Home Culture & Society British and Caribbean Veterans Association’s Summer Ball

British and Caribbean Veterans Association’s Summer Ball

by caribdirect
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Saturday 23rd June 2012 7pm

 Good evening ladies and gentlemen.

I would like to thank you for your very kind invitation.

It is my great pleasure to be here this evening with you brave men and woman who have served with the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force or in the Auxiliary Forces of the Commonwealth Nations.

The aim of the British and Caribbean Veterans Association, I am informed, is the promotion of camaraderie among ex-servicemen regardless of where you have served. I can only imagine the tremendous resource now available to you as a result of this initiative.

This evening gives me the opportunity to reflect on the sacrifice made by proud West Indians who served in the British West India Regiment from the Pre Emancipation era of 1795, until January 1927, when the West India Regiment was disbanded.

At the outbreak of World War 1 in 1914 up to 15,000 men volunteered for the British West India Regiment.

Unfortunately, many times instead of enjoying the glory of fighting for the mother country, they were often denied the status of combat troops, subjected to racism and were often put in the most dangerous situations to serve.

Despite this seemingly unappreciated sacrifice, West Indians have continued to serve in the United Kingdom’s armed forces and the outbreak of World War 2 saw up to 7000 West Indians join the Royal Air Force.

Subsequently, members of the West Indian diaspora have continued to serve and the sacrifices made by West Indian servicemen have contributed to the security of Britain and the world.

One such serviceman was a Trinidadian called Justice Philip Louis Ulric Cross. Justice Cross joined the RAF in 1941 and served as Squadron Leader of the 139 Squadron from 1941 to 1947. During his tenure he completed 80 missions over occupied Europe and Germany and is one of the most decorated West Indian Squadron leaders of World War II.

Justice Cross is a former High Commissioner of Trinidad and Tobago to London. In 2011, he was recognised for his military service, and his strong sense of civic duty when he was awarded the Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, the highest award in the land for excellence in the field of law. He has also been recognised in other countries.

Justice Cross was not alone.  The training and experience gained during the periods of service would have equipped you in ways that civilian life could never have and it is no wonder many of you have gone on to outstanding achievements.

You are an inspiration to your communities, and to the Caribbean. That we don’t know your names is a shame, and the time has come, for us, to collect your stories so that they can be shared with the wider public.

It is my hope that this Association will continue to flourish and you will be able to continue visiting schools and educating the younger generation who are in need of strong role models and guidance and who will be fascinated by the lives that many of you have led.

As I end, I thank you for your service and for the sacrifices that have paved the way for many Caribbean people since.



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