According to the Grenada Hand Book; the 6th of May 1945 was “V.E” Day – the ending of the Second World War in Europe. It should be noted that while the 11th of November, the day that marked the end of the First World War, is still remembered, as “Remembrance (or Poppy Day) there are no such customs to mark the end of World War 11.
There were functions in England to mark the 70th anniversary of the ending of the war; attended by the Royal Family, members of the newly elected Government, representatives of the defeated Political Parties and veterans of the war; but; to the best of my knowledge there has been little said about it in our local media; and one imagines; the media in most Caribbean countries.
This is a matter of concern to me, as it indicates, once more, our failure to mark events that are germane to our history. World matters are always changing and the S.W.W was one of those events that accelerated change to a greater extent than anything else in living memory.
The Jews have not forgotten, nor will they let others forget, the “Holocaust” and while their people were the greatest suffers of the Nazi extermination programme; they were not the only ones. Nearly 2 million Gypsies also suffered the same fate, as did many ‘mulattoes’- the children of black soldiers from the first war, with German and French women.
The struggle for respect and freedom by the non-European people had been going on since and before the First World War, but it was the second that provided the stage for the collapse of the British Empire, of which Grenada was a small part.
The late Golway Donovan had been known to speak out on such matters, and so was his follower T.A.Marryshow. At the wider level there was Marcus Garvey and by 1936 & 37 the Trinidad-born writer, George Padmore had published his works; “How Britain Rules Africa” and “Africa and World Peace.”
His friend and fellow-countryman; C.L.R.James; also published works related to the theme of Pan-Africanism, black liberation and African Independence.
In my book “Reconstructing the Black Image”, I had quoted from the memoirs of the English woman Sylvia Leith-Ross who had spent much of her life in Nigeria; in which she stated that the encounters of African servicemen during the war, had radically changed their perceptions of Europeans, as it had exposed many of European weaknesses; including the fact that many of them were less educated than many Africans.
She may not have been aware that the educated, or only literate, Africans may have been reading works by Garvey, Padmore, Du Bois and James, as works by these writers were widely distributed in Africa, the African Diaspora and the USA.
Most soldiers from the Caribbean did not go out into the wider arena of the war. They were stationed in camps in the islands, (in the case of Grenada at Tanteen) as a possible defence against the enemy attempting to set up a base on the American side.
The movement of people within the Caribbean took place when thousands of people from the smaller islands moved to Trinidad, Curacao and Aruba; where the oil fields and refineries had become essential to the Allied war machinery. Among those migrants was Eric Mathew Gairy.
It was in Curacao that he became involved in Trade Union activity and may have become acquainted with the philosophies of the Pan-African Movement and to formulate his desire to introduce those ideas to his native Grenada.
By the time that Mr.Gairy returned to Grenada; India and Ghana had already acquired their independence (1948) by peaceful means, but the people of many other colonies were forced to resort to armed struggles.
In 1945, the same year that the war ended, the Pan- African Congress held at Manchester and organised by Padmore and Kwame Nkrumah helped to set the agenda for de-Colonisation in the post-war peace. Other important persons attending the Congress included Jomo Kenyetta, Amy Garvey, the American W.E.B. Du Bois and the South African Peter Abrahams.
Workers returning from Curacao and Aruba gave a great financial boost to the economy and many of them assisted relatives to migrate to England – another of the changes affected by WW2.
It was demobbed volunteers from the war who on returning to the
Caribbean (Jamaica) and finding no suitable employment; made the
decision to return to England on a ship called the “EMPIRE WINDRUSH” thus starting the immigration to England in the 1950’s 60’s, and 70’s.
That event is marked in England to the extent that in Brixton there is a place called “WINDRUSH SQUARE”, and one of the buildings on that square houses “The Black Cultural Archives” where the historic objects and documents created by the African and Caribbean people who have settled in England are being collected.
People who went to England contributed much to Grenada by way of gifts to relatives, throughout the years; and those returning from England have contributed much to the development of the island in the last twenty or more, years, through the building of homes and other activities.
Their pensions and living allowances contribute greatly to the foreign exchange and to the economy in general. There have also been others who had combined their working with study and had returned to Grenada as professionals of one sort or another.
For a while; it seemed that our freedom from Colonial rule would involve us in T.A. Marryshow’s dream of a West Indian Federation, and it was a consequence of its demise that the smaller Islands became “Independent” States.
We wave our flags on February 7th and praise Mr.Gairy as “The Father of Independence” as if the idea of Independence was entirely his own, paying no attention to the period and the international context in which Colonial Freedom was fought for and achieved.
Our “Independence” celebrations are so promoted that many young persons and small children, sometimes confuse it with the “Abolition of Slavey”
There is a great deal more that can be said; but it is hoped that this will be sufficient to instigate some thoughts and discussion on the social, political and economic effects of World War 11 on our little Nation and the rest of the World, as we know it today.
Gordon V. de la Mothe.