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Golliwogs and the British 8th Army

***The staff of the Jim Crow Museum receives dozens of letters and emails. Some of these communiques offer insight into race relations -- historically and in the present. While some are hateful, we have decided to share some of these letters and emails with our Internet visitors.***

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.

Michael Pickett
United Kingdom
-- February 5, 2009