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Saturday 19 April 2014

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The Memorial Gates Trust
(Thanks to Sophie Renton, Secretary to the Memorial Gates Trust,
for the following information)

The Memorial GatesThe Memorial Gates Trust was established in 1998 to raise funds to erect a Memorial to mark the enormous sacrifices made by nearly five million volunteers from the Indian Sub-Continent, Africa and the Caribbean who served with the British Armed Forces during the First and Second World Wars.

The Memorial (pictured right) is located in the heart of London at the top of Constitution Hill near Hyde Park Corner. It was officially inaugurated on 6 November 2002 by Her Majesty the Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh.

Few people today realise the extent of the contribution by the peoples of the Indian sub-continent, Africa and the Caribbean. In the First World War nearly 1.5 million Indians and over 15,000 men of the British West Indies Regiment volunteered for military service. They saw action on the Western Front, in Gallipoli, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Italy. The contribution from the British African colonies was substantial in terms of troops, transport auxiliaries, money and raw materials.

In the Second World War some 2.5 million men from the Indian sub-continent, over 375,000 Africans and several thousand West Indians fought as volunteers on every front, especially the Far East, North Africa and Italy. Without the outstanding service and sacrifice made by the voluntary forces from Britain’s Colonies, the outcome of the Second World War might well have been different, and would certainly have lasted much longer.

The Trustees feel it is important that this tremendous contribution in two World Wars should be recognised by a permanent and fitting Memorial in the heart of London, and yet the Memorial will look more to the future than the past. Many of the descendants of those who fought for Britain, particularly in the Second World War, are now living in Britain. The Memorial will reaffirm their integral position within today’s multi-cultural and multi-racial society.

The Trustees are simultaneously planning an education project which is designed to provide a sense of identity and connection to the descendants of the volunteers from India, Africa and the Caribbean who live in the United Kingdom today. In particular, the Trustees seek to provide young members of the Asian and African-Caribbean communities with pride in knowing that their forebears played a key part in creating the freedoms which we enjoy today.

Construction of the Memorial began in October 2001 and was formally completed on 14 May 2002. The Memorial takes the form of four stone piers in Portland Stone each topped by a bronze urn, with the names India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Africa, Caribbean and Kingdom of Nepal carved on the sides. Automatic bollards cast from bronze have been designed to close off Constitution Hill to traffic on Sundays and public holidays, and the space framed by the four piers is paved with Indian granite in a radial pattern. Nearby in Green Park a pavilion bears the names of the Victoria Cross and George Cross holders within the dome, while the major campaigns are listed on two stone benches. Ben Okri’s epigraph carved into one of the piers provides a fitting statement of the Memorial’s forward-looking symbolism: “Our future is greater than our past”.

The relevance of the Memorial is particularly important in light of current world tensions as it demonstrates how nations from different racial and religious backgrounds can stand together in the face of war and global terror. This is one of very few projects jointly involving members from the Indian and Pakistani communities, and we are very fortunate to have both High Commissioners as our Vice Patrons, as well as those from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Uganda and Jamaica.

If you would like more information about the Memorial Gates Trust you can visit their website by clicking here. You can also contact Sophie Renton the Trust Secretary

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