Commonwealth graves commission

Our shameful failure to commemorate black Great War heroes

A report by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) has this week concluded that ‘pervasive racism’ was to blame for the failure to properly commemorate non-white troops who died for Britain in the first world war. It is estimated that at least 116,000 predominantly African and Middle Eastern first world war casualties ‘were not commemorated by name or possibly not commemorated at all’ having laid down their lives in the service of the Empire. Their names were not even included on communal monuments, in part due to sentiments like those expressed by British colonial governor FG Guggisberg who claimed in 1923 that ‘the average native… would not understand or appreciate a headstone.’ The purpose of