A Trinidadian as a 19-year-old sailor he was recruited in Newcastle upon-Tyne by the Northumberland Fusiliers, 1st Tyneside Irish, on 6 November 1914.
Louis’s time in the Fusiliers was cut short however and he was discharged from the Northumberland Fusiliers. The reason for his dismissal is unclear, whether due to health reasons or because he was a black man. A medical officer described Louis as suffering from ‘cardiac weakness’ and also as being a ‘coloured man’. However, no one could doubt his patriotism.
On his arms he had tattoos of both King George V’s crown and of the British flag. After discharge he joined the merchant navy serving on the ship Messina.
However, he was to die aged 22 in 1918 at the Seaman’s Hospital in Greenwich of heart failure.
As the nation’s largest Armed Forces charity, the Royal British Legion (RBL) is dedicated to ensuring that all those who served and sacrificed, and who continue to do so, in defence of our freedoms and way of life, from both Britain and the Commonwealth, are remembered.
In our acts of Remembrance, the RBL remembers,
- The sacrifice of the Armed Forces community from Britain and the Commonwealth.
- Pays tribute to the special contribution of families and of the emergency services.
- Acknowledges the innocent civilians who have lost their lives in conflict and acts of terrorism.
The story of Black British and Black African and Caribbean service and sacrifice is one that we are keen to share, a story of men and women who have done so much in defence of Britain and in protecting all our citizens. A story that is replete with stories of bravery and courage, as epitomised by Victoria Cross winner Johnson Beharry.
Therefore, to mark 100 years since Britain’s current Remembrance traditions first came together, the RBL has bought together over 100 stories of British and Commonwealth African and Caribbean service and sacrifice. The stories range from the First World War to the present day and are of servicemen and women from across Britain, Africa and the Caribbean, representing both the armed forces and emergency services.
The RBL wishes to offer special thanks to Stephen Bourne for his help in putting these stories together. Stephen Bourne has been writing Black British history books for thirty years. For Aunt Esther’s Story (1991) he received the Raymond Williams Prize for Community Publishing. His best-known books are Black Poppies (2019) and Under Fire (2020). His latest book Deep Are the Roots – Trailblazers Who Changed Black British Theatre was recently published by The History Press. For further information about Stephen and his books, go to his website www.stephenbourne.co.uk