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Ex-RAF man Laurent 'Laurie' Phillpotts passes away, aged 93

SADLY MISSED: Laurent Phillpotts in the RAF

LAURENT PHILLPOTTS, a well-known and long-standing member of the West Indian Ex-servicemen and Women Association and its former Public Relations Officer passed away in London on Monday (Jan 11), aged 93.

Laurent, affectionately known as ‘Laurie’, was born August 30, 1922 in Kingston, Jamaica and attended Kingston Technical College before the call for war was made from England and he was drafted for service just as the Second World War broke out.

He was enlisted in the Royal Air Force and was stationed in the signal centre as a teleprinter operator, which he served for seven years.

At the end of the war, he joined a printing company in Nottingham and was an active community activist when he was demobbed in 1947.

When the SS Windrush arrived at Tilbury Docks from the Caribbean in 1948, he provided help for these new arrivals by rehabilitating and assisting them to get housing, further education and employment.

During his period of residence in Nottingham, with the help of his wife Marion, he provided a number of West Indian immigrants with winter clothing and other essential commodities.

After World War II, he furthered his education by attending the Leeds College of Technology; Nottingham and District Technical College and also the Peoples College in Nottingham on a course of English Literature.

He came to London and joined the Mirror Group Newspaper and also The Printer Compositors Union.

Upon obtaining his City of Guilds Finals at Leeds College of Technology, Laurent then joined a commercial printing firm in Nottingham as a Linotype operator.

In 1956, he produced the very first black weekly newspaper called ‘Colonial News’ to provide information about the West Indies and life in Nottingham and to also work towards a better understanding between black and white people in England.

So concerned was Laurent at the plight of servicemen and women who had serve King and country with honour and dignity he and a few others organised meetings for ex-servicemen and women in their front rooms to discuss ideas how to assist these former service personnel.


SAFE PAIR OF HANDS: Friends say Laurent's legacy will live on

The name of the association they established was The West Indian Association of Ex-servicemen and women. Shortly after it’s was established, he was voted into the post of Public Relation Officer serving until 1995.

Other ex-service members described Laurent as a safe pair of hands when trouble found you and his passion was cricket.
Vince McBean the Chair of the West Indian Association of Service Personnel said: “Laurent Phillpotts will be sadly missed but his legacy lives on in WASP and the many project he started.”

Former RAF colleague Neil Flanigan MBE said of his passing: “It is crucially important we remember this generation of pioneers, as we are all standing on their shoulders. Laurie was an integral person on the committee that built the world renowned Memorial Gates in London, St James Park."

He added: "I recall that he was featured in the film ‘Divided by Race, United in Peace’ which was distributed in Britain, South Africa and Cannes, France. He was appointed Vice- President of Mary Secole Memorial Association from 1970 to date. He will be dearly missed.”

A release from the Jamaica High Commission also paid tribute to his work with the Diaspora community.

“The Jamaican High Commission was saddened to learn of the death of Mr. Laurie Phillpots, BHM (Badge of Honour for Meritorious Service) who was truly an outstanding Jamaican stalwart,” it said.

“As one of the founding members of the West Indian Ex-Servicemen Association, Mr. Phillipotts was one of the driving forces behind the memorial gateway monument built in London to honour the millions of black Commonwealth servicemen who fought for Britain in both World Wars.

“Mr. Phillpots was a loyal Jamaican who was committed to elevating the profile of the Jamaican community and its contribution to the building of British society.

“He also believed in recognising outstanding members of the Jamaican Diaspora and was for many years the President of the Mary Seacole Memorial Association and a staunch supporter of the campaign to erect a statue of her in London.

“With his passing, Jamaica has lost a wonderful Ambassador in Mr. Phillpotts. We offer sincere condolences to his wife, his children, grandchildren, the rest of his family and his many friends,” the release concluded.

Laurent was the son of Ethel May and Laurent L Phillpotts Snr. He was married to Marion, his wife of 70 years and is survived by her, daughter Norma, son Lloyd, granddaughter Michelle, grandson Blaise and six great grandchildren.

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