28 February 1948
Today in 1948, Superintendent Colin Ismay was congratulated on a ‘bloody good show’ by the Gold Coast’s Colonial Police Commissioner . He had just shot dead three unarmed ex-servicemen who had been protesting in Accra, the country’s major port and administrative capital, for the long delayed payment of their promised pensions. The Second World War veterans had hoped to present a petition to Sir Gerald Creasy, the governor, at Christiansborg Castle but they found their route blocked by police. When the former servicemen refused to disperse, Ismay instructed his men to fire but the order was refused. Furious at such insubordination, he grabbed a rifle himself and shot dead three in the crowd – Private Odartey Lamptey, Corporal Attipoe and Sergeant Adjetey. Many more were wounded.1
The killings triggered three days of anti-British rioting across the city. On 1 March, Sir Gerald declared a state of emergency and in the House of Commons David Rees-Williams, the Under Secretary for the Colonies, claimed that ‘there was almost certainly Communist incitement.’2 On 12 March the governor, increasingly concerned with the growing anti-British tide, ordered the arrest of six leading members of the main movement for self government – the United Gold Coast Convention, but soon discovered that by doing so he had turned them into national heroes. A month later, as pressure for political change increased, he released them and set up a commission of inquiry, which recommended cosmetic constitutional reforms. It took another nine years of hard political struggle before the country finally achieved its independence and was renamed Ghana.
- Piers Brendon, The Rise and Fall of the British Empire, 1781-1997, Jonathan Cape, London, 2007, p. 518.
- “Accra – MPs to get the facts,” The Daily Herald, 2 March 1948, p. 1.
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