West Indian Ex-Services Association


WIESA HQ at Clapham Nanor Road, London, by Simon Chamebrs

The West Indian Ex-Service Association (Wiesa) was set up to recognise the military service of West Indian people and to help care for veterans. During the two World Wars thousands served in British forces, while at  home their children saved pennies to help the war effort. 

At Seaford in East Sussex there are some 300 graves of Great War casualties. Alongside the graves of Canadian, British, and Irish casualties are 19 from the British West Indies Regiment. Between October 1915 and March 1916 Seaford was a training camp for West Indian men, with the first group of 750 arriving on 4th October 1915.

inside the hall, banner reading West Indian Ex-Services Association (UK)


It was to rededicate  memorial plaques for those buried at Seaford that  representatives from civilian and service life gathered at the WIESA HQ at Clapham Manor Road. London, on 22nd May 2007.

Glen Lindsay



Major Glen Lindsay MC, a veteran of decades in the military, was the Master of Ceremonies, and the beginning of the ceremony was announced by buglers from the London Irish Rifles. 


Venerable Stephen Robbins


The opening prayers were led by the Deputy Chaplain General The Venerable Stephen Robbins. He spoke of the pride of serving the crown and defending the true values and standards of Britain, and looked forward to the future when all men and women would respect one another as fellow human beings. 

There were a number of speakers. Among them were:


Neil Flanagan Liz Atkinson Lorna Campbell

The President of Wiesa, Neil Flanagan MBE introduced the Mayor of Lambeth. "Lambeth Borough Council received and sheltered the migrants on the SS Empire Windrush."  Many on that vessel were ex-service personnel, coming to work in the UK during post-war reconstruction.

The Worshipful Mayor of Lambeth, Cllr Liz Atkinson. "A third of the forces in the Great War came from the Empire, and they must have their rightful place in history."

Cllr Lorna Campbell, Deputy Cabinet Member of Community Liaison with Lambeth Council. "We must honour the memory of our War Veterans."

David Coffey Jonathan Iremonger Cerio Lewis

Commander David Coffey from the Canadian High Commission for Mr James Wright. "What we have in common, men and women who put the service of their country and the Commonwealth before all else. That is why we are here today, to thank them."

Mr Jonathan Iremonger, Director of the Veterans Policy Unit, bearing greetings form Veterans Minister Derek Twigg,. "The government is committed to Veterans and to the care of those who served; a key part in this are the ex-service organisations who have the local support, enthusiasm, commitment and passion.  

The High Commissioner of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Mr Cerio Lewis. "I believe in peace but we must sometimes defend that peace, and war may be necessary to defend democracy and freedom." He added that 500 people from the Grenadines were on active service, and emphasised that "whether black, white or yellow we are of one single race, the human race."

Jim MacCloud Phil Vasili Laurie Philpot

Major Jim MacLoud, representing the Irish Rifles. "Irish guards are on active service now." He added that "men from Irish regiments were buried at Seaford", and revealed that the 19th century Inniskillings named their barracks "St Lucia barracks" after the West Indian island.

Phil Vasili, who researched Walter Tull. "He obtained respect from a quiet inner strength". He added that  there has been an early days motion supporting a statue on the White Cliffs to commemorate Walter Tull, and that it would be good if the Military Cross, for which Walter Tull had been recommended, could now be awarded, "for his family and as a symbolic award for all black people in the British army". 

Laurent Philpot introduced Cy Grant.  "There were 7000 volunteers from the Caribbean for the RAF alone, and 400 who became air crew." ... "before 1941 there was a bar on men of colour joining the RAF." After this date many became navigators as they were still unlikely to be accepted as pilots.

Cy Grant Connie Mark Eddie Capone

Cy Grant, entertainer, spoke of being shot down over Holland, and becoming a prisoner of war. The last camp he was in, before liberation, he described as "hell". An especial photograph was taken of him and published in an enemy newspaper with the caption "a member of the RAF of indeterminate race".

Constance Mark, WWII Veteran, who had joined the army in 1941. "When I'm asked what nationality I am, I say I am British and proud of it. English is the only language I speak"

Wo John Wilson, Chelsea Pensioner

Eddie Capone the WIESA Chairman. "The Military never sleep." He announced a national fund-raising appeal for ex-service people, explaining that "8 out of 10 rough sleepers are ex-service." He added that it is "the only profession where we sign to give our very lives" and underlined the great debt they are owed. He added that in Greek philosophy if a name is spoken that person lives on, and welcomed the Dover War Memorial Project and its work of remembrance.  


Eddie Capone then unveiled, with Cllr Atkinson, the Seaford plaques. "A step further in gratitude for these men". The panels were created by Teresa Earle (below, right) and helpers. the panels, with Eddie and Teresa








The Last Post, the Silence, and the Reveille followed the unveiling of the plaques.


lowered standards during the silence

salute for the dead







Eddie Capone gave a vote of thanks and proposed the toast to The Queen. The ceremony closed with final prayers, and all were then invited to enjoy, as Eddie put it, "traditional West Indian hospitality". The party went on into the night. 

party picture party picture party picture party picture
party picture party picture party picture party picture

Note: a number of the Inniskilling Fusiliers present had memories of being stationed in Dover, at the Connaught Barracks

pictures by Simon John Chambers

Copyright 2006 Marilyn Stephenson-Knight. All Rights Reserved