asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies on what date was the decision taken in London for the reformation and recruitment of the West Indian regiments; when the communication was made to the Governors of the West Indian Colonies; how many battalions it is proposed to enlist this year; and whether each Colony will be asked to raise a battalion having regard to the present labour shortage for agricultural work in many islands?
§ Sir J. Grigg
I have been asked to reply. Two major changes affecting the local forces of the West Indian Colonies have been made. In October, 1942, the responsibility for these forces was transferred, as a war measure, from the Colonial Office to the War Office. With the consent of the Colonial Governments concerned, all the local forces of Jamaica, Bahamas, British Honduras, Leeward Islands, Windward Islands, Trinidad, Barbados and British Guiana have been 1459W grouped into the North Caribbean Force and the South Caribbean Force with effect from 1st July of this year in the case of the former and 1st April in the case of the latter. I regret that it would not be in the public interest to say how many battalions will be raised and in which areas they will be raised. The Governors concerned were fully consulted throughout on these measures which are necessary in view of the military importance of the West Indian Colonies to the United Nations. I am advised that the raising of these Forces will not materially affect the labour available for agriculture in those Colonies where there is a shortage of agricultural labour.