In his debut memoir, Wedd shares his experiences as a British army officer during Ghana’s transition to independence.
The author was, in many ways, a typical cog of British colonialism when he arrived at the Gold Coast in 1956. Still in his teens and fresh out of officer training, he requested a commission in Africa out of a vague desire for adventure. “[I]t’s the White Man’s Grave,” his father joked of the Gold Coast, “but I don’t expect that bothers you!” The colony was slated for statehood—the first African colony to gain independence from British rule—and Wedd was there to assist in the transition. After the ceremony and jubilation that marked Ghana’s birth in March 1957, he stayed on to witness the new nation’s first tenuous steps as it established its government and military. Many thought that a fully integrated army, with blacks and whites serving as equals, was an impossibility, but the author describes the remarkable ease with which it coalesced. Wedd indulged his own love of wildlife by helping to explore the jungles of southern and central Ghana, and he also embarked on a long, difficult overland journey to the legendary city of Timbuktu in French Sudan. He writes in jovial prose that perfectly embodies the high-spirited eagerness of the British officer class of the late empire; at the same time, there’s none of the nastiness that modern readers might associate with imperialism itself. His account reflects his deep love of the land, of animals, of travel, and, most of all, of the Ghanaian people. Indeed, his affection for his Ghanaian comrades forms the emotional core of this memoir: in them, he first saw (and still sees, after half a century) the young country’s confidence and potential. Overall, the book serves best as a travelogue through a moment of history—an account of a transition from one system to another. Both may seem anachronistic, yet captivating, to readers today.
An engrossing memoir of the end of empire and the birth of independent Ghana.