LONDON — Tens of thousands of soldiers from Africa and Asia who died during World War I in the service of what was then the British Empire were not properly commemorated, partly because of prejudice and racism, according to the findings of an inquiry issued on Thursday.
The report, written by an independent committee, found that the graves of 45,000 to 54,000 people who died serving the British war effort — largely East Africans, West Africans, Egyptians and Indians — did not receive appropriate memorials. At least 116,000 other casualties were not named on any memorials, the report said, adding that the number could be as high as 350,000.
First reported by The Guardian newspaper on Wednesday, the inquiry found that, though some colonial subjects had volunteered their service, “an equally high proportion may have been coerced or forcibly conscripted by the military and colonial authorities,” especially in African colonies and in Egypt.
Those who died, in some cases, were commemorated collectively on memorials rather than with their own individual headstones or grave markers, like their European counterparts were. In other cases, soldiers who were missing had their names recorded in registers rather than in stone.
erupted across the country last summer. Critics have said that a government-commissioned report on racial discrimination, released last month in response to those protests, whitewashed racial injustice in Britain after it said that disparities were more because of reasons of socio-economic status than of race.
Statues of slave traders have been torn down in some cities in Britain, and museums in the country have been working to highlight links to slavery and colonialism in their exhibits. The royal family has also come under fire after Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, said in an interview last month that a member of the family had asked questions about the skin color of their son, who was then not yet born.
“Unremembered — Britain’s Forgotten War Heroes,” which followed the British Labour lawmaker David Lammy as he investigated why African soldiers who served and died during World War I had not received their own graves.