'From Our Boys': Letter from Private Norris Roach



Extract from a regular section of the newspaper The West Indian, 'From Our Boys', published in Grenada.


The West Indian regularly published letters written by members of the British West Indies Regiment during the war, as a method of disseminating their experience among the Grenadian population and those who read the mail editions. It might have also encouraged further volunteering and, for the most part, the letters selected for publication were very positive about the service so far. However, in this letter from Norris Roach describing his initial reflections on the time the men spent in France, some suggestion of the racial discrimination suffered by the men at an institutional level is illustrated. Roach described France as ‘a lovely’ place and described much of the scenery seen from the train as the men journeyed through the country. Of particular interest is the section where he explains the role that the local children played in their camp life: ‘They come round and throw chocolates and cigarettes to the boys, for we are not allowed to go out from camp. They tell us the news.’ The black West Indian men were in this case subject to military restriction and segregation in an attempt to prevent their mixing with the white civilian population. Despite this, they had encounters with the local children who were able to negotiate these bounds and act as go-betweens, providers of goods and services. The freedom of the children to enact interactions and cross racial lines would make a significant difference for the non-white men who kept separate from the civilian population.