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Ghanaian historian urges gov't to apologise for conscription

CONSCRIPTED: West African recruits undergoing rifle training

CAMPAIGNERS ARE urging the government to apologise for “racist, discriminative and disgraceful” behaviour in West Africa during World War Two.

The campaign is being led by historian and author Dr Robert Peprah-Gyamfi, whose uncle was among those forced conscripts.

Speaking yesterday, the father-of-three said: “It is disgraceful that, in this day and age, the government still refuses to apologise for its shameful practice of forced conscription, decades after the event.

“It should not be forgotten that without the involvement of these brave men, the world as we know it would be very different.”


PICTURED: Dr Robert Peprah-Gyamfi

As part of the campaign, a petition calling for “historic restitution” following the forceful conscription of more than 50,000 West African men and the “shocking” treatment of 200,000 others has been launched.

Many African men were physically dragged from their homes in the former British colonies of Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Gambia on the direct order of the British government, campaigners say.

They were among 250,000 West Africans who were sent to the frontline to fight the Axis powers between 1939 and 1945. Thousands never returned home and countless others were injured.

Almost all experienced racial discrimination and unfair treatment, experts say.

A “significant proportion” of survivors developed post-traumatic stress disorder but received no support or financial recompense from the colonial administration.

But despite their sacrifice, the UK government has never apologised and to this day has refused to officially recognise the vital role those men had to play in defeating Nazi rule.

Peprah-Gyamfi is seeking an apology from Theresa May, which he says is “decades-overdue”.

It is estimated that more than 500,000 Africans fought for the British Empire in combat and non-combat roles during the Second World War. At least half were recruited from the former West African colonies.


MISTREATED: British army generals on a visit to West African troops in Burma

The West Africans served in the Royal West African Frontier Force as part of the Commonwealth Army and were deployed against the Axis powers – Germany, Italy and Japan – in Africa, as well as in Burma and Southeast Asia.

Their involvement was key to the liberation of Ethiopia from Italian forces and, together with the 14th Army, the liberation of Japanese troops in Burma.

In addition to the petition, Peprah-Gyamfi is also in the process of launching a charity dedicated to the families of West African troops called the West African Benevolent Trust African Benevolent Trust and is organising a public protest in London in August.

Dr Peprah-Gyamfi’s latest books, World War II Revisited: Memoirs of a Forced African Conscript and its sequel, Twins Divided, both deal with the subject of forced conscription and are based on his own family’s experiences.

He said: “These men laid down their lives for their white masters, often after being dragged kicking and screaming from their families.

“I am urging the British West African communities across the UK and overseas to support this worthy cause and force the government to take responsibility for its racist, discriminative and disgraceful behaviour.”

Further information about the conscription of West African men and August’s demonstration can be found at www.westafricaapology.com

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