World war one

Britain is finally remembering its forgotten soldiers of empire

Each year, flowers of remembrance are left on the tomb of the unknown soldier in Westminster Abbey. The memorial marks the resting place of a nameless British soldier who fell on the battlefields of Europe during the First World War. But this hero is far from alone in his identity being lost to history. More than a century on from the end of the Great War, the contribution of half-a-million Punjabis who fought has been all but forgotten. The Punjab, or ‘land of the five rivers’ – a region now divided between what is post-partition India and Pakistan – remarkably provided more soldiers (Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus) towards the allied

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