The Score Community Building in Oliver Rd, Leyton, played host to an important new exhibition in December. The “We Were There Too” photographic display was organised by the Waltham Forest African Caribbean Women’s Development Centre to commemorate the contribution of African & Caribbean men and women who fought in the Second World War. The exhibition was divided into two parts. The first part displayed photos and memorabilia belonging to members of the UK West Indian Ex-Service Men and Women’s Association and the second part, named “We Are Still Here” celebrated the success of modern-day Black British achievers, such as MPs Dianne Abbott and the late Bernie Grant.
Neil Flannigan, President of the West Indian Ex-Service Men and Women’s Association said, “The war was horrific. Nothing could describe what we experienced. 16,000 people came to volunteer from India, the Caribbean and other countries in the Commonwealth. They made their own way and paid their own passage to Britain. They are unsung heroes”.
Mr Flannigan left Jamaica in 1943 after hearing that Winston Churchill had put a request out for Caribbean help with the British war effort. “We had B1 bombs falling on us. In the Battle of the Three Bridges, which took place in Holland, many of my friends died like flies. We lived on rations – 2 ounces of butter, 2 ounces of meat and only ½ a pound of rice a week. I hope everyone here will invite a friend to come and see the display”.
Fellow veteran Jimmy Fairweather added, “ We were men in uniform but without the women giving back-up services we wouldn’t have made it”.
Guests at the event learnt that nearly 60,000 African and Caribbean people died during the Holocaust – a number that had previously been estimated to be only 24,000.
The launch closed with music, poems and dancing performed by pupils from the Connaught Girls and Aveling Park. Schools.