Black Looks - Including an African LGBTIQ+ Archive

African History, Nigeria, South Africa

Untold Black history: forgotten African WWII soldiers


One of the greatest omissions of 20th century European and African history are African soldiers who fought in World War I and II. Whilst we are repeatedly reminded of the role of the Gurkhas it is only now that these forgotten soldiers are being remembered as in a new BBC documentary which traces Nigerian WWII veterans of the Burma Campaign – in which only 2 in ten soldiers where white. Watch film trailer.

Nigerians made up more than half of the total force of 90,000 West African soldiers deployed to South East Asia after 1943 as part of the British Army’s 81st and 82nd (West Africa) Divisions.

Although the Burma campaign ended 64 years ago, many remain bitter that their contribution was never adequately recognised………

African recruits served as drivers, artillerymen, engineers, medics and clerks, as well as infantrymen and carriers.

A 2007 documentary ” A Pair of Boots and a Bicycle” tells the story of one soldier, Maseko, who was one of 128 000 black soldiers enlisted in the Allied Forces against the Germans in North Africa. Both the Italians and the British used African soldiers in the East Africa Campaign. Even this report on the BBC WW2 site hardly mentions the contribution of African soldiers to the campaign.

Another group of African soldiers only recently remembered were those deployed by the French army in Germany’s Rhineland after WW1. In 2007 a memorial was erected outside the home of one Black victim of the Nazi holocoust giving a name to the nameless. Mahjub bin Adam Mohamed originally from Tanzania who married a German woman and was charged with ‘miscegenation’. He died in Sachsenhausen concentration camp, in November 1944.