Pilots and Soldiers of the Caribbean

Fighting men of the Caribbean

Pilots and Navigators of WWII. Left to right. Didley Thomson, Osmund Kelsick, Ronald Hall, Ulric Cross DSO,DFC

Flying Officer Errol Barrow PC,QC
Prime Minister Barbados
Caribbean Pilots and Navigators
Army- Stanley Archer

A Time of War

Introduction to the book

Maureen Dickson formally a U.S. Realtor, Property TV Presenter, Producer and Oral Historian is a new Author.

The book “Pilots and Soldiers of the Caribbean, Fighting men of the Caribbean.” Is the result of her research not only in Britain, but the West Indies, where she interviewed ex-service men from WWII.

The men and women of the Caribbean were not conscripted into the British Armed Services as the service personnel from the British Isles were. The reluctance for engaging the people of the British Caribbean in the war was because they felt that it would destroy the notion on Empire, and the hold that they had over the West Indies and Guyana in South America (formally known as British Guiana).

The people of the West Indies were told that they were British. However, as the war went on the men and women who joined the services, particularly the Army found that their citizenship would be increasingly called into question, and they appeared to be airbrushed out of all mention of the war.

An added pressure for the Caribbean servicemen and women was when American’s joined in the war.  Segregation was practiced in America but not in Britain, so there was a natural conflict between the American Soldiers and the British.

The British man in the street saw how badly many Americans servicemen were attempting to treat their Soldiers, and often protested against their behaviour.

Although there was racism in the RAF, black Pilots and Navigators had a better time of it during WWII, although the Pilots were not allowed to fly Bombers, as it was feared the rest of the crew would object.

However, such as Cy Grant, Ulric Cross and more recently Trevor Edwards, who have become the poster boys of black men in the RAF and have obtained great success in their chosen professions. There are several stories in this book of courage and determination.

RAF Air Gunner Basil Anderson bailed out of his Lancaster bomber after it was attacked and crippled over the Ruhr Valley. As a man of colour it was amazing that he was able to evade capture for one week before he was caught by the Germans. Like the character played by actor Steve McQueen in the film “The Great Escape” he spent his time constantly escaping.

The first time he escaped was from Stalag Luft 4B, and got as far as the river Elbe. He escaped three more times before, after the Russians took over the camp. During the next escape attempt two drunken Russian Cossack in a truck accidently knocked him down, and did not bother to stop. He spent most of his time after being shot down on the run from the Germans. He was captured again and had his broken leg re-set, after which he was planning to escape again, but was prevented from doing so as the war had come to an end. It is good to know that he survived the war.

Women in the Service. The respective government offices at the time reluctantly decided to allow Caribbean women to join the forces. However, they decided to put restrictions in place, that would only affect the black Caribbean women, but not the white. Black Caribbean women had to be middle-class, of good character, well-educated, financially viable to pay their own fare from the West Indies to England and preferably light-skinned. There were no such restrictions on their white Caribbean colleagues.

Nadia Cattouse was just the type of middle-class, well brought-up woman the army was looking to recruit. Her father was Albert Cattouse, the Deputy Prime Minister of British Honduras. She joined the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) and was trained in Edinburgh after leaving British Honduras, as a signal operator, and later became a part-time physical training instructor.

Nadia was one of the first six female recruits from the Caribbean to travel to Britain, yet very little is known of her war years, as is the case of many black war veterans. She later became a headmistress after returning to British Honduras. Later still she returned to Britain, and finally became an actress and folksinger. She received a meritorious Service Award from the Government of Belize in recognition of her advancement of Social, and political awareness among Belizeans and other Caribbean people in the UK.  On speaking with one of her associates it was interesting to note that they never knew that she was in the armed forces, as she never talked about it.

Nadia Cattouse, ATS ,Actress, Singer/Songwriter, at her home in South London, 1963

Paperback ISBN N0. 9781838012748

eBook ISBN N0. 9781838012755

The book and eBook can be purchased from Amazon, Waterstones and other outlets on line.

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Maureen Dickson Copyright 2020 ©

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