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Regimental Historical Background
Founded in 1795, the West India Regiment were infantry units of the British Army, recruited from and stationed in the related British colonies, from 1795 until disbandment in 1927. In the 18th century, as the Empire grew, more soldiers were needed to garrison these new territories. The need was increased by the wars against Napoleonic France [1793-1815], which had spread to the colonies of both countries in the Caribbean. One of the new units recruited was the West Indian Regiment.

The War Office chose to recruit black soldiers as they were considered to be more able to cope with the harsh tropical conditions, which took a heavy toll on European troops, with disease accounting for many deaths. They took part in the wars against France in the Indies, and were at the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812 in America. Later they were involved in the Second Ashanti War in West Africa [1873-1874]. The expedition was under the command of Sir Garnet Wolseley. The Regiment were involved in several jungle skirmishes, resulting in the destruction of the deserted Ashanti capital of Kumasee. They went on to serve in World War One, seeing action in the German Cameroons and East Africa, completing its wartime service in Palestine. The Regiment was finally disbanded in 1927.

Published in 1885, The History of the First West India Regiment by Major A. B. Ellis covers the history of the Regiment from 1779 to the Ashanti Expedition 1881. A.B Ellis was written by an officer in the Regiment. His aim was that the Regiment would be better known to the British public. It was illustrated by the author with many pictures some of which are reproduced here.

Illustration from Britains 1915 Catalogue.

Britain’s representations of the regiment
Britains set No 19 first appeared in 1894 and remained in the catalogue until 1941, virtually unchanged.

This first version had 10 figures, including a British Officer, marching, with fixed arms, on oval bases. The set featured an illustrated Printers Label.

The second version soon followed in 1895. A mounted British Officer replaced the officer marching on foot. The horse’s head is in the “head down” position.

The set was also available from 18941925 in a 4 row Display set. This included: Life Guards; 11th.Hussars; the Buffs- East Kent Regiment; as well as the West India Regiment.

In the third version, introduced around 1910, the Officer’s horse was replaced by a “heads up” version.

In 1925 the oval bases for the infantry figures were changed to square bases.

Second grade figures appeared around 1940, unnumbered in the catalogue. They were sold separately. The one shown has his rifle damaged.

The colourful uniform was popular with collectors of cigarette cards – these examples were by Godfrey Phillips Ltd. showing an example from the 1899 set-Types of British and Colonial Troops and a 1939 set, Soldiers of the King.

An example of a recruiting poster from 1915.

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