Black British Soldiers in the British Army – Louis Achoy

018 Dorothy Hall Collection
Image for illustration only.

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

3 comments on “Black British Soldiers in the British Army – Louis Achoy

  1. The black soldier in this photograph who you claim is Louis Achoy is the same soldier shown in the photograph on your Lionel Turpin page. Some of the other soldiers also appear in both photographs. Given that Lionel Turpin and Louis Achoy enlisted at different times and in different units I believe your claimed photograph of Lionel Turpin is not correct and I have never seen it in any other account of Lionel Turpin’s military career.. It would be really helpful to have some attribution with the photographs you display so the provenance can be verified. Who is Dorothy Hall and when and where were these photographs supposedly taken?
    I am not trying to be difficult but I am someone who is very interested in Black British History and know how difficult it is to provide photographs to support the stories that we want to tell.


    • Dear Rob
      Thank you for your comment.
      In no way are we trying to pass this image off as being Louis Achoy. We do not have an image of him. As someone who is interested in history, you will know the limitations of photographs and documents. We are using this image here for illustration purposes and we will amend the caption to acknowledge this. And as for Dorothy Hall this is the lady who provided the images from her family’s collection and she is unable to provide the information you refer to.


      • Many thanks for your explanation about the photograph. I do think the photographs you display do need to have some caption or explanation with them. I notice that someone requested permission to use the photograph that accompanies yourLionel Turpin page possibly on the assumption that they are looking at a photograph of him.
        Can I just add that I really appreciate the work that you have done on highlighting the contributions made by all ethnic groups and communities in the north east during the First World War.


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