April 29, 2005

Racism targets Vincy sailors in UK

Alleged racism targeted at Vincentians in the British Royal Navy is being highlighted in the UK press.

An article carried in the Porthsmouth Star last Thursday 7 April, reported the following: BLACK sailors have been the target of racist abuse while serving in a Portsmouth-based warship.{{more}}

Vile comments were scrawled on toilet walls and offensive songs were allegedly played within earshot of victims on board HMS Nottingham.

The graffiti included obnoxious slogans such as ‘there’s no black in the union jack’ and was signed by ‘3 BNP mess’.

Officers considered posting sentries outside the junior rates’ toilets to prevent further incidents.

A police probe is now underway into the abuse, which was aimed at 12 young sailors – at least one of them a woman – from the Caribbean island of St Vincent.

Late yesterday (Thursday 7) the Nottingham was boarded by personnel from the navy’s special investigation branch. Photographs were taken of the graffiti and a handwriting expert may also be brought in to help pinpoint the culprit.

A source close to the ship said: ‘The kids from St Vincent are being persecuted. It’s nothing less than intimidation.

‘They’ve got as much right to join the navy as anyone born in Portsmouth.

‘They’ve come a long way from home and work damn hard. They’ve already shown more dedication than a lot of our white boys.

‘We’ve got to stand up and stamp out racism in the navy.’

Graffiti appeared three times in the past six months and is thought to be the work of one sailor.

The latest outbreak occurred as the ship and her 260-strong crew neared the end of an eventful deployment in the Middle East.

Commander Stave Holt, the destroyer’s captain, said it was an ‘isolated’ incident.

‘We’re renowned as a happy ship. There’s certainly no deep-rooted racism aboard HMS Nottingham.

‘The ship’s company is a close team and demonstrated high morale during a period of high-intensity operations.’

Naval base spokesman Anton Hanney admitted graffiti had been found but said there was no evidence of offensive songs being played.

‘The officers on board are confident that if such an event occurred, knowing the antipathy of the ship’s company to racist behaviour, it would have been reported to the CO or executive officer. No such reports have been received,’ he said.

As far as the graffiti was concerned, the CO ‘took firm and prompt action,’ Mr Hanney said.

‘An investigation was launched immediately and is continuing in conjunction with service police.

‘Equal opportunity briefings were held and feedback indicated that the vast majority of Nottingham’s crew fully support the anti-racism pol.