On the second Monday of every November, many nations around the world celebrate Remembrance Day, paying tribute to those who gave their lives during times of war. Thousands pay homage by the wearing of red poppies, recognised worldwide as a symbol of remembrance. Locally, ceremonies are held on the preceding Sunday and feature church services, uniform parades and two-minute silences. Participants encompass the Governor, Members of the Legislative Assembly and veterans, whilst people from the local community come out to pay their respects. As a final act of reverence, wreaths are laid at memorials in recognition of the valiant acts of sacrifice given by many.
During World War I and II, many Caymanians displayed their staunch support of Britain. In 1916, nearly 300 local men registered as being willing to serve in the British Merchant Navy for the duration of World War I. Many also contributed financially, and by the end of the war in 1918, £450 had been given, about a tenth of government revenue. In World War II, it is estimated that close to 1,000 able-bodied Caymanian men saw active duty in the British and American armed forces. Many also served in the Trinidad Royal Naval Volunteer Reserves, with the Cayman Islands producing the third largest contingent of all the West Indian territories.
As printed in The Northwester magazine in November 1972: “‘Step forward, Ebanks,’ yelled the drill instructor, irate at a mistake by one of his squad of recruits. His temper rose further when the whole square stepped forward. ‘I only said for Ebanks to step forward, not everyone,’ he shouted. ‘We’re all Ebanks,’ came the chorus from the men in reply.”
On the home front, Cayman’s geographical location led to th e strategic establishment of a small American naval base called Baldpate, operating between 1942 and 1945. Following the torpedoing of a United Fruit Company steamer Camayagua off the coast of George Town in 1942, a Home Guard was formed to monitor enemy activities in Cayman waters. The most prominent lookout was a platform in a silk cotton tree located in Fort George.
Author: Courtesy of Cayman Islands National Archive