The Forgotten: An Ode to Caribbean Soldiers of the First World War

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This story is real,

From machetes in sugar cane fields,

To gripping Enfields in battlefields,

Forgotten wounds that never heal,

He answered this appeal,

Called by the King from his island in the sun,

They sacrificed the life of our island son,

Gone to the killing fields of France in World War One,

To bear his black chest to the barrel of a gun,

Hush nuh Mammy, please doe cry,

Tek dis ya kerchief an dry yuh eye,

Mi soon come home fe stan by yuh side,

I is a smart man mi nah go dung dey fe die,

Uniformed and underarmed, surrounded though alone,

He fights for a land he has never known,

Terrified as a child though his body is grown,

Sent to labour in craters where bloated bodies go cold,

Though in the same uniform, treated worse than the enemy,

The divide in British eyes drove ranks to emnity,

Gone to battle for the same king and given half the amenities,

Holding back the tears for missed friends and families,

The front line broke and they were left for death,

The King’s men would not back them even though they owe a debt,

Nowhere to run they fixed bayonets,

Gripping the rifle and a bible he steeled his breath,

Ducking the patter of machine guns and the German gas stenches,

This island warrior could not retreat to the trenches,

The whistle blew shrill and shells thundered their defences,

Facing death by German hands and backed by barbwire fences,

Press yuh feet inna di mud nah bwoy, nuh mek dem tek yuh life,

King George nah gi yuh no bullet so draw fi yuh fada knife,

Amid screams of lives extinguised, in war killing is no vice,

Burried blades in foreign chests means he may sleep another night,

From the depths of his belly to the rain he screams his pain,

In the depths of his souls he longs to see his home again,

Back home in the hot sun for money he cut the cane,

Now surrounded by chaos he may die without a name,

On his knees in the scarred earth under the echos of explosions,

The flash of rockets through the smoky air show glimpses of bodies broken,

Some wailing in puddles life draining from deep wounds open,

Many others face down, passing without a word spoken,

The mist from his breath flows from his nostrils like kettle steam,

It is hard to imagine these fields were once green,

Sore from the battery he calls the men to reform the line in this scene,

Keeps the men awake with fear for this is no time to dream,

Take up enemy rifles and turn them back on the source,

They will have to take these men by force,

Hold strong and focus, steady your hand and stay the course,

Remember you are a man though treated like a workhorse,

Hold your position, no resources to advance,

Stay low in the craters, do not give their bullets a chance,

No matter what happens maintain your stance,

For enemies on both sides will bury you in France,

Again came another volley, waves of the Kaiser’s rifles,

No matter what he does, run or fight it is suicidal,

He takes them one at a time, silencing enemy vitals,

Until a sudden pain washes over like waves at height tidal,

The world goes dark, he lays his hand over his heart,

He mouths the words through his blood ‘Mama maybe me not so smart’,

The world dulls to his senses and he cannot feel his parts,

His last thought is his island and sugar cane on the cart.

-Adam H.C. Myrie (c) 2008

Image Credit: http://www.caribbeanaircrew-ww2.com/

More on West Indian in World War 1: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/nov/10/first-world-war-colonial-soldiers-racism

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