• West Africans Begin Their Second Campaign In Arakan, Burma [Image by Imperial War Museums]

    Our New Website

    You are wholeheartedly welcome to the West Africa Apology website.

    The website is part of the campaign calling upon British government to openly apologise for the shameful practice of forced conscription in the former British colonies in West Africa during World War Two, and also to posthumously recognise the role of the gallant West African soldiers in the campaign of the British Fourteenth Army that ended the Japanese occupation of Burma in 1945.

    The site aims at providing background information to the matter.

    Among the material displayed are:

    *A video statement by an elderly member of the extended family of Kwadwo Tweneboah, conscripted against his will to fight in Burma, returning home from the conflict suffering mental health problems related to his exposure to the trauma of war, and then left alone to cope with the aftermath with no one around to provide medical help.

    *The colonial film “West Africa was There”, displayed with the permission of the Imperial War Musuems showing West African soldiers in action in the Kaladan Valley in Burma . Among other things , they had to clear the jungle with help of their machetes to set up their headquarters and help drive the Japanese enemies from their jungle hideouts.

    * Several original pictures of some the soldiers involved.

    Before you leave the site, we would be grateful if you would click on the link to the British government petition website to sign the petition. UK citizens as well as other nationals resident in the UK are eligible to sign.

    We aim at attaining a minimum of 1,00000 signatures– required to trigger a parliamentary debate on the matter.

    Thanks for you visit.

  • British Army Generals on a visit to West African troops in Burma [Image by Imperial War Museums]

    No Windrush For West Africa

    Until recently the word Windrush did not ring a bell in my ears. Though I am aware there is a sizeable population of African-Caribbean in the UK, I had not occupied myself with the details in regard to how they moved from the Caribbean to settle in the UK.

    Mainly as a result of the recent public outcry in the UK concerning the destruction of the landing cards of that population group in the UK, I decided to briefly research on the matter.

    In the process, I learnt that ‘Empire Windrush’, a former German cruise boat, first docked at Tilbury, London on June 22, 1948, after almost 30 days on sea, travelling from Kingston, Jamaica.

    Many of the new arrivals were ex-servicemen, who had served in England during World War Two. Several others would subsequently follow in their wake.

    The fact that a sizeable proportion of the new arrivals were veterans of WWII, led me to ask myself the question: Didn’t the message get to the thousands of Gold Coast ex-servicemen from the Burma campaign? Those who, at just about the same time that their colleagues were setting out on their 8,000 mile sea voyage to the “headquarters” of the Empire, were facing untold economic hardships brought about in part as a result of unfulfilled promises made to them by the colonial administration and the inability of a poorly-developed labour market to absorb the new influx from the battlefields of Burma.

    Or did they hear about the new opportunities offered by the “motherland” of the Commonwealth but decided not to try their luck due to lack of resources for the voyage?

    Whatever the reasons that held them back in the Gold Coast, the fact remains that around the same time as the African-Caribbean former soldiers of the Commonwealth Army were making preparations towards their journey to England, on February 28, 1948, a group of Gold Coast ex-servicemen set out on a peaceful march to the residence of the British Governor in Accra. Their aim was to protest against unfulfilled promises by the Empire couple with economic hardships that worsened with the passing of each day.

    What was meant to be a peaceful protest would soon turn bloody – not through the doings of the protestors, but rather as a result of the heavy-handedness of the colonial law enforcers.

    In the process, three ex-servicemen – Sergeant Adjetey, Cpl Attipoe and Private Odartey – gallant soldiers who had risked their lives for Empire and King and who had survived the ferocious battlefields and the challenging conditions of the Burma jungle, were killed in cold blood.

    The incident fuelled the fury of a populace already wallowing in discontent, not only against the colonial administration but also as a result of a general worsening of their living conditions, and led to widespread unrest throughout the colony.

    The incident of February 28. 1948, no doubt added great impetus to the independence movement in the Gold Coast. Barely seven years after the bloody incident, on March 6, 1957, the Gold Coast (now renamed “Ghana”), became independent – the first African country south of the Sahara to do so. What happened to other British and other European colonies after that pivotal moment in the African independence struggle is part of history?

    Was it perhaps a blessing in disguise that the ex-service men of the Gold Coast did not hear about the opportunities offered by England – or if they did hear, did they perhaps not have the financial means to make the journey?

    70 years on, they and their offspring, just like in the case of the African-Caribbeans, might have been stripped of their British nationality and probably made stateless – for the Gold Coast they left behind no longer exists today!

  • Antimalaria Gang Sierre Leone RWAFF 1944 - “Creative Commons Anti-Malaria Gang ,Bo (?) Sierra Leone, ROYAL WEST AFRICAN FRONTIER FORCE RWAFF c. 1944” by Sludge G is licensed under CC BY 2.0”

    Why We’re Launching a Petition

    The West Africa Apology petition has two main objectives–

    1. It is calling upon British government to openly apologise for the shameful practice of forced
      conscription in the former British colonies in West Africa during the Second World War; and
    2. Posthumously recognise the role of the gallant West African soldiers in the campaign of the British Fourteenth Army that ended the Japanese occupation of Burma in 1945.

    During World War II, Her Majesty’s Government forcefully conscripted young men from the former British West African colonies of the Gold Coast (now Ghana), Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Gambia to fight against the Axis powers: Nazi Germany, Italy and Japan.

    Though it is not clear how many West African soldiers were conscripted, it is estimated that the British West African colonies supplied over 240,000 soldiers and thousands more labourers, drivers and carriers. They experienced racial, and other forms, of discrimination compared to British soldiers. Tens of thousands of West African troops were killed in action or died of disease. Their families received no support or financial recompense from the colonial administration. Many of those who survived returned home from the frontlines with combat-related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and received no support or financial recompense from the colonial administration.

    Despite their immense contribution, the vital role that West Africans played during World War II has never been officially recognised by Her Majesty’s Government. When Allied Commander, General William Slim, thanked the Fourteenth Army at the end of the Burma Campaign in 1945, he purposefully omitted those West African troops. This petition aims at rectifying historic injustice and colonial prejudice.