This book is about recognition, and tells the story of the brave Caribbean servicemen and women and their impressive achievements, despite having to overcome adversity such as discrimination, lack of acknowledgement, racism and rejection, to stand beside Britain at a time of war. These brave people are our heroes. Many gave their lives to give us a safer Britain, which their children and grandchildren now call home. They should not be forgotten.
This is not just a book of places, dates, facts and figures but the personal accounts of Veteran’s experiences, showing another side of what was going on during the war, not only in Europe, or the field of battle but in the West Indies.
A speech which was given by King George VI asking for Caribbean men and women to fight for Britain in WWII, ended with the words “His most gracious majesty King George has called on the men of the Empire, men of every class, creed and colour, to come forward to fight. This call is to YOU, YOUNG MAN! Not your neighbour, not your brother, not your cousin, but YOU! 6,000 personnel joined the RAF from the Caribbean, of which 500 were aircrew. Gunners, radio operators, pilots and navigators. The rest were ground crew. By the end of WWII 130 medals of valour were awarded.
Left to right. flight Officer Dudley Thomson – Jamaican; Flight lieutenant Osmund Kelsick DFC – Montserrat; Flight Officer Ronald Hall, British Guiana: Squadron leader Ulric Cross DSO. DFC. Trinidad.
Pilots and Navigators of the Caribbean
By 1939 more than 6,000 joined the RAF from the Caribbean. 500 of which were air crew; pilots, navigators, or both. The remaining RAF recruits were ground crew. 80 Women joined WAAF, (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force). Large numbers joined the Army also.
There were also Air Gunners (upper and Rear Turret) and Wireless Operators
Although many black aircrew recruits could fly before they joined the RAF, or were already trained as pilots, they were not allowed to fly bombers, (which carried a crew of seven, including the pilot). It was said that a black pilot would not command the respect of the rest of the crew and they would not take orders from him. However, black pilots were allowed to fly as navigators. This seems to be a bit of a contradiction, since the crew had to take instructions from the navigator to get the plane from home to the enemy and back home again; without the navigator the plane would be lost.
There were black fighter pilots who flew Spitfires and Mosquitoes over Europe as pathfinders, however. It is little known, that there were two men from the Caribbean who fought in the Battle of Britain. They were Squadron Leader/ Wing Commander of 248 Squadron and Aubrey R. de Lisle Inniss from Barbados and Herbert Capstick from Jamaica, who was part of the 236 Squadron. After the war, Herbert returned to Jamaica, where he died in September of 1954, at the age of 33 years old. Both Pilots were born and in the West Indies of European parents. The fact that only these two pilots contributed in The Battle of Britain from the Caribbean highlights the colour-bar which was in operation at the time. The Battle of Britain also featured pilots from other countries such as New Zealand, Canada, Czechoslovakia, and Poland.
RAF Flight Lieutenant Cy Grant, (Pilot/Navigator) was shot down in WWII over the Ruhr Valley in Germany. He was taken captive by the Gestapo, put in to solitary confinement and paraded in a German Newspaper because the Germans were astonished to see a black man of his rank. He spent time in several POW camps including Stalag Luft 3 where during ‘The Great Escape’ he kept the Germans entertained as a form of distraction while the tunnels Tom, Dick and Harry were being dug by the prisoners. After the war, he became an actor and appeared with Richard Burton and Joan Collins in the film “The Sea Wife”.
Squadron Leader Philip Louise Ulric Cross DSO,DFC. (RAF Pilot/Navigator) was part of 8 group in the Bomber Command in WWII. He was also a Pathfinder and flew 80 missions during this period in which he was shot down seven times, and survived.
As a highly intelligent young man growing up in Trinidad, he made sure he was well versed in what was going on in the world. He read Hitler’s book ‘Mein Kampf’ and was concerned that the world was drowning in fascism. He believed that Britain stood alone, and he wanted to do something, so he and several of his friends in his book club decided to volunteer to fight in the RAF. By the end of the war he had been presented with 12 decorations, one of which was a Medal of Honour which he received from King George himself. He went on to become a High Court Judge, Attorney General and High Commissioner for Trinidad and Tobago.
Ulric Cross, Highly decorated Pilot/Navigator flew a Mosquito plane and was Navigator on a Lancaster bomber.
Servicemen post Second World War
Caribbean servicemen and women are still fighting for Britain in various theatres of war today. They are a new generation of heroes who have picked-up the baton from their forefathers.
Major G. Lindsay, (Army) spent thirty years in the armed forces and work his way through the ranks to become a Major. He was well respected, not only by his peers but the men under him. His years of experience, training and travel, and an understanding of how the system worked, helped to shape the soldiers he taught while at Pirbright army base, close to the towns of (Aldershot and Guildford).
Private Johnson G. Beharry VC, (Army). Beharry is the holder of the Victoria Cross, (Britain’s highest award for bravery) after saving the lives of the men in his regiment. He earned his Victoria Cross in 2004 while based in Al Amarah, near the city of Basra, Maysan Province, Iraq. He is the first person to receive the Victoria Cross since 1982 and the first non-posthumous British Forces recipient since 1965. His Victoria Cross was earned for two separate acts of valour under fire. He was noted as saying, “What is important to me is the contribution I made towards the lives of 42 soldiers. That is really what the Victoria Cross means to me. History never ends”.
Flight Lieutenant Trevor Edwards (RAF- Jet Pilot) an East End boy, of West Indian parents, Edward lost all his toes from frostbite while taking part in his infantry training course. However, he was so determined to fly, that he came top of his class for Tactical Weapons training. After completing his training and passing with flying colours he flew as a jet pilot. He completed tours of duty over, Turkey, Northern Iraq and Southern Italy. After leaving the RAF he became a Captain for British Airways Airbus.
Lance Corporal A. Barrett (Army) joined the Parachute Regiment as an Air Cadet/Boy soldier, and was based in Northern Ireland at the time of the troubles. He talked about the black soldiers being pestered to join sections of the Irish community who felt that as a black man he would have suffered in the same way as they had. Corporal Barrett later said that as far as he was concerned, he was there to do a job and not to take part in the politics which prevailed in the area.
Paperback – ISNB No.978 1838 012748.
eBook– 978 1838 012755
New Website: http://www.caribbeanservicemen.com
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Maureen Dickson Copyright 2020 ©