The Grenada Revolution Online

Leon Cornwall (1954-   )

Leon Cornwall
Appreciation to
photographer
John Douglas

Leon 'Bogo' Cornwall was born 14 January 1954.

At Grenada Boys Secondary School (GBSS, Class of 1974), Cornwall was a Cadets' teacher. "Bogo" had roots in the group OREL starting in the early 1970s. He trained youth in combat readiness in the hills of Grand Etang and Concord, according to Paterson, and was one of the "12 Apostles." The military arm of the New Jewel Movement [NJM] was called the Peoples Revolutionary Army [PRA].

On 13 March 1979 he and Gahagan were Lieutenants under the command of Austin. Cornwall led one of the five squads that attacked True Blue barracks in the early morning.

Major Cornwall of the Peoples Revolutionary Army (PRA) was a full New Jewel member and a member of the Central Committee in 1979. In 1980, Cornwall was allegedly involved with the beating incident involving Winston "Broko" Simon. He was court-martialed but in August was reinstated into the People's Revolutionary Army [PRA] and party affiliations.

He engaged in youth work as Secretary [Junior Minister] for Youth Affairs and chair of the National Youth Organization until appointed Ambassador to Cuba July 1982, presenting credentials 7 October 1982. In January 1983, Cornwall managed PRG military affairs related to his post in Cuba as Ambassador to Cuba. He experienced severe communication problems with home base. Grenadians studying in Cuba had similar difficulties with the Grenadian Embassy in Cuba.

In a report to the Central Committee in June 1983, Cornwall recommended -

" . . . strengthening and deepening . . . relations with Cuba at all levels - party, state and mass organizations is correct and must be vigorously pursued."

Cornwall was at the 25 September 1983 Meeting as a member of the Central Committee of the NJM.

By early October 1983 when Bishop was out of the country, Cornwall had been recalled by Coard from his ambassadorial post in Cuba to take a high-ranking command of the People's Revolutionary Army [PRA]. He was given a secret appointment as chief of the Main Political Department of the Armed forces.

Cornwall spoke on Radio Free Grenada on 15 October 1983. He said, among other things, that -

"It must be clearly understood that the Peoples Revolutionary Army and the Armed Forces as a whole will tolerate absolutely no manifestation whatsoever of counter-revolution."

In that address, Cornwall demanded Bishop adopt the decision of the Central Committee and would not tolerate 'one-manism.' In the radio announcement, Cornwall accused Bishop of spreading rumours. By this time, Maurice Bishop was under house arrest.

The morning of 19 October, before 10 a.m., Cornwall was at the Cuban Embassy on Point Salines to warn the Cubans not to get involved in the protests.

Major Cornwall went with Lt. Col. Ewart Layne to Mount Wheldale complex, the location of Bishop's house and the Coard house next door. Cornwall also could be seen on the verandah of Coard's house where many of the Central Committee were gathered.

Getting on toward 11 a.m. Major Leon 'Bogo' Cornwall, according to O'Shaughnessy and other reports, " . . . came out to try to defuse the tension shouting, 'Maurice Bishop has betrayed the masses.'" Cornwall was standing, blocking the gate when the crowd attempted to release Bishop and Creft.

Later in the day, around 12:30 p.m., on 19 October, Cornwall was at the Fort Frederick Central Committee meeting. From there -

Maj. Leon Cornwall arrived at Camp Fedon on Point Calivigny, southeast of the city, and dispatched two truckloads of soldiers in full combat gear to Fort Frederick,

as reported by Morris Thompson from Pvt. Cosmos Richardson's statement. Bishop, at Fort Rupert, had wanted Cornwall arrested immediately, it was reported.

Just before 1 p.m., two Russian-built armoured cars and an armoured troop carrier arrived [at Fort Rupert] from Fort Frederick, commanded by Major Cornwall,

according to Payne, in one account.

In another account, self-referred "day-by'day PRA Commander Lt. Col. Ewart Layne said in a statement to the media September 1999 -

. . . I gave the order to a military unit to proceed to Fort Rupert and retake the headquarters.

No matter who gave the order, the tragedy began.

An October 1983 member of the Revolutionary Military Council [RMC], Cornwall served as the primary negotiator for the RMC in dealing with U.S. envoys. According to Adkin, on Saturday 22 October at 11 a.m.:

"When Kurze, Flohr, and Montgomery arrived on Saturday [from Barbados], they were met by Cornwall and allowed access to their citizens. A meeting was arranged at the Ross Point Inn just south of St. George's at 11:00 a.m. which was attended by the and U.S. officials, Cornwall and, at the RMC's request, Dr. [Geoffrey] Bourne.

Cornwall repeatedly pledged that the students and foreigners were not in danger and that transport would be authorized to evacuate those wishing to leave. Difficulties arose as to the means."

Kurze and Flohr [from the AmEmbassy Barbados] were given access to the medical students the days they visited as did the replacements for Kurze [a family emergency], James Budeit and Gary Chafin.

Cornwall essentially went underground after the tragic events 19 October 1983. Only until 28 October 1983, or October 30 in another report, was Cornwall captured in a house of East Germans at Weatherhaven on Westerhall Point by units of the 82nd Airborne Division after his location was revealed by Grenadians. He was found inside the house with Layne and Austin and with two white men of unknown identity. They were all flown to US ocean warships.

A letter, most likely smuggled out of Richmond Hill Prison was published in the Soviet newspaper Izvestiya January 1984. The letter, dated 18 November 18 1983, refers to Coard and other members of the anti-Bishop faction as "'Grenadian patriots' awaiting execution."

Cornwall was held in preventive detention and formally charged, with ten others, with conspiracy, according to Amnesty International, "under the Terrorism (Prevention) Law, an emergency law providing for trial in a non-jury court, introduced by the PRG."

The charge was later changed to murder.

According to Marable, another letter written by Cornwall from jail was sent to London and published. The letter admitted errors and outlined the tasks of the Party.

During 1993, Leon Cornwall attended St. Dominic's R.C. Church with Selwyn Strachan and Richmond Hill Prison's Choir. At that service he read two poems and paid tribute to then-Commissioner of Prisons Winston Courtney. Cornwall was one of four prisoners interviewed in 1999 on GBN by Leslie Pierre and others. In 1997, while in prison, he obtained a Bachelor of Divinity degree with honors from London University. Subsequently, he has been involved in Methodist prison ministry.

Leon Cornwall was one of four prisoners interviewed in 1999 on GBN by Leslie Pierre and others.

He was released from Richmond Hill Prisons 5 September 2009. See Grenada 17. According to a report, he commented that he had spent 9,441 days at Richmond Hill Prison, sleeping in a 3' x 6' bed in a 10' x 7' windowless room with ceiling ventilation blocks. One of the first places he asked to visit was Bethel [Methodist Church] Bicentennial Hall where he remained for close to an hour.

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