The West Indies and the War



Editorial piece reflecting on the West Indies and their contribution to the war written by William Galwey Donovan, the managing editor and a political activist.


The unequal organisation of the British Empire was replicated in how its colonial troops were mobilised during the war. A clear hierarchy of martial races was in play, one that did not operate on a white/non-white binary, but ranked ethnicities based on who was fit to serve as combatants or non-combatants. This article in the Federalist and Grenada People recognised the global nature of the war and expressed strong convictions that the mobilisation of troops from throughout the British Empire would transform how the Empire worked. William Galwey Donovan who was managing editor of the paper, the motto of which was ‘a naked freeman is nobler than a gilded slave’, wrote the editorial piece. Donovan recognised the racial prejudice on which the British Empire depended: ‘The skin and colour prejudice which dominate the minds of the English authorities stand in the way of the utilisation of the services of the Coloured people for Imperial purposes.’ Donovan was also a political activist, contemporary to T. Albert Marryshow. He had founded the newspaper in 1883 and was at the forefront of the movement challenging the British government’s reluctance to empower Grenadians, particularly surrounding the 1888 celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of slave emancipation. During the First World War, Donovan did not campaign for major political advances or constitutional changes, but hoped that the support of war, like that expressed by Marryshow, and Grenada’s contribution to the effort, both financially and with manpower, would induce the British to constitutional reform. The call to arms in this article was designed to support the war while critiquing the British Empire at the same time. Donovan's hope that ‘this war…will end that’, that being the ‘cowardly skin prejudice characteristic of the Empire', revealed the personal and political tensions at stake in colonial participation during the war.