All About History

Pilots of the Caribbean

At the height of World War II several thousand volunteers from Africa and the Caribbean travelled across the world to train and fight during Britain’s darkest hour. These individuals would participate as comrades in all three armed forces, as soldiers, sailors and members of the RAF. Yet despite the brave tales of heroism and derringdo, these volunteers are often ignored in military history. The stories of these RAF volunteers are some of the most fascinating and awe-inspiring of the entire war and yet we rarely see them discussed or portrayed in film and television. The organisation officially removed the so-called ‘colour bar’ in 1939, a rule that dictated that only white British men of European descent could join up. However, following the outbreak of war the policy was deemed outdated. The necessity for a continuous stream of skilled pilots and crew was more important than racial background, and the tragic losses during the Battle of Britain made that even more apparent. With the bar lifted, a group of eager volunteers were able to join and prove their ability in a variety of roles. The contributions of these African and Caribbean volunteers cannot be understated. Many went on to live extraordinary lives after the war too, from being the president of Barbados to voicing a character in TV series Captain Scarlet And The Mysterons.

At the outbreak of war in 1939 roughly one-quarter of the world’s population lived in Commonwealth nations or countries under the

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