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Mazaruni Penal Settlement

Mazaruni Prison

I have just watched the High Commissioner for Guyana laying his wreath at the London Cenotaph. On this Remembrance Sunday, it's worth reflecting on Guyana's contribution to the Allies' efforts to defeat fascism. Many thousands of Guyanese joined Commonwealth forces, and many stayed on in UK (including ER Braithwaite who wrote ‘To Sir with Love’ ). British Guiana (as it was) also provided a US airbase: Atkinson Field was built in 1941 (as part of an agreement under which Britain obtained 50 American WW1 destroyers in exchange for bases across the Americas). From this base, goods and aeroplanes were ferried across the Atlantic to West Africa. Meanwhile, American airships patrolled the Guyanese coast looking for German submarines.

In Georgetown, people suffered shortages: there were no new bike tyres, and shortages of petrol, flour and kerosene. Also, interestingly, the administration offered a home to 50 Jewish refugees from Spain. Initially, they were housed here - see photo - at the 'Mazaruni penal settlement' (now prison)!

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