Unfortunately in this present day of 21st century, racism has reared its ugly head in all walks of life including sport.
I personally had or should I say witnessed racism many years ago. As you all know I was a national serviceman in the King’s Own Royal Border Regiment 1960-62. The regiment at the time, if my memory serves me, we did not have any fellow soldiers from ethnic communities in the regiment.
The regiment was posted to the Cameroons in West Africa for ten months. During that time I never witnessed any kind of racial abuse to the inhabitants. The British army in certain situations can be tough at times and our regiment were no exception. One has to understand there’s no middle ground in Africa, you have or you have not and unfortunately the have not suffer considerably
What was and still is in my mind is the poverty we as the regiment seen during those months in the Cameroons. The people including the children were always dressed in the same tatty and torn clothes every day and easily 90% were barefooted. Most of the children had some form of malnutrition. At first with their swollen stomachs due to my early ignorance, I thought they looked fat, how wrong I was. Even with all the poverty they endured we were always met by a big smile and the last thing in our minds was to be abusive to these unfortunate people.
I have to speak on behalf of our regiment; in saying it was a good kick up the backside in life for all of us, both young and old.
Late January 1961back in England, I was a member of the King’s Own Royal Border Regt rugby team. We were to play at Aldershot, where we played two Parachute Regiments and a Para RHA regt. We stayed in billets in one of the Parachute Regiment camps and I must say they looked after our welfare very well.
On one of the nights between games, along with a few fellow team mates we visited the big NAAFI. In Aldershot. During the course of the evening there were three black soldiers talking amongst themselves at a table not bothering anyone. Standing at the bar was a group of about six Para’s in civilian dress. We knew they were Para’s, because of recognising a few of them who had played against us that afternoon. Without warning as soon as they had finished a pint they threw the glass at the feet of the three black soldiers. This went on for quite a while in the packed bar of the NAAFI until one of the three soldiers stood up and went out of the room. Within about three minutes he returned, followed by a party of Military Police. He pointed to two of the party of Para’s who were instantly arrested and taken away by the MPs. I am sorry to say it did not end there, because as the three black soldiers began to leave. There must have been thirty men who formed a passage of say fifteen either side. To my horror these unfortunate lads had to walk the gauntlet down the passage to the door. Has they walked the gauntlet, beer was thrown over them. It was terrible to witness and I have never seen anything like that since. When the beer drenched men eventually left the room everything went back to normal as though nothing had happened. Totally unbelievable, but true. I wrote about this episode in my book
In this present day, the British Army is well integrated with different cultures who serve the country with distinction. Hopefully no one again will endure what those three soldiers went through, all those years ago.