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Search for black war heroes launched

DISTINGUISHED SERVICE: Squadron Leader Sidney McFarlane MBE. McFarlane spent 30 years with the RAF and is now on the board of the International Bomber Command Centre

IT IS a little-celebrated fact that more than 500 volunteers from the Caribbean and West Africa served in the RAF during the Second World War.

However, the board of trustees of the new International Bomber Command Centre (IBCC) being built in Lincoln to honour those who fought in Bomber Command, is now appealing for photographs, letters and oral testimonies of Caribbean and West African aircrew to be included in the Centre’s digital archive.

Black volunteers served in the RAF as pilots, navigators, air gunners and flight engineers, and a third were killed in action. A quarter of those who fought were awarded medals.

The memorial project was launched in 2013 and the IBCC Trust recently received a £3 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the archive. The memorial site includes a Wall of Names, which currently lists 26,296 names with a further 29,000 to be added.

The history of Bomber Command is a controversial one because of the number of civilians killed in raids on German cities such as Dresden.

Jamaican-born board member Squadron Leader Sidney McFarlane MBE (retired), with 30 years RAF service, commented: “At the core of the project is a desire to be fully representative and inclusive. Any help the ethnic minority media can provide in helping to identify veterans and/or surviving relatives of veterans throughout the Caribbean, West Africa and the Indian sub-continent would be wonderful.

“It is essential that we ensure that the names of all our Caribbean air and ground crew are listed on the memorial Wall of Names.”

FAMOUS: Squadron Leader Philip Louis Ulric Cross

Among the most famous of the 500 was Squadron Leader Philip Louis Ulric Cross. A Trinidadian, Cross volunteered in 1941 when, as he put it, “the world was drowning in a sea of fascism… I decided to do something about it”.

He trained as a navigator before joining 139 Squadron. Cross completed 80 raids over enemy territory, refusing to be rested after 30 operations, as was his right.

He was the most decorated Caribbean airman of the Second World War, having been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1943 and the Distinguished Service Order in 1944 for his “keenness and devotion to duty” and “exceptional navigational ability”.

The full name of Cross’s unit was 139 (Jamaica) Squadron, in recognition of the fundraising campaign launched in Jamaica by the Daily Gleaner newspaper.

It followed the order of Minister of Aircraft Production Lord Beaverbrook that “Jamaica’s name shall evermore be linked with a squadron of the Royal Air Force.”

The Bombers for Britain fund raised £180,000 (£36 million in today’s money).

The IBCC Trust is appealing for funds to complete the building of the Centre and is supported in its efforts by the Daily Telegraph, Daily Express and Daily Mail. McFarlane hopes to enlist the support of the Daily Gleaner in Jamaica and the Black and Asian media here in the UK. “We hope to complete the building of the Centre by June 2017. The veterans are keen to witness the opening, but time is obviously of the essence.”

For more info and to send materials, contact Nicky Barr, Director IBCC, at:

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