Exhibition: Fighting for Empire: From Slavery to Military Service in the West India Regiments

This exhibition runs from Sun, 3rd Jun 2018 to Sun, 9th Sep 2018. See all dates

This event runs over several days/weeks. Dates include:

This exhibition has finished.

Cost: Free of Charge

This display explores the changing image of the West India Regiments, starting from the life a single man, Samuel Hodge, the first black soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross for valour. It focuses on the history of Britain’s West India Regiments from their creation at the end of the 18th century up to the First World War.

Founded in 1795, the West India Regiments were military units based in the Caribbean and, later, west Africa, created by the British army during the war with Republican France. British army commanders established twelve West India Regiments in total with the view that black soldiers were necessary for the security of the British islands as white soldiers suffered terribly from disease. More than 13,000 enslaved African men and boys were bought at a cost of about £70m in today’s money.

After the slave trade was made illegal in 1807, the British army looked for a new source of soldiers. Men liberated from slave ships by the Royal Navy were given the option of enlisting in the army and this became the main source of new recruits. After slavery was ended in the British Empire by 1838, free men enlisted, including Samuel Hodge, who was a West Indian Regiment volunteer soldier and was later awarded a Victoria Cross for bravery.

It speaks directly to many of the themes in the permanent displays at Docklands, notably enslaved resistance, black agency, and visual representation. The theme is explored primarily through prints, ephemera and maps, as well as a large framed oil painting by Louis William Desanges entitled The Capture of the Tubabakolong, Gambia 1866, which depicts Private Samuel Hodge of the 4th West India Regiment, who was the first African-Caribbean soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross.

Contact and Booking Details

More information at this website.

No need to book tickets - just turn up on the day.


Museum of London Docklands,

No.1 Warehouse, West India Dock Road, London,
E14 4AL

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