Britain's National Service - 1948 to 1961 and West Indians

Irvin Holness a 19-year-old tailor from St Elizabeth in Jamaica left the shores of the Caribbean in 1957 to build a new life in England. He joined his elder brother who was already residing in Dudley and gained employment in Brierley Hill. 

The 1947 National Service Act (amended in 1948 and implemented in 1949) meant that all men aged 18-26 living in England were required to serve in the Armed Forces for 18 months. Irvin signed up in 1959 to serve in the Army and underwent training in Wrexham. He then spent the next 2 years working in the ammunition depots in Scarborough and Leamington Spa. 

He was the first Black man from Dudley to undertake National Service and would recount fond memories of his service to his children, often saying the army were his best working years. Returning to civilian life, Irvin worked in foundries at London Steel, Goodyear Tyres and Monarch Tyres rising to the rank of Tyre Inspector. He retired in 1997.

Irvin was close to his family and had a popular personality making friends easily. He never forgot his Military service and regularly attended Remembrance Sunday parades in Dudley. He was the recipient of the veteran’s badge which he wore with pride.

Sadly, Irvin passed away on 14th May 2023 aged eight-five.

Irvin led a full and happy life. He was married for fifty-six years. Father of six, grandfather of seven and great grandfather of five. 

His funeral service was held on June 23rd, 2023. 

Among the tributes was one from the Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

From Irvin's family and friends, May You Rest in Peace.