David Lammy: We've got to get better at being honest about our history

22 April 2021, 14:20 | Updated: 22 April 2021, 14:26

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

David Lammy has urged Brits to "get better at being honest about our history" after a report found the Commonwealth War Graves Commission failed to commemorate black and Asian troops due to "pervasive racism".

David Lammy has told LBC he "shed a tear" after the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) apologised following an investigation which found hundreds of thousands of predominantly black and Asian service personnel who died fighting for the British Empire were not formally remembered in the same way as their white comrades.

David presented a documentary about the more than 100,000 Africans denied the honour of an individual grave after they died fighting for the British Empire features a document which refers to victims being "of a semi-savage nature".

Speaking to LBC's Shelagh Fogarty the Labour MP said he was moved when he heard the news and was left thinking of the people he met on his journey in "villages where they lost their sons."

He told Shelagh it was an important moment for whole areas of nations that were decimated by the loss of their men due to the war.

Expanding on his thoughts David ended the conversation by saying "we've got to get better at being honest about our history."

Following the documentary, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) established a special committee which has confirmed that at least 116,000 predominantly African and Middle Eastern First World War casualties "were not commemorated by name or possibly not commemorated at all".

Professor Michele Barrett appears in the documentary and tells Mr Lammy that it was not a case of "random acts of racism", but instead policy was being followed.

She said: "There was a very interesting report that was done by a chap called Major George Evans in the early 1920s.

"And he says, 'Most of the natives who have died are of a semi-savage nature and do not attach any sentiment to marking the graves of their dead'.

"He thought the erection of individual headstones in the case of African natives would constitute a waste of public money."

Prof Barrett added: "He also said that he thought the issue was that tribes are 'hardly in such a state of civilisation as to appreciate or understand such a memorial'.

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