Are we the baddies?
It is a still image taken from a Mitchell and Webb sketch in which two Nazi officers come to the realisation that they are the ‘baddies’ in the Second World War. It was recently shared in reference to how British school children will feel towards the UK when, if ever, the darker side of our country’s history is taught. It may just me an internet meme, but it speaks the truth; the people of the UK need to know more of the darker side of this country’s history.
It is often said that history is written by the victors. This is true in the case of the UK, but not just in the case of war. Many truths of the UK’s colonial past and its vast empire are not taught about, and it’s about time this changed. Britain’s Empire days are far from glorious, with millions suffering at the hands of the UK. In both world wars, thousands and thousands or soldiers came to fight for the UK and were repaid with being treated like second class citizens in their own country.
The history of the UK is filled to the brim with war, invasion and crimes committed against indigenous people. All was done in order to expand the empire to around one fifth of the world.
It may have been something for the crown to be proud of, but whilst the blanket of the British empire was thrown across more of the world; the people back home continued to suffer. The working class in the UK was rife with poor health and sickness, and it was primarily the subject of colonialism which saw changes to society.
The Second Boer War, which was fought between Britain and Boer armies in South Africa at the turn of the 20th century, required soldiers. The men who were called up needed to pass a medical, which around one in three failed. As concern about the strength of the British army increased, so did the support for welfare reform. Would the UK have been so swift to give its people the basic care they were entitled to if the empire was being threatened? It seems unlikely.
The Second Boer War would also be the first time that the concept of concentration camps would be used; a further horror which is so often overlooked in conversations of British history. Of the 107,000 people interned in the camps, 27,927 Boers died, along with an unknown number of black Africans.
Less that 20 years after the Boer War and just 6 months after the end of the First World War, up to one thousand Indian people were killed and hundreds more injured as British troops opened fire during a protest of British colonial rule.
The peaceful protestors were gunned down on 13 April 1919, and the soldiers were told to keep firing until they ran out of ammunition.
The UK has a lot to thank those countries which were once part of its empire for. These countries were occupied for sometimes centuries and sent thousands of soldiers to fight Britain’s wars, dispelling any myth that in either of the world wars Britain was truly alone on the battlefield.
The history of the UK is far from the only which has shameful elements to it, but in order to come to terms with what our country did to so many across the world, it is important to not forget what has happened in the past.