Jamaica sends the regiment off to World War I

Here is one of those stamps celebrating a colony’s contribution to the war effort. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

The visuals of this stamp are inspiring. A very early commemorative  of soldiers in a far off colony marching off to fight World War I. a scene that played out over and over in Britain. The stamp, and those like it, had to be aimed at least somewhat at the home front. It is trying to imply that that there was equal sacrifice throughout the colonies. This was not true in the case of Jamaica.

The stamp today is issue A20, a one and one half penny stamp issued by the British Crown Colony of Jamaica in 1919. The stamp honoured the service of Jamaicans in World War I. It was part of a 12 stamp issue in various denominations. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth $1.10 used. The one shilling stamp from this issue featuring a statue of Queen Victoria exists in a printing mistake inverted form. That stamp is worth $40,000. There was also a 6 penny issue commemorating the abolition of slavery that were ordered and printed but then the decision was taken locally not to issue them. These are worth $825 mint.

Jamaica was discovered by Christopher Columbus, who claimed it for Spain. Around 1650, Britain conquered it. At first is was an open refuge for pirates that received letters of marquis from Britain to attack Spanish shipping. Eventually sugar cane plantations were established and large numbers of African slaves were imported to work on the plantations. After slavery was outlawed in the British Empire, the sugar cane plantations failed. The freed blacks refused the work opting instead for small farms where they engaged in subsistence farming for their own benefit. The descendants of slaves outnumbered white colonists 20 to one. Sugar cane exports gradually dried up and although there was some success with bananas, the economy was in severe decline.

The black residents of Jamaica were increasingly thinking of independence. Unusually there was also a movement to go back to Africa. Marcus Garvey, a black Jamaican, was an important part of this movement both at home and in the USA. He proposed economic and literal segregation from whites. He is considered a prophet by Rastapharians and a hero in Jamaica history.

The contribution of Jamaica to World War I was fairly minimal. There was no conscription but a pre existing regimemt  with Black soldiers and regular army white British officers fought in some of the African campaigns against German colonies there. Since half of the regiment was stationed in Sierra Leone pre war. The regiment was under no local control and was never used for local policing. This pales compared to sacrafice in Britain itself. The colonies were getting much more controversial in Britain post World War I. The average Briton simply did not have much benefit from them.

Well, my drink is empty so I will open the conversation in the below comment section. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.

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