To mark the 69th anniversary of the Christiansborg shooting, President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana laid a wreath in honour of Sergeant Adjetey, Corporal Attipoe and Private Odartey Lamptey, at the Nationalism Park, Accra, Ghana.
The three soldiers were members of Gold Coast Regiment who fought alongside British troops in Burma, during World War II.
I just arrived at the commemoration of the 69th Anniversary of the 28th February Christianborg Crossroads Shooting Incident at the Cenotaph.
— Nana Akufo-Addo (@NAkufoAddo) February 28, 2017
On the 28th of February 1948, Ghanaian veterans of WWII marched peacefully to the Colonial Governor’s residence at Osu Castle, to demand they get paid the war benefits they had been promised. At Christiansborg, the head of the Colonial police asked the veterans, who were unarmed, to disperse. They refused. In response, shots were fired into the air and eventually into the crowd.
The shooting killed Sergeant Adjetey, Corporal Attipoe and Private Odartey Lamptey and wounded about 60 others. It also sparked the 1948 Accra riots, and led to the arrest of the Big Six, who were the leaders of Ghana’s independence fight with the British. They were Ebenezer Ako, Edward Akufo-Addo, Joseph Boakye Danquah, Kwame Nkrumah, Emmanuel Obetsebi-Lamptey and William Ofori Atta.
One of the Six, Kwame Nkrumah, would go on to become president of independent Ghana, and Edward Akufo-Addo, is the father of current president who laid this year’s wreath, on the 28th of February.
It is estimated that 90,000 soldiers from West Africa fought in the South East Asia Theatre of World War II, in Burma, and that in total over one million Africans fought in the war. The sacrifices and efforts of these West African soldiers have been largely unrecognised, which is why they are called the Forgotten Army of WWII. After braving the jungles of Asia for a war they had no business fighting, most African veterans or their families, never received their war benefits till this day.
Some of the African soldiers had volunteered to fight in WWII for the thrill of battle, and for the power that came with wearing the military khaki. But a great many others were kidnapped, and forced into the war. And some like John Henry Smythe of Sierra Leone were tricked into it.
In a BBC documentary produced in honour of Africans who fought in WWII, John Henry said he had volunteered after his teacher handed him Adolph Hitler’s Mein Kampf to read.
‘‘It was a book which would put any black man’s back up and it put mine up’’, said Henry.
The African soldiers of WWII have been forgotten even by their own countries. Ghana, unlike most other African countries, every 28th February remembers the Ghanaians who took part in the war. But this is done in relation to the three soldiers who helped sparked the riots, which led to independence.