In Zambia when we talk of freedom fighters we talk of those who fought for independence.
Most Zambians are unaware of the many Zambian soldiers who fought in the second world war to prevent German and Japanese troops from taking over the world. Had German and Japan won the European tribal war, there would have been no Zambia. Africans would have been turned into slaves and fertilizer or annihilated all together. In North Africa and Asia ( India, Burma, Malay, Thailand) are graves for many unsung Zambian heroes. Those who have travelled to countries like Thailand have seen Zambian names on tombstones in Commonwealth War burial sites.
Zambian soldiers fought in some of the most brutal battles ever fought on earth such as the Battles of Arakan, Kohima, Kalewa,Tug Argan, Chindwin and Burma in 1944 in Asia and the Battles of Gondar and Somaliland. Hence today, we have our Barracks named after these famous battles. Those who came back alive are the forerunners of the Northern Rhodesia Rifles, later the Zambia Rifles later the Zambia Army as we know it today.
Japanese soldiers who our people fought were ruthless fighters who never took prisoners. There first rule in war was concealment. They fought like snakes and struck from deep cover. They were masters of concealment and by the time one was killed 20 of you would be dead.
In Kalewa in India there is a War cemetery where Zambian soldiers fought and are buried alongside over 3,000 others from the 11th East African Division. The Japanese who Zambians fought were very tough fighters whose motto was never to retreat and never surrender. At this burial site there is a world renowned memorial written.
“When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today”.
Some of the Zambian troops fought in the Malay Emergency a tough jungle guerrilla war from 1945 to 1955.These troops fought in some of the most inhospitable places in the world: razor-back mountains, thick dark jungles and marshlands, fast flowing rivers. Huge numbers died from war and disease.
These were very young men and boys. Some were only 16 years old. I strongly feel these men and boys need to be remembered even as we remember those who fought for our independence. I know that this is done in a ceremony to mark those who died in WW2 but I do not think most Zambians know of the brutality these young people went through. These are the people who first discovered that Africans were equal to the white man and were the first to experience the money economy when they came back from war with British pounds. They were also the first to discover that the white man was a racist and exploiter.
Incidentally, Obama’s father fought in this war,too.