Thu | Jul 2, 2020

Letter of the Day | Incredible story of a Jamaican hero

Published:Saturday | June 27, 2020 | 12:17 AM
George Mercier Edwards.
George Mercier Edwards.

THE EDITOR, Madam:

I am writing with regard to the Gleaner article ‘I am a very proud girl!’ – daughter of Jamaican RAF officer thrilled at brave gunner’s memorial’.

I am an amateur historian focusing on the nexus of military, political, and intelligence subjects and was quite excited and proud to read about the life of Flight Sergeant G.M. Edwards as this is the first time that I’ve come across any mention of any Jamaican associated with the Special Operations Executive (SOE), whether in an ancillary or direct role.

His squadron was highly specialised (glider operations/parachuting), dedicated to transporting SOE agents into occupied Europe, which means he would have been and still would be subject to the highest level of national security in Britain, i.e., the Official Secrets Act. Consider that within the context of today’s recent events, that a black man from little Jamaica would be carrying this obligation on behalf of the British empire.

Additionally, he and his aircrew would most likely have been segregated to minimise exposure to sickness and physical injury during the mission preparations and because they would have had to be specially trained on the Halifax aeroplane(s) that were brought in specially for that mission.

Also, Sergeant Edwards was a tail gunner – unquestionably the most exposed and dangerous section of a warplane – which speaks volumes about his bravery, especially in the Halifax bomber, where getting out quickly under normal circumstances is challenging, much less in an emergency-descent situation.

Sergeant Edwards really left his mark in history. (A) He was the face of the ‘fighting’ Jamaican on the poster. (B) The operation he was on was the first time the type of glider being used was deployed in an operational scenario. (C) The goal of their mission was to set back the German atomic bomb development capability – which, potentially, could have resulted in a very different world today, i.e., one without any black people as Adolf Hitler was not shy in expressing his disdain for non-Caucasians.

Despite the failure of that particular operation, many lessons were learnt – the hard way, unfortunately – and there are no words to express the debt of gratitude to Sergeant Edwards and his colleagues (Air and SOE) for their ultimate sacrifice and contributions to the freedoms we enjoy today.

Thank you so much for surfacing such an incredible story about a true Jamaican hero.

COLIN A. CAMPBELL

Toronto, Canada