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Uncommemorated People of Colour - Exhumations


Simon Bull
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Somewhat late in the day I have watched the David Lammy documentary about the unremembered.  It shows, very conclusively, that decisions based on rascist views were taken not to commemorate black and other ethnic minoirty combatants in the same way that white soldiers were remembered..

 

It struck me strongly that if CWGC means what it says in its comments on the programme, and really is an organisation which wishes to escape its rascist past, and demonstrate a keeness to do so, then it could act in a very concrete way to take some steps in the probably impossible process of fully correcting matters.

 

Twice we were shown Lammy in places where black soldiers are said to have been buried uncommemorated,  The first was just outside the CWGC cemetery in Voi and the second at a large open area in Dar-es-Salaam.

 

When white soldiers were found uncommemorated at Pheasant Wood then the CWGC (quite rightly) acted to exhume them and identify and commemorate them.

 

If this is indeed an organisation which truly wants to make amends and show it has left its rascist past behind it should be acting to do the same for the black soldiers at Voi and Dar-es-Salaam as it did for the white soldiers in Fromelles.  Sadly, I have not heard that it has any plans to do so.

 

 

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53 minutes ago, Simon Bull said:

When white soldiers were found uncommemorated at Pheasant Wood then the CWGC (quite rightly) acted to exhume them and identify and commemorate them.

 

 

It took quite some time before action was taken (rumours about unmarked mass graves were around for years) and I don't think it was the CWGC that acted and exhumed the mass graves.

Jan

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1 hour ago, Simon Bull said:

Somewhat late in the day I have watched the David Lammy documentary about the unremembered.  It shows, very conclusively, that decisions based on rascist views were taken not to commemorate black and other ethnic minoirty combatants in the same way that white soldiers were remembered..

As you say, somewhat late in the day as it was first shown in 2019 and has been  somewhat superseded by the Commission's report and response which you may care to read on their website

https://www.cwgc.org/non-commemoration-report/

Under previous leadership their response to the programme was less equable and Lammy's assertions in the programme were disputed by the CWGC

https://www.cwgc.org/our-work/news/cwgc-statement-in-relation-to-the-unremembered-documentary/

 

 

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

This does not seem to alter the fact that at least two sites have been revealed in which uncommemorated and unrecorded casuatlies may well be buried and nothing is being done.

 

It is difficult to imagine there not being plans to change this on the Western Front if the casualties were white.  I find it rather disturbing.

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now NOT wanting to start wwiii,I have a good American friend in the air force who served  here for a while,if you ever wanted to get him mad just call him couloured,as he says he is black,he has gone back stateside,we e mail often,he absolutely hates the term people of colour as he says it means nothing,its just a term which is meant allegedly not to offend people,,in these crazy pc times why cant we call people just people,if you must white/black,you dont mean anything by it,you can call me taffy,I was born with in the sound of the river taff,im proud of it,,same as Paddy,Jock,as soon as you hear it you know where a persons from,I to saw the documentary also saw similar on the Chinese ,I didnt think the word chi**k was a slur,in the trenches Portuguese  were pork and beans,its what people do,

rant over

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  • 3 weeks later...

There is the well known story that at a NATO meeting Lord Robertson told Colin Powell about a grave in a small burial ground on Islay with the headstone "Unknown Negro / Known Unto God".  All the other bodies from the OTRANTO were either repatriated or moved to the American military cemetery at Brookwood.

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2 hours ago, mbriscoe said:

Lord Robertson told Colin Powell about a grave…….

This is what Lord Robertson has written in his recollections…

“When I served as secretary general of Nato, I told Colin Powell, then the US Secretary of State, about the body of an unnamed black sailor still buried in the soil of Islay.” 

Try as I might I cannot find anything written down that the headstone has the inscription described, is there and photographic proof?

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I remember seeing it (though obviously do not remember the wording) when I photographed the graves there for the WGPP.  I will see if I can find my picture.  Won't be on their website because no name.

It is mentioned in R Neil Scott's book.

Going back to Lammy, he has a poor reputation for trying to stir up trouble - I remember he was interviewed on a news programme after a stabbing (I think) and complained that they never saw any police in that area.  There was a uniformed police officer standing across the road from him.

 

 

 

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3 minutes ago, Knotty said:

This is what Lord Robertson has written in his recollections…

“When I served as secretary general of Nato, I told Colin Powell, then the US Secretary of State, about the body of an unnamed black sailor still buried in the soil of Islay.” 

Try as I might I cannot find anything written down that the headstone has the inscription described, is there and photographic proof?

Not from the Otranto but the Tuscania; Times reporting from 2014  https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/negro-removed-from-war-headstone-ncp96c8sd8c ‘shows images of the original & replacement headstones. Interesting that the replacement is CWGC style and not ABMC (the original appears to be more civilian type)

Being generous, perhaps there was no way of identifying whether the chap was an American soldier or a merchant crewman from elsewhere.  It has to be remembered that the original was from different times

NigelS

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Lord Robertson's foreward to the book is ambiguous but seems to link him to the OTRANTO which why I wrote that.

I have not seen many American headstones but did they put military headstones on the graves of merchant seamen?  At least leaving the grave on Islay rather than belatedly moving to Brookwood means that it might get more attention particularly from US tourists.

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanks chaps that is a very interesting headstone scenario. Maybe they should think about an update to the “Welcome to Islay Info” which Lord R wrote the account of the sinkings from which I quoted.

Edited by Knotty
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On 30/08/2021 at 12:50, Knotty said:

Try as I might I cannot find anything written down that the headstone has the inscription described, is there and photographic proof?

Old and New

negro.JPG.a0708fd8f52aeee31c87f3dda165a0e6.JPG

A HEADSTONE that described a black sailor killed in a First World War naval disaster as an “unknown negro” has been quietly replaced by the authorities because it was judged to be “inappropriate”.

 

I have a friend called Google :D

 

Ray

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59 minutes ago, RaySearching said:

quietly replaced by the authorities

l believe it was ,Ray, it was still the original back in 2007 and all indications point to 2014 being the year of change.👍

John
 

Edited by Knotty
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There was an interesting article within a recent "stand to" young writers award where some of the lammys documentary evidence was assessed with varying alternatives 

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7 hours ago, Knotty said:

l believe it was ,Ray, it was still the original back in 2007 and all indications point to 2014 being the year of change.👍

John
 

The Times article is dated 9 November 2014. 

Looking at the CWGC's original grave registration form it actually gives  'Unidentified British Negro'.  This  http://freepages.rootsweb.com/~carmita/history/Anchor/Anchor.html gives the crew list  and also comments 'U.S. Army burial records reflect that this man was a "Half-cast Negro member of ships crew." This means that he was a man born of mixed race, one parent white, one parent of color.' 

52 of the Tuscania's crew are recorded as having died of these 5 have known graves - So 46 missing  with no known grave and one 'unknown' with.  Would have thought only a small proportion of these would have been of mixed race, but the chances are, as was often the  way of merchant seamen back in those days, there might of have been no relative or anyone one who knew him who knew he'd gone missing or that he was on board the Tuscania.  The majority of the missing  crew are given as being  of Scottish or English ethnicity, with one of Spanish (E. Cruz),  one of Maltese (Andrea Cutajar), one of Portugese (M Silva) and one of Paraguayan (Pedro Miares)

NigelS

 

Edited by NigelS
47 changed to 46!
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  • 1 month later...

Hi Biffo

I worked alongside American A S A F service men and women, Black and White and Hispanic, Hawaiian and others at R A F Mildenhall for over 32 years and you are correct in what you say, they do not like being called Coloured folks.. 

Regards

Andy

 

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On 31/08/2021 at 17:30, wulsten said:

There was an interesting article within a recent "stand to" young writers award where some of the lammys documentary evidence was assessed with varying alternatives 

Many people do not take Lammy very seriously particularly after he famously appeared on one news report, after a stabbing I think, claiming that they never saw any police around that part of London.  Unfortunately there was a uniformed police officer on the corner behind him!

 

 

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It is a pity that it was changed in that way because of modern sensitivities.  He would have probably have been described in that way in his lifetime and had no objections.

There is now nothing to indicate that he was black, I can't remember ever seeing any black people on Islay and you see very few black tourists in the Highlands - many more Indian and Chinese.  But someone of the same ethnicity might have occasionally left some flowers or a Poppy by the headstone if they saw it rather like the way you will nearly always see a Canadian flag left on any Canadian war graves.

Now it is just another "Sailor of the Great War" of which you see many on the West coast.

 

 

 

 

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If moderators persist on deleting posts, please have the courtesy to send a private message after. It might be unfashionable, but people like me also have the right to express their opinions, especially when its based in fact.

To quote directly from the Pheasant Wood (as per the original posters argument) Wiki page:-

"Although asked to do this by the British and Australian governments, the design, construction and maintenance of such cemeteries is part of the central remit of the CWGC, and as such the estimated 900,000 euros[14] construction cost was covered by funding from CWGC member countries. The funding for the excavations, DNA analysis, and reburial ceremonies, was shared equally by the British and Australian governments."

The member countries that form the CWGC are the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa.

Should the Black soldiers buried in Dar es Salaam prove to be from anywhere but South Africa, then it should be up to the soldiers parent nation to foot the bill for the various costs involved to exhuming and re-burying them.

If the soldiers were from South Africa then it should be South Africa who is financially responsible for the majority of the costs. The United Kingdom contributes 78.43% of the CWGCs yearly budget, the South African government contributes 2.11%. If the various African nations care that much about their First World War dead perhaps they could find the time and costs ( after all the United Kingdom alone paid Africa 2.22 Billion Pounds in Foreign Aid in 2020). The CWGC shouldn't be held to ransom by 21st century politics wrapped in a rainbow flag.

Cheers

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