Roberts, Singh and Gittens
Feature on Soldiers from the Middlesex Regiment, 1917
Courtesy of Reliance Publishing House
These two photographs, from a brief history of the Middlesex Regiment in the British Army’s Regimental Magazine, show ‘Drummer’ Roberts, a Trinidadian soldier of the Middlesex Regiment standing as a ‘black mascot’ in his battalion. He is compared to another battalion’s mascot: a black cat. The ship mentioned is the Tyndareus, which, while on its passage to Hong Kong, was struck by a mine near South Africa. King George V praised the Middlesex Regiment’s discipline and courage during the attack. All on board survived. If Roberts was on the ship, then he and the other survivors were taken ashore to Cape Town to recuperate for several days
Jowshir Harnam Singh
Often referred to as Joseph Singh in his identification documents, little is known of this soldier’s experiences during the war. Born in the Punjab on the Indian subcontinent in around 1878, he was a surprisingly old, 36, at the start of the war.
Singh must have been a man of at least comfortable wealth. He resided at 70 Stowe Road in London’s Shepherd’s Bush and lived alone with an 18-year old Ceylonese servant. He married his wife Dobby, a native Londoner in Poplar, London in 1912.
Singh became a private of the 5th battalion of the Middlesex regiment. He was discharged in 1917 to 33 Miller Crescent, Edinburgh. Little else is known of his experiences in an otherwise all-white British battalion of the Middlesex Regiment
Francis Owen Gittens
Born on 25 October 1896 in the Port of Spain, Trinidad, very little is known of Private Francis Owen Gittens, leaving us simply with this solitary photo. He died 1 July in the Battle of the Somme at the age of 19 and has a grave at Thiepval Memorial for the Missing of the Somme. His name is written on the Port of Spain Cenotaph in Trinidad.