RAF

 

“I was trained as a radar operator during the war, and in the immediate post-war period I was trained in London by the RAF as an electrician. In 1948 I was demobbed in Jamaica.”  George’s CV.

 

The RAF Museum has cconducted important research on the contribution that Commonwealth Serviceman and women who were, incidentally, all volunteers, made in World War II.

 

RAF Recruitment

 

Answering the call

 

As the Second World War raged through the early 1940s, Britain looked to the Caribbean for volunteers to train as ground crew for the Royal Air Force (R.A.F).  Thousands of men answered the call, with approximately 5,400 volunteers arriving in Britain to serve between June 1944 and the end of the conflict in 1945.  Four thousand of these men did their initial training at R.A.F Hunmanby Moor, Filey..."

 

In the Autumn of 1943, recruitment for ground crew duties for the R.A.F. began in the Caribbean.  Immediately, articles appeared in popular newspapers such as Jamaica’s Kingston Gleaner urging men between 18 and 32 to sign up and help the war effort.

(link)

 

 

Kingston Gleaner

22 September 1943

 

Kingston Gleaner

28 April 1944

 

A thousand Caribbean airmen arriving in Britain by troopship in 1944

(Courtesy of Imperial War Museum)

 

The Times

11 July, 1944

 

Tony Daley, aged sixteen, was at Kingston Technical High School in 1944, alongside George.  He describes in No tears for me, my mother (discussed below) how they and a half a dozen friends were keen to become RAF volunteers.  Tony’s mother was not keen on this idea, but his father said that whether or not to go to was up to Tony.  So they went along and took the relevant tests.

 

Tony had been studying engineering, and wanted to become a flight mechanic, but, like most of the Jamaican volunteers at that time, was posted as ground crew, and he was trained as a fireman, based in Britain.  Two of Tony’s best friends, Gladstone Lemonias and Edgar Macfarlane, trained together with George as radar operators.  This was in contrast to those who had volunteered in a previous wave in 1942 who had been sent to Canada for training as aircrew.

 

He says:  

 

“A lot of people got good jobs in the RAF but I had to go where I was sent, where you were needed.”

 

Thousands of volunteers came forward and were given basic training in Jamaica for a number of months before they sailed to the UK.  Crossing the Atlantic during the latter years of World War II was a very dangerous venture, as there was the threat of being torpedoed by German submarines.  The ships were very cold and the food was quite monotonous.  


The first contingent of West Indian recruits, consisting of 1,000 men, arrived in Britain at the beginning of June 1944. Their troopship, H.M.S Esperance, landed at Glasgow where they were greeted by cheering crowds, the R.A.F band, and the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Oliver Stanley. Shortly after their arrival they were transported to East Yorkshire to begin their initial training. The men made their way to R.A.F. Hunmanby Moor, which had been requisitioned by the government in 1941 from Billy Butlin, who had started to build a holiday camp in the summer of 1939, just before war broke out.

 

Although the camp had some basic amenities, the accommodation provided was far from luxurious. The Caribbean recruits were greeted with "Fifty-two rows of chalets, each with its own washbasin and two central-heating pipes....  The main buildings, heavily glazed by virtue of their pre-war design, had to be painted with ‘black-out paint’.  Hence their interiors were very dark indeed and electric lights were needed throughout the day.  The boating lake was excavated, tarmacked over and used for a parade-ground.

 

As the first contingent settled in, the second group who had disembarked from H.M.T Harrower were making their way to the camp.  It is likely that in the summer of 1944, approximately 1,950 men from the Caribbean were based in Filey, East Yorkshire, to complete their basic training which included drilling, weapons training and physical activities.

 

On 12 November 1944, a further contingent of 1,935 men from the Caribbean were sent to Filey to complete the same training.

(link)
 
George was one of this further contingent, as is recorded on Form 543 of his RAF documents.  Their troop-ship started its journey in Cuba, and docked at Palisadoes Transit Camp, where they embarked.  (Palisadoes is the "tombolo", or spit of land, which lies to the soutch  of Kingston Harbour.)   George and at least two of his friends, George Lemonias and Edgar Macfarlane, are included in the extract from the passenger list below.

 

Extract:  Ancestry.co.uk

 

 

George told me a few things about life on the troopship.  I’m not sure whether he had any previous experience of going to sea, but he told me that at one time when he was younger he had an ambition to beome a ship’s steward in the Merchant Navy.  He said he was never seasick, so maybe he refused the split pea soup!  He described the experience of sleeping in a hammock, and having to get used to the gentle, and sometimes not so gentle, swaying motion caused by the movement of the ship.  He makes mention of the engagement with a German submarine in an interview with Panya Banjoko for the book No tears for me, my mother.

 

They landed at Greenock, near Glasgow, and were then taken to Hunmamby Moor, in Yorkshire.

 

 

RAF records

 

After George died, I sent for his RAF records from RAF Cranwell.  These documents, much folded and creased, must have been carried by him throughout his period of service.

 

 

George's certified Copy of Attestation was signed on July 28, 1944, and lists his personal details, giving his birth date as August 11, 1925.  His actual birth date was August 11, 1926.  Page one of these documents, the Notice, clearly states that he offered to join the RAF on June 16, 1944, and includes the following warning.  “You will be required by the Attesting Office to answer the questions printed on pages 2 and 3, to take the Oath shown on page 4, and you are warned that if at the time of your Attestation you wilfully or knowingly make any false answer to him you will thereby render yourself liable under the Army Act to a maximum punishment of two years imprisonment with hard labour.”  Page four of the document, the Oath, states that: “The recruit above named was cautioned by me that if he wilfully or unknowingly made any false statement to any of the foregoing questions he would be liable to be punished as provided by the Air Force Act.”  It was signed by the Attesting Officer, and countersigned by the Approving Officer.

 

The officer clearly ignored that warning.  Both parties in this exchange were guilty of being economical with the truth.  It could be thought somewhat remiss of the RAF if they did not request any proof of identity.  If the Attesting Officer needed proof of George’s age, he could have requested sight of a birth certificate, and should have noted the discrepancy.  George, and many others, was risking severe punishment if his true age had been revealed.  Under-age recruitment had also been a factor in the First World War, and it is common knowledge that this practice, in both world wars was knowingly entered into by both parties.  As always, if the truth came out, the risk was disproportionately with the recruit, since he signed the paper, and the Attesting Officer and Approving Officer signed below the Oath that they had cautioned the recruit.

 

Sometimes, late in life, he said that he joined up in 1943.  The shoe brush he used throughout his time in the RAF was marked by him “1943-1948”.  When was this wording added?  Obviously it must have been after he was demobbed.  I wonder if his frequent mention of joining up in 1943, was based on a simple arithmetical error, by subtracting 17 years from the then current year.  He was indeed 17 years old in 1943, but, significantly, not until August 11.

 

 

RAF Form 543 page one

 

RAF Form 543 page one shows that he was enlisted in Kingston, Jamaica, on July 28, 1944.  Four months later he arrived in England.  He was sent to Filey, Yorkshire on November 12, 1944, and by then was just over 18 years old.  The form records his personal details, including his Official Number 714779.  His mother is given as his next of kin, but in her maiden name.  His date of enlistment and commencement of service, July 28, 1944, registered in Kingston, Jamaica, ties in with the Certified Copy of Attestation.  It also states:  “On arrival in the U.K. this airman is to be posted to units south of the Midlands.  He may be posted to any situation in England or Wales after six month’s service in the U.K.” 

 

Mustering

 

 

Mustering, in RAF terms involves an annual assessment on conduct, character and proficiency, his trade and rank. A successful assessment counted towards food conduct awards and pay increments.

 

George’s mustering record was 

  • December 31, 1944, Aircraftsman 1
  • December 31, 1945, Aircraftsman 2
  • December 31, 1946, Leading Aircraftsman

His trade was as a radar operator and his character was rated as very good throughout his service.

 

RAF Form 543 page two

 

 

 

The training process

 

 

He started his two-month basic training at RAF Hunmanby Moor, on November 12, 1945

 

RAF Hunmamby Moor  1942

(link)

 

On January 18, 1945, after his initial training, he was sent to Unit 9RS, a radio station at RAF Yatesbury.

 

Remains of RAF Yatesbury, Wiltshire

(link)

 

In March 1945, at RAF Cardington in Bedfordshire, in a re-mustering exam had a pass mark of 46%, and was not recommended for Radar Mechanic training.

 

 

A fully-trained radar operator

 

He then started his three year long work as a radar operator.  RAF form 543 states he was stationed at  78 Wing, Ashburton (Signals), Devon, on March 17, 1945 as a radar operator, with a further spell attached to 75 Wing, also at Ashburton, which was renamed “Southern Signals Base HQ” in November 1946.

 

But there is no record of a radar station at RAF Ashburton. 

 

I was surprised that there was no mention in the RAF papers of George having been stationed near Land's End, even though I know this to be true.  We had visited that area on a holiday in Devon and Cornwall, a few years before he died, and he had pointed out the site of the huts he had lived in, and the hill he had to climb each day after breakfast.

 

Later we went to the First and Last Inn, in Sennen, and spoke with the landlord, who mentioned the name the locals gave to the nearby radar station. 

 

Quite recently I was trying to remember this name, and thought it was” Skipjack”.  A Google search revealed that it was Skewjack.  It was established in 1941 on a stretch of land between two farms, one of which was (and still is) called Skewjack Farm, and the other, Trebehor Farm, which no longer appears to exist.  The official name of the radar station was RAF Sennen.  It was one of many radar stations given the code name 'Chain Home'.

 

 

Chain Homes


Chain Home, or CH for short, was the codename for the ring of coastal early warning radar stations built by the Royal Air Force .... before and during the Second World War to detect and track aircraft.  Initially known as RDF, and given the official name Air Ministry Experimental Station Type 1 (AMES Type 1) in 1940, the radar units were also known as Chain Home for most of their life.  Chain Home was the first early warning radar network in the world and the first military radar system to reach operational status.  Its effect on the war made it one of the most powerful weapons of what became known as the "Wizard War". (link

 

 

Radar coverage 1939–1940

 

Chain Home, Poling, West Sussex, of similar

configuration to that at CH17, Sennan.

 

Chain Home transmitter

(link)

 

Inside a Chain Home radar station at Bawdsey, Suffolk

(link)

 

View from the top of one of the masts at RAF Sennen. The buildings clustered near top left of picture are the accommodation blocks of the station at Skewjack Farm which went on to become the Skewjack Surf Village in later years.

Photo by John Wootton

 

A former ammunitions hut at RAF Sennan

(link)

 

This camouflaged wartime bunker at Trebehor housed radar equipment for RAF Sennen

(link)

 

 

 

 

The site of a Royal Air Force Chain Home radar station at Sennen was established by 1941.  Chain Home stations provided early warning of approaching enemy aircraft during the Second World War.  Chain Home stations commonly comprised transmission and receiver blocks, four 240ft timber receiver aerial towers, four 350ft steel transmitter aerial towers that stood on concrete pads, and other buildings such as dispersed accommodation huts, guard huts and standby set houses.  From 1940 defensive measures were installed at radar stations, including Light Anti-Aircraft gun emplacements, pill boxes, road blocks and air raid shelters.  The station was technically restored in the early 1950s as part of the Rotor programme. 

(link)

 

 

RAF Sennan, Chain Home 17


RAF Sennen, otherwise known as Chain Home 17 (CH17) was sited at a very suitable location place for LOS, (radio line-of-site), towards the Atlantic Ocean.  Several high masts in the fields supported radar antennae.  Some of the state-of-the-art equipment was installed in camouflaged bunkers buried near to Trebehor Farm.  The radar operators could detect ships and low-flying planes within about 30 km from Lands End.  The living accommodation consisted of a small number of huts housing a few dozen RAF personnel. 
 
I could find no reference to RAF Sennen being associated with RAF Ashburton, but I did find another Chain Home station which was under the control of RAF Ashburton.  This was at Hayscastle Cross, on the Pembrokeshire coast in Wales.  The following article explains the reasons for such facilities.


Hayscastle Cross Chain Home Radar Station

 

In July 1940 Germany had already overrun France and was already launching attacks against Britain from the French channel coast.  Several attacks took place that month off the Pembrokeshire coast on local shipping and on Carew Airfield and the oil storage depots at Pembroke often with fatal results.  In addition U-boats were causing havoc to our supply lines from America being directed to them by long range German aircraft.


As part of a solution to this problem and pending the construction of a full West Coast CH station at Hayscastle Cross an Advanced Chain Home station was put in place.  ACH stations were mobile units utilising telescopic wooden masts and temporary wooden hutting.  The construction of the ACH at Hayscastle Cross was delayed due to the shortage of labour and materials with only one mast half built by the time the hut was complete.  […]


Once completed the Hayscastle Cross station had two 240ft wooden receiving towers with a curtain array rigged between the two towers and four 325ft guyed steel transmitting masts....


The station was designated Chain Home No 68 and was under the Technical Control 78 Wing at RAF Ashburton in Devon.  The operational control was 10 Group with its HQ at RAF Box.

(link)

If Chain Home 68 at Hayscastle Cross, approximately 200 miles away from Ashburton, could be under RAF Ashburton’s control, it seems logical to assume that Chain Home 17 at RAF Sennen, approximately 100 miles away would be “under the Technical Control 78 Wing at Ashburton in Devon”.  


He worked, presumably at RAF Sennan, from January 18, 1945 to March 17, 1948.

 

 

RAF Sennen was still an RAF site until the 1970s. 

 

More information about the facility is available in the video "RAF Sennen Chain Home Radar Station CH17".

(link)

 

Surfing and surveillance

 

The site is now the British cable terminal for the Fibre-optic Link Around the Globe (FLAG). A new submarine cable terminating station building was constructed by E. Thomas (Mowlem) Ltd. on behalf of the new site owner, the telecommunications operator FLAG Atlantic, on the surf village site. The building received the CPRE/RIBA Cornwall Architecture Award in 2002 [...]

 

Also in the 1970s, part of the west side of the site was converted to self-catering accommodation for sea-surfing enthusiasts, known as the Skewjack Surf Village. The camp was the brainchild of Chris Tyler (deceased 2016) and was the forerunner of surfing camps and surf schools in the UK, Europe and the world. Guests stayed in the converted RAF buildings and were transported to the local beaches at Sennen and Porthcurno in a converted ambulance known as Amy. As surfing evolved and demand changed so did the camp and it 'kept going' until the surf village closed in 1986 and was demolished in 2000.

(link)

 

 

Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe (FLAG) British cable terminal

Photo:  Sheila Russell

(link)

 

George was recalled to RAF Filton, near Bristol, on March 27, 1948

 

Hanger 16U at RAF Filton

(link)

 

He was then sent to Burtonwood, Warrington, Cheshire on May 3 to await embarkation to Jamaica on May 7, 1948.

 

RAF Burtonwood airfield, 1945

(link)

 

Repatriation and demobilisation

 

 

George set sail from Liverpool on May 7, 1948 for the British West Indies, disembarking at Kingston, Jamaica, on May 24, 1948.  On that same day the 'Empire Windrush' set sail from Kingston to Tilbury Dock, London.  His engagement with the RAF was terminated on August 22, 1948, when he was 21 years old (though in the RAF chronology he would have been 22!)

 

At this point it is useful to refer to George’s birth certificate.  It is a copy of the original, and was issued on August 14, 1946, in Kingston, Jamaica, three days after his 20th birthday.  I wondered why he would have needed it when he was stationed at RAF Ashburton, Devon.  Eventually I remembered something which could explain this.  He had told me a long time ago, that when he was in Devon he was intending to marry a local girl.  As he was under the age of 21, and away from home, the RAF were apparently in loco parentis.  I imagine he would have had to produce his birth certificate as proof of identity and age.  He was interviewed by Learie Constantine, the famous cricketer, who was acting as a Welfare Officer for the RAF.  The interview did not go well.  George was told that he was far too young to be married, and that permission was denied.  At that point George stormed out of the room, and there was no wedding.

 

 

He was demobilised on August 22, 1948, under the Provision of the Kings Regulations (Termination of Engagement), 11 days after his 22nd birthday.  Squadron Leader T.E. Maxwell, RAF Headquarters, Filton, signed his discharge paper, commenting “Has received training as Electrician and Metal Worker whilst in the UK, and hopes to secure employment in this capacity.”

 

His RAF Movements

The troopship, H.M.T. Harrower docked at A Geenock, Inverclyde, Glasgow.

RAF movements:  1 RAF Hunmanby, East Riding of Yorkshire; 2 RAF Yatesbury, Wiltshire; 3 RAF Cardington, Bedfordshire; 4 RAF Ashburton (Signals) Ashburton, Devon; 5 RAF Sennan, Cornwall; 6 RAF Filton, Bristol; 7 RAF Burtonwood, Warrington, Cheshire.

He departed for Jamaica from Liverpool B.

 

 

In an interview for No tears for me, my mother, George’s friend and fellow volunteer Tony Daley said:  

 

“I was demobbed in Jamaica and then one your leave is up you are officially out of the service then. I had thirty pounds severance pay at the time that was my wealth. It was a lot of money at that time, thirty pounds.”

 

 

The RAF Experience
 

The  shoe brush he used in the RAF, clearly dated 1943-1948, together with his service number 714779

 

 

Statement written by George in 2008

-----------------------------------

 

This is brief statement to supplement what has been written already about my experiences during my time in the Royal Air Force and my post-war involvement in society.

 

I joined the RAF in Jamaica in 1944 and came to Britain for the first time on a troopship, landing in Scotland.  I was trained as a radar operator in Wiltshire and transferred to Cornwall, where I was stationed at Lands End.

 

I spent the war in RAF bases on the coast in Devon, Cornwall and Kent, tracking enemy aircraft and guiding RAF planes in and out.

 

My impressions of British society and life in the RAF were quite mixed.  There was overt racisim in both arenas, and we had to deal with offensive remarks and sometimes quite crude violence.  We were able to mix freely with the local population and had some good experiences as well as some which were not so pleasant.

 

There were some groups established to make the environment more comfortable for the non-white armed service personnel in terms of entertainment and leasure activities.

 

Also, the RAF provided educational facilities for all who were interested.  Civilian tutors were employed and School Certificate courses were designed aorund the 1944 Education Act, partly as an experiment to see how effective they were before they were introduced into the schools in 1948.  Some of the Caribbean people in the services took advantage of the educational opportunities that were offered and were able to qualify as academics, professionals, or craftsmen.

 

After the war I had to stay in the RAF until 1948 when I returned to Jamaica to be demobbed. I chose to make the journey back to Britain later that year as a civilian, and have lived here ever since.

 

 

No tears for me, my mother

 

The 17-year-old recruit

At home, interviewed by Panya Banjoko

 

No tears for me my mother (ISBN 978-0-9576974-1-6) was a Nottingham Black Archive project celebrating the contribution made by black servicemen and women in and around Nottingham who served in World War II.  It resulted in a portable exhibition, a book, a DVD, and several events.  The project was launched in 2013, but George died shortly before it was completed.  The project was then dedicated to his memory.  The item below was recorded during an interview by Panya Banjoko, and is included in the book.  Panya has given permission for the full version to be used here.

 

“People in my age group they never thought about time.  They joined the Forces because some of their friends had joined and also out of curiosity.  A lot of them might say they were patriotic and they were doing something for ‘King and Country’ but people like myself we never thought about that.

 

You were in the Forces because you were youths, you know rebellious, not in the sense of creating trouble but you wanted something different and you weren’t afraid.  Leaving Jamaica and coming to Europe I found the experience a little like an adventure, like playing a game.

 

I joined the Forces at about seventeen years old as a Radar Operator.  Radar Operators plot the flight of aircraft and give directions where necessary.  For example, if a set of enemy bombers were coming in to bomb some part of Britain we’d pick them up on our radar screen.  We’d plot the course and direct our fighter pilot to attack and shoot it down.  We also guided flights from one destination to another.  It was a twenty-four hour thing because there was always something up there trying to attack.  So that’s the radar occupation to plot flights, to guide planes and especially fighter planes and fighting.

 

The first place I was stationed was Filey in Yorkshire.  The thing that struck me when I came here was the different colour hair that people had.  When I came I never saw that in Jamaica.  When I came I saw multi-coloured blondes and I wondered where the hell they were from.

 

After I signed up and I’d done my square bashing as they call it, I was stationed at many places, Cornwall, North Devon, South Devon, London, and in Wales too.

 

In the Forces they taught you how to kill with your bare hands, to kill with knives, to kill with bullets, you name it.  The main weapon was the Enfield rifle.  That’s why so many people were affected by war.  I know guys that when they did their training and the gun kicks they’d drop the gun, which is a crime, but they excused that because they knew why.  So you may think that anybody can be effective with a gun but not everybody can because firing the gun felt like somebody kicking you in the shoulder.

 

You were well-fed in the Forces and if you were not fighting you were given emergency rations.  The emergency ration was the size of, or a little bigger than, a digital camera, and believe me even if you were ten feet in height it would be enough to fill you up.  You’d have a little soup and a little flame thing to heat it up on.  You’d have cigarettes, chewing gum, some meat stuff, some cob or hard biscuit but believe me when you eat one of them you’ve had enough.  If you were going on a mission you may have three packets to take with you. 

 

There was only ever one occasion when I was frightened, and it was the first time that I went on guard duty.  Obviously the order was to shoot, and shoot to kill.  The Forces never taught you to shoot to maim.  I remember every little sound that I heard that night, I looked and I couldn’t see anything.

 

The night was cool and I was perspiring.  I must have lost some weight that night!  I was so afraid, and after that I was never afraid again.

 

I remember when there were submarines around and to get rid of the submarines they used depth charges.  The depth charges were a big barrel like an oil drum and it was sent down into the water. When it exploded it was so powerful that the troop ship that I was on, I think there was about two thousand five hundred troops, it just lifted out of the water like a little box of matches.  That was the first time I saw fear in people’s eyes.  But I was never afraid apart from that one time on guard duty. A lot of the ex-servicemen were traumatised by something like that.  You cannot believe despite how adventurous you felt that people can become so frightened.

 

I’ve heard people say that it was when we were dismissed from the Forces that racism really affected us.  When we were in the Forces racism did affect us but it was a little different.  While we were in the Forces we were not competing for jobs or houses, so people didn’t have to say we were taking away their houses or taking away jobs like they did when we were civilians.

 

The nationality prejudice was vile because if you were a foreigner you’d be abused from a nationalist’s point of view.  They’d say “Go back to your country.” The names you’d be called because there was free speech, you’d be called Sambo, Sam, nigger, all sorts of things.  So you’d stand up and fight because you could not take people to court because the Race Relations Act didn’t come into effect until 1975, and then you didn’t have any powers until about 1976.

 

We had problems with the white Americans too.  They’d call you names, see it as fun to call you names and want to fight you.  The white Americans used to abuse the black Americans and abuse them so badly that the government had … legislation to stop them from doing so. 

 

I can remember a fight with two Americans at Penzance.  I and a guy by the name of Rex Thame were waiting for a train from Penzance to London . There was a white girl standing about six feet from us, me and Rex were talking, next thing we saw two American soldiers come along and they went over to the young lady and said loudly so that we could hear, “Are those niggers molesting you?”  She said “No.”  They said, “Are you sure those niggers aren’t molesting you?“  They were talking loud so we could hear.  They kept on calling us.  I can’t remember if it was me or Rex but one of us asked them who the hell they were calling.  We said “Who are you calling niggers?”  And one of them decided to come over but of course we were prepared because I never called people names, never.  I was ready when one of them came up.  I gave him a right cross and he staggered and when he staggered I used my left foot to trip him and give him a kick.  Anyway they ran because they came to beat us up but we got the first punch in.

 

The majority of the young men that returned from the war were not suitable for industry.  Whether it was in the Air Force, Navy or the Army a lot of the young men never worked before they left school, college or university.  They went straight into the Forces.  They were skilled military-wise but not suitable for civilian occupation.  Also jobs were advertised, but when we applied for them they’d say, “We don’t employ niggers.“

 

There was one thing for sure and that was that nobody left the Forces illiterate; we had civilian instructors to lecture us and to teach us mathematics and a few other subjects.  After leaving the Forces I became a mathematician and taught in schools.”

 

 

Pilots of the Caribbean,  BBC Radio interview

 

 

SO, YOU’VE BROUGHT ALONG SOME PHOTOS TO SHOW ME OF YOU.  IF YOU DON’T MIND ME SAYING, LOOKING A BIT YOUNGER THAN YOU DO NOW, WHEN WERE THESE PHOTOS TAKEN, AND HOW OLD WERE YOU?  Well officially I was supposed to be 18 but I was really 17.

 

HOW COME, HAD YOU LIED ABOUT YOUR AGE TO JOIN THE RAF?  Well, they didn’t question it.  When I filled out the form and it was accepted, and I was sent for my medical and I passed the medical and that was that.  I was a student then and some of my friends joined up and those that were a bit older than me.  I decided to follow fashion.  I didn’t really have any serious thinking about allegiance and all that.  All I know, my friends had joined and I followed fashion.

 

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE IN JOINING UP, WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?  Obviously we had to be introduced to what they call square bashing.  Square bashing is how to teach you how to bear arms and it’s rather surprising that the rifle that we use was the 303 Lee Enfield rifle, and how it felt like a ton, but within about a fortnight it became light like a piece of feather!  Anyway when I remember the first meal we had when we were about to leave, they said they were introducing English food. 

 

YOU’RE PULLING A FACE AS YOU SAY THAT. WAS IT NOT A NICE EXPERIENCE BEING INTRODUCED TO ENGLISH FOOD?  I didn’t like it.  I can remember some of the meal.  It was roast potato, boiled potato, vegetable and roast beef. I didn’t mind the beef so much, but I just didn’t like the vegetables, and I never had another English meal until I came to England.

 

HOW LONG DID IT TAKE BEFORE JOINING UP AND COMING TO ENGLAND?  Say about six weeks. 


THAT’S QUITE QUICK.  Yes six weeks, yes, because obviously they want you to fight. 

 

WHEN YOU CAME TO ENGLAND WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST EXPERIENCE?  Well, when I came to England obviously it was raining.  It was Greenock in Scotland that we landed and it was raining,  and the buildings were something strange, all those chimneys and so on.  I wondered what the hell were they, you see? 

 

WHAT CHIMNEYS WERE? HAD YOU NEVER SEEN A CHIMNEY BEFORE?  I thought, because I had read a little about industry and all these kinds of things, and I thought they were all factories.  I can’t remember who I spoke to, but I spoke to somebody who was around, not in my squad. They said “Oh, they are houses.”  I said “Houses?” and they said yes.  And that was the first experience I had.

 

WHAT DID YOUR JOB IN THE RAF INVOLVE?  Well obviously everybody do their square bashing, that is, learn to bear arms, but I was on radar.  Once I completed my training I used to go on duty, plotting across, help to guide fighters and so on, because you know, often what you find is very often that the fighter plane was attacked, and in many cases you had to help and guide them and say look you are so many miles away or so many thousand feet away from the enemy, and you give the directions. 

 

DID YOU EVER FEEL AFRAID?  Only once.  I was so afraid that I thought I would have passed out.  The first time I went on guard duty, and obviously the order was shoot and shoot to kill.  You get the password and when you challenge, say if someone, you hear somebody, you use the password to challenge where the sound is coming from, and every sound I heard that night, and I couldn’t see anything, it was quite cold, but I must have lost about 10 lbs that night. 

 

DID YOU FACE MUCH RACISM IN YOUR TIME IN THE RAF?  Oh, it was terrible.  Now you cannot believe, looking on England today, what racism was like.  You were walking on the street, and we used to have a lot of fights on the street.  People challenged you, call you names, and ask you when you were going back, and about the tree, and are you comfortable sleeping in a bed, and all these sort of things, and if you are comfortable eating cooked food.  Yes, they asked you questions like those.

 

WERE YOU SURPRISED TO FACE THAT GIVEN YOU HAD COME TO THE COUNTRY TO FIGHT?  I don’t know if I can use the word surprise, but to me, I didn’t expect it, but what it means, it gives you impetus to fight back, because there were places where you couldn’t go to.

 

CONSIDERING THE SORT OF RACISM YOU FACED, DID YOU EVER RECONSIDER YOUR DECISION TO FIGHT FOR THE RAF AT THAT TIME?  No, you would never consider that, but one thing you must not do, you would never accept insults and you’d fight the mate, the white mate beside you, if he started being insulting, right?  But you’d never say, no, I am not fighting.

 

LIVING IN NOTTINGHAM TODAY, DO YOU MEET MANY WEST INDIAN EX-SERVICEMEN? There are not many around today, but when I came here there were a few, and we got together to found the West Indian Ex-Servicemen’s Association.  The standard is at a church in the Chase (Robin Hood Chase, Nottingham).

 

DO YOU THINK THERE IS MORE TO BE KNOWN ABOUT THE PART THAT WEST INDIAN SERVICEMEN PLAYED IN FIGHTING FOR THIS COUNTRY?  More should be known, because it is like they didn’t recognise that we did exist.

 

(link)

Transcribed by the interviewer.

 

This interview was broadcast two days before he died.  We missed this and so he never heard it.  But many people did, and as a tribute it was re-broadcast a week later.  The photo above was the last one taken of him.