The Forgotten Heroes project is an audio-visual celebration of the contribution to victory made by African, Caribbean and Asian volunteers in the British armed forces during World War Two. The project will allow people from black and minority ethnic (BME) groups to discover and preserve their own history while encouraging them to develop a stronger connection with the heritage of the United Kingdom. Though Forgotten Heroes is intended to raise awareness of the history and legacy of the Commonwealth volunteers with all people, the project is aimed in particular at the younger generation.

Forgotten Heroes will examine what motivated men and women from the Commonwealth to volunteer to travel long distances to defend the mother country. And it will show them standing shoulder to shoulder with their British comrades – both in the United Kingdom and on battlefields in Africa, Asia and Europe – in defence of the values they shared. The project will describe Britain’s relationship with the Commonwealth countries and will show how, as well as servicemen and women, they provided civilian labour, raw materials and financial loans and gifts vital to the success of the Allied war effort.

The project will highlight the ways in which cultural barriers separating the British and the volunteers were broken down, and how the traditionally strong connection between Britain and its Commonwealth was reinforced by the experience of war. The relationships built up between the volunteers and British service personnel and civilians will be examined, as will the misunderstandings and tensions that sometimes arose between them. Participants in the project are to be encouraged to study the wartime experiences of individual men and women, expressed in their own words, and engage with the personal dimension of their service.

During the war many of the volunteers felt that they had “come home” to Britain, identifying closely with its institutions, heritage and culture. After VE Day numbers of Commonwealth personnel opted to settle in the United Kingdom while others went back to their homelands only to return to this country as migrants in the 1950s and 1960s. Forgotten Heroes seeks to recover their story and to place it within the context of the history of Britain and its Commonwealth and the growth of this country’s multi-ethnic society.

Forgotten Heroes will enable people to study and conserve the heritage of the Commonwealth volunteers, and participants will contribute to the project through a variety of media including film, music, drama, art and design. The project is open to people of all ages and backgrounds willing to play an active part in restoring the inspirational story of the defence of freedom by African, Caribbean and Asian servicemen and women.

Components of the Forgotten Heroes will include:

  • Participants, working with museums, history groups and Keep It Moving Productions, will learn techniques for gathering and using audio and visual historical evidence.
  • A feature length documentary film about the volunteers will be produced using the personal testimony of individual servicemen and women to highlight the African, Caribbean and Asian contribution to victory in World War Two.
  • Drawing on historical evidence gathered by participants in the project, a film script will be written about present day teenage gang members who are transported back to World War Two. Trapped in the past and fighting to survive, the teenagers are forced to reassess their system of values to find a way home.
  • The script will be made into a short film that will incorporate live action footage and computer-generated graphics. The film will serve as a vehicle to help make the story of the Commonwealth volunteers accessible to all.
  • A soundtrack album, inspired by the accounts of Commonwealth service personnel, will be produced. Participants will make up briefs for artists and producers to compose music and write lyrics for the album’s tracks. Videos accompanying the music will be shot and aired on television, YouTube, Facebook, MySpace and other social networking sites.
  • Participants in the project will work with an independent fashion designer to design and produce a range of contemporary clothing and accessories inspired by the military styles of the 1940s. The best designs will be displayed at a fashion show open to the media.
  • An exhibition will be mounted at a participating museum where the public can learn about the Forgotten Heroes project and its achievements. Teacher’s packs supporting the exhibition will be produced and workshop visits to schools, community groups, youth clubs, youth offending teams and prisons will be organized.
  • A Forgotten Heroes web site will be made for all content of the project to be displayed on allowing the public to access contents.