In the rich tapestry of the United Kingdom’s history, the contributions of the Armed Forces from non-white communities have often been overlooked, forgotten, or even erased. These brave men and women, who served with unwavering dedication and sacrifice, deserve their rightful place in our historical narrative.
Their stories, spanning generations and conflicts, are a testament to the diverse and inclusive spirit of the UK’s armed services. Yet, for too long, these stories have remained hidden, buried beneath layers of history that failed to acknowledge their significance.
It’s time to rectify this historical oversight, to shine a light on the valour and dedication of non-white service members who fought for the freedoms we enjoy today. By remembering, acknowledging, and celebrating their contributions, we not only honour their legacy, but also enrich our understanding of the UK’s diverse history.
In doing so, we pave the way for a more inclusive and accurate historical account—one that recognises the invaluable role non-white Armed Forces personnel played in shaping the nation and upholding the values we hold dear. Their stories deserve to be remembered, shared, and celebrated, ensuring that they remain an integral part of our collective memory for generations to come.
Special Guests include:
Eddy Smythe, son of Johnny Smythe.
Johnny Smythe, hailed from Freetown, Sierra Leone, enlisted in the Royal Air Force in 1940 when he was 25 years old. Sierra Leone, a British colony at the time, was asked to nominate six young men for pilot training, and Johnny was fortunate to be one of the select few chosen from a large pool of applicants. He became a designated navigator due to his exceptional performance in mathematics tests.
Johnny served as a navigator with the 623 Squadron, participating in 26 missions as a crew member on Short Stirling bombers. These missions involved flying over risky territories, including the English Channel, France, and Germany.
After his wartime service, Johnny returned to London and was offered a position with the Colonial Office, where he looked after the well-being of demobilised airmen from the Caribbean and Africa. In 1948, he was assigned as a senior officer on a captured German troop ship, renamed the Empire Windrush. Its mission was to transport former military personnel back to their homes in the Caribbean. However, upon arrival in Jamaica, they were informed of the economic challenges there and asked if the ship could return these men to Britain. Johnny interviewed those returning, to find out their skills and where they could be posted. Johnny, was instrumental in helping those aboard Windrush return safely to the UK.
National Windrush Museum is an organisation in Britain dedicated to researching, exhibiting, promoting and preserving tangible and intangible cultural heritage of Windrush pioneers, their antecedents and successors.
Sunder Katwala serves as the Director of the independent and non-partisan think tank, British Future. His diverse career has seen him in various roles, including journalism and leadership positions. Previously, he held the position of General Secretary at the Fabian Society think tank from 2003 to 2011. Prior to that, he played a pivotal role as a prominent writer and internet editor at the Observer.
Tony T is a co-founder of Sweet Patootee, a UK-based production company specialising in creating compelling documentaries and heritage interpretation. Sweet Patootee’s mission is to share inspiring and diverse stories from real people with a global audience, firmly believing that everyone’s stories deserve recognition. With nearly two decades of experience, Sweet Patootee, leverages their expertise in producing, writing, researching, and editing, combined with their passion for history and storytelling.
Among Sweet Patootee’s notable projects is “Turning Point,” a series of four short films inspired by oral histories that delve into the Black Caribbean experience after the First World War. These films unearth the often-overlooked heritage of early 1920s British Caribbean history, shedding light on important narratives that deserve recognition.
Music provided by:
Bristol Reggae Orchestra and Windrush Choir
A vibrant musical ensemble dedicated to celebrating the rich cultural heritage and contributions of diverse communities, including those from the West Indies and African Caribbean backgrounds. Through their soulful reggae rhythms, melodious tunes, and powerful choral performances, they weave together the tapestry of history and harmonise voices that have too often been unheard. These talented musicians and singers join forces to bridge generations and cultures, creating a symphony of unity and remembrance that resonates with audiences far and wide.
Cusine provided by:
Nadine’s Caribbean Cafe
Nadine’s Caribbean Cafe in Bristol is a culinary gem that serves up the vibrant and delicious flavors of the Caribbean. From mouthwatering jerk chicken to flavorful curries and tantalising tropical cocktails, Nadine’s offers an authentic taste of the islands, right in the heart of Bristol. It’s a warm and inviting spot where you can savour the essence of Caribbean cuisine, making it a must-visit for food enthusiasts seeking a taste of paradise.
Date and time: Tue, 17 Oct 2023 19:00 – 22:00 BST
Location: Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, Queens Road Clifton BS8 1RL
Register for event here