Britain 'to apologise' over unequal remembrance of Commonwealth troops

British officials ‘will apologise’ over claims black and Asian troops were denied gravestones due to racism

  • Officials are expected to apologise today over claims black and Asian troops who died fighting for the British Empire were denied gravestones
  • The acknowledgement by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission comes after an inquiry found that hundreds of thousands of casualties were remembered unequally in official cemeteries as a result of blatant prejudice  
  • The report says up to 350,000 predominantly African and Middle Eastern war casualties may not have been commemorated by name or at all

Officials are expected to apologise today over claims black and Asian troops who died fighting for the British Empire were denied gravestones due to racism.

The acknowledgement by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission comes after an inquiry found that hundreds of thousands of Commonwealth casualties were remembered unequally in official cemeteries as a result of blatant prejudice.

Black and Asian troops who died in the First World War were among those who suffered according to the commission’s report.

In 1920 a British governor in Africa is alleged to have said ‘the average native would not understand or appreciate a headstone’.

The report says up to 350,000 predominantly African and Middle Eastern war casualties may not have been commemorated by name or at all. 

Meanwhile fallen UK military service personnel received headstones over identified graves or had their names engraved on memorials.

Officials are expected to apologise today over claims black and Asian troops who died fighting for the British Empire were denied gravestones due to racism. The acknowledgement by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission comes after an inquiry found that hundreds of thousands of Commonwealth casualties were remembered unequally in official cemeteries as a result of blatant prejudice. Pictured: Headstones on the Somme, France

All troops killed in action are supposed to be commemorated identically. However, the best many black and Asian troops could hope for a century ago was for their names to be recorded in a register.

Last night the commission said: ‘The report highlights that, in certain circumstances, those principles so rigidly adhered to for all who fell in Europe were applied inconsistently or abandoned in the more distant corners of the globe when applied to the non-European war dead of the British Empire, in the immediate aftermath of World War One.

The report was ordered in 2019 following a probe by Labour MP David Lammy (pictured), who discovered that the graves of African soldiers in Tanzania were being abandoned while the graves of European officers were still being tended [File photo]

‘The commissioners acknowledge that this was not right then and must not be allowed to remain unaddressed now. Those identified in the special committee’s report deserve to be remembered as much today as they did 100 years ago.’

The findings of the report are due to be announced by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace in the House of Commons.

The report was ordered in 2019 following a probe by Labour MP David Lammy, who discovered that the graves of African soldiers in Tanzania were being abandoned while the graves of European officers were still being tended.

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