When Remembrance Day is drawing near, these posts are to redress the balance and to remember that Black people supported the war effort from Britain, Europe and men and women from the Commonwealth and the Empire. The posts are also to acknowledge the deep-seated racism in the European armed forces at the time, ‘Lest We Forget’.
British historian, Professor Davis Olusoga, sums this up. He wrote this poignant article on Sunday 11 November 2018 in the Guardian entitled ‘Black soldiers were expendable – then forgettable’.
“These people were les races guerrières, whom the infamous French general Charles Mangin would forge into his ‘force noire‘.
“So dedicated were the French to these theories that they convinced themselves that West Africans, being supposedly more primitive than Europeans, could better withstand the shock of battle and experienced physical pain less acutely. This justified deploying them as shock troops in the first line of battle. As a result, West African soldiers on the western front between 1917 and 1918 were two-and-a-half times more likely to be killed in action than white French infantrymen. The British held similar views of the people of India. Dismissing most of the people of the subcontinent as passive and effeminate, they only recruited from certain ethnic groups, the so-called ‘martial races’.
Image: Senegalese soldiers from WWI