The Memoir of a West Indian Padre, 'From the Islands of the Sea'
The published account of a padre, Alfred Horner, who served with the 9th Battalion of the British West Indies Regiment, based on his diary and articles written for the Nassau Tribune. It was published in 1919. To read the text, please click the source above.
From the Islands of the Sea falls somewhere between anthropological study, biography and autobiography, a collection of essays and observations, full of anecdotes and commentary about the West Indian men with whom he served and his own personal reflections. Horner was a mediator of the West Indian experience in France, chaperoning his men in his capacity as army chaplain and negotiating how he in turn represented their experience to his readers. In ‘The Landing’, Horner described how the men reacted to their arrival in Britain. ‘“Lawd, what is dis!” was their frequent exclamation, a remark which is always singularly expressive when really heard from the lips of one of our boys'. Horner’s description of the awe-struck West Indian men embodied the deep connection they felt with Britain and how overwhelmed they were to arrive in the Mother Country. This was not because the men had not seen such a country or city before; many of them had worked in the United States and seen New York. Instead: 'It was the awe-inspiring thought, almost incapable of being understood by the non-colonial, that here at last was England, that this was their first view of that wonderful “Mother-land” of which they had heard and read ever since they had been children, that great mother, whose children they were, whose flag they served under, and whose quarrel they had in loyalty made their own'. As an Englishman living in the colonies, Horner’s own pride at the extent of the influence of his home country penetrates this description; his own homecoming provoking a level of jingoism not often seen in the rest of his text.