Black History and the First World War


Black History and the First World War Presentation and Image Pack.

This resource includes a presentation on the contribution of BAME forces from around the globe in the First World War. Featuring men who served for both the Allies and Axis, it draws on image archives to illustrate the way in which this war truly was a global affair. With so much teaching focussing on the Western Front and local history it is often forgotten that the war effort in Britain was reliant upon the Empire. Without the security provided by Black African Troops, the Indian Army and the Black and Asian Sailors, supplies to the front would simply have petered out. We include examples of this and fighting in several theatres of war.

The presentation can be used as a short assembly or as the focus for a lesson. THe images allow a display to be built around the theme of Black History and the First World War, linking the contributions of these brave men with other aspects of the war.


With Black History Month and the centenary of the Armistice looming large we have put together a pack of resources that link the two. The role of Black and Asian (BAME) servicemen in the First World War is increasingly recognised in academic circles. Some, such as Walter Tull, are known by most history teachers and are beginning to work their way into textbooks and other classroom resources. However, for most of us, there are few reference points in easy to access textbooks, or websites. 

We have attempted to illustrate the significance of Black and Asian service in the war through this presentation and collection of images. The presentation includes 23 slides on BAME contributions to the war. It shows the war as a global conflict, rather than a white mans war on the Western Front. It challenges perceptions, and raises questions about whether or not attitudes changed at the time.

Examples include:

  • Did you know that the first shots of the First World War that the British Army fired were not in Europe? They were fired by a soldier of the Gold Coast Regiment as the British Army invaded and captured the German colony of Togo.
  • Walter Tull, who had played professional football for Tottenham Hotspur and Northampton and was signed to play for Rangers after the war, became the first person of mixed heritage to command white soldiers in the British army.
  • The West Indian Regiment wasn’t demobbed immediately. Instead it was sent to Italy and given largely menial tasks, leading to a mutiny.
  • The Indian Army sent over a million men to fight in the war. They served in Europe, Palestine, Africa and in India.
  • Regiments of Black Troops were raised in Canada.
  • The ANZACs from Australia and New Zealand included many indigenous men. They served alongside white soldiers, most famously at Gallipoli.

Black History & The First World War Resource uses

The presentation comes with a picture pack so can be edited or followed up with further examples. It has enough information in the presentation to be used as a short assembly by a non specialist, and more than enough information for a specialist teacher of history to draw out key points.

The men from the British Empire were often conscripted, though many did volunteer. This was partly due to loyalty to the Crown and partly due to the promise of land and pay. This consequence of the British Empire is often ignored in a study of the Empire. You can find out more about the evolution of the British Empire here.


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