African soldiers in WW2and how they were thanked – please read this.

I was delighted that The Today Programme had a Ghanaian tell the story of  the war in Burma. on this anniversary of # VJ Day Not many people are aware of how many Africans fought with us in WW2 . If they had chosen a Kenyan you would have heard a different story. On the Western front African troops were rarely armed but used in menial work. In contrast , in Burma they were trained to use weapons. Because of that colonial  forces in Kenya in the fifties sent many of those Burma veterans to  concentration camps . Barbara Castle MP described the situation in Tribune in Sep 30,1955 (Barbara later became a cabinet minister in the government of Harold Wilson )

In the heart of the British Empire there is a police state where the rule of law has broken down, where murder and torture of Africans by Europeans goes unpunished and where authorities pledged to enforce justice regularly connive at its violation.

My Kenyan friend  Nancy Mudenyo Hunt and I have just  had   Not so Black and White published. The background detail of the novel set in London and Kenya  is informed by Nancy’s experiences here and in Kenya . Her father was a tribal chief who attended the Coronation.  As well as researching by reading such books as ‘Britain’s Gulag ‘ by historian Caroline Elkins  we also looked at her father’s papers.  It’s only a sub story but we have a fictional veteran of Burma  and describe what happened to him .

The pride in being ‘the forgotten army’ is not the story I heard from Burma veteran and prolific author Brian Aldiss when I interviewed him . When his ship from Calcutta arrived in Southampton there was NO ONE  to meet them – not even from the army. I tell the story of how he came to Oxford in  my Castaway LECTURE to the Oxford Guild of Guides .His castaway choice involved a wartime story -its a Greek portrait of St Anna.