“The events of a century ago were bad then, and they are bad now,” said Claire Horton, Executive Director of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC). “The commission has clearly failed many of those for whom it was created by failing to respect its founding principle of equal treatment in the event of death,” she said.
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said:deep regret“In Parliament Thursday for the failures described in the investigation.
The investigation was sparked by ‘Unremembered: Britain’s Forgotten War Heroes’, a 2019 TV documentary. Labor MP David Lammy introduced the program and wrote about how he traveled to Kenya and Tanzania to see firsthand how Africans who died fighting for Britain were treated.
“In all of East Africa, there are only three memorials to all those who died, in Nairobi, Mombasa and Dar es Salaam,” he wrote in the Observer newspaper. “I reached one while climbing a chain fence in the middle of a busy roundabout.
The inquiry comes at a time when the country grapples with race relations and its complicated colonial past. The Black Lives Matter protests in Britain following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis were among the largest outside the United States.
Protesters in the English city of Bristol knocked down a statue of Edward Colston, a leading 17th century slave trader in the past summer, prompting many Britons to applaud. Protesters in London also tagged a statue of Winston Churchill with graffiti calling him “racist”, prompting a more divided response.
Originally founded in 1917 as the Imperial War Graves Commission, the mission of the CWGC is to commemorate and commemorate fallen personnel in both world wars. An individual’s name is carved on a gravestone above an identified grave or memorial to the fallen.
But the investigation found that at least 116,000 servicemen, and possibly as many as 350,000, “have not been commemorated by name or may not be commemorated at all.” An additional 45,000 to 54,000 people were “unevenly commemorated”.
The report noted that an officer in 1920 wrote to the commission: “Most of the dead natives are semi-wild in nature,” adding that “the erection of individual headstones would be a waste of public money.”
The report noted that the decisions were “influenced by the lack of information, errors inherited from other organizations and the opinions of colonial administrators.” But “at the root of all these decisions” were “the prejudices, preconceptions and pervasive racism of contemporary imperial attitudes.”
Britain made extensive use of its colonial subjects as soldiers, not only on the battlefields of Asia and Africa, but also in the trenches of Europe. The El Alamein Commonwealth Cemetery in Egypt for the North African campaign dead of WWII is named after soldiers from dozens of British possessions abroad.
During World War I alone, the British colonies provided 2.5 million men, mostly from India, which then included both Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Thursday, Lammy, the Labor lawmaker, stated that ‘the truth is that none of us learned this story in our schools, and it is still true that many young people in the UK do not understand this huge contribution to our history and to society and to the life we value. ”
He told the BBC that the panel’s findings touch on some of the country’s most important debates on “how we count with the past and understand the past so that we can move forward”.