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Revealed: Britain paid African soldiers less than white soldiers during WW2

A table from an official 1945 British government document, listing the pay scale for African soldiers. /COURTESY


The British government may soon be slapped with multi-million compensation claims by African countries following revelations that the colonial master underpaid more than half a million soldiers up to three times less than their white counterparts during the second world war.

A newly dug up 1945 government document from Britain’s national archives reveals that the British government paid soldiers not only on the basis their rank but the colour of their skin as well.

According to the document, whereas a white senior sergeant, for instance, took home Sh16 monthly, an African soldier of the rank was paid only Sh5.

A white corporal was paid Sh12 while an African of the same rank got only Sh4, the document shows.

Even worse, a soldier of the rank of senior sergeant under the East Africa Military Labour Service (EAMLS) would take home a paltry Sh3.50, a sergeant Sh3 and a corporal Sh2.50.

According to ,
development secretary, Penny Mordaunt, has acknowledged that inequalities existed in the past.

The site said Labour MPs are calling for a government inquiry into the matter with shadow defence minister Wayne David demanding an immediate official investigation.

The second world war broke out on September 1, 1939, when German’s Adolf Hitler invaded Poland from the west.

Two days later, France and Britain declared war on Germany, beginning World War II.

During the stretch of the war to September 1945, Britain called up more than 300,000 men from East Africa for military service, which included close to 100,000 from Kenya.

These soldiers fought in the war alongside their white counterparts, but were, clearly not treated as equals.

In June 2013, Britain paid out £19.9m (Sh2.6b) in costs and compensation to more than 5,000 elderly Kenyans who suffered torture and abuse during the Mau Mau uprising in the 1950s.

In November last year, a court in the UK dismissed two cases by over 40,000 Mau Mau fighters who were seeking Sh618 trillion in compensation for atrocities suffered during the colonial era.

The court said the case was filed too late from when the alleged atrocities were committed.

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