Belizean Soldiers @ Battlefield Park preparing to leave for 1st World War
Belizean Soldiers at Barracks in 1914 doing Swedish drill
On our arrival in Egypt in 1916, our men, hungry and tired, entered the Y.M.C.A. at Gabbary Camp to the strains of 'Rule Britannia'. Imagine our surprise when we were confronted by a number of British soldiers and the question asked 'Who gave you niggers authority to sing that? Clear out of this building - only British troops admitted here.'
By the time the British Honduras contingent returned to the Colony their patriotism had turned to bitterness and resentment; the riot of 1919 was the direct result:
On July 8th, 1919, a contingent of 339 members returned from Mesopotamia via Taranto in Italy on the Veronej. After having many prior local dissatisfaction, thirteen days later, on the night of July 22, a section of the contingent, led by one Sergeant Hubert Vernon, moved through the streets of the capital ritually smashing the plate glass windows of the major merchant houses. Combined with this symbolic destruction was a search for certain officials and employers who, on being discovered, were physically assaulted. these assaults quickly ledto mass rioting, the soldiers being joined by 3,000 of the capital's populace in an orgy of looting and destruction which continued well into the morning of the 23rd. The government proved powerless. By 1:00 PM. only members of the Territorial Force had answered the bugler's call and it was obvious to the authorities that both the volunteers and the police had sided with the rioters.
A loyal element of the contingent itself and the arrival of H.M.S. Constance finally subdued the riot.
Belizean Soldiers in:
"1st World War"
The outbreak of First World War in 1914 led to a wave of patriotism in British Honduras; requests were made in the Colony for the formation of an expeditionary force to supplement the British Expeditionary Forces on the Western Front.
In 1915 and 1916 contingents of 129 and 408 respectively left Belize City for the battlefront.
Their fate, however, was not to be the glorious one they had anticipated. Samuel Haynes, one of the volunteers, letter to the Belize Independent newspaper in 1919 gives just a few example of their treatment.
Are you aware Mr. Editor that after several attempts on our part to take our stand alongside other British Units on the various battlefields, the shocking truth that "it is against a British tradition to employ aboriginal troops against a European enemy" was reluctantly reveal to us.