The World's War: Forgotten Soldiers of the Empire

Watch The World's War: Forgotten Soldiers of the Empire

  • 2014
  • 1 Season

The World's War: Forgotten Soldiers of the Empire is a thought-provoking historical documentary that delves into the little-known stories of some of the 4 million non-white soldiers who fought for the British Empire during World War I. The show, which premiered on BBC Two, is hosted by David Olusoga, a historian, and presenter who sensitively explores the harrowing experiences of these soldiers from across the globe.

Through intimate interviews with descendants of these soldiers and rare archival footage, the show sheds light on the crucial role played by non-white troops in the war effort. The programme takes viewers on a journey to the far corners of the globe, exploring the personal stories of soldiers from India, Africa, the Caribbean, and beyond, who were recruited by the British to fight in a war that wasn't their own.

One of the most striking aspects of The World's War: Forgotten Soldiers of the Empire is its exploration of the starkly different experiences of white and non-white soldiers. The programme reveals how racist attitudes held by many of the white British officers resulted in non-white soldiers being relegated to the most dangerous and gruelling tasks, such as digging trenches and clearing unexploded bombs. Despite these challenges, the soldiers remained steadfast in their determination to serve their country, even if their own contributions were often overlooked.

The show also explores the impact of the war on the soldiers' home countries. For many, the experience of fighting for Britain opened their eyes to the country's imperialist ambitions and inspired them to fight for freedom and independence when they returned home. The programme highlights the contributions made by these soldiers to the civil rights movements that emerged in the decades following the end of World War I.

David Olusoga proves to be a compelling host, his empathetic approach to storytelling bringing the experiences of these soldiers to life. He sensitively handles the complex and sometimes difficult subject matter, never shying away from discussing the horrors of war or the racism these soldiers endured.

Overall, The World's War: Forgotten Soldiers of the Empire is an eye-opening exploration of one of the lesser-known aspects of World War I. It's a must-watch for anyone interested in the history of war, the British Empire or the experiences of soldiers from non-white backgrounds. The documentary's moving interviews and archival footage will leave viewers with a newfound respect for the forgotten soldiers who contributed so much to the war effort.

The World's War: Forgotten Soldiers of the Empire
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Foreign Legions
2. Foreign Legions
David Olusoga shows how World War I extended far beyond Europe and the western front, affecting the lives of millions in India, Africa and Asia.
Marital Races
1. Marital Races
While the British, French, Russian and American soldiers' stories are well recounted, World War I was fought by many less-heralded countries as well.
  • Premiere Date
    August 13, 2014