© Mary Evans Picture Library Ltd (1/1)
The First World War (1914-18) had a number of important consequences for population mixing and interracial union formation.
Firstly, the war brought well-paid job opportunities for the black population after years of high unemployment and destitution for many. This included war work in munitions and chemical factories and the merchant service (to replace men needed for the navy). In addition, many men from the British colonies were recruited into the services, including Indians, West Indians, and Africans.
However, the war took a huge toll, too, from Cardiff alone a thousand black seamen being killed at sea. In excess of this number in the British West Indies regiment died in combat or from sickness. Nevertheless, the size of the black population in Britain at this time was boosted by the demobilization of black servicemen in Britain and their return for treatment in hospitals here. Demobilisation was said to have increased Liverpool’s black population by between 2000 and 5000 and, by the end of the First World War, there were an estimated 20,000 black people in Britain. By 1919, when economic conditions had changed yet again, people from black, Asian and other ethnic minority people were being attacked in their homes and on the streets in port towns throughout the country.