Skip to main content

CWGC Non-Commemoration Report

CWGC Non-Commemoration Report

22 April 2021

A report into the historical inequalities in the commemoration of British Empire soldiers from World War I and World War II has been published by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. 

A report into historical injustices

In December 2019, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) appointed a Special Committee to probe the early history of the Imperial War Graves Commission (IWGC) to identify inequalities in the way the organisation commemorated the dead of the British Empire from the two world wars. Today, the findings of that report were published and they have attracted global press attention. 

Established just over a century ago to commemorate the First World War dead of the British Empire, the Imperial War Grave Commission aimed for equality.  All those who had lost their lives would be commemorated in the same way - with their name engraved on either a headstone or memorial - despite social standing, army rank or religion.  What the CWGC Non-Commemoration Report has found is that the organisation did not uphold this promise for certain ethnic groups outside of Europe.

The report estimates that between 45,000 and 54,000 casualties (predominantly Indian, East African, West African, Egyptian and Somali personnel) were commemorated unequally. A further 116,000 casualties (predominantly, but not exclusively, East African and Egyptian personnel) but potentially as many as 350,000, were not commemorated by name or possibly not commemorated at all.

HCA Visiting Fellow Dr John Burke was a co-author on the report: "I researched, compiled and co-wrote the report with the CWGC Official Historian, Dr George Hay. Based on the findings of this report, the Secretary of State for Defence, Ben Wallace MP, offered an official apology on behalf of the Commission and the British Government towards those who were shown to have been unequally commemorated in the past. The recommendations set out within the report will play a pivotal role in the CWGC’s continuing actions in seeking to put right the wrongs of the past."

The recommendations set out within the report will play a pivotal role in the CWGC’s continuing actions in seeking to put right the wrongs of the past.

Dr John Burke

The report, and the CWGC’s response, is available here: www.cwgc.org/non-commemoration-report.

The Secretary of State’s official statement is available here: Parliamentlive.tv - House of Commons (commencing at 11.38.28)

The latest coverage by the BBC is available here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-56840131