Good Night, Good Knight: Cameron Duodu Profiles the First Black Officer in the British Army, the Remarkable but Self-Effacing Major Seth Anthony, Who Faced Immense Racial Discrimination at Sandhurst and beyond, and Survived It All-And Went on to Live for 93 Years before His Death on 20 November 2008
Duodu, Cameron, New African
In an article entitled "Britain should give credit where credit is due", published in New African in June 2008, I recounted some of the exploits of a Ghanaian soldier, Seth Kobla Anthony, who was so good that the British commissioned him to be an officer during World War II and promoted him steadily until he became a major. Anthony was the first African to be commissioned as an officer into the British Army.
Only one other Ghanaian was ever commissioned as an officer during World War II--Lieutenant T. K. Impraim, who got his commission in 1945, three years after Anthony had got his. The rest of the 65,000 Ghanaians recruited into the British army were mainly foot soldiers used as "carriers", who lugged huge loads through the jungles of Burma, or over the hills of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) or across the sands of Somaliland.
In that June 2008 article, I wrote: "Africa played a gigantic role in Britain's victory over Germany in the War. And to support that statement, I am not going to quote to you the word of an African 'nationalist' who seeks to cast a stone at the 'perfidious Albion'. No, I am quoting the words of a British historian: Martin Meredith, an Alistair Horne Fellow of Saint Antony's College, Oxford University, and former foreign correspondent of The Sunday Times.
In his book, The First Dance of Freedom, Meredith wrote: "Some 374,000 Africans served in the British army. African units helped to defeat the Italians in Ethiopia and Somaliland and the Japanese in Burma, often fighting with distinction. The Royal West African Frontier Force assembled to fight in Burma, was the largest colonial army to serve as an expeditionary force in the history of the British Empire."
I expressed surprise that at "Remembrance Day" parades in Britain, not many Africans, if any, were seen marching with their comrades-in-arms in commemoration of those who had lost their lives in the war, and in celebration of the victories that their valour had achieved for Britain.
I said this because I know that racist organisations in Britain, such as the British National Party (BNP) and the National Front (NF) often argue that black immigrants should be deported from Britain so that the whites "who have fought to make Britain free and great", can enjoy the benefits of life in Britain without having them "encroached" upon by immigrants. This, of course, implies that the 374,000 Africans who fought for Britain alongside their white counterparts, did not exist.
Of course, the BNP and the NF are not really interested in the true history of the war that prevented Hitler from conquering Britain. But if the general British Populace--from whom a lot of historical facts have been concealed, either deliberately or by a warped history curriculum that teaches them nothing about the sources of their liberties and wealth--could receive a proper education on the contribution Africans had made to their victories in the First and Second World Wars, they would dismiss more easily the message of hatred preached against blacks in Britain by the BNP and the NF.
I pointed out in my article that a man like Major Seth Anthony would have endured tremendous psychological and social pressures, in addition to the enormous hardships associated with jungle warfare, whilst fighting for the British. I added: "If you ask me, the British should give him an honorary knighthood before he dies, and invite him to lay a wreath at the Cenotaph this year. For very soon, the old boy will be claimed by his ancestors, who, I am sure, will appreciate him better than the Brits do."
Alas, my prophecy came true. Major Seth Anthony died in Accra, Ghana, on 20 November 2008--nine days after Remembrance Day 2008. He was 93 years old. Since his death, I have conducted a massive investigation into his life story. I find my fascination with him ironic, for I am an unreconstructed anti-imperialist and people who fought valiantly for imperialist powers are not normally my cup of tea. …