Sat | May 27, 2023

World War II vet from Jamaica was modest, private man who volunteered in Britain’s hour of need

Published:Thursday | May 25, 2023 | 1:19 PM
People gather for the funeral of former RAF Sergeant Peter Brown originally from Jamaica at St Clement Danes Church, in London, Thursday, May 25, 2023. Brown, who flew bombing missions in World War II after volunteering for the Royal Air Force, died in December at age 96. (Victoria Jones/PA via AP)

LONDON (AP) — When Peter Brown died alone in London without any known family, neighbours made sure that the humble 96-year-old Jamaican man who had volunteered as a teen to fight for Britain in World War II was not forgotten.

Hundreds of people – mostly strangers — touched by his story answered the call Thursday and packed St. Clement Danes Church to give the former flight sergeant a proper send-off.

The Reverend Ruth Hake said that when Brown left his Jamaican home at 17 in 1943 there was no promise he'd return home — like millions of others who gave their lives in World War II.

“The willingness that he showed then and the next seven years that he served in the Royal Air Force to put his life on the line on behalf of this nation ... is a debt that all of us who have certainly lived our lives in freedom in this country have to honour,” Hake said.

“That is why there are so many people here at the funeral of such a modest and unassuming man.”

Brown was one of about 5,500 men from the Caribbean who volunteered after the RAF dropped its “colour bar” in 1939 and began recruiting in its colonies in what was then known as the British West Indies.

The largest group, some 3,700, came from Jamaica.

Most of these recruits were ground staff; only 450 were aircrew.

Brown trained in Jamaica and Canada and became a radio operator and gunner, flying five missions on Lancaster bombers in the final year of the war.

He was one of the last of a generation that is rapidly disappearing and likely one of the last of the group dubbed the “Pilots of the Caribbean.”

The youngest of those who served are in their 90s.

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