3 August 2018

A day to give thanks to all who served

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Today, 3 August marks 100 days until Armistice Day, precisely 100 years since the First World War came to and end at 11am on 11 November.

It also sees the launch by the Royal British Legion of Thank You – a national movement, which British Future is pleased to be part of,  to mark 100 years since the end of the First World War by giving thanks to all who served, sacrificed and changed our world one century ago.

Indian bicycle troops at a crossroads on the Fricourt-Mametz Road, Somme, France, in 1916. Photo: Public Domain/Imperial War Museum
Indian bicycle troops at a crossroads on the Fricourt-Mametz Road, Somme, France, in 1916. Photo: Public Domain/Imperial War Museum

That’s not just the British Armed Forces, but those who fought alongside them from countries all over the world.

It will surprise many people to realise that the armies that fought a century ago look more like the Britain of 2018 than the Britain of 1918 in their ethnic and multi-faith composition. Over 1.5 million soldiers from pre-partition India, 400,000 of them Muslims from present-day Pakistan, served with British, Caribbean, African and other commonwealth forces. The roots of our shared history go further back than we think.

Their story was little known before the centenary, when the Tower of London’s moat was filled with poppies as we embarked upon four years of commemorations of a war that played such a huge part in Britain’s history and sense of who we are.

In 2013, knowledge of the role of Commonwealth soldiers was confined to a minority, with less than 50% aware of the commonwealth contribution on the battlefields of the First World War. But by the end of 2014 that had changed: most of the public had heard this story, with around two-thirds of people able to identify that more than 1,000 troops came to fight from Australia (65%), Canada (65%) and India (68%).

There is still work to be done to build on this growing knowledge of the contribution made by commonwealth soldiers and the history we all share in Britain today. But over time we are becoming increasingly aware that Remembrance could, should and does belong to all of us.

Thank you runs alongside our traditional Remembrance activities, offering new ways to offer thanks to that generation of a century ago.

At www.everyoneremembered.org , for example, a searchable database of all those 1.1 million British and Commonwealth troops who died in the First World War offers a chance to leave a personal tribute to individual servicemen and women who laid down their lives.

Events across the UK will bring the story of contribution and remembrance to new audiences who may be attending a Remembrance event for the first time. From the Thank You launch today on London’s South Bank to an event commemorating the contribution of Indian WW1 servicemen at the Kia Oval during the final test of the England-India cricket series.

In November, as part of Thank You, British Future will launch Remember Together, a new joint initiative with other organisations to bring together people from different backgrounds to learn about this shared history and undertake remembrance-themed activities. Building on these new personal connections, some of those involved will then attend Remembrance services together on 11 November.

Everyone has a reason to say, ‘Thank You’. We all have a connection to the First World War and this is an ideal time to find out more about our heritage. British Future is proud to be part of Thank You, partnering with the Royal British Legion to offer thanks to all who served.

More information at www.rbl.org.uk/thankyou.

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