May 1944 – Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom, representing the peoples of the ‘British Empire and Commonwealth of Nations’, participated in the first Prime Ministers Meeting which succeeded the Imperial Conferences, the change of name signifying the equality of all the members.
October 1948 – India, Pakistan and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) joined the original five members. The words ‘British Empire’ and ‘British Commonwealth’ did not appear in the communiqué, which throughout referred to the association as ‘the Commonwealth’.
April 1949 – The meeting agreed to the continued membership of India, which had opted to become a republic. With allegiance to the British Crown no longer a condition of membership, the way was paved for other countries to join the association after gaining independence.
March 1961 – Leaders upheld racial equality as a cardinal principle of the Commonwealth, obliging apartheid South Africa to withdraw its application to remain a member after becoming a republic.
June 1965 – The meeting approved the establishment of the Commonwealth Secretariat to facilitate intergovernmental consultation and collaboration, and of the Commonwealth Foundation to promote professional links. Canadian diplomat Arnold Smith was appointed as the first Commonwealth Secretary-General.
January 1966, Lagos – The first meeting held outside the UK, convened to discuss action against the minority regime which had unilaterally declared independence in Southern Rhodesia, set up a committee to review UN sanctions against Rhodesia, and launched a training programme for Rhodesian Africans.
September 1966, London – Heeding Commonwealth sentiment, the UK declared that no independence would be granted to Rhodesia without majority rule.