Black History Month: RAF Marham's memorial to an extraordinary Caribbean airman

  • ITV News Anglia's Natalie Gray went to see the memorial

The Last Post rang out on a steel drum as the Caribbean's most-decorated airman of the second world war was honoured.

Known as the Black Hornet, Ulric Cross completed an incredible 80 bombing missions over Germany after leaving the West Indies to fight for Britain against Hitler.

According to the RAF, he declared: "The world was drowning in fascism and America was not yet in the war, so I decided to do something about it and volunteered to fight in the RAF."

The only person of colour in his squadron, he went on to join the RAF's elite Pathfinder Force and received the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and Distinguished Service Order (DSO).

But, like many black servicemen of the time, his contributions were largely overlooked.

At a service at RAF Marham in west Norfolk, where Pilot Officer Cross had served while attached to 139 (Jamaica) Sqn, a plaque was unveiled acknowledging his sacrifice and achievements as his two daughters watched.

Grp Capt Fred Wigglesworth, the station commander at RAF Marham, said he was "super proud" to unveil the memorial.

"Bringing to life the memories of people like Squadron Leader Cross makes us fight harder," he said.

"It's so important and I'll go back there today feeling absolutely pumped and reminded that we stand on the shoulder of giants" he said.

Ralph Ottie and Alf Gardener both in their 90s and from Trinidad received medals from Ulric's daughter Lady Hollick Credit: ITV News Anglia

Watching the ceremony were Ulric Cross's two daughters.

"It has been absolutely fantastic," said his daughter, Lady Hollick.

"What an honour and what a privilege to be here and how great that finally these extraordinary West Indies servicemen, who were so brave, are being recognised."

Nicola Cross recalled conversations she used to have with her father about his career.

"We'd have these long conversations and he'd be like 'Why wasn't I shot down? That was pure luck'."

The novelist Ken Follett based his book The Hornet Flight on Ulric Cross. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Ralph Ottie and Alf Gardener, both aged in their 90s and from Trinidad, received World War Two medals.

Grp Capt Wigglesworth added: "I'm super proud to award them their World War Two medals and also to unveil the plaque for Squadron Leader Ulric Cross, who was one of our biggest heroes from World War Two.

"The fact that it's Black History Month, and that I'm incredibly proud to be in this post with some African heritage as well, just made it even better and the cherry on top for me."

Cross left the RAF in 1947 and practised law in Ghana and Tanzania. He later became a High Court Judge in his native Trinidad.

In 1990, he was appointed High Commissioner for Trinidad and Tobago in London.

He died at the age of 96 on 4 October 2013.

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