Starting in September 1943, applications were invited for ground crew trades and 5,500 men were selected. They came from most of the islands in the Caribbean as well as British Honduras (now Belize) and British Guiana (now Guyana) on the mainland, and from many ethnic backgrounds and ancestral mixes – including African, European, Chinese, Indian, and others. Approximately 4,000 of these men spent time at Filey.
The young recruits wanted to contribute to the efforts of their 'mother country'. They wanted to avoid the rumoured prospects of a German win, which they thought would lead to a return to enslavement, and many wanted an adventure. All left behind family, friends and a familiar way of life.
There was meant to be no colour bar, yet there were restrictions on what was deemed to be a suitable trade once they were here. Few recruits, if any, of the ground crew recruits ended up flying as they hoped they might.
The recruits came in several groups because of the logistics of transportation and the constant danger of the ships being torpedoed en route. The first recruits came in June and July 1944 and the second in November.
Roll of Honour page
A complete record of the Caribbean service personnel in WW2 is not readily available, but our Roll of Honour page aims to honour those who have been identified as having trained at RAF Hunmanby Moor, Filey. We will continue to add further names in the coming weeks, but please get in touch to add to the list and to contribute to the stories.
Many thanks to Audrey Dewjee for sharing her knowledge and research.