Tue | Jun 6, 2023

Funeral for J’can WWII vet postponed to prepare for anticipated big turnout

Published:Tuesday | March 28, 2023 | 5:57 PM
Media coverage in national newspapers and broadcasting organisations, such as the BBC, aired demands that Brown receive a send-off  “befitting his importance”. - Contributed photo

The funeral of a Jamaica-born Royal Air Force (RAF) veteran, who died in London, aged 96, has been postponed following overwhelming interest in the service from across the United Kingdom and abroad.

Last week saw a public outpouring of respect for flight sergeant Peter Brown, after an appeal by the West Indian Association of Service Personnel (WASP) and the Weekly Gleaner newspaper to find family and friends of the former serviceman in preparation for his funeral.

Brown's funeral was planned for March 29, at the Mortlake Crematorium in west London.

Media coverage in national newspapers and broadcasting organisations, such as the BBC, aired demands that Brown receive a send-off  “befitting his importance”.

The appeal went viral across social media platforms, causing the British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, among other prominent persons, to tweet support for Brown's "selfless" service.

Sunak wrote: "Flight Sergeant Brown is an example of the selfless contribution of all Commonwealth personnel who have served the RAF. I hope that the nation gets behind this campaign."

Sir Keir Starmer wrote: "Flt Sgt Brown's exceptional and selfless service to our country will not be forgotten. Commonwealth personnel defended our freedom and kept us safe. I'm pleased to see his service being recognised by his community."

Speaking exclusively to the Weekly Gleaner, Vince McBean, president of WASP said: "The funeral of RAF Pilot Peter Brown has been postponed, due to the logistics, venue capacity and the overwhelming interest both here and abroad. A new date and venue is being sourced."

"At the first meeting of this group (WASP), I let it be known that when we previously buried servicemen who allegedly had no family we had approximately 400 people attend, resulting in a road block. Peter has had a lot more publicity and I believed that the attendance will be greater. Therefore the decision was made that we should postpone and reschedule," he said.

He added: “The postponement has now been agreed, and a suitable venue is being sourced, which can house over 1,000 guests."

The RAF said its records showed Brown volunteered to leave Jamaica at age 17 in 1943 and trained as a wireless operator and air gunner.

Eventually he engaged in five operations with the Lancaster bomber, during World War II.

The proud veteran worked for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and became a popular community figure in Maida Vale, west London but died at the end of last year.

During the First World War, African-Caribbean volunteers joined Britain's armed forces, including the new flying services. The largest Caribbean contingent came from Jamaica, and in February 1945 there were over 3,700 Jamaicans in the RAF.

- Glen Munro

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