The University of the West Indies Press revealed the winner of the Bestselling General Interest Book. This went to the co-authors Humphrey Metzgen and John Graham for their book Caribbean Wars Untold, A Salute to the British West Indies.

The authors tell the compelling story of nearly five centuries of warfare from the time of Columbus to the present decade.

Their book reminds us that at the height of the triangular trade in 1697, Barbados was considered the most important single colony in the British Empire, worth as much, in its total trade, as the two tobacco colonies of Virginia and Maryland combined, and nearly three times as valuable as Jamaica. Not surprisingly other super powers, Spain, France and the Dutch also recognised that the West Indies was one of the wealthiest places on earth. And so did the pirates from many nations. The inevitable followed, many years of war at sea and on land.

Humphrey Metzgen (left) and John Graham

In the nineteenth century a new twist to the Caribbean story had developed; West Indians went back to West Africa, not as slaves, but as professional soldiers in the West India Regiment of the British Army. They remained there for nearly a century. There Private Hodge from BVI and Lance Corporal William Gordon from Jamaica won the VC, Britain’s highest military award “for Valour in the presence of the enemy”.

Messrs Metzgen and Graham’s story does not end there however. We are reminded of service in the First World War of 1914 – 18, and the activities of the German U-boats (and some Italian submarines) operating in the Caribbean during the second World War of 1939-45, where the loss of merely 14 U-boats the Germans sank 400 ships and damaged a further 56.

The Authors hope that this public recognition of their book will do much to dispel the ignorance, on both sides of the Atlantic, of the contributions made over the centuries by West Indians to Britain’s prosperity and victories in war. They believe that their work will be of particular value to naval and military historians and those interested in the record of Imperial Rivalries and their impact on the West Indian people.

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