Bravery: Samuel ‘Eddie Blue’ Lightbourne fought in three major wars. *Photo supplied
Bravery: Samuel ‘Eddie Blue’ Lightbourne fought in three major wars. *Photo supplied
There have only been three occasions when I felt motivated to attend Bermuda’s Remembrance Day ceremony at the national war monument.

The first was when the PLP first became the Government and the then Premier, Dame Jennifer Smith, laid the wreath at the Cenotaph on behalf of the people of Bermuda. 

The second was during the Premiership of Dr. Ewart Brown, and the latest was two weeks ago for the first official public duty of Premier Paula Cox.

Despite the undeniable sacrifice by those who were part of the two world wars, I never saw those conflicts in terms of a struggle for the freedom for all mankind, but as a geo-political struggle for empires and spheres of influences.

Conflicts

For millions of non-white people living under colonialism and in societies with racial segregation, talk of fighting for freedom must have rung very hollow in their ears.

Yet when called upon, many went forward and made the ultimate sacrifice.

The conflicts have not always been readily recognized as the Great War and the Second World War but as the white man’s wars.

Yet millions of non-white people fought in those wars on all fronts. 

It was only a few years ago that the Queen of England unveiled a national war monument in London dedicated to Commonwealth servicemen and women — mostly from the Caribbean, Africa and the Indian sub-continent.

During the time of the Great War and the Second World War, this vast conglomerate of many people was known as the British Empire and were distinct from what was then known as the Dominions — the white countries of Canada, Australia and New Zealand, plus white-ruled South Africa. Although the latter had declared independence and had a pro-German leaning population among the original Dutch settlers, the Afrikaners, they fought on the side of the Allies. 

Bermuda has been late in recognizing the contribution and value of black Bermudians during these conflicts.

In recent years, Bermuda’s home guard has been given its full due and the long-denied benefits which should have been theirs and their descendants. 

Tragically, this recognition comes too late for the many who have passed away and are unable to enjoy and benefit from what was theirs by right. But thanks to the efforts of the current PLP Government and the tenacity and determination of Carol Everson, of the Bermuda branch of the Royal British Legion, the role of all Bermudians can no longer be denied. 

This new day is symbolized by the erection of Bermuda’s newest war monument, which bears the names of 3,000 Bermudians who served their country during the wars. But their true story has not yet been told.

Attacks

In the Great War, 250 black members of the Bermudian Militia Artillery were attached to the Royal Garrison Artillery and sent to the front lines in France.

They worked in the dangerous munitions dumps and were subject to attacks as well as frequent accidents. 

Two of their number, A. Manders and H. Knights, received military medals but the circumstance of them gaining such an honour is not readily known and certainly is not in school books. 

In the Second World War, not all black Bermudians remained at home to become part of the home guard.

About 100 members of the black Bermuda Militia Infantry and Bermuda Militia Artillery joined the First Caribbean Regiment in North Africa and Italy.

Earl Darrell was a well-known musician who played piano in Bermuda’s hotels.

During the Second World War he was a member of the Bermuda Militia Infantry who went overseas. In the military video shown at the Martime Museum’s military exhibit, he describes his feelings about being under a German air attack. 

He recalls the answer he gave a British officer who asked him what he would do if he saw the enemy in front of him?

He replied that he would shoot and the officer retorted: “That is bloody right lad — that is exactly what you should do.”   

Darrell’s Island became a training ground for Bermudians wishing to join the Royal Air Force — but not for black Bermudians.

However, four manged to join the RAF by travelling through Canada and one became a gunner in Britain’s fleet of night bombers over Germany.

His name was Randolph Richardson. What stories he could have told about his air combat over Germany. 

The three others were Rueben Alias, Philip Lamb and George Smith. Then there is the story of Samuel ‘Eddie Blue’ Lightbourne, who, along with five other black Bermudians, joined a Canadian freighter that had docked at Bermuda for repairs after an attack by a German U-boat. 

Eddie Blue held the distinction of serving in three wars — the Second World War, the Korean war and the Vietnam war — rising to the position of chief engineer and finishing his career on the American hospital ship SS Comfort. 

Many experiences, many stories yet to be told.