"Lord Kitchener said with the black race, he could whip the world,"
Enthusiasm for the battle was widespread across the Caribbean. While some declared it a white man's war, leaders and thinkers such as the Jamaican Marcus Garvey said young men from the islands should fight in order to prove their loyalty and to be treated as equals. The islands donated £60m in today's money to the war effort - cash they could ill afford
While Kitchener's private attitude was that black soldiers should never be allowed at the front alongside white soldiers, the enormous losses - and the interference of George V - made it inevitable. The Black men who came to Britain to volunteer met with a mixed response. The Manual of Military Law classed these men as 'aliens', even those that were British subjects, and the number of aliens who could enlist in a regiment was limited to one for every 50 British subjects.
When they arrived, they often found that fighting was to be done by white soldiers only - black soldiers were assigned the dirty, dangerous jobs of loading ammunition, laying telephone wires and digging trenches. Conditions were appalling.
A poem written by an anonymous trooper, entitled The Black Soldier's Lament, showed how bitter the disappointment was:
Stripped to the waist and sweated chest
Midday's reprieve brings much-needed rest
From trenches deep toward the sky.
Non-fighting troops and yet we die.
However there is evidence that black soldiers did see combat in the trenches and there are reports of West Indies Regiment soldiers fighting off counter-attacks - one account tells how a group fought off a German assault armed only with knives they had brought from home.
"They called us darkies," The West Indies Regiment solider said, recalling the casual racism of the time. "But when the battle starts, it didn't make a difference. We were all the same. When you're there, you don't care about anything. Every man there is under the rifle."
They also experienced racism from the Germans when confronted by some German prisoners the Germans would spit on their hands and try wiping our faces, thinking we were painted black."
In total 4,000 troops from the Caribbean were killed or wounded during the Great War.