War Graves

I was sad to hear on the news today and read in the Guardian that the Imperial War Graves Commission* failed to ensure that African or Indian servicemen of the Empire in the Great War were accorded the same treatment in death as those from the UK and the Dominions.

I can’t say however that I was very surprised – a clue is in the name: Imperial War Graves Commission.

It’s no excuse for the behaviour of those in charge but the times were different and the attitudes of the powers that were were very unenlightened compared to those that I hope would apply now.

Again, there’s no excuse but it may have been a non-Western Front ruling. There are certainly individual graves of Maori soldiers at Birr Cross Roads Cemetery near Ypres. But New Zealand was of course a Dominion not a colony. (I also remember seeing somewhere a headstone for a Chinese member of the Labour Battalion but not which cemetery his grave was in.)

There are of course collective memorials to Nepalese and Indian soldiers at the Menin Gate as well as names of individual Burmese and Indian soldiers on the building itself.

However, it was and is deplorable that non-white servicemen were at any time not accorded the respect that was – and still is – their due.

*The name was later changed to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

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