Poppies laid at the Cenotaph in 2015
Remembrance

Campaign Launched To Highlight WW2 Role Of Black And Asian Personnel

Politicians, actors and veterans are among those supporting the 'Remember Together' initiative.

Poppies laid at the Cenotaph in 2015

Public figures have signed a letter calling for more to be done to recognise the role of black and Asian soldiers in World War Two.

The Remember Together campaign, backed by signatories such as actor Adrian Lester, former Chancellor Sajid Javid and comedian Meera Syal, urges "better education, commemoration and documentation of our shared history".

Former military chiefs Lord Dannatt and Lord Richards are also among those supporting the initiative, ahead of commemorations for Armistice Day 2020.

The letter says: "Soldiers of different colours and creeds came from across the Commonwealth to play a crucial role in defending the freedoms we enjoy today.

"The armies that fought in the Second World War were the largest multicultural force that has ever served together and are more reflective of the modern-day ethnic diversity we see in Britain today, than the Britain of 1939 to 1945.

"The service of Commonwealth soldiers is one of many examples of how the history of Empire and decolonisation shaped modern Britain.

"We need to recognise that and engage with all of its complexity and controversies in an open, honest and constructive way as a key foundation for understanding the society that we share today."

The letter also states that, in a year marking 75 years since VE Day and VJ Day, contributions of soldiers from across the Commonwealth should be "reflected and acknowledged", making Remembrance activity "truly inclusive".

Chelsea Pensioners march past Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday
The public have been asked to stay away from the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday because of COVID (Picture: MOD).

In all, the letter has 49 signatories, including cross-party politicians, prominent voices on culture and faith and two Second World War veterans.

The campaign is a joint initiative by think tank British Future and the Royal British Legion.

"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," said Sajid Javid.

"It can only be good for our society if we better understand this history that we all share," he added.

Windrush campaigner Patrick Vernon, author of 100 Great Black Britons and a signatory of the letter, acknowledged that many will mark the fallen at home due to restrictions imposed over the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This is a time for us to reflect on contribution, recognition and trying to have a better society," he said.

"The reason why the war happened was it was fighting against tyranny and fascism, and we want to make sure that Britain is an inclusive society, a multicultural, multi-secular society."

An online event is being held to mark Remember Together's launch on Thursday, bringing together expert voices on history, education and race to discuss how to mark the contribution of black and Asian soldiers in the Second World War.

Cover image: MOD.