The British Empire Library

Beloved Imperialist

by Dr. H B Goodall

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by Sir George Sinclair (Gold Coast 1936 - 1955 Cyprus 1955-I960)
This book describes the close collaboration of the African leaders of the Gold Coast with an inspired friend and Governor, Sir Gordon Guggisberg (1919- 1927). It shows why Guggisberg is still remembered with deep affection and respect in Ghana in the 1990 s. Earlier, in the mid-1930's, when I arrived as a cadet in the Gold Coast, his name had already become a legend and his great programmes of development were plain for all of us to see.

The book deserves a wide appeal: in Ghana to all who are interested in studying their country and the remarkable period of development just after the first world war; overseas, to all who have had the good fortune to serve in the Gold Coast and, since independence in 1957, in Ghana. Dr. Goodall has done us all a service in the research he has done into the recently opened records of Guggisberg's time and in the clarity of his writing. He will stimulate for many of us memories of the enjoyment we had in our service and of the friendships we shared with the people among whom we served.

Guggisberg was a young Sapper Officer who, after a failed first marriage, was seconded from the Royal Engineers to carry out a survey of "The Colony and Ashanti". He first visited the Gold Coast in 1902. Later, having completed that task and proved himself a tireless and resourceful officer, he was appointed to the Gold Coast Survey Department of which he soon became Director. He was accompanied by his second wife, the dauntless, brilliant (and powerful) Decima Moore who went with him on many survey expeditions, much of it in the thick bush. They left the Gold Coast in 1909.

In the first world war as a Sapper officer he distinguished himself for his bravery, energy and his brilliant ability in planning and organising. After the war, as a Brigadier with a DSO, he was appointed in 1919, with the strong support of Lord Milner, the Colonial Secretary, to be Governor of the Gold Coast. His predecessor had been the Strong and far-sighted Sir Hugh Clifford, by then Governor of Nigeria. It was Clifford and his able civil servants who, during the war, had planned the schemes for development which Guggisberg found when he arrived. With astonishing energy and speed he transformed these and other new schemes into detailed plans for development. His imagination, tireless energy and administrative ability won the support of Lord Milner and the prospect of securing external finance from the UK for carrying out these programmes.

He was able to show that his plans had the enthusiastic support of the people of the Gold Coast, expressed by their nationalist leaders, many of them from professional classes, and also by the traditional chiefs speaking for their own people. It was, no doubt, his relationship with Africans during his pre-war survey work in the forest country that gave him the insight and outlook that helped him as Governor quickly to establish a relationship of trust with the African leaders.

One of his early acts was to form a Legislative Council which was advisory to the Governor, its Chairman. Its composition was mixed, and was, at that stage, accepted as representative of public opinion. He established also three councils for the Western, Central and Eastern Provinces of the Colony, again with a mixed representation, including a strong group of Chiefs. These three Councils were later increased by a Council for Ashanti, and all four also had representation in the Legislative Council. Through these bodies the Governor was able to keep in personal touch with the views of the people and to discuss with their members not only his own plans but also their ideas. Because they welcomed his ideas and trusted his attitudes and his leadership, he was able to carry out his programmes with enthusiastic public support and without hindrance.

The Governor's development programme included:

i. The construction of a deep water harbour at Takoradi, a major improvement of the railway system and improvements of the road systems linked to the railways.

ii. The building of a major hospital near Accra to be developed as a teaching hospital, and many other hospitals throughout the Gold Coast.

iii. Achimota School, to be developed into a University. At the start it would have, in close association, a teacher training section, a primary school and a kindergarten.

All these from the start were to be for girls as well as boys, and would have a headmaster independent of the Education Department and reporting direct to the Governor. These three great projects and others were announced in the Gold Coast soon after his appointment as Governor and had the enthusiastic support of the Gold Coast people and of Lord Milner at the Colonial Office. They were designed to give the people a major responsibility for developing their own economy. This represented a great political achievement by the Governor, both in the Gold Coast and with the British Government.

I hope that this account of the ideas behind all these achievements of the Governor and the people, African and overseas, who helped him to drive them into action will be read by many who cared and still care for the Gold Coast and Ghana.

British Empire Book
Dr. H B Goodall
The Pentland Press Ltd.


Armed Forces | Art and Culture | Articles | Biographies | Colonies | Discussion | Glossary | Home | Library | Links | Map Room | Sources and Media | Science and Technology | Search | Student Zone | Timelines | TV & Film | Wargames

by Stephen Luscombe