New campaign calls for ‘greater recognition’ of black and Asian soldiers for WW2 service

Remember Together events mark the contribution of Commonwealth soldiers to the British war effort  (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Remember Together events mark the contribution of Commonwealth soldiers to the British war effort (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

A NEW campaign launched on Thursday(29) to highlight the role of soldiers from across the Commonwealth during the WW2.

The ‘Remember Together’ joint campaign by thinktank British Future and the Royal British Legion has received support from prominent voices from culture, politics, faith, civil society and the military.

Actors Adrian Lester and Meera Syal, former Home Secretary Sajid Javid and former heads of the armed forces Lord Dannatt and Lord Richards have supported the initiative.

Prominent personalities have signed an open letter which asks to “ensure all who served are fully recognised, through better education, commemoration and documentation of our shared history” as part of the campaign.

Baroness Warsi, West Midlands Mayor Andy Street and his Labour challenger Liam Byrne, MPs Virendra Sharma, Rushanara Ali, Naz Shah, Andrew Murrison and Stuart McDonald, Anas Sarwar MSP, Dan Jarvis MP, Sheffield mayor and former paratrooper, Director General of the Royal British Legion, Charles Byrne have signed the letter.

Second World War veterans Jamaica-born Allan Wilmot and Pakistan-born Muhammad Hussain have also signed the letter.

An online event hosted by British Future will be held on Thursday to mark the contribution of black and Asian soldiers in the Second World War.

Patrick Vernon OBE, author of 100 Great Black Britons, Zehra Zaidi of the We Too Built Britain campaign for BME recognition on banknotes and coins, education reformer Katharine Birbalsingh CBE and historian Professor Daniel Todman will participate. Sunder Katwala will chair the session.

A recent poll by British Future has found out that eight in ten people (78 per cent) agree that doing more to recognise the Commonwealth contribution in World War Two would be a positive way to promote understanding of the shared history of today’s multi-ethnic Britain.

The sentiment is felt equally by white Britons (78 per cent) and ethnic minority Britons too (76 per cent), just 3 per cent disagree.

“Angry ‘culture war’ debates about Britain’s history overlook its ability to unite as well as divide us. Men and women from across the Commonwealth served together 75 years ago and we can come together today to remember them all, regardless of creed or colour. This is a history that we share and of which we can all be proud,” said British Future director Sunder Katwala.

“Awareness of the service and sacrifice of black and Asian troops in WW2 is growing, but more still needs to be done to teach and commemorate this contribution.”

The new poll by Number Cruncher Politics has revealed that most people in Britain (59 per cent) agree that our tradition of Remembrance Day brings people of all faiths and ethnicities together.

But that is less widely felt among black and minority ethnic citizens, with less than half (46 per cent) feeling that Remembrance does bring us all together.

“No-one told me, growing up as a Pakistani-background kid, about the million soldiers who fought for Britain in World War Two and looked like me. So I support the Remember Together call to ensure their service is remembered. It can only be good for our society if we better understand this history that we all share,” said Sajid Javid MP.

David Lammy MP said: “Every child grows up learning about the Second World War in school, but the stories of the black and brown soldiers who helped defeat the Nazis have long been missing from their textbooks. We can and must do more to commemorate this forgotten sacrifice, so that every child in our diverse classrooms sees that British history is their history.”

Historian Stephen Bourne, author of Black Poppies and Under Fire: Black Britain in Wartime 1939-45, said: “The Army, Navy and RAF personnel that fought fascism in the Second World War included servicemen and women from across the British Empire including India, Africa and the Caribbean. In its diversity, this fighting force looks a lot more like the Britain of 2020. The Remember Together campaign is about commemorating this history that we all share.”

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