Black British Soldiers in the British Army – Louis Achoy

018 Dorothy Hall Collection

The project’s second recruit – Louis Achoy (1896-1918)

Born in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, he was a 19 year old sailor recruited in Newcastle upon-Tyne by the Northumberland Fusiliers, 1st Tyneside Irish, in 6 November 1914.

He must have come to England on a merchant ship. The North East was a major port during this period. He could have been laid off a ship and then decided to join the army while here.

But his time within the Fusiliers was short as just over a month later on 22 December, Louis was discharged. He was discharged under Kings Regulations, Para 392(iii) and the following reason was given,
‘Not likely to become an efficient soldier. Coloured man.’

A medical officer noted that Louis suffered from ‘cardiac weakness’ and also described him as a ‘ coloured man’. It is unclear whether Louis was discharged for health reasons or because he was a black man. However, no one could doubt his patriotism.

Within his records was information about tattoos he bore on his arms. One his right arm he bore the King George V’s crown. And on his right arm, he bore the ‘head and bust of lady’ including the British flag.

After being discharged, Louis did return to the sea and served on the ship Messina as a merchant seaman. He did not live long though, as at the age of 22 he died in the Seaman’s Hospital in Greenwich on 23 September 1918. He died from heart failure.

Information taken from Stephen Bourne’s Black Poppies: Britain’s Black Community and the Great War, (2014) pp. 48-9

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