Feature Article of Wednesday, 7 September 2011
Columnist: Ameyibor, Francis
BY FRANCIS AMEYIBOR
In the Baden-Powell Hall, They laid him in state, on that faithful day September 9, 1961, our hero who met so tragic fate. The coffin was draped in the Ghana Flag, sheen, with his sword and his cape like two emblems, serene. He was laid by the sea, while the warm waves sung a deep requiem for a warrior so young, one who’s brilliant career, like an epic, so grand, that leaves memories to thrill all the land.
On August 13, 1961 BRIGADIER J.E Michel, a top-ranking army officer of the Ghana Army had plane crashed on take-off at Kintampo with nine other senior officers including Wing Commander I. M. Gundry; and Flight Sergeant Lewis. Brigadier J.E Michel died of burns three days after the crash.
The death of BRIGADIER JOSEPH MICHEL was felt, not only in Ghana, but throughout the world. It was particularly tragic – For Brigadier Michel’s death came soon after a great new command had been given to him.
This was a man who had climbed the military ladder to the height no Ghanaian has ever reached, at the time. A few hours before his death, was appointed as Chief of Staff to the United Nations Forces in the Congo, and was to assume duty at the Buckingham Palace as the Queen’s Equerry in September. Becoming the first Ghanaian to attain the status of Brigadier in the Ghana Army, it was the late Mr. Michel who first excellently handled Ghana’s military operations in Congo. And when an American magazine, in its article about the Congo, describe Brigadier Michel as “a rare and military asset to his country,” they could hardly have realized now impressive his future was to be.
THE MAN MICHEL
The late Brigadier Michel was born at Peki in the Volta Region in 1917, and died at the prime age of 44 years. His father, who was maternally Syrian and paternally French, died when Joseph was a little boy. His mother, was remembered as Daa Efua.
Soon after his father’s death, Daa Efua 69, found it hard to keep the home going, she then approached a Presbyterian missionary, the Reverend Ansre, to give her and the son whatever assistance he could.
The young missionary then took young Michel in hand and sent him to school at the Presbyterian Mission at Amedzofe. After his early elementary education, young Michel entered the Presbyterian Training College at Akropong where he qualified as a trained teacher.
But Michel’s teaching career was short-lived. The urge to serve his country filled him to the brim. That’s why after only one year in the teaching field; he enlisted in the then Gold Coast Army as a private soldier. That was in 1943. Michel’s brilliance in the military profession earned him a trip to the United Kingdom in 1947, and shortly after returning from overseas he was commissioned. It was in 1953 that Michel was promoted from the rank of Lieutenant to that of a Major. He was “shot up” to rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in 1958 and in the following year became Honorary Aide-de-Camp to President.
In 1959, when the Queen was to visit Ghana, it was Michel who was appointed to be her Equerry.
At the time of his death, Brigadier Michel had three children with the wife, Victoria, Sammy the eldest was 17 years, and was in his last year at Achimota Secondary School, now a retired Army Captain and in construction; Georgia 13, is now married to a Nigerian and living in Port Harcourt, Nigeria and the youngest child, Dzifa, six years old was a pupil of the Accra Army School at the time is now married to Mr. Fat Nartey, Chief Co-ordinating Director, Greater Accraa Region.
BRIGADIER MITCHEL IS DEAD AND GONE – BUT WILL HE EVER BE FORGOTTEN? THE ANSWER IS NO.
His brilliance and gallantry “in the khaki and the gun” had serve as a source of inspiration to all those who knew and worked with him. It was not surprising to see his many friends weep. They wept because his death had made Ghana poorer. It was not surprising that many have been the tributes that poured in, including those from the Queen and Osagyefo the President. He was also honoured. The Michel Campa, a military base near Tema located on the tema-Akosombo highway was named after him in memoriam.
THE TRIBUTES J O R – GENERAL H. T. ALEXANDER: Brigadier Michel is a loyal and trusted friend, a good man.
·POLICE CHIEF E. A. T. MADJITREY: He was a great soldier: very co-operative as--- as the police are concerned and a good friend.
·DEFENCE MINISTER CHARLES de GRAFT – DICKSON: Brigadier Michel was born a soldier ….great and brave. He is irreplaceable
·C.P.P. ADMINISTRATIVE BOSS COFIE CRABBE: He was selfless and had high sense of duty.
·T.U.C DEPUTY CHIEF S. D. DAWSON: Brigadier Michel was a soldier of outstanding GONE 50 YEARS AGO, BUT HE LIVES!
He is dead, but he lives! Away from all strife: the soldier, the hero, who lived, well, his life, he leaves us a memory, that’s sacred and grand; he was a soldier, and great in the land! MacNeill Stewart.
A portrait of a patriot, soldier, a fighter, for his country. Like thousands of loyal Ghanaian soldiers, he lived for his country and had a kernel of his life’s purpose, complete dedication to service and sacrifice for country. Our memory goes back today to the Congo where he had done so much in the days f peril and turmoil – and was destined to do more, had he lived! His is a shining example of heroism and patriotism to be emulated by all ranks of the Ghana Army whom we salute today. THE LONG LIVE GHANA ARMY! END