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LIVERPOOL'S Black History Month has been launched with a major exhibition tracing 200 years of ethnic minorities in the armed forces.

The Ministry of Defence display in St George's hall was officially unveiled by Lord Mayor Frank Roderick.

We Were There charts the service of soldiers, sailors and airmen from across the globe from the Napoleonic Wars to World War II.

It is hoped it will raise awareness of the prominent role played by forces from Africa, Asia, the West Indies and other areas.

Major James Purcell, senior recruiter for Merseyside, said: ``We've gone back 200 years and focused on the Bangladeshi, Sikh and Afro-Caribbean community participation in the forces, as well as those from foreign and Commonwealth countries.

``Most people think it's only recently that the army has employed ethnic minorities, but the truth is it's always been that way. ''

The Indian army started life in the 17th century, and in the First World War more than 1. 5 million Indians served in Turkey, Palestine and the Western Front, winning a dozen Victoria Crosses.

In World War II, it was the largest volunteer army in history, while the Royal Indian Air Force also played an important role. India's first air ace was First World War fighter pilot Indra Lal Roy.

The West India regiment, meanwhile, was formed in 1795 and saw action until it was disbanded in 1927.

Pacific islanders and Chinese soldiers battled the Japanese in World War II, while soldiers from African countries, including the Gold Coast, Kenya, Sierra Leone and the Gambia saw action in both world wars.

We Were There runs at St George's hall until October 5 when it will transfer to the Playhouse theatre. Schools will take part in workshops as part of their citizenship lessons.

n Black History Month runs from October 1-31.

Go to www. liverpoolblackhistory. co. uk


PREPARED: Soldiers from the British West Indies regiment in northern France in September 1916
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Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Sep 23, 2004
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