Fighting for King and Empire: Britain's Caribbean Heroes (2015) - full transcript

Some of the last surviving Caribbean veterans tell their extraordinary WWII wartime stories.
My name is Sam Martinez.

I was born in Belize,
formerly British Honduras

and my age is 104 year old
and a half.

The Second World War sparked
a mass migration

of black people to Britain.

This programme contains
discriminatory language that
some viewers may find offensive

My name is Victor Emanuel Brown.

People ask me,
"Where do you come from?"

And the only thing I can
think of is,

"My mother says I came from heaven."

Up to 10,000 men and women
from the Caribbean colonies

volunteered to come to Britain
and defend the Empire.

My mother said, "The mother
country's at war - go, son,

"and if you live, it will be
a good thing."

She was right.

The fear was
if Hitler got what he wanted

that we'd be back in the square one
which is slavery.

Fellas would come and stroke my head

before they got in to the aircraft
to go on flights for luck.

This brave sacrifice confronted
these men and women

from the Caribbean with a lifelong
challenge... be accepted as equal British
subjects by the government...

It's like we've dropped out the sky,
nobody knew anything about us.

They didn't know we exist.

..and the British people.

He also touch my neck to find out
if I'm really black

and I thought that was most unusual.

They had a mind that anybody who was
dark came from Africa.

The rumour went around that
all these guys,

where they come from, they had
tails originally.

In the post-war years, nearly
half a million West Indians

discovered that making a home in
Britain wasn't going to be easy.

When we came out they just, "Ooh."

"Oh, I've never seen this before."
They just stared...

I said, "Don't worry about jobs!

"Worry about somewhere to live."

These pioneers from the Caribbean
have transformed Britain.

It's good to be harmonious,
live together peacefully

and you can't go wrong.

Come on, I've got the weight...

Every year on 11th November,

Britain remembers the men and women
who lost their lives

fighting in two world wars.

At monuments across the country,

we pay our respects to
the fallen heroes.

In November 2014 at the Black
Cultural Archives in Brixton,

a unique memorial is about
to be unveiled.

Today, we unveil

the first FULLY African and
Caribbean war memorial.

Ladies and gentlemen, Sam King.

'My name is Sam King.'

I was born on 20th February 1926

'in the former colony of Jamaica.'

Your Worshipful, the Mayor of
London, distinguished guests,

ladies and gentlemen, thank you
for inviting me here.

May God bless this memorial.


In 1944, Sam King volunteered
to join the Royal Air Force

and served as a ground crew

He now lives with his family
in South London.

# Remember our heroes
who left homes and wives

# Remember... #

The only national newspaper to
report the memorial's unveiling

was The Voice, a black newspaper.

The design and construction

was organised by
a black community group.

Awaiting a final resting place, the
monument has now been taken down.

# Because of them,
freedom survives. #

I don't think we are being
recognised for our contribution

and many young people don't
realise that West Indians

volunteered during the war,
fought and died...

but we just carry on.

Throughout their lives, these men
and women from the Caribbean

haven't wavered in their desire
to serve Britain...

since the outbreak of
the Second World War.


'The fateful hour of 11 has struck

'and, Britain's final warning to
Hitler having been ignored,

'a state of war once more exists
between Great Britain and Germany.'


When Britain declared war
on Germany,

black people found it extremely
difficult to sign up

to defend the Empire.

A colour bar restricted men and
women from joining the Armed Forces

unless they were of...

As the British government prepared
the nation for war,

this colour bar remained in place.

When the war started,

I was in school and the headmaster

used to read the war headline to
the school very loud and said,

"Britain is at war and
we indirectly is at war..."

..and we were worried because
the Germans had war machines

and Britain were not prepared
for a war.

The Germans were killing people
and we were well aware of that.

It was frightening.

In schools throughout Britain's
Caribbean colonies,

West Indian children were raised

with a sense of loyalty
to king and Empire.

At school, the British influence
was superb

and everything was British.

The average schoolboy would
know where London is,

they would know what
happens in London,

they'll know where
Liverpool is.

Birmingham, Manchester,
Leeds, London

and all the different big cities,

they knew what each province
supplied, where the jobs were.

We were British subjects

and that was something
to be proud of.

They told you Britain was the mother
country and we accept that -

we were a colony,
we were at the bottom

and England is at the top,
the mother.

My name is Allan Wilmot.

I was born in Kingston, Jamaica,
on August 1925.

Every picture here tells
a story of my life

and you can see that I have met
some famous people -

I have met the Queen four times.

This is when we were invited
to St James' Palace

by Prince Charles.


Allan Wilmot's first brush with
military life came at an early age.

I was five years of age
when the HMS Hood came to Jamaica.

I can remember it was such
a big battleship

that it couldn't enter
Kingston Harbour.

Allan's father,
Captain Charles Wilmot,

was one of the first black skippers
on the interisland cargo boats.

As one of Jamaica's most
famous seamen,

Charles was invited to take
his family on board HMS Hood.

I had a sailor suit all made
for the occasion.

I wanted an officer's uniform

and they ran out of costumes
and I decided,

"Well, I will accept
a rating uniform

"but I must have an officer's cap."

I was very, very proud of my father,
you know, the adulation,

everybody, "Hello, Captain,
hello, Captain,"

and I said to myself,
"Well, yes, that will be me."

Four years before Britain entered
the war, all eyes turned to Africa.

In October 1935, Benito Mussolini,
the leader of fascist Italy,

invaded Abyssinia,
known today as Ethiopia.

It was one of only two nations
in Africa

that wasn't ruled by
one of Europe's imperial powers.

'Across the barren hills
and fever-laden valleys

'of northern Abyssinia,
the invader is sweeping forward,

'crushing the Abyssinian resistance

'under the steel tread of
his mechanised army.'

The Abyssinian people stood
little chance.

I remember my grandmother,
I would be about 11 then,

cried when she learn that Ethiopia
was invaded by the Italian.

We thought from African background
that the Italians were wicked.

The racial battle lines of
World War II were being drawn.

At the time nothing could be done
about it, you could only sympathise.

You felt that
Ethiopians were your brothers.


Black people across the world were
confronted by the threat of fascism.

They were also finding out about
the German leader.

Well, when you talk about him,
you're talking about the devil.


In the summer of 1936,

just months after Abyssinia fell
to the Italians,

the Olympic Games were held
in Berlin.


The Olympic is for the honour
and glory of sports -

that's the oath you take,

the honour and glory of sports but
this, this did not happen.

# ..uber alles... #

Hitler assumed that
they were master race

and they would win everything....


'Owens is ahead!'

..and then Jesse Owens just run
through them

so they might be good...

'..and Owens wins in 10.3...'

..but they're not that good.

By the end of the Games,

the American athlete Jesse Owens
had won four gold medals.

MUSIC: The Star-Spangled Banner

JAKE JACOBS: From what I heard
at the time as a boy

because he was a black man, Hitler
refused to shake his hand.

The rumour spread across the globe.

What a silly man, what a silly man
to refuse to shake his hand

to congratulate him on
something that he'd done.

The truth about the Hitler-Owens
handshake is disputed to this day

but back then,
people in the West Indies

believed the incident was
a signal of Hitler's intentions.

The fear was
if Hitler got what he wanted

that we'll be back in the square one
which is slavery.

That was our, our attitude.

Hitler was immediately an enemy.

Some islanders used music
to poke fun at the Fuhrer.

MUSIC: Nazi Spy Ring
by The Growler

Calypso has African roots

and became popular in Trinidad
in the 19th century.


We sang beautiful song
against Hitler,

saying that he can do what he done
but leave the British Empire alone.

I... It's important to us.

In Trinidad, we must have
our calypso.


# Hitler, boy, change your mind

# Is you that cause the Czechs
and Polands to grind?

# Britain has given Poland
a guarantee

# Hitler's aggression must be
stopped entirely... #

I think the calypso might be similar
to the town crier

in an English village.

Sports, politics - anything that
happen in the island.

Local gossips, they want to take
the mickey out of some personality.

# Hitler's diplomacy got to cease

# Blaming people and doing nothing
for peace

# He's a cold-blooded murderer,
a worthless barbarian

# But this is the last of
that madman Austrian. #


As Hitler's Blitzkrieg smashed
across Europe,

the Germans also had a devastating
weapon lurking beneath the sea -

Nazi U-boats brought a new danger
to the West Indies.

'Nazi submarines strike their first
blows in the Caribbean.

'Oil tankers are hit by torpedoes
fired at point-blank range.'

To fuel her war effort,
Britain relied on oil

and one of the largest
oil refineries

in the British Empire
was in Trinidad.

When the war started, U-boats,
they were well placed,

they were all over the place
just waiting for the call

and once war was declared,

they went into operation.

The Caribbean became
a perilous war zone.

The British ships are being sunk
right, left and centre.

To defend the vital supply routes
through the Caribbean Sea,

Britain needed more manpower.

In October 1939, the Colonial Office
had announced

that anybody born in the colonies
COULD sign up to fight.

In practice,

the Armed Forces were reluctant to
change their selection criteria

but some West Indian sailors
did slip through the net

and found themselves on the front
lines of the U-boat war

in the Caribbean.

In 1941, Allan Wilmot volunteered
to join the Royal Navy.

You were a part of the
British Empire,

the British Empire was in trouble,

they asked for volunteers
and you felt,

well, this was a double thing -

you're helping them and at the same
time, you're helping yourself

because if you survived the war,
at least you would have a trade

or a start in life.

Allan was 15 years old.

Being young, you didn't realise
the danger

until you were actually there.
You hear the guns fire

and then you realise that
this ain't no joke.

Allan served as ship steward on
board the Royal Navy minesweeper,

HMS Hawkins.

In the ocean, you have the sea lanes

and the submarines used to lay
the mines there

so we had to go and clear the
passages as much as we can

and escort the convoys.

On the ocean in the nights,
it's very, very dark

and you can see nothing

and the U-boats, they were there
enjoying themselves.


You lived from day to day,
you wake up in the morning,

you say, "Well, thank God
I'm still alive..."

..until you hear the alarm goes now

and there nobody tell you
what is happening,

you only hear the alarm goes and
you take up your position.

Hitler's U-boats were a constant
menace to British ships,

not just in the Caribbean Sea but
across the Atlantic Ocean.

In January 1942,

two young Jamaicans were sailing
through the North Atlantic

on the Merchant Navy oil tanker,

We did everything together -

we'd go swimming together, we played
football together.

We became very close after 16.

We were definitely best friends.

Victor Brown and Winston Murphy

were the only black men in the
Refast's 42-strong crew.

As far as the Ministry of Shipping
was concerned,

it was "not desirable to mix
coloured and white races"

in the same department
on board ship...

..but by early 1942,

the Ministry had begun to recruit
African and West Indian seamen

like Winston and Victor in to
the Merchant Navy.

It was freezing, freezing, freezing
cold in the middle of January

off Nova Scotia, you can imagine
what it's like.

Victor and I were sitting
in the saloon

and we heard this big bang...


You can feel it, you see,
the whole ship shakes.

We rushed out on deck and we looked

and we could see the periscope
sticking out of the water

and we realised then that
we'd been torpedoed.

So I grabbed the ship's dinner bell

and rang it all the way
to the bridge.

Everybody started running
to the midship

because that's where the two
big lifeboats were.

Its submarine command sent the
torpedo into the port side.

The lifeboat on the port side
had no chance,

the ship listed and as far
as we know,

all the crew in that side perished.

On our side which was the starboard,

ice had frozen up all the ropes.

Nobody had any means of cutting
the lifeboat

away from the ship and if we had
left it,

the ship would eventually have
dragged the lifeboat down with it

and we'd all be...

Victor was a carefree chap,

he was strong and tough

and he found an axe on the deck...

And I picked it up, wham,

and the boat fell in the water and
drifted away from the ship.

Hadn't he chopped that rope,

we would never have got clear
of the boat.

The ship doesn't sink straight away,

it goes slowly and eventually
turned like that,

this whole ship turned like that

and just gradually go down smooth,
you know, it's quite a picture.

Winston, Victor and the rest of the
survivors were now stranded

in a lifeboat in the freezing waters
of the North Atlantic.

It was rough.

The waves were mountains high.

When the ship pulled up
to rescue us,

my hands were so cold,

I thought that I'd never be able to
hold on to the net to climb aboard.

One fellow, his hands freeze
so he just dropped in the water,

couldn't do anything for him,

You couldn't pick him up, you
couldn't do anything, that was it.

The death toll for black merchant
seamen was high.

Of the 15,000 who signed up,
5,000 perished.

70 years on,

Winston has never forgotten his
rescue by the HMS Maliarcos.

When we got aboard, immediately they
provide us with tea and coffee

and every morning since I've

every morning I remember
the Maliarcos

and those cups of coffee that we had
when we were rescued.

Victor Brown and Winston Murphy
are now 94 years old.

These childhood friends haven't seen
each other for more than a decade.

Victor has travelled from his home
in Morecambe Bay

to Nottingham for a reunion
with Winston.



I cannot believe it. Good gracious.

Good Lord. I cannot, I cannot
believe it.


Oh, it's good to see you.

Oh, Winston.

You've changed so much, I wouldn't
have recognised you on the road.

Oh, I've forgotten my stick.

You don't walk with a stick
as well, do you?

Oh, yeah. Yeah, you have changed.

Chasing women is what does it!

Oh, I know.


I've still got the ship's bell
that I rung

and ran all the way to the lifeboat

where you rescued our lives by
the chopping of the rope

and in the lifeboat I can recall
you were tough.

Funnily enough, when I look back
over the years

I didn't have any fear at all.

I'm delighted that
you're still around

because most of the people of our
age have disappeared.

Well, it has... I never probably
mentioned to you

but it had always been my ambition
to live at least to 105

at which age, I was hoping to be
shot by a jealous husband.

Oh, well, you were always famous for
the ladies, I can remember that.

It's almost like a miracle because
I never, ever thought

that we'd live long enough
to meet again

after all the years
we've been separated.

MUSIC: What'll I Do
by Irving Berlin

# When I'm alone with
only dreams of you

# That won't come true

# What will I do? #


Fantastic. Oh, it's good to see you,
so good to see you.

At the start of the war,
the Royal Air Force

only recruited people who were of
pure European descent.

I think they were concerned about
how people who were not Caucasian

would mix with Caucasian people

but I think as the toll of the early
years of the war manifested itself,

they changed their attitude.

By November 1940, hundreds of
British airmen had been killed

in the Battle of Britain and
the defeat of the Luftwaffe

had created an opportunity to attack
the German home front.

Now, the RAF cast its
recruitment net wide,

the Air Ministry told the
Colonial Office

it would accept aircrew volunteers
from the colonies

on condition that the...

In January of 1941,

the Daily Gleaner, a Jamaican
leading newspaper,

carry an advertisement asking for
young men to volunteer

for aircrew in the Royal Air Force.

I just fancied the intrigue
of getting up there

and flying and doing everything that
I could do in an aircraft.

5,000 West Indian volunteers
were put through

a rigorous selection process.

500 were selected as the Caribbean's
brightest and best.

I hated the Germans, I hated Hitler

and there was a strong feeling

that I would like to take part
in bringing them down.

In 1942, the Commander-in-Chief
of the RAF's Fighter Command

visited the Caribbean.

Wing Commander Sholto Douglas wanted
to inspire the West Indian pilots.

My father made a speech to the
people of the West Indies,

really to encourage them

in their role in World War II.

Ricky Richardson and Roy Augier
answered the Empire's call

and joined the RAF's Bomber Command.

People wanted to fly with me

because in Scotland, if a dark
person crosses your door

on New Year's Day, that's luck

and fellows would come and stroke
my head

before they got in to the aircraft
to go on flights for luck.

You know beforehand that
you are at risk

so you concentrate on doing
everything you can

to save your life.

Ricky and Roy's Commander-in-Chief
was Arthur Harris,

also known as Bomber Harris.

He developed a devastating
military tactic,

known as the Thousand Bomber raid.

In order to get the bombers over
the target in time,

the squadrons had to line up in
very precise positions

before we set out over the Channel
to go over Germany.

We went out -

840 aircraft from different

We had Lancasters, we had Halifaxes
and so on

and before we hit the enemy coast,
they started shooting us down

and by the time we got
to the enemy coast,

I had logged 30 aircraft shot down.

We carried through and finished
the exercise, got back

and in the Air Ministry reports
the next day,

we had lost 96 aircraft.

The average loss was...

We have about 20-25 aircraft
on a squadron,

you go on an operation, you lose
maybe four or five aircraft.

Of the 500 West Indians who joined
the RAF as aircrew,

219 lost their lives in combat

and 103 were awarded medals
for bravery.

I didn't think about the possibility
of being shot down.

I was concerned with saving my life

and the life of the crew

and that's it.

Like the RAF, the Royal Navy
and the Merchant Navy,

the British Army had begun the war
reluctant to relax the colour bar

but in 1944, a Caribbean regiment
was finally raised.

Over 1,000 men received training
but they never saw action.

'The need for more helpers is very
great today

'and I should like to think
that many hundreds

'were able to offer their services
to the country

'and to follow the example of those
who I see before me today.'

The Army also made it clear

that any women recruited from the

The Colonial Office was concerned

that this policy was sapping morale
in the West Indies.

In 1943, it asked the War Office to
recruit black Caribbean women

in to the female branch of the Army,
the Auxiliary Territorial Service.

It said...

The Secretary of State for War,
James Grigg, relented

and 30 black women were recruited
but he warned...

The Air Ministry was more
easily persuaded -

it believed, "it is clear that there
is a strong desire

"on the part of the women in a West
Indian colony to serve overseas,"

and 80 West Indian women
came to Britain

to join the Women's Auxiliary
Air Force.

Thousands of West Indians also
came to Britain

to support the civilian war effort.

My name is Sam Martinez.

I was born in Belize, formerly
British Honduras,

1910, 18th February

and my age is 104 year old
and a half.

We arrive in to Scotland on
26th November 1942.

800 men were divided all over
Scotland, different camps.

We were working in the forestry

because there was no hanging up
during the war -

get going, get out, get working,

no time for skylarking.

The forestry workers were necessary
for the war effort.

We are Britishers,

our country is British crown colony

and we come to help our
mother country.

In those days, that's what we think

and we still think so today.


Despite the reluctance to relax
the colour bar,

in public the British Government
presented an image of racial harmony

in wartime Britain.

'During the war years, we in this
country have seen many new faces.

'What about these people for example

'who are making their way to
Broadcasting House in London?

'Do you know what part of the world
they come from?

'Are they from West Africa?'

In 1944,

this Ministry of Information film
was screened across the country.

If I could navigate you
on a magic carpet,

we'd find West Indians at their
stations all over the country.

Friendships are being made between
people who before the war

knew little or nothing about
each other

and we find it impossible to
believe that these friendships

will just fade out when
the war is won.

The experimental integration of
500 West Indians

into the RAF was a success
and so in 1944,

the Air Ministry -
still desperate for manpower -

launched another recruitment drive.

By the end of the war, 5,500
West Indian men had come to Britain

to serve as RAF ground crew.

Britain have always dared to stretch
your hands out to help.

They have done in the West Indies,

they have done all over the world

and it's time we start doing
a bit of paying back.

This was a mass migration of
black people to Britain.

We went to a beach in Scarborough

and I have never seen so many
people in my life...

so we went out, big-headed as ever,

I took one dive in that water

and since then, I've never been
back in.

It was ruddy cold,

I'll tell you that!

When I landed on 9th November 1944

in Greenock, Scotland,
to four inches of snow -

it was shocking

and it stayed on the ground
for two weeks.

I thought I was going to die.

We didn't know there were poor
people, as far as you were concerned

all Britain was a rich place,
everybody here was rich.

The average man in England was
living in rented place.

Most of the houses didn't have their
bathroom inside and toilet inside.

Materially, England was worse-off
than what we thought.

All the buildings were a dark colour
and all that

and the clothes, even the clothes,
the people here have on -

a dark suit and all that -

and coming from a place where
everything is colour,

you know, it looked very, very dim
to us.

It was drab.

They haven't painted the place
for a long time -

of course! Because there was
a war on.

About 20% of Britain were destroyed,

even Buckingham Palace were bombed,

there were bomb site all
over the place.

Being British, you feel that, well,
yes, you're coming home

but when we came here, it's like
we've dropped out the sky,

nobody knew anything about us.
They didn't know we exist.

NEIL FLANIGAN: In those days,

English people had never seen
black people.

JAKE JACOBS: I can remember getting
on a bus, sitting down

and after travelling for about
a few mile,

I felt someone put their hands
on my head

feeling my hair. When I look around,

I had a smile of a gentleman

and he was trying to see if
my hair was real.

I mean... And then not only that,

he also touched my neck!

The side of find out if
I'm really black

and I thought that was most unusual.

Up to today, I cannot understand

They had a mind that anybody who's
dark came from Africa.

The rumour went around that
all these guys,

where they come from
they had tails originally

but coming to Europe,
they got the tails cut off

but the stump was still there.
So if we go to a dance hall,

you're dancing with a girl,
a local girl,

you could feel her hand going down

see, because her friends, you know,
they discuss about them

and she say "Oh, take that

"and see if you can feel
for the stump."

Whatever the colour was, we were
one nation, we were British -

the same as the Englishman was.

I think they accepted us because
we're in the Royal Air Force uniform

but there was a war, man! People
haven't got time for prejudice

when bombs dropping all over the
place and you helping.

MUSIC: Over There
by George M Cohan

But the white Americans, they came
here with the racist business

and the whole scene changed.


In early 1944,
1.5 million American soldiers

were based in Britain,
preparing for D-Day.


The British Government's Ministry
of Information made this film

to introduce them to the country.

Now, let's be frank about it,

there are coloured soldiers
as well as white here

and there are less social
restrictions in this country.

Look, that might not happen at home

but the, the point is
we're not at home.


To some Americans, if you were black

you shouldn't be dancing with
an English girl,

especially Americans from the South.

JAKE JACOBS: Oh, they, they'll walk
up to you and say,

"What you doing here?
Get out of here,"

and you say, "I pay my money
to come in here."

We West Indians,
we don't mess about,

we don't mess about.
There's something in us,

we have a resistance from slavery
days, we have a resistance.

There'd be some fisticuffs -
fights in simple words.

Just punches and, you know, sticks
and bricks and all that.

You'd get on a table, you know, or
a trailer or anything like that.

The British women always react
on our side

because most of them didn't like the
Americans at all, their attitude.

If they know there's trouble,

they will walk up to you
and tell you,

"Listen, there's some trouble
over there."

The British man, he'll do the same -

he would try and stop it,
nip it in the bud.


Black GIs were segregated from
white American soldiers.

They were used to discrimination and
less likely to defend themselves.

We got friendly with
the black Americans

and we might be in a pub

having a drink with some local girls
and all that

and you have three or four white
Americans come through the door

and they come through the door,
"Hey, nigger, get outta here,"

right? Well, when you tell a West
Indian or Jamaican about nigger,

it's like you're putting
a red cloth before a bull

and we used to go haywire.

Then after a while, the white
Americans, they realised that

"Keep away from these
British black fellows.

"They are different, they don't know
about discrimination,

"they'll fight like that,"

because a black American couldn't
think of even hitting

a white American in defence.
That wasn't done

and when they see these West Indians
like myself rushing them,

they got such a shock.

Were you involved in
some of those fights yourself?

I think I would say I had a small
altercation in those days,

to be polite to you.

On 8th May 1945,

Britain celebrated Nazi Germany's
unconditional surrender.

The British Government was now
forced to tackle a thorny issue -

what to do with the thousands
of Caribbean people

who'd come to help the war effort.

The Secretary of State for Air
had some good news

for the lumberjacks from Belize.

SAM MARTINEZ: Harold Macmillan came
to our hostel and he says,

"You boys will be repatriated
such a time

"but those that want

"to go home can go

"and the others who want to stay
can stay

"and no-one can send them home

"because this is your country
as well as mine."

Those were Macmillan's words.

But despite their contributions
to the war effort,

the British Government encouraged
thousands of Caribbean servicemen

and women to return home.

SAM KING: I wanted to stay in
the Royal Air Force

but they said "No.

"You are from the colony of Jamaica,
you are to go back to the colony."

And for Jake Jacobs, this meant
leaving his wartime sweetheart.

And I was waving

and he was leaning out of
the window, I could see him.

Yes, I went back home to Trinidad,
I'd keep writing,

whether I'll come back,
I don't know.

That's the end.

Returning to the West Indies
after serving as RAF air crew

was the chance to make a new start.

Many, like Ricky Richardson,
embarked upon professional careers.

Roy Augier became a distinguished
academic and was knighted in 1996...

..and RAF navigator Errol Barrow
carved out a new life in Britain.

After the war, he enrolled
on a law course

at the London School of Economics.

Katherine Campbell's father
was a lecturer there.

The London School of Economics was
at that time

known for its left-wing politics.

Errol studied there and went on to
study law and become a barrister

but all of this was laying
the groundwork

for his return to Barbados.

In 1961, Errol Barrow became
the Premier of Barbados

and when the country secured
independence in 1966,

he became Prime Minister
of the new nation.

Errol and I -

to celebrate the friendship between
our two countries -

we decided to jump
into the pool together

holding the flags of
our respective nations.

12 of Britain's former crown
colonies in the Caribbean

have now won their independence.

Today, Errol is remembered as
the father of Barbados,

a shining example of the RAF's
West Indian officer class.

People would actually come
out of their homes

and stand on their doorsteps
or stand out in the street

and say, "Morning, Prime Minister.

"How are you doing today,
Prime Minister?"

He was obviously greatly loved by
the people who'd voted for him.

But for thousands of sailors
and RAF ground crew,

the return to the Caribbean
wasn't successful.


I thought I was a bigger man
than I was

and the island was too small for me.

I went back to my job hoping
I'll get promotion

but didn't get it...

..and I decided,
"Well, enough is enough,

"I think I'll return back
to England."

Nearly all of us that wanted to get
back to England, you know,

with the idea that
it would be a better life

than staying in Jamaica.

There were few jobs in the Caribbean

but war-torn Britain needed workers
to help rebuild its cities.

'Arrivals at Tilbury -

'the Empire Windrush brings to
Britain 500 Jamaicans.

'Many are ex-servicemen
who know England.

'They served this country well.'

MUSIC: London Is The Place For Me
by Lord Kitchener

# London is the place for me

# London, this lovely city

# You can go to France or America

# India, Asia or Australia

# But you must come back to
London City... #

Well, about two weeks before the
Empire Windrush came to Jamaica,

there was a notice in the local
newspaper, The Gleaner,

to say tickets for England, £28.10,

sailing on 24th May 1948.

In those days, £28.10 - the average
man didn't have that.

That's the equivalent to
about three cows

but my father disposed of some cows

and I had the money and I book
the ticket.

I arrived in England on 22nd June

and it changed my life.

Now, why have you come to England?

To seek a job. And what sort of job
do you want?

Any type, so long as I get
a good pay.

SAM KING: 492 of us, eight women.

In the West Indies, you didn't have
a job - to get jobs was not easy.

People were coming up, "Will I have
a job in England?"

I said, "Don't worry about jobs!

"Worry about somewhere to live,"

and 232 of them had nowhere to go
when they came out off the boat

so they took them to Clapham
deep shelter

and the nearest labour exchange was
Coldharbour Lane, Brixton.

That's how my people came to be
in Brixton

and they all had jobs -

within a month, everybody had jobs
and left that shelter.

# Well, believe me,
I am speaking broad-mindedly

# I am glad to know my mother

# I've been travelling to countries
years ago

# But this the place I wanted to

# London, just the place for me... #

Anyone that had done service,
they would find a job for them.

I went to the Post Office.

I found little jobs in
little nightclubs.

I went back into
the Royal Air Force.

I helped build prefabs,
that was my first job.

# ..London, that's the place
for me... #

Over the next 30 years,

nearly half a million West Indians
settled in Britain

but finding a job wasn't the only
thing on their minds.

For Jake, this was his chance
to get married to Mary.

We got married in the little
registry office,

close to the lady where
I was staying.

To a lot of the girls' surprise that
Mary used to work with,

whether they were disappointed,
I don't know,

but when we came out, they
just, "Ooh."

Mouths open,

people looking,

"Oh, I've never seen this before."

They just went dumb, they just...
Unusual, it was unusual.

..they just stared.

Like thousands of mixed-race couples
who married in post-war Britain,

Jake and Mary discovered that
finding a home was a struggle.

I'd learned that as soon as Jake
appeared, doors closed.

They'd come to the door,
"Yes, can I help you?

"I'm sorry, we've got no room."

I can walk away, a minute after,
Mary knocked that very door,

"Yes, you can come in."

That was the difference.

If we go together, on no uncertain
manner, the answer is no.

You haven't got a chance in hell,

And it wasn't funny, it was awful.

It was awful. It was awful.
I spent days and days crying.

ALLAN WILMOT: In those days, there
were signs all over the place,

"No blacks, no Irish, no dogs."

"No Irish, no coloured, no dogs,"

very hurtful but it help us realise
we had to club together

and buy a property.

By 1951, we were the first black
people to buy a house in Camberwell

and from there, we spread out
over the place.

We had to

because our people were coming
in hundreds

and the host nation were not letting
them have a room

so we had to buy,
so it develop automatically.

It turned out to be a good thing.

By the way, a property in
those days,

that'd be 2,500.

Today, it's a lot of money, man.

MUSIC: I Am A Mole And I Live In
A Hole by The Southlanders

# Ba-ba, ba-ba-ba, baa

# Ba-ba, ba-ba-ba, ba-ba, baa

# I'm not a bat or a rat
or a cat... #

As the West Indians settled down
with families, homes and jobs,

Caribbean culture became woven
into the fabric of British life.

# ..I am a mole
and I live in a hole... #

In 1950, Allan Wilmot joined
a black vocal quartet

called The Southlanders.

Before we came on the scene,

anything in black entertainment
in this country was American.

# ..I am a mole
and I live in a hole... #

I am a mole and I live in a hole.

We were the first non-American group
in this country

and of course others followed since.

Victor Brown became a stage star

when he doubled up with Chester
Harriot in the variety act,

Harriot & Evans.

I met up with Ches

and we worked together for
about 20 years after that

and everything was all right.

We never quite made the top

but we did...

We did quite well, we did quite


'In a famous London ballroom,
a West Indian get together,

'a Caribbean carnival they call it,
I believe.'

Britain's West Indian communities

began to celebrate their Caribbean

SAM KING: Well, in the West Indies,

if your community have a carnival,
it get everybody working together.

The Notting Hill Carnival
began in 1964

with the aim of unifying London's
increasingly diverse population.

It soon became the largest street
festival in Europe.

As a West Indian,
we must contribute something

that people can see that
we are here.

We must have our carnival, my God.

You get rid of carnival, you get
rid of Trinidadians.

After many difficult years of
struggle, conflict and riots,

the Carnival has become a symbol
of racial integration.

It's a vivid celebration of
Caribbean culture in Britain

but the pioneers' wartime experience
has largely been forgotten.


Caribbean veterans are now making
a public statement

about their contribution to
Britain's war effort.


For the last three years,

local cadets have been joining
the West Indian veterans

to march through Brixton
to Windrush Square.

The parade usually takes place
a month before Remembrance Day.

NEIL FLANIGAN: The march past
in Brixton,

great realisation that there was
a body of dignified men

who served in the British forces.

They march through the streets
of Brixton

celebrating the lives of people who
serve in the British forces.



Fall out, the veterans
and the flag-bearers.

Stand at ease!

Stand easy.

Ladies and gentlemen,

welcome to the annual march past

of the West Indian Association
of Service Personnel.

It is indeed a pleasure that
so many of you woke up

so early in the morning to come
and participate in this parade.

The West Indian Ex-Servicemen's
Association, now known as WASP,

protect the rights of men of colour
who joined the British forces,

they give them pride and they give
them dignity.

ALLAN WILMOT: Well, it was a thing
for collective recognition.

If we didn't form that association,

the public wouldn't know the
participation of black West Indians

who served the British Empire
in their hour of need.


# Of our heroes, we should be proud

# Calling the names out loud

# When the whole world had
gone to war

# Africans and Caribbeans helped
even the score

# The British Government came and
asked us to help the mother country

# And many volunteered right away to
rid this world of tyranny... #

I did not want my children to grow
up in a colony.

I thought they would have a better
chance growing up in England

and so far, it work.

I didn't dream that I would remain
in England that long

but you come here for ten years

and you're gone 50 or 70 years

because you get so much absorb
in the country

that when you go back to your own
country, you are a foreigner

and here, you more or less know
your way around

so you remain here for a while.


The Caribbean pioneers from
the Second World War

have created an enduring,
multicultural legacy.

VICTOR BROWN: It is a long way ahead
but we're getting to the stage where

people are not so class and colour
conscious as they were 50 years ago.

It's going to be all right,
it's going to be all right.

NEIL FLANIGAN: All people aspire for
the best things for themselves

and their families and as a family,

we have done well,

thanks to the country.

I love my country
and I love Scotland.

It's in my children, grandchildren,
great-grandchildren -

I think there are about 21 of us.

It's good to be harmonious,
live together peacefully

and you can't go wrong.

# So remember our heroes
who left homes and wives

# And journeyed to Europe
just to fight for all our lives

# Because of them,
freedom survives. #