ABOUT THIS BOOK
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ABOUT THIS BOOK
The fall of France in June 1940 left the Gold Coast surrounded by potentially hostile French colonies that had rejected de Gaulle's call to continue the fight, signaling instead their support for Marshall PÃ©tain's pro-German Vichy regime.
In Soldiers, Airmen, Spies, and Whisperers, Nancy Lawler describes how the Gold Coast Regiment, denuded of battalions fighting in East Africa, was rapidly expanded at home to meet the threat of invasion. Professor Lawler also shows how the small airport at Takoradi was converted into a major Royal Air Force base and came to play a vital role in the supply of aircraft to the British Eighth Army in North Africa.
The importance of the Gold Coast to the Allied war effort necessitated the creation of elaborate propaganda and espionage networks, the activities of which ranged from rumor-mongering to smuggling and sabotage. The London-based Special Operations Executive moved into West Africa, where it worked closely with de Gaulle's Free French Intelligence. Lawler presents a vivid account of SOE's major triumph--masterminding the migration of a substantial part of the Gyaman people from Vichy CÃ´te d'Ivoire to the Gold Coast.
As she looks at the plethora of military and civil organizations involved in the war, Lawler throws light on decision making in Brazzaville, London, and Washington. This is an account of World War II in one colony, but the story is firmly set within the wider context of a world at war.
Nancy Ellen Lawler is Professor Emeritus of Economics and History at Oakton Community College. She is the author of Soldiers of Misfortune: Ivoirien Tirailleurs of World War II, and, with John Hunwick, co-editor of A Cloth of Many Colored Silks. Dr. Lawler currently lives in Wales and continues to work on West African history.
This study of the Gold Coast during World War II is a major contribution to Gold Coast and West African historiography in its examination of espionage networks and activities in West Africa, as well as the importance of Takoradi (Gold Coast) as a site for the assembly of British war planes destined for North Africa and the Middle East. It takes an intriguing approach to history, exploring the counter factual possibility that the Gold Coast may have been invaded by the Axis powers had it not been for British wartime propaganda, as well as the rallying of Gold Coasters through the Home Guard to the Allied cause. "In a sense the Gold Coast had a war, but nobody came" (p. 229), Lawler observes.
In the preface, Lawler raises two fundamental questions: (1) What was done in the Gold Coast to deter invasion; and (2) was it what was done that deterred an invasion of the Gold Coast by French West Africa under the Vichy regime or by the Axis powers? The rest of the book is divided into nine chapters. The story begins with the fall of France to Germany in June 1940, the establishment of the Vichy government, and the emergence of a little known General called de Gaulle. Whereas French Equatorial Africa declared support for De Gaulle in late 1940, it would not be until November 1942 that French West Africa moved tentatively into the Allied camp. With the onset of war, the Gold Coast Regiment was dispatched to East Africa in early June 1940 to protect British East Africa against the threat of Italian invasion. Then France fell and the Gold Coast and British West Africa were surrounded by potentially hostile French colonies. Home defense became a pressing issue and new regiments were built up and the Home Guard formed. The Mediterranean quickly became a hostile sea, and an alternative air route was crucial if British aircraft losses were to be replenished in the North African and Middle Eastern theater of war. From late 1940 the West African Reinforcement Route became operational, and British planes were assembled in Takoradi and flown over West Africa to Egypt.
An important coup on the Gold Coast front was the crossing of the Fing of Gyaman, his family, several important chiefs, and numerous subjects from G6te d'Ivoire to the Gold Coast in early 1942, and their resettlement in Wenchi (ch. 7). The propaganda value of this to the Allied war effort and the Free French cause was enormous. That it had taken place in itself was noth
ing short of a miracle, considering the wrangling between various branches of government during the war-the -Colonial Office, the Foreign Office, the army, the Special Intelligence Services, and the Special Operations Executive (chs. 4-6). The end of the war in Africa and the fate of the various agencies spawned by the war effort are examined in chapter 8. The concluding chapter (ch. 9) indulges in hypothetical scenarios of "what-ifs," a realm, perhaps, better left to the imagination of the reader.
A significant contribution of the book is its examination of how important the Gold Coast was to the Free French cause. In a sense the nucleus of de Gaulle's African army was forged in the Gold Coast, where French officers and African soldiers unwilling to accept the French capitulation to Germany gathered, and the Free French Intelligence Service found a home. Also revealing is the colonial mind, as British wartime propaganda reflected more of the imperial mentality than that of the colonial subjects they ruled. The material for the book is rich, and Lawler certainly plumbed the depths of several archives. The oral evidence, though not as abundant as the archival material, was equally rich in insight and nuance where utilized. One drawback was the numerous characters paraded across the pages, a feature that complicated the narrative, as many disappeared after a page or two. Lawler's Soldiers, Airmen, Spies, and Whisperers will be read with interest by Africanists, and imperial and military historians.
Britain went to war in 1939 supported by a vast colonial empire. The African colonies were to prove particularly important, not only for their raw materials, but also for their manpower. Studies of British Africa at war, however, are comparatively few; Lawler's book is a significant addition. Lawler focuses on the Gold Coast (Ghana) and its rather eventful war from 1940 to 1942. The Gold Coast Regiment was expanded exponentially to meet imperial needs, and Takoradi became the base of the trans-African air reinforcement route crucial to the war against Rommel. The Gold Coast was also on the uneasy frontier with Vichy's African empire, making it a natural site for a Special Operations Executive (SOE) mission and the setting for a bitter two-year turf war between SOE and the starchy British army commander in West Africa, General Sir George Giffard. Lawler's humorous account of this illuminates the problems the SOE faced in waging "ungentlemanly war." In the end, the war changed the Gold Coast radically and became a milestone on the road to independence-not quite what any of the actors expected at the time. General and academic collections, upper-division undergraduate and above. --R. A. Callahan, University of Delaware
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter One: The Fall of France and the British West African Colonies
II A Summer of Uncertainty
III The Lines Harden: Oran and Its Aftermath
IV The War Office Takes Over
V De Gaulle, the AEF, and the AOF: Win One, Lose One
VI Invasion Scares: Perceiving the Threat
VII The Gold Coast Regiment before World War II
VIII The Build-up to War
Chapter Two: The Takoradi Ferry and Defense on the Home Front
I Beginnings of the West African Reinforcement Route
II The West African Reinforcement Route: Fully Operational
III The West African Reinforcement Route: Enter the United States
IV New Blood: The Expansion of the Gold Coast Regiment
V The Home Guard
VI Invasion and Counter-invasion: Fears
Chapter Three: The Special Operations Executive in West Africa:
The Franck Mission
I Economic Warfare and the Special Operations Executive
II Eyes on West Africa
III The Franck Mission and WAGON
IV The Franck Mission: The Gold Coast Section
V The Free French
Chapter Four: With Friends Like These ... the SOE, the SIS, and the Army
I From the Franck Mission to Frawest
II Intelligence Gathering in the Gold Coast
III West Africa's Little War: Giffard and the SIS
vs Governors' Conference and the SOE
IV Exit Wingate
V Enter Lumby
Chapter Five: The Special Operations Executive at Work in the Gold Coast
I A Window on Wenchi
II Free French Operations
IV To Fraternize or not to Fraternize
Chapter Six: Propaganda: The Home Front and Beyond
I Spreading the Word: Wartime Broadcasting in the Gold Coast
II Information Bureaus and Cinema Vans
III Propaganda, the Free French, and the SOE
IV Whispering in the Dark
V Vichy Propaganda
VI The Spitfires Fund
VII The Impact of the Propaganda Machine
Chapter Seven: The Crossing of the Gyaman: Triumph or Embarrassment?
I One People, Two Colonies: The Gyaman of C6te d'Ivoire and Gold Coast
II The Gyaman under Vichy
III The Crossings of the Gyaman
IV Meanwhile, Back in the C6te d'Ivoire...
V The Return of the Gyaman
Chapter Eight: The Beginning of the End: The War Moves On
I Operation Torch: The AOF Deserts Vichy
II The Fate of Frawest
III The Fate of the Soldiers and Airmen
Chapter Nine: Possible Futures
I Fantasies of War
II A First What-If: The SOE Triumphant
III A Second What-If: The Takoradi Ferry Disrupted
IV A Third What-If: Boisson between Axis and Allies
V A Fourth What-If: Dakar Falls to Free France in September 1940