Report: Wismar, Christianburg, Mackenzie Disturbances -1964

Editor’s Note:  This is the official report on this subject as commissioned by the Governor of  British Guiana in September 1964.  Most Guyanese alive today were too young or not born in 1964, so they may be  influenced by words like “massacre” and “holocaust” that are used by many commentators when discussing this unfortunate subject.  The great loss of life here was the sinking of the Sun Chapman with a bomb, where 38 persons of African descent perished.

These words should not be used for this event  – a massacre is when hundreds of people are killed, a holocaust is the systematic killing of thousands and even millions as occurred in Nazi Germany. As Guyanese, we should seek to heal the wounds inflicted on us by past generations.  We have to seek the truth and try to report “true history” and not continue instilling fear by embellishing and twisting facts.  Lies, often repeated, become “facts”.  Be aware!

This report should clarify the historical details of the unfortunate loss of life, injuries to innocent people, and the extensive loss of property.


Chapter 1 – Statement of the Proceedings of the Commission
Chapter 2 – Recent Disturbances at Wismar, Christianburg and Mackenzie
Chapter 3 – Conduct of the Security Forces
Chapter 4 – Account of Number of Deaths, Extent of Injuries, Loss and Damage
Chapter 5 – Conclusions and Acknowledgements



I. Appointment

YOUR EXCELLENCY( Sir Richard Luyt)  on Monday 28th September, 1964, in a Supplement to the Official Gazette appointed this Commission under the Commissions of Inquiry Ordinance, Chapter 59, to inquire into the recent disturbances at WISMAR-CHRISTIANBURG, and MACKENZIE.

Here are excerpts from this report:


(a) Deaths

When one considers the number of East Indians evacuated, the large number of Africans in the area and the negligible opposition which the attackers encountered, the number of fatalities was indeed very small.

There were two East Indians who died on the 25th May, 1964. Richard Khan, aged about 18 years, died at the Mackenzie Hospital two hours after admission. He had been attending high school in Georgetown. The other, Paul Mirgin, who operated a tug, was married and lived with his wife and four sons in the Valley of Tears.

Gussie English* an African was shot on the 25th May, 1964. He died the same day.

On the 28th May, 1964, Isaac Bridgewater was killed. He was the father of Senator Christina Ramjattan and lived at Section C, Christianburg.

On the 27th May, 1964, Byron Wharton*, an African, died because of extensive burns suffered when he was trapped in a burning building.

Following the Sun Chapman disaster the bodies of 35 persons were taken to Mackenzie and 12 others were listed as missing or unidentified. All of these were Africans. The Sun Chapman incident resulted in five East Indians being murdered at Mackenzie.

Three witnesses said that on the Thursday be was seen with a newspaper on the public road drawing to the attention of those he met the murder of Mr. & Mrs. Sealey, African farmers of Buxton, East Coast, Demerara, and asking what the people of Wismar were going to do in reprisal for such actions by East Indians on the coast.

On the day of the disturbances at Wismar-Christianburg there were 57 cases of assault, including rape, which were treated at the Mackenzie Hospital. Two persons were killed and at least 197 houses were destroyed in addition to several cases of looting.

On the 6th July, 1964, an explosion occurred at Booradia on a launch named “Sun Chapman” which was taking goods and passengers, the majority of them Africans, from Georgetown to Wismar. About thirty-eight (38) persons perished in this disaster. The echo of the Sun Chapman disaster was immediately felt at Mackenzie when five East Indians were murdered and seven seriously injured. Before the official report of the Sun Chapman tragedy reached the Police and British army, Africans were on the rampage and in the space of two hours, 5.00 to 7.00 p.m., more people were killed than on the whole day of the 25th May, 1964.

Throughout the whole of the 25th of May only two East Indians were murdered out of an East Indian population of 3,000; one was killed on the next day. Yet after the Sun Chapman disaster on the 6th of July, within the short space of two hours, five East Indians were murdered out of the remaining East Indian population of 300.


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  • William Ramnarace  On May 22, 2012 at 10:03 pm

    The Editor’s note on the tragedies is somewhat ambiguous.

    Are you commenting on the Boat explosion which occurred in July where unfortunately 38 or so Africans loose their lives….and the Indians blamed…resulting in 5 Indians being almost instantaneoussly killed?

    Or, the Wismar Tragedy where an entire community of East Indians numbering approximately 3,000 or more had to be evacuated, all their properties over 200 houses and business places razed to the ground, businesses looted and set ablaze, with numerous cases of serious injuries, and multiple rapes, over 60 noted cases of severe injuries, god knows how many were raped and afraid to come forward, had to be evacuated by the British soldiers?

    The unfortunate Indian people of Wismar were trapped in a village where there was no other route to escape but by river. They had to seek or take refuge at the police station until the British Troop arrived…too late …to save houses being set ablaze, or victims being raped, brutally injured and more. The reaction of the local police is highly questionable.

    The Commission of Enquiry Report is quite clear on the point and people who can read and write understand the findings of the Report and who to be blamed, including the black Commissioner of Police for twiddling his thumbs whilst Wismar burns. In my opinion had he taken prompt action when he was obviously alerted by the Local chief of police…and instructed by the Minister of Home Affairs…..this shameful act of racial violence could have been averted.

    As an Editor you need to be clear and unbiased, do not give confusing signals.

    Do not treat these tradegies as inconsequencial and one that should be forgotten. It is because of these abominable incidents that we should learn lessons.History books will remind us and our children. These are lessons that ought not to be repeated, but should serve as a reminder when racial violence raises its ugly head.

    The Indians cannot forget this incident, neither should the African people……. until our leaders wake up and understand that we are one nation of people who ought to try and live in peace with each other…….and co-operate for the good of the country.


  • NDTewarie  On May 23, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    Apparently, the article was written by a very dumb, stupid nincompoop, when all Guyanese know who suffered most and nothing was mentioned about the X-13 Plan, hmm, how shocking!


    It was a dark and red-lettered night
    When they swept down on peaceful Wismar
    Leaving a people in a miserable plight
    Leaving each with an indelible scar

    The mastermind was the infamous Chippy
    Whose ambition was to kill every man
    Woman and child in that peaceful community
    By carrying out the X-13 Plan

    They swept down viciously on doves like hawks
    With blazing guns and set bayonets
    Annihilating all that walks and all that talks
    Sparing none with their racial bullets

    Not even the sleeping babies escaped
    Or the pregnant women and mothers
    Even the young and aged were raped
    Even the children, and little sisters

    And as if that was not enough for these animals
    All the innocent females were defiled
    And many were crippled as in historical annals
    Of wars of the barbarous and the wild

    After they butchered the inhabitants
    They did their looting and burning
    Pillaging the shops and restaurants
    And swiftly left Wismar a-smoking

    Yes! they left the city ablaze
    And the waters red with blood
    This was only the first phase
    Leaving body parts in the mud

    Death was welcomed by those in excruciating pain
    As the waters of the Demerara carry the chill
    Many committed suicides and many became insane
    And their plight is always remembered still

    And on a very still or clear day one can hear
    The cries of babies and women’s groans from afar
    The wailing wenches and women in agony and fear
    Amidst the flow and ebb of the waters of Wismar.

  • William Ramnarace  On May 23, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    Mr Editor,
    The full body of the Wismar Report is no longer accessible………is there a problem? Please release it once more……as it gives a blow by blow account of what transpired…..who are to be blamed…..who instigated this incident, actions of the local police…………..please release it once more….so we can really digest what really transpired….there is nothing to hide or is there?

  • Cyril Balkaran  On May 24, 2012 at 5:02 am

    The 6th of July 1964 incident on the Sun Chapman vessel was at that time reported in the Guiana Graphic, the Guiana Argosy and the Guiana Chronicle as an “Explosion” on the vessel. It was considered that those miscreants were on board transporting the incidentary materials for bomb making to their intended destination when the deadly explosion occurred and the rest is now history. The word sinking is also a misnomer as “Massacare” and “Holocaust”
    These are the darkest hours of the Guyanese history and the racial turmoil that lent a bloody twist to our recieving of Independence from the Motherland.We are not ashamed of it neither are we proud of this past when the leaders of the Political debate took the matter of which race should govern the country and under what terms and condition. For a plural society we had our own Hitler and we had our own hitmen posted all over the country like Michael Fairbain of the Carmichael street guest house.

  • Cyril Balkaran  On May 24, 2012 at 5:28 am

    There is need for temperence when we are commenting on those Dark days stories of how Independence was granted to Guyana because the rules of Justice and fairplay were denied the British Guianese people at that time by the very Britain with Duncan Sandys, the colonial secretary visiting Guiana to make peace which the Tory party of Britain was accused of making “fiddled Constitutional Arrangements for British Guiana by none other than Sir Harold Wilson, leader of the British Labour Party who became the next Prime Minister of the U.K.This is the history those who were born after 1961 and onwards need to know. It was the battle for the control of the commanding heights of the economy in British Guiana and Jagan threatened prematurely to nationalize the same so the Anglo American conspiracy came into being after they the British and the CIA discovered that they had more than they had bargained for. There were 6 so called leaders who joined the political fray and threw their hats into the electoral ring for elections of 1964 in spite of the continued murder of the same would be electors. I will not name those leaders who arrainged themselves against the ruling colonial government at that time of 1961-1964.Four of them left British Guiana for good and the other two lived happily after as they were not considered good enough for the human Race.

  • Cyril Balkaran  On May 24, 2012 at 5:44 am

    Folks we may not agree with the his story of the past but as good and eager citizens of Guyana we must entertain the debate for posterity as it pains very much to record events of the said history no matter how anectdotal these might be and we thank the Editor for allowing us to play by the rules of the game.Every Guyanese has an account of the past as we can clearly recall the violent and hostile Cycle Chain Gangs of Youths riding on the streets of Georgetown whipping up the people who were not allowed to do their legitimate business as they arrived by train in Georgetown on Lamaha Street and by the boat at Demerara Harbour at Stabroek market. The action was at those spots where people gathered to buy goods and to make it back soon enough to their homes from the city. The Kitty market, the Bourda market, the Stabroek market, the Albouystown market and everywhere in the city people had to scamper for shelted as the looting and beating up of the innocent people was the order of the day. I myself was beaten up for attending high school in Thomas street where the principal refused to shut down his school and join the infamous general strike of 80 days duration!

  • Norman Chapman. Jr.  On May 26, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    The information your organisation provides is priceless. I say this as a Guyanese and eldest son of Norman Chapman, owner of the ill-fated vessel that went down during that tragic period of disturbances that was highlighted in 1964.
    Keep up the good work, it’s much appreciated.

    Norman Chapman, Jr.

  • Sal  On August 3, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    Kudos Cyril Balkaran for providing commentary on this atrocious event. Considering the population of Indians at Wismar it was a massacre. The PNC is tied to the transportation of explosives on the Sun Chapman yet I see youths stating that the massacre of Indians was retaliation for the bombing of the Sun Chapman. We as Guyanese need to know what happened, end the distortions and move forward.

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