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A Caribbean family’s bereavement in WWI

Today’s guest blog post comes from Gerald A. Archambeau, author of A Struggle to Walk with Dignity.

A StruggleDoing research on my autobiography, I was helped by UK Military Genealogist Alan Greveson, who found my lost family’s  history in the UK on my five Jamaican born step-uncles who served in the British Army as Officers in WWI. These five sons of my Jamaican grandfather Herbert Theodore Thomas were from his first marriage. Herbert T. Thomas was a white Police Inspector who served Jamaica for 47 years, along with his many other contributions to Jamaica. When WWI broke out, all of his sons went to the UK to join the Military. Their mother followed with her only daughter, to the UK after the first son’s death.  The three other sons also fell on the battle fields of Europe with honours. With loss of four sons the family was devastated, except for one son who survived to fight again in WWII, lived to die at home in Scotland. The loss of these four sons in this family hastened the death of their mother in the UK. My grandfather loved his country and it’s people, regardless of race. He went on to cross the racial divide of his time, by marring my black Jamaican grandmother Leonora Thomas. She bore him four daughters who  survived to live out their lives in Canada, US & the UK. The bereavement  remained, as the step-sisters did know their step-brothers my mother and one other sister had the only two sons after my grandfather’s passing in 1930. Knowing one’s roots is satisfying to me, especially when the facts were so deeply buried.  My immigrant life in Canada, and my family history; is at York U.-Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, Toronto.

Gerald Augustus Archambeau was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and was sent to Montreal in 1947. He worked for Canadian Pacific and Canadian National until the 1960s, when declining passenger rail traffic and the ascendance of air travel caused him to switch to a career with a major Canadian airline in Toronto. After his retirement from the airline, Gerald settled in St. Catharines, Ontario.

About the author

The Markerting Coordinator at Dundurn, lover of books, tea and dancing in the rain.


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