Our History & Heritage
The Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) was Constituted in 1962 by the West India Regiments who were its forebears. The West India Regiments (WIR) and the British West Indies Regiments (BWIR) were integral to the British Armed Forces defending the British Territories and interests around the world.
The WIR was created in 1795 to defend the British West India islands during the Wars and subsequently to defend the British interests in Africa. In 1914 by the start of WW1, the WIR had been reduced to two battalions. One in Barbados and the other in UP Park Camp Jamaica, each conducting tours of duties in Africa. Initially, the War Office refused to accept British West Indians who wanted to participate in the war effort. After the heavy loss of life against the Allies and the continual agitation from the West Indians who wanted to fight for “King and Country”, King George V gave his approval for the formation of the first of eleven battalions of the BWIR in September 1915 in Seaford.
Many BWIR and WIR soldiers were awarded gallantry medals and decorations. Among the soldiers who were awarded decorations was Norman Manley, who became Premier of Jamaica. He and his brother Roy served in the Royal Artillery.
In 1892, Jamaican Sergeant William Gordon was awarded the Victoria Cross for jumping in front of his Officer in Command, and taking a bullet from a musket. His medal is currently exhibited in the Jamaica Defence museum in UP Park Camp.
During the WW1 the WIR and BWIR saw active service in Cameroon, East Africa England, Italy, Eygpt, India, France, Belgium, Mesopotamia and Palestine. Over 15,500 West Indians had joined the Regiments and 2/3rdwere from Jamaica. The men of the BWIR were demobbed after the war and sent home or to other West Indian countries. The WIR was disbanded in 1927 but was reformed in 1958 as part of the West Indian Federation. This was short lived. The dissolution of the Federation and hence the WIR resulted in the establishment of the JDF. The Jamaica Military band official uniform is the Zouves which was worn by the band of the WIR