Ahead of Remembrance Sunday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour Leader Keir Starmer have both voiced support for the ‘Remember Together’ initiative, which urges greater efforts to commemorate the service and sacrifice of black and Asian servicemen and women in the Second World War.
In a message to the Remember Together campaign, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
“In every theatre of the Second World War, volunteers from India, Africa and the Caribbean made an immense contribution to victory.
“The British Indian Army mobilised 2.5 million personnel and became the largest volunteer force in history. When Britain embarked on the liberation of South-East Asia, assembling nearly a million troops in the 14th army, the great majority of the soldiers in this magnificent unit came from India and Africa. Volunteers from as far away as Sierra Leone and Nigeria helped release Myanmar from Japanese occupation.
“All of these courageous people chose to fight for freedom under the British flag. Their service helped to defeat a terrible evil and allow millions to live in peace and prosperity. Today, I am delighted to remember their sacrifice and celebrate their achievement.”
Labour Leader Keir Starmer said:
“While this year’s remembrance may look different, Britain will still honour all those who have fought for our country – from every village, every town and every city. But, thanks to the efforts of Remember Together, we will also remember that we have never stood alone.
“We will never forget the bravery of the 1.5 million Indian soldiers that fought in the British Army in the trenches of World War I, or the allies we stood shoulder to shoulder with in the face of fascism in World War II. When we remember, we remember those of every creed and colour who gave their today in order that we could all have tomorrow.”
Commemorating Britain’s history can unite our society, not just provoke angry ‘culture war’ debates, according to the ‘Remember Together’ campaign, a joint initiative by the Royal British Legion and British Future as part of the Together Coalition. In the lead-up to Remembrance Sunday it has published an open letter signed by prominent voices from culture, politics, faith, civil society and the military, urging greater efforts to commemorate, teach and document the service of black an Asian soldiers in the Second World War.
Actors Adrian Lester and Meera Syal, Mayor London Sadiq Khan and former Home Secretary Sajid Javid, and former heads of the armed forces Lord Dannatt and Lord Richards were among those urging that “more should be done to highlight the role of soldiers from across the Commonwealth, ensuring their contributions are reflected and acknowledged, and that Remembrance activity is truly inclusive.”
New polling for British Future finds that eight in ten people (78%) 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%) and ethnic minority Britons too (76%). Just 3% of people disagree.
The new poll, conducted by Number Cruncher Politics, also finds that most people in Britain (59%) 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%) feeling that Remembrance does bring us all together.
The Remember Together initiative seeks to address that imbalance, ensuring that the service and sacrifice of all those who fought is commemorated and helping to make remembrance feel relevant and inclusive to people of all creeds and colours in Britain today.