Ever since I first stepped foot on English soil, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the whole country falls into a two-minute silence in order to honour the British men and women who have died for their country since the First World War. The build-up to Remembrance day is inescapable and on Remembrance Sunday, chapel services are held all over the country in order to give due to all those who have died in the name of Britain and the Commonwealth.
I remember being barely out of primary school when I discovered that other brown faces, aside from South-Asian ones, were also part of the First and Second World War effort. Imagine my shock when I discovered that West Africans, East Africans, Southern Africans, and men and women from the Caribbean had also joined the allied powers and laid down their lives for the good of the "Great British Empire". Some colonial soldiers voluntary joined the British forces because they genuinely believed they were British and needed to protect their mother country. Others were forced to join via conscription. Whatever their reasons for joining, these men and women fought just as hard as white Brits in the quest to defend Britain and her allies. However, although South-Asian contribution to the wars has been well-documented, with support for Nepalese veterans from famous faces, I feel that African and Caribbean contributions to the two World Wars have been chronically ignored. The number of Africans that were part of the war effort is truly astounding:
The accompanying article from the BBC does a far better job than me in illustrating just how much Africa did for the allied forces and it's definitely worth a read. All I'm asking is that tomorrow, when your hand is below your red poppy in that two-minute silence, spare a thought for the hundreds of thousands of Africans whom the British would like to gently erase from the history books.
- They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
- Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
- They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
- They fell with their faces to the foe.
- They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
- Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
- At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
- We will remember them.