Should Afro-Europeans wear the poppy? This question used to challenge me. Learning GCSE History (a UK secondary school grade), I heard about what sparked World War 1 and the lessons the government wanted the next generation to learn. “Those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it” George Santayana (16 December 1863 in Madrid, Spain – 26 September 1952 in Rome, Italy). And there! my interest in the past was sparked. I read. Interested in movies, along the way, I watched various films like Sergeant York, Dam Busters, Where Eagles Dare and sat through Lawrence of Arabia twice. In all this I grew to respect the past generation of Brits for their grit and sacrifice but I was never made to feel that “people who look like me” contributed anything to Britain’s survival or prosperity. Now, I know otherwise. Now, I know that it was a World War in the first place because Africa didn’t have self-rule on both sides of the war.
The first and last shots of world war 1 were fired in Africa, not Europe. How come? And why do modern Great War ceremonies and films give the impression that only Americans and Europeans died for “freedom”? Africans contributed money, skill (in producing goods to aid the war effort) and the human sacrifices needed to call it a world war. The era of German colonialism that lasted till 1918 had left Africans who fought for Germany either dead, injured for life, without ex-service pensions and with financial losses.