Golliwogs and the British 8th Army
I read with great interest your article on golliwogs, and thought I might pass on
to you something my late father told me about his service with the British 8th Army
in Egypt during World War II.
Clearly you are aware of the pejorative use of the term wog in British culture and
there has been much discussion over years, here in the UK, about the origins of the
expression. My father told me that when he was in Egypt in 1942 the British Army employed
thousands of Egyptians at docks in Suez and elsewhere to unload supplies and ammunition
from ships arriving from the UK and USA, in the build up to the offensive that was
to take place at El Alamein. These workers were issued with security passes to enter
the docks for work as well as armbands bearing the words WOGS. In fact, so my father
said, this was an acronym for Working on Government Service, and had at the time no
derogatory racial connotations.
All the very best, and keep up the good work at the museum.
-- February 5, 2009