The British Empire Library

Long Ago and Far Away Gold Coast Days 1939-1958

by Allen Leeds

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by Rodney Bennett (Gold Coast and Ghana 1946-61)
This book records the African experience of a young man not able to satisfy early ambitions to become a farmer in England. Instead, after an agricultural diploma course at Wye College, he joined the Colonial Service in 1939 and departed to West Africa. Starting as an Inspector of Produce in the Gold Coast he formally retired nineteen years later in the post of Assistant Director of Agriculture with special responsibility for Cocoa Agronomy and Training, a designation delightfully abbreviated to ADA CAT. Ideas of returning to the now independent Ghana on a contract basis to continue his cocoa work were not realised and he has devoted himself instead to his fruit farm in Herefordshire.

The 1939-45 War began only four months after the author arrived in Accra. He at once joined the second battalion of the Gold Coast Regiment and in 1940 sailed with it round the Cape of Good Hope to Kenya. Fifty pages describe his adventures in the advance into southern Abyssinia and the gradual elimination of Italy's military presence in East Africa. Then it was back to the Gold Coast and orders to leave the Army and return to the Department of Agriculture. Thus began his long association with cocoa, beginning with the supervision of local cocoa co-operative societies.

The wealth of Ghana is represented in its Coat of Arms by a mine shaft and a cocoa tree, and it is to the cocoa industry that the author devotes his weightiest chapters. My own arrival in the Gold Coast after the War coincided with jubilation at a big rise in the price to be paid for the farmer's cocoa (less 2/6d deducted per load to help fund the new university) and a call in The Times for a drive against swollen shoot disease "to save cocoa from annihilation in the next generation". The author describes his own part in the massive disease control and rehabilitation programme launched in the 1950s. A chapter summarises post-Independence developments.

Many mentions of African wildlife in its many forms enliven the author's story, much of it observed no doubt during hundreds of miles walked along bush paths in the course of duty. On human relationships his chapter on the supportive role of servants is a Just tribute; vis-a-vis his compatriots he certainly appreciated the "tradition of bonhomie and entertaining".

A happy book with many stories worth the telling.

British Empire Book
Allen Leeds
Square One Publications
1 899955 29 1


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