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Wednesday, 6 November, 2002, 21:29 GMT
Queen honours 'forgotten' soldiers
New memorial to African, Caribbean and Indian servicemen and women
Poppies were released during the inauguration
A memorial honouring the "forgotten contribution" of almost five million people from Africa, the Caribbean and the Indian subcontinent during both world wars has been inaugurated by the Queen.

Serving soldiers and veterans from Bangladesh, India, Jamaica, Nepal, Nigeria and Pakistan attended the ceremony at the Memorial Gates on Constitution Hill, London, on Wednesday.

During a minute's silence a mass of poppies were released from bronze urns on top of the gates.

Construction of the gates began in October 2001 after a campaign set up in 1998 to acknowledge the volunteers.

Open in new window : Veterans of Empire
The "forgotten" soldiers tell their stories

During the ceremony the Queen met veteran Umrao Singh, who received the Victoria Cross for action in Burma.

She also met Suleiman Omer Kujog, the son of a Somali sergeant who was killed in action.

Mr Kujog, 64, said it should have been constructed earlier.

Rajimbar Singh Dhatt, veteran
Rajimbar Singh Dhatt served Britain in 1941
"It was too late. It should've happened before," he said.

"It reminds me of my father. It reminds me of the time I was one and I grew up as an orphan. It reminds me of the evils of war."

The ceremony included a mounted escort from India and Pakistan and a lament by the pipers of the Royal Gurkha Rifles.

Baroness Flather, of the Memorial Gates Trust, which raised 2.7m towards the monument, told the BBC the contribution of millions of volunteers from Africa, the Caribbean and the Indian subcontinent had been largely overlooked.

She said: "Somehow they have been erased from the memory of people here.

"We need to inform the young ethnic minority children about this contribution. We need to inform everybody else as well."

Rajimbar Singh Dhatt from Hounslow, west London, agreed the memorial was long overdue.

"This is very important for us. It's important for the new population because it shows the multiracial and multicultural society."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Former service woman Connie Mark
"We've waited a long time for this"
Mahinder Pujji
"I loved flying for the Royal Air Force"
Willie Silva
"A very proud day for me"
Hector Watson
"We were loyal to our monarch"
Suleiman Kujog and Eric Wilson VC
"My father died for the Empire"

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