The Defence Secretary has acknowledged “prejudice played a part” in failures to properly commemorate potentially hundreds of thousands of black and Asian service personnel who died fighting for the British Empire.

Ben Wallace issued an apology and expressed “deep regret” on Thursday after an investigation found the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) did not formally remember them in the same way as white comrades.

The Cabinet minister said the report, which found that “pervasive racism” underpinned the failure, made for “sobering reading”.

“There can be no doubt prejudice played a part in some of the commission’s decisions,” Mr Wallace told MPs.

“On behalf of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the government, both of the time and today, I want to apologise for the failures to live up to the founding principle all those years ago and express deep regret that it has taken so long to rectify the situation.”