 12th October, 1918.
JOACHIM, ALFRED JAMES —Sergeant, Egypt.
JOAQUIN, ARTHUR ALFRED —RE. Mtd. Linesman Southern Canal Div.
JOHNSTON, SYLVESTRE —Returned Medically unfit.
JOSEPH, ADOLPHUS ALISTER.
JOSEPH, ADOLPHUS THOMAS.
JOSEPH, MILFORD. KARIM, ABDOOL —Returned unfit.
KHAN OMEER —Returned unfit.
KHAN, NAGIR —Returned unfit.
KNIGHTS, JAMES NATHANIEL.
KUNDKNSINGH —Returned unfit.
LAKE, LIONEL WHARTON —Sergeant, Egypt.
LANG, EVANS SAMUEL… DIED 4th June, 1918.
LA ROSA, FRANCIS DE SALES.
LAWRENCE, OSCAR ADOLPHUS.
LAYNE, CHARLES LETCHMERE.
LEEKHAM, THEODORE MCCOLUN —Ag. Corpl. Military Medal.
LE GENDRE, LAWRENCE.
LING, PHILIP —Returned Medically unfit.
LOGAN, THOMAS ALEXANDER.
LORD, NORMAN ST. CLAIR.
LOWDIN —Returned unfit.
LUCAS, FELIX ALEXIS.
LUCES, MARIANO EGNACIO —Private Egypt.
LYNCH, ALBERT AUGUSTUS.
MACINTOSH ANDREW (‘Toby’) —Sergeant, German East Africa.
MAHOMED, JOHN —Returned unfit.
MAHOMED, OMEER —Returned unfit.
MAHOMMED, DIN —Returned unfit.
MARQUES, LOUIS —Returned Medically unfit.
MARSHALL, ALLAN ALEXANDER —Gnr. 1st Serv. Bat., B. Co., Palestine.
MARTIN, MARTIN WILLIAM.
MATHEW, THOMAS —Returned Medically unfit.
MAUGE, JOHN CECIL —Returned Medically unfit.
MAXWELL, STEADY —Private Signaller E.E.F.
MAYERS, LAURIE PHILIP ARGON.
MITCHELL, ROBINSON FRANCIS —Pte. 1st Battn. E.A.E.F., East Africa.
MOOLEA —Returned unfit.
MOORE, BLANCHPIELD DAVID —Private, Egypt.
MOORE, JACOB BENJAMIN —Returned Medically unfit.
MORALDO, JAMES ANTONIO… DIED 18th February, 1916.
MORGAN, JOHN… DIED December, 1917.
MORRIS, NATHANIEL FITZROY —Pte. E.E.P., Palestine.
MOTELEY, JAMES GEORGE.
McINTOSH McINTOSH, CEDRIC.
McINTOSH, MARTIN ADOLPHUS.
OKEIFFE, HUGH FORESTER.
OXLEY, JOSEPH —Returned Medically unfit.
PARKER, JOHN BADCOCK —Returned Medically unfit.
PARRIS, BERESFORD GILBANKS.
PARRIS, CHARLES CYRIL ST. CLAIR.
PARRIS, THEOPHILUS JOSHUA.
PAUL, WHITFIELD —Returned Medically unfit.
PAYNE, EBENEZER WILFRED.
PAYNE, JONATHAN —Returned Medically unfit.
PENA, CHARLES OSWALD —Sergt. B. Co., 1st. Serv. Batt., Egypt.
PETERS, ARCHIBALD… DIED 17th February, 1916.
PHILLIPS, NATHANIEL… DIED 9th November, 1915.
PHILLIPS, NATHANIEL —Returned Medically unfit.
PHILLIPS, OLIVER —Returned Medically unfit.
PIERRE, ALBERT FREDERICK ERNEST —Sergeant, Egypt.
PILLAY NADARAJAH —Returned unfit.
PINDER, EDMUND… DIED 23rd March, 1917. PINTO, JOHN BAPTISTE.
POLLONAIS, ALBERT LIONEL —Company Sergeant-Major.
PROVIDENCE, JAMES —Returned Medically unfit.
PRENTICE, MOSES… DIED 28th November, 1916.
PURCELL, ALEXANDER CRESS.
RAHAMAN, ABDOOL —Returned unfit.
RAM, OUDA —Returned unfit.
RAMNATH —Returned unfit.
RAMSAY RUFUS ADOLPHUS.
RATMAH —Returned unfit.
ROWLAND RODERICK —Sergt. E.E.F., Egypt.
REID, LOUIS-Corpl… DIED 26th December, 1918.
RICHARDS, FITZ HERBERT.
ROACH, FREDERICK LANCELOT —Corporal, 1st Battn., E.E.F.
ROBERTS, CHARLES. ROBERTS, NEVILLE.
ROBERTSON, FREDERICK WILLIAM —Returned Medically unfit.
ROMNEY, THOMAS SOLOMON —Sergeant.
ROSTANT, ANDRE —Reported a deserter in Egypt.
ROSTANT, EMANUEL EVAN.
RUDOLFO, PHILIP EMANUEL.
RUSSELL, EDMUND EDWARD —Corpi. B. Co., 1st Battn., E.E.F., Egypt.
SAHALU —Returned unfit.
SAMUEL, THEOPHILUS-CORPORAL, E.E.F.
SAVARY, LIONEL… DIED 3rd September, 1917.
SCHOON, THOMAS BEGGS.
SEALES, JOSEPH SLOAN.
SUBLAL —Returned unfit.
SHERIFF, JOHN MILFORD.
SHURLAND, CLIFFORD ALEXANDER.
SIMEON, JOHN GARNET.
SINGH, DOUG —Returned unfit.
SKEETE, ZADOK —Private, Egypt.
SMALL, RAPHAEL ARTHUR —Gunner, I Co., 1st Batt., B.E.A.RF.
SMITH, JOSEPH EMMANUEL… DIED 18th August, 1918.
SOLOMON, ALEXANDER… DIED 10th October, 1918.
SONGSTER, JAMES LEICESTER
SONGSTER, SAMUEL… DIED 12th November, 1916.
SOOGANSINGH —Returned unfit.
SOOJATTKHAN —Returned unfit.
STANFORD, REGINALD ADOLPHUS —Returned Medically unfit.
STEPHEN, LUCIEN… DIED 27th December, 1915.
STERLING, VINCENT MATHIAS.
STEWART, AMBROSE —Returned Medically unfit.
ST. CLAIR, McKAY —Returned Medically unfit.
ST. LOUIS, O’CONAL
SUTTON, WILMOT ARTHUR.
TAITT, MARTIN LUTHER.
TEIJMUL, JOSEPH-Returned unfit.
TELESFORD, JOSEPH LOUIS.
THOMAS, JOSEPH MICHAEL.
THOMAS, MARTIN LUTHER.
THOMAS, RALPH CALAPHAS-Pte. 1st Battn., Egypt.
THOMAS, THEOPHILUS GERMANS.
THOMPSON, ALFRED WILLIAM.
TITRE, HARRY AUGUSTUS.
TORAILLE, FELIX CHARLES-Returned Medically unfit.
TOTA —Returned Medically unfit.
TOUSSAINT, BERNARD RANDOLPH.
TROTMAN, CHARLES EMANUEL
TROTMAN, ELIAS ALEXANDER JOSEPHUS.
TURPIN, RICHARD —Lce-Cpl …Distinguished Conduct Medal
VALENTINE, ROBERT AUGUSTUS —Sergeant, Egypt.
VANDERPOOL, ALBERT —Returned Medically unfit.
VASCONCELLOS, JULES LOUIS —Lance-Corporal, Egypt.
WAITHE, JAMES JULIEN —Corpl. C. Co., 1st Serv. Battm., Palestine.
WALCOTT, O’DONNELL JOHN.
WATSON, CHARLES LANCELOT —Returned Medically unfit.
WATSON, EDGAR NEVILLE —Lance-Cpl., Egypt-Now Ag. Co. Qtr. Mstr..
WEEKES, DUNCAN —Returned Medically unfit.
WILFORD, FRANCIS PERCY.
WILLIAMS, HAMILTON JOHN.
WILLIAMS, HENRY HAMILTON —Returned Medically unfit.
WILLIAMS, JAMES —Sent back for misconduct.
WILLIAMS, JOHN —Returned Medically unfit.
WOOD, FITZ HERBERT.
WORRELL, OSCAR LONGSFORD —Pte. B. Co., 1st Serv. Bat., BE. Africa.
WRIGHT, ADOLPHUS CHARLES… DIED 24th January, 1918.
Major [Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel] Arneaud de Boissière, British West Indies Regiment
Mention in a Despatch of Maj. (T./Lt:Col.] W.H.A. de Boissière, 8th Bn., signed by Winston Churchill
A letter of farewell to Arneaud de Boissière from the villagers of Boissière Village, Maraval, Trinidad, a village on the de Boissière estate of Champs Elysées (1917)
The signatories of Boissière Village: Peter Lalbiharie, S.E.V. Madhoo (soldier), Gregson E. de Silva (soldier), Alfred Uriah (soldier), Felix Stewardt, Alexander Nancoo, Valleton Went (soldier), Simon Jack (soldier), Joseph Alphonse (soldier) and Allan Hinkson. (The soldiers would have been members of one of the earlier British West Indian Regiments, and might have seen service in the Boer War or in the Gambia.)
A letter of welcome to Arneaud de Boissière from the Immigration Department upon his return from serving in World War I in 1919. Identifiable signatories: ..., Cadiz, Lohun, Lohun
Continuation of list of signatories to the 1919 letter. Identifiable signatories: Gopaul, Rajnauth, Morgan, Murali, Harriram, Murzanali, Bastien, Chittarsingh
Roll of Honour from the C.I.C. Annual 1919 "War Memorial Number", St. Mary's College of the Immaculate Conception, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. (Pte Carlos Pollonais, Lt. Gordon Burke, Surgeon-Lt. Roger Fortier, Rv. Fr. Henri Nouais, Lt. Jacques de Boissière, Lt. W. Schoener Miller, Sergeant Antoine Lota.)
Lt. Neville Grell, Lt. Wilfred Bishop, Trooper Harold Knox, Surgeon Lt. Fernand de Verteuil, Pte. Oliver McLean, Pte. James Eversley, Lt. Cecil Scott
Lance Corporal McCollin Leekam, Trinidad Contingent, B.W.I. Regiment awarded Military Medal, 1918
Lance Corporal McCollin Leekam of Trinidad is awarded his medal in 1918 by Major General Sir E.W.C Chaytor (Photo: Clint Grant)
Lance Corporal T.M. Leekam, along with other volunteers of St. Mary's College, as depicted in the C.I.C. Annual 1919 "War Memorial Number", St. Mary's College of the Immaculate Conception, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad.
Men from Trinidad who served in the Royal Air Force during World War I
(From the War Memorial Number, CIC St. Mary's College Annual, 1919)
|Flight Commander Horace Bowen, Royal Air Force|
|Lieutenant Rupert Campbell, Royal Air Force|
|Trooper Michael "Mikey" Cipriani, King's Household Battalion, attached Royal Air Force|
|Lieutenant Goerge de Boissière, Royal Air Force|
|Lieutenant Marc de Verteuil, Royal Air Force|
|Lieutenant Roland de Verteuil, Royal Air Force|
|Lieutenant H.A. Hamel-Smith, Royal Berks, attached Royal Air Force|
|Lieutenant Joseph Herrera, Royal Air Force|
|Lieutenant Joseph E. Kernahan, Royal Air Force|
|Lieutenant Percy J. Knox, Royal Air Force|
|Captain G.E. Lange, B.W.I. Regiment, attached Royal Air Force|
|Lieutenant Raoul Lazzari, Royal Air Force|
|Lieutenant Henri Maingot, M.C., Royal Air Force|
|Cadet Cecil O'Connor, Royal Air Force|
|Lieutenant Edmund O'Connor, Royal Air Force|
|Lieutenant Eugene O'Connor, Royal Air Force|
|Lieutenant Louis E. Prada, Lancashire Regt., attached Royal Air Force|
|Lieutenant Jules Rochemont, Royal Air Force|
|Cadet José Rodriguez, Royal Air Force|
|Lieutenant Errol Rooks, Royal Air Force|
|Lieutenant Carlos A. Schjolseth, Royal Air Force|
|Lieutenant Felix Solis, Royal Air Force|
THE BEGINNING/EARLY AVIATORS
By Lt. Gaylord Kelshall
“The History of Aviation”
published by the Airports Authority of Trinidad and Tobago
In January 1913, the intrepid American aviator Frank Boland and a party of four arrived in Trinidad and brought the world of aviation to the tranquil skies of the British Colony. Since the Wright Brothers' first flight on 17th December 1903, local newspapers had carried headline stories about Man's early flying machines and according to some, the "crazy" characters who flew them. Early aviation had its critics as well as its admirers, but to the people of Trinidad, it had all seemed very far away, until Boland arrived. Since September 1912, the group had been performing exhibitions and demonstration flights on a fund raising tour through Venezuela, Colombia and Costa Rica, and in Trinidad, which was to be their last stop, they had scheduled a public performance for January 25th. Economically, the colony was enjoying a boom period. Cocoa was at its peak, the sugar industry was stable and there was a burgeoning oil industry. From a financial point of view, the colony was a good place to stop.
Frank was one of a trio of Boland brothers who, like the Wright brothers, had started in the bicycle business and progressed to the world of aviation and its flying machines. Unable to copy the Wright Flyer because of patents on the control surfaces, the Bolands had invented an entirely new method of control, known as the JIB. The original idea dispensed with rudders, ailerons and wing warping and instead relied on two triangular jibs mounted between the outer ends of the biplane's wings. These control surfaces were very unorthodox, but in the opinion of Wilbur Wright who witnessed a demonstration, highly efficient. In fact he said that he had never seen an aeroplane turn in a smaller circle than the Boland Machine.
When the Bolands arrived in Trinidad they learned that the Governor of Trinidad George Le Hunte could not be present for the planned demonstration on the 25th, and Boland decided to give a special flying display on the 23rd. Amid deafening cheers, the Boland biplane was rolled out of a small tent that had been set up to the east of the Grand Stand in the Savannah. Within view of a large crowd the flying machine was made ready for flight. The first of those magnificent men in their flying machines was about to perform in Trinidad. With the good wishes of the crowd, Boland took off on the first flight from Trinidad soil.
It is probable that no Trinidadian had ever seen an aeroplane before and the excitement at the Savannah as Boland soared upwards was at fever pitch, but alas, tragedy soon struck. He was coming in to land near the area known as the Hollows, in front of Stollmeyer's Castle, when the biplane went out of control and dived into the ground, throwing Boland out of the pilot's seat. The ribs on his left side pierced his heart and he died instantly. The shock of the tragedy numbed the watching crowd and ended the previously triumphant first tour of the Caribbean and South America. According to a report in the Port of Spain Gazette of 24th January 1913, "the Very Reverend Father Sutherland O.P. said the last offices for the dead, the deceased being a Catholic". Boland's body was taken from the Colonial Hospital to the Church of the Holy Rosary and then interred at the Lapey- rouse Cemetery. It is said that the body was later exhumed and shipped to the United States to his hometown for burial at the St. Mary's Cemetery, Rahay. But his two brothers did not give up. The Bolands remained active in aviation well into the Second World War.
These early aviators were all hard put to finance their experiments and were forced to rely on demonstrations and appearances at fairs to generate capital. The early bicycle type aeroplanes were almost impossible to fly in winter conditions, with the result that the aviators looked to appearances in sunny climes to carry them through the North American non-flying season. Thus within a month of Boland's death, another intrepid aviator was in Trinidad.
George Schmidt was the American born son of a German immigrant, who had virtually taught himself to fly. His party had left New York in November, 1912 and progressed through the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Colombia and finally arrived in Trinidad in February, 1913. His previous demonstrations in a Baldwin biplane christened "Red Devil", received considerable publicity and special trains were laid on for the thousands who were expected to flock to the city to witness the grand attempt.
On the morning of 26th February 1913, Schmidt lifted the "Red Devil" off the ground, from the area in front of the Queen's Park Hotel. Thousands of people witnessed the event and shouted themselves hoarse, encouraging Schmidt and his magnificent flying machine. It is reported that he reached a height of 914.6 metres (about three thousand feet) during the flight and demonstrated his masterful control of the machine. Schmidt safely landed the "Red Devil" after his flight and was carried shoulder high into the Queen's Park Hotel, where a champagne reception awaited him.
The flight of the "Red Devil" fired the imagination of the crowd, particularly some of the young boys who witnessed it and this was to influence a number of them to become Trinidad and Tobago's aerial pioneers. Two boys named *Horace Bowen and *Claude Vincent were among the thousands who witnessed that day's event. Another was a young Lieutenant of the Trinidad Volunteers named Eric Hobson, who was acting as ADC to the Governor. He witnessed both Boland's attempt and Schmidt's flight and it shaped his life.
The "Red Devil" was kept in an enclosed area in front of the Queen's Park Hotel and an admission fee of one shilling was charged for those who wished to view the flying machine. When maintenance and repair work became necessary, local engineer Jose' Geronimo Solis assisted Schmidt in preparing the These men are also covered in Chapter 2 - pg. 19. airplane for flight. Solis had never seen a flying machine before but diligently applied his mechanical skills to assist the intrepid flier. Solis's young brother Felix, was also present and he like dozens of others was bitten by the flying bug. His chance was to come during the Great War.
Just over a year later, in 1914, Archduke Ferdinand, heir to the Austro Hungarian Empire and his wife were assassinated, while they toured Serbia. Political tensions had been building in Europe for years and the double killings triggered off the First World War. With the outbreak of war in 1914 the Trinidad Colonial government received emergency powers, which gave it the authority to suppress any social and political activity which it perceived as subversive. The Trinidad Workingmen's Association for example, was one organisation whose activities were seen as such. This incipient trade union - formed in 1897 - sought to represent workers and address con- temporary social issues. They also agitated for constitutional reform to the system of Crown Colony Government. However, many of Trinidad and Toba- go's young men demonstrated their allegiance to Britain by immediately setting sail for England to join the armed forces of the British Empire. It was not too long before the first of these progressed to the world of aviation, where their super co-ordination marked them out as excellent aviators, lighting a spark that glows brightly to this day.
The first of Trinidad's intrepid aviators was Charles M. Pickthorne from Tobago. On 30th March 1916 he transferred from the British army to the fledgeling Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and was appointed as an Observer with No. 8 squadron. His squadron operated over the Somme battlefield in the summer of that year flying the BE2c reconnaissance planes. He later qualified as a pilot and achieved fame when in March, 1917 he shot down the German ace Prince Frederick Karl of Prussia. At the time, he was flying an antiquated stringbag of an aeroplane called a DH2, in use with No. 32 fighter squadron. He received the Military Cross (MC) in April 1917 and by the end of the war he was in command of the crack No. 84 squadron, generally acknowledged to be one of the best such units in 1918.
While Pickthorne was airborne in the back seat of the BE2c over the Somme, Edmund Lickfold, another local boy, was also airborne as an Observer with No. 26 RFC squadron.
Edmund Richard "Er!" Lickfold was born in Sangre Grande in 1898 to English parents. As a boy he was a loner and had a very independent spirit which was fostered by his upbringing. So when at the age of seventeen he wanted to enlist in the British West Indies (BWI) Regiment to fight in the First World War, the only condition that his parents imposed before he received their consent was that he pass his Matriculation examinations. Lickfold easily accomplished this task and left Trinidad on the 16th September 1915 for England. During his tour of duty with the BWI Regiment he was stationed in Egypt and whilst there, he transferred to the newly formed Royal Flying Corps (RFC) where he went on to attain the rank of Captain. He operated the BE2c type aircraft over the East African "bush" hunting the German columns led by that redoubtable warrior Von Letow-Vorbeck. Lickfold also later qualified as a flying instructor at Abu Sueir in Egypt and went on to achieve fame as an outstanding aerobatic pilot when he served with No. 150 squadron in Turkey. He later played a significant role as a pioneer of aviation in Trinidad.
While both Pickthorne and Lickfold were airborne as Observers in 1916, the first Trinidad and Tobago airman to qualify as a pilot took to the air. Horace Bowen, a former Queen's Royal College (QRC) boy from Port of Spain, began his pilot training in the antiquated Farman Long Horn training aircraft during May 1916. He received a posting as a combat pilot to No. 7 squadron in France on 7th July, 1916. As the captain of a BE2c, he carried out reconnaissance missions over the Somme.
Later that year, he was posted as a Staff Officer to the headquarters of the Royal Flying Corps. He ended the war as a Flight Commander with No. 105 squadron, flying the DH9 bomber.
At virtually the same time as Bowen, Frank Graham McIntosh, another QRC old boy from Port of Spain, qualified as a pilot. He was appointed to No. 23 squadron on 24th July, 1916, flying an FE2b bomber against tactical targets on the Somme. His flying career was cut short on 31st August of that year when flying the aircraft purchased by the people of the island of Dominica - he was shot down and seriously wounded by anti-aircraft fire. Both he and his observer were so badly wounded that the Germans repatriated them back to England, where McIntosh although unable to fly, rejoined his old squadron as adjutant.
While the Great War for Civilisation (as it came to be called) raged in Europe, Asia and Africa, the people of Trinidad and Tobago were fired with the concept of early aviation to the extent that they agreed to fund the purchase of an aircraft for the RFC. A series of fund-raising events brought in enough money for the first such machine to be purchased. A BE2c, serial number A3096 was emblazoned with the name "Trinidad and Tobago Aeroplane", and was flown by the RFC in India throughout the war. The second aircraft purchased by the people of the island was an FE2b bomber, which carried the word "Trinidad" on either side of the cockpit, and was flown by No. 18 squadron until 16th July, 1916 when it was lost in *no man's land.
The Trinidad Chamber of Commerce also purchased an aeroplane for the RFC. The first was an FE2b bomber flown by No. 25 squadron until March, 1916 when it was replaced by a similar type aircraft, with the same squadron, until September of that year. The replacement machine was an RE8, which carried the name of the Chamber of Commerce. This was followed by three replacement machines of the same type until 1919. Thus throughout the aerial battles of the Great War, there were always aircraft with the name Trinidad and Tobago emblazoned on them, and they were sometimes also flown by four pilots of Trinidad and Tobago.
On 2nd January, 1918 an eighteen year old San Fernando boy became the first Trinidadian to be killed in an aircraft crash. Frank Vernon Bonyon qualified as a pilot in June, 1917 and was posted to No. 32 squadron in France during November of that year. He was flying the notoriously unstable DH5 fighter on a ground attack mission over Flanders, when the aircraft hit the ground in thick fog. He died
*no man's land - please see glossary of terms.
shortly after being pulled from the wreckage of his aircraft.
While Bonyon flew his ground attack missions, Trinidad and Tobago's premier fighter pilot was convalescing from wounds received in air combat. Kenneth John Knaggs, another QRC old boy, had joined the RFC in August, 1916, and after his pilot training, was selected and became an outstanding fighter pilot of what became known as the anti- Richthofen squadron, flying alongside such greats as
*Albert Ball, *Rhys-Davids, *Maxwell and *Cecil Lewis. In his SE5 fighter, Knaggs became one of a very select band of international fighter pilots, who manage to make a kill on their first operational mission. On his first flight during a major offensive in April 1917, he shot down a green painted Alba- tross fighter, over the French village of Fresnoy. The April 17th offensive which was a major achievement for the Allies was known as Bloody April, because one third of all the airmen involved died.
*Captain Albert Ball, VC, DSO and Bar MC, was the first British fighter pilot to be acknowledged as an Ace. He first flew in February 1916 and when he was killed in May 1917, he had achieved forty-seven kills.
*Cecil Lewis along with Ball and Knaggs was one of the original pilots of No. 56 squadron. He later went on to become a founder member of the BBC, a prominent broadcaster, playwright and distinguished author.
'Rhys-Davids was another outstanding fighter pilot of No. 56 squadron who achieved twenty-two kills before he was killed in October 1917.
*Maxwell was another outstanding fighter pilot who flew in the same flight as Ball and Knaggs. Together with Knaggs, he also achieved a kill on his first operational flight. He was killed in May 1918.
Knaggs also took part in the first ever large-scale aerial dogfight on 7th May, 1917 when No. 56 squadron tangled with the Richthofen flying circus on its first appearance. That evening he was flying as Albert Ball's wingman and was present when the great English ace met his death. Knaggs was one of only five survivors from No. 56 squadron, who managed to get their bullet-ridden "mounts" home to the squadron base at Vert Galant farm. In June, Knaggs was seriously wounded in air combat and sent to hospital in England. On his recovery, he was posted as a Test Pilot, but the lure of aerial combat was too strong and he managed to get himself posted back to his old squadron. He died in March 1918, during the great German offensive. He was valiantly attacking a pair of heavily armed and armoured German two seaters, when the main spar of his fighter was cut through by machine-gun fire. His aircraft's wings collapsed and the machine dived into the ground near the French village of Hamel.
All told, eighty-four Trinidad and Tobago men became involved in the world of aviation during the Great War. The war had spurred on the rapid development of aviation. Gone were the days when there was a season for flying. These daring young aviators flew in their long leather coats, leather helmets, fur lined jackets and gloves, with only a pair of goggles to protect them in their open cockpits.
They flew in the heat and dust of India, through the deserts of Arabia, to the snow covered peaks of Scotland and the Alps, and lived in the mud of Flanders. They survived in aviation's unreliable early machines and some died, that others might live.
The natural flying ability of the men from our islands ensured that they served on every front:- Phillip Cummings from Tobago, received a Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for completing one hundred night bomber missions behind enemy lines; Lindsay Grant* flew bombers in the Middle East; Desmond Pogson won his DFC for bringing home a fleet of aircraft on No. 104 squadron, in the face of a massive attack by the pilots of Richthofen's flying circus; Rupert Dunn became this country's first naval pilot; Gervais Scott was the first of many Trinidad and Tobago fighter pilots to serve at the famous Biggin Hill Fighter Station; John Bushe was shot down on a night bombing mission and captured; Percy J. Knox became a flight instructor and went on to qualify as an instructor for instructors at the School of Special Flying in Gosport, England; William Dickson was the country's first aviation technical sergeant; Alfred Home became an air mechanic and observer; and a host of other names of very special aviators.
The First World War saw great technological advances made in the design and manufacture of aeroplanes, and the aircraft that were being flown at the end of the conflict, bore little resemblence to Schmidt's "Red Devil". The only aspect of aviation that remained the same was the spirit of the aviators, they were still all pioneers. Once the war ended, the Royal Air Force (RAF) proceeded with massive demobilisation, cutting its manpower to a fraction of wartime levels and getting rid of most of its aircraft.
The majority of the Trinidad and Tobago nationals found themselves out of the military and out of (later to become Sir Lindsay Grant who is still alive in Trinidad today.) observer, repaired the engine. By the time they had got the engine working and managed to take off, the rest of the squadron had disappeared and they found themselves alone over the vast open desert. Making his way back home, Hobson flew over a camouflaged encampment, which he identified as the elusive stronghold of the "Mad Mullah". On the following day, he led his squadron out on a bombing mission that destroyed the desert stronghold. The "Mad Mullah" was forced to flee to Italian Somaliland, and by this time his following had been reduced to just four bodyguards, one of whom subsequently murdered him. The raid that Hobson led, ended a twenty year old war that had been characterised by murder and slavery. Eric Hobson received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his pivotal role in the proceedings.
The last of the four was Claude Vincent. His flying career began in January 1918, when Edmund Lickfold was his flight instructor. After qualifying, he was appointed as personal pilot to Lawrence of Arabia, and flew the great man around the Arabian Desert on his travels and combats. After the war, Vincent was appointed to No. 31 squadron serving in India, where he became involved in the Third Afghan War. He was shot down in the wild Afghan mountains while flying a Sopwith Snipe and captured by the rebels. He became one of very few contemporary individuals who survived such an experience and was subsequently ransomed by the RAF. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and went on to further combat in Wasiristan during 1922, for which, he received a Bar to his DFC. His next appointment was as a Test Pilot at the Royal Aero Establishment, where he was involved in pushing the frontiers of aviation outwards. Vincent was destined to become one of Trinidad and Tobago's most decorated fliers.
These three aviators, Bowen, Hobson and Vincent were to leave an indelible mark on the world of aviation, in the period when it seemed as if aeroplanes would never again come to Trinidad.
Letters from the Front
(From the War Memorial Number, CIC St. Mary's College Annual, 1919)
|A Capture of Pond Farm, 23 August, 1917, Lt. Wilfrid J. André, Gloucestershire Regt. (T.F.)|
|An Episode in the last German Onslaught, May 1918, Trooper Brian O'Connor, King Edward's Horse|
|Soldiers disembarking at the Port of Spain Jetty.|
|The crowd looking at the soldiers disembarking.|
|One of several triumphant arches erected to welcome home the soldiers.|
|Soldiers drawn up to march from the Waterfront.|
|Message from HM King George V posted at the close of the First World War.|
|A float depicting the dove of peace on Peace Day, 19 July, 1919.|
|Triumphant Arch at the top of Broadway and Marine Square (now Independence Square)|
|Soldiers en masse marching up Frederick Street are welcomed and joined by relatives and friends.|
|Triumphant arch at the top of Frederick Street at the entrance of the Savannah.|
|Governor Lt.-Col. Sir John Chancellor raises his hat to the playing of the National Anthem, Queen's Park Savannah|
|Troops passing in review in the Queen's Park Savannah.|
Landing party from H.M.S. Calcutta during the labour disturbances, 1919
The Cenotaph in Port of Spain
The Memorial Park in Port of Spain honours the memory of those Trinidadians and Tobagonians who served in the armed forces of the Empire, and remembers those who fell in its defense in two world wars.
Erected in the 1920, the cenotaph (from the Greek kenotaphion: kenos, empty + taphos, tomb, a monument for people who are buried elsewhere) is topped by Nike, the winged goddess of victory, with one foot placed upon the globe. In her left hand, held high, is the victor’s wreath of laurel, in her right, an acacia branch for the honoured dead. The obelisk itself rises out of a barque, symbolizing that which takes the souls of the departed across the river Styx. In bow and stern sit the figures Pathos and Grief. Grief bends her head to look at a scroll unrolled upon her knees, and Pathos in the bow holds a funerary wreath.
Above the inscription which reads “In honour of those who served, in memory of those who fell” stands a soldier, rifle at the ready, astride a fallen, wounded comrade. The brass plaques list the names of some 170 Trinidadians and Tobagonians who died in the First and Second World Wars.
In the First World War, Trinidadians served with valour. Fifty-five silver war medals were awarded. In one engagement in Palestine’s Jordan valley, one Distinguished Service Order, two Military Crosses and one Distinguished Conduct Medal were won by members of the First Battalion. Dozens of Trinidadians distinguished themselves in the defense of freedom. To name two: Air Vice Marshall Claude Vincent, who became one of the highest-ranking officers of the Royal Air Force, and General Sir Frank Messervy, who commanded the Fourth Army Corps and the Seventh Indian Division in Burma. He received the surrender of the Japanese forces there, when General Itaguki handed over his sword and the one hundred thousand men under his command in Rangoon in 1945.
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