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Sunday, November 4, 2018

first bullet in World War 1 - fired at Togo !!

Alhaji Grunshi was a little-known lance corporal in the Gold Coast Regiment;  Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall commemorated an occasion remembering him ?  - curious to know ??

Just as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle arrived back in London following their jam-packed tour of Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and Tonga, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla headed  out on a nine-day visit to West Africa. They arrived in the Gambia and later  to Ghana, and Nigeria.  Charles's trip to the Gambia is particularly significant given that the country only rejoined the Commonwealth in February. Charles is not the hereditary heir of the Commonwealth, an intergovernmental organization made up of 53 countries, which are primarily former British colonies. But back in April, Commonwealth leaders voted that Prince Charles will succeed his mother, the Queen, as the head of the organization.

During the First World War, Togoland was invaded by Britain and France, proclaiming the Anglo-French condominium. On 7 December 1916 the condominium collapsed and Togo was divided into British and French zones. For those of us, who thought   World War I was fought only in Europe, life is different !  that global war of Europe lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as the "war to end all wars", it led to the mobilization of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. An estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilians died as a direct result of the war, while it is also considered a contributory factor in a number of genocides.

Togo is a country in West Africa bordered by Ghana,  Benin  and Burkina Faso.  The sovereign state extends south to the Gulf of Guinea, where its capital Lomé is located. From the 11th to the 16th century, various tribes entered the region from all directions. From the 16th century to the 18th century, the coastal region was a major trading center for Europeans to search for slaves, earning Togo and the surrounding region the name "The Slave Coast".  Ghana located along the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean, in the subregion of West Africa.  Ghana is bordered by Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Togo and Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean.   Numerous kingdoms and empires emerged over the centuries, of which the most powerful was the Kingdom of Ashanti. Beginning in the 15th century, numerous European powers contested the area for trading rights, with the British ultimately establishing control of the coast by the late 19th century.

The man in global news - Alhaji Grunshi was a lance corporal in the Gold Coast Regiment       - In all the many histories of the Great War, it’s safe to say that Alhaji Grunshi rarely makes much of an appearance. But he should. For the little-known lance corporal in the Gold Coast Regiment has the distinction of being the first member of His Majesty’s forces to fire a shot in 1914 ! ~ here is an interesting report from MailOnline. 

Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall helped commemorate the occasion far from the poppy fields of Flanders at Ghana.  The royal couple dined in the High Commission in Accra in Ghana – formerly the Gold Coast – and paid tribute to L/Cpl Grunshi. While most of the attention as the centenary armistice nears is on the Tommies in France and Belgium, the fighting across the then vast British Empire is sometimes neglected. Three days after Britain declared war on Germany on August 4, 1914, L/Cpl Grunshi, fired his shot at a squadron of German-led armed police in Togo, which adjoined the Gold Coast. The first British bullet in France was not fired until more than a fortnight later.

The little-known tale from Togo – then known as Togoland, Germany’s sole West African colony – was recently  recounted to Charles and Camilla by Britain’s leading female black architect, Elsie Owusu. She dined with the couple, and gained their help in promoting the set of medals she has produced to mark L/Cpl Grunshi’s shot. Ghana-born Miss Owusu has worked to link artists and goldsmiths in Britain and Ghana in the project.  Sir Peter Blake – who created the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper album cover – designed the medals using traditional West African symbols, and pure Ghana gold. The medals will be on display this month in London jeweller Cox and Power. Miss Owusu said: ‘People sometimes forget the contribution made to Britain’s First World War by soldiers and others from across the Empire. L/Cpl Alhaji Grunshi certainly played his distinguished part alongside other soldiers from the Gold Coast.’

L/Cpl Grunshi fought on until the end of the war. He was Mentioned in Despatches, was promoted to sergeant, and received the Military Medal in 1919 for his exploits in the East Africa Campaign. Togoland did not hold out for long in 1914, surrendering after just a few weeks.

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, is now a member of the British royal family. She is the second wife of Charles, Prince of Wales, heir apparent to the British throne. Instead of using the title of Princess of Wales, she uses the title Duchess of Cornwall, her husband's secondary designation. In Scotland, she is known as the Duchess of Rothesay.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
4th Nov 2018

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