Military personnel also felt they had a duty to support the mother country and to help those who were helping them. Country leaders believed this war to be a noble cause where their men could demonstrate their loyalty. Countries’ loyalty was pressured into joining the war and fighting for what they most respected at the time.
Many citizens of the British Empire were overcome by nationalistic sentiments. As this nationalism began to grow, countries exaggerated their power and status as being superior to others around them. Propaganda was also widely used to influence colonies to join and ‘fight for their country’. These techniques played an extremely important role in influencing and deceiving British colonies. The political side of the war was kept secret in order to enhance this nationalistic view which many British colonies had at the time.
The governments of all the colonies also had a main part in their country's involvement in WW1. They wanted to be feared by other countries and wanted to show adherence to Britain. This also gave their country the upper hand as Britain would return the favour by joining them in battle if needed.
Troops were very naive at the thought of war and took it as an adventure. Pay was also far substantial to the average working wage which also influenced more volunteers to sign up. Foreign soldiers had also seen the highest of honours given out to others such as the Victoria Cross. They wanted to be recognised and wanted their name to go down in the history books.
All these attitudes were held in 1914 before each colony joined the war. They changed as the war went on, leaving a stain on each colony nobility and nationalism and a fight for freedom was expected from most of the major British colonies.
Many of the foreign soldier’s dreams were short-lived. They were hoping for heroic jobs so if they did die, they could die as a martyr or a patriot. In fact, the foreign military personnel were given very dangerous jobs but which were not heroic. Examples include carrying dead or injured bodies from the battlefield.
Foreign soldiers were also expecting much better conditions within the camps. One soldier describes the condition as absolutely disgusting. There were millions and millions of flies who would be swarming around you if you went to have a biscuit or ate a bit of sugar. It was a curse. Total losses from the Dardanelles campaign from only sickness were 145,154 men. This is an outrageous number of people even considering the fact that this figure does not include those who died in action. This emphasizes how awful the conditions were during WW1 for foreign soldiers.
In addition, the English soldiers were continually discriminative and racist towards those from other colonies. This significantly reduced their confidence in the camps. One soldier recollects “They called us darkies” recalling the casual racism of the time. Even the German prisoners who they had taken were racist to the foreign military personnel. They were spitting on their hands and rubbing them on their face signifying that the soldiers were painted black.
However the main reason why British colonies feel that they deserve independence is because they helped the British Empire so much and they spared so many lives for Great Britain; but Great Britain did not return the favour in any way or form. George Blackman was born in Barbados and served as a private in the British West Indies regiment. When the war finished, there was nothing. Blackman had to come and look for work. The only things that the army let him keep were the clothes and the uniform that he was wearing - the pants, the jacket and the shirt and the boots. You can’t come home naked.
When George Blackman did return to Barbados, he was alone. He found out that his parents had died and he had no-one. He had to find work and he had to eat and buy clothes. He claims that the English are ‘worthless’ and ‘no good’. Blackman then went to Jamaica and met up with a few more soldiers who had returned back to their homeland. They were in the same situation as him. For George Blackman, the situation has become simpler – England has nothing to do with him anymore.
The anger from the soldiers was channelled into drive and determination to become independent. They wanted nothing to do with England anymore. The sacrifices made by the Empire on the battlefields of Europe echo across the years as part of a proud Commonwealth history. The graves of the fallen are powerful reminders of our debt to the Empire.