OSBORNE – Lawrence T.

Pilot Officer – Flight Lieutenant (later Group Captain) – navigator

[Source: CG, CMHA]

605664 –  L.T. Osborne – Trinidad – attested 5.9.43 – P/O Navigator #1 GRS 20.10.44
166791 – P/O – commissioned 6.10.44

[Source: NA AIR 2/6876]

Obituary [Courtesy: Jerome Lee/CMHA]

SYLVESTRE – Owen Oscar

Sergeant/Warrant Officer – Pilot – 15 sqn – Lancaster – DFM

ATS; 33 Missions, awarded DFM. Post war RAF Wyton, Lincoln B2

[Source: CG, CMHA]

Owen Sylvestre joined the RAF in 1941 and did his initial training in Canada.

Unlike many black aircrew members who reported encountering no racism or prejudice in the RAF, Owen seems to have been very unlucky in his Commanding Officer. His experiences were recorded in Lest We Forget: The Experiences of World War II Westindian Personnel by Robert N. Murray (Hansib, 1996):

‘Owen Sylvester [sic], a Warrant Officer and Captain of his crew, could never forget the time when he was made to enter and re-enter the Commanding Officer’s office several times on the pretext of his incorrect saluting.  The Warrant Officer had just arrived on the station and was in the act of introducing himself, as well as his crew, who were standing outside, when he formed the opinion that the CO took an instant dislike to him.  The CO satisfied himself that the saluting was in order and, when the crew lined up before him, he said to the Navigator, who was white, “I suppose, you’re the Captain.”  When the Navigator answered in the negative and indicated the Warrant Officer, the CO seemed not to be amused!  He was later overheard to remark: “I know how to deal with these people.  I have experience of dealing with them in India.” Both Sylvester and his crew [all white men], who had every confidence in him, concluded that their future operations would not be easy.’ [p.80]

Owen Sylvestre flew Lancaster bombers and he relates a particularly scary incident in Lest We Forget:   ‘We were going over Stuttgart when, suddenly, I was caught in a “Stall”.  I can’t remember what I did, but I was falling through the sky.  From 22,000 feet I found myself at about 9,000 feet in what seemed like seconds.  The bomb-aimer was put on his tummy, I got caught in the massive searchlights and I had to take evasive action hastily!  The altimeter was whizzing around at an enormous rate; everything seemed to be flying past me and sticking to the ceiling.  It was the only time in my operation I thought I was done for. There wasn’t enough time.  Owing to gravity, I wasn’t in any position to do anything.  I saw one of my friend’s aircraft go down but I was so busy with my own difficulties, I had no time to say “God, bless his soul”.  In desperation I had to get the engineer to pull the joy stick back; fortunately for me and my crew it worked.  I began to level out and gradually regained height, it’s only when I levelled out that I realised what I’d done.  I had no sense of fear, only my sense of duty and my training caused me to escape!’ [p.92]

When he experienced the negative attitude of his Commanding Officer, Owen ‘gritted his teeth and decided to show the CO and his Squadron that he was a good as they were.’  He succeeded in his aim and in 1944 he was awarded the DFM.  The citation for his award reads as follows:

‘Flight Sergeant Sylvestre has now completed an operational tour consisting of 32 sorties totalling 155.25 hours including such targets as Stettin (twice), Kiel (twice), Dortmund, Essen, Bremen and Homberg.  He is an experienced and enthusiastic N.C.O. Pilot, tireless in his efforts in carrying out all sorties however difficult to a successful conclusion. Quite a number of successfully plotted photographs have been brought back as a result of his careful and well-judged approach to the target.  Flight Sergeant Sylvestre, a native of Trinidad, is a very capable Captain who has obtained a very high standard of crew co-operation and gained their fullest confidence.  He has displayed determination, loyalty and consistent devotion to duty, worthy of high praise.  He is recommended for the non-immediate award of the Distinguished Flying Medal.’ (14th November, 1944)

Remarks by Station Commander:
‘A capable and determined Captain who led his crew well and has always shown great keenness, and devotion to duty.  Award Recommended.’

Owen Sylvestre survived the war and settled in Britain.  Like many other ex-airmen, he found it very hard to find employment commensurate with his qualifications and experience.  He wanted to continue flying but in those days airline companies would have had their pick of ex-RAF men and it would have been highly unlikely that they would engage non-white flight crew.  Owen found it hard that he could not become a commercial pilot and compensated by enrolling at the London School of Economics.  When, as an adult, his daughter asked him if he missed flying, he replied “Sometimes when I look up and see a clear blue sky, I long to be up there.”

In 1944, Owen married Hull-born Laureen Goodare at St. Pancras Town Hall. Laureen was a dancer in cabaret in London and during the war she volunteered as a Fire Watcher and was based at Manchester Square.  Their marriage ended in divorce in 1955 and Owen subsequently remarried.

[courtesy Audrey Dewjee]

Wedding of Owen Sylvestre and Laureen Goodare, 1945


CROSS – Philip Louis Ulric

1399189 – F/O – P.L.U. Cross – Trinidad – Ach/P. – attested 19.11.41 commissioned 20.10.423 – DFC 29.6.44

[Source: NA AIR 2/6876 – Nominal Roll of Coloured Candidates, October 1944]

Squadron Leader – DFC, DSO – Observer – 139 (Jamaica) Sqn – Mosquito Received the DSO in recognition of his ‘fine example of keennes and devotion to duty’ and ‘exceptional navigational ability’ Born 1917, educated CIC, enlisted 1941; Bomber Command; 8 Group; Pathfinder Sqn; 80 missions; awarded DFC June 1944; DSO Nov 1944 Appears in Hornet Flight by Ken Follet

[Source: CG, CMHA, MOD]



Black Hornet Squadron Leader Philip Louis Ulric Cross, DSO, DFC (Trinidad & Tobago) 139 (Jamaica) Squadron RAF Bomber Command Squadron Leader Ulric Cross was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) in 1944 for his gallantry during the Second World War. While serving as a Pilot Officer with 139 (Jamaica) Squadron, he participated in bombing attacks across occupied Europe. In 1945 he was also awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) in recognition of his ‘fine example of keenness and devotion to duty’ and ‘exceptional navigational ability’. [MOD] Squadron Leader Ulric Cross was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) in 1944 for his gallantry during the Second World War. While serving as a Pilot Officer with 139 (Jamaica) Squadron, he participated in bombing attacks across occupied Europe. In 1945 he was also awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) in recognition of his ‘fine example of keenness and devotion to duty’ and ‘exceptional navigational ability’.

[Source: www.WW2chat.com] World War II airman Ulric Cross recalls ‘The day I almost died’ 139 (Jamaica) Squadron Pathfinders


Picture right: A mixed group of RAF-officers.

A group of colored RAF-officers. Front row, from left: [1] unknown, from Jamaica or Belize; [2] Dusty Miller, from Guyana; [3] S/L Corbett (liason); [4] Ulric Cross, from Trinidad; [5] Johnny Smythe, from Sierra Leone; [6] Vivian Rivero, from Trinidad; (previously erroneously identified as: Mark Walker, from Trinidad);
Second row from left: [1] E.A. Gordon from Jamaica; [4] Percy Massiah, from Trinidad; [5] possibly his brother C.A. Massiah from Trinidad; [6] Vivian Thomas from Manchester, Jamaica; [7] Jellicoe Scoon from Grenada. Third row from left: [1] E.R Braithwaite from Guyana? The rest are as yet unknown to us. We invite our visitors to share the names of any person they recognise. [Names courtesy P.L.U. Cross a.o.; Photograph courtesy Audrey Elcombe, copyright unknown – click to enlarge] [Photographs: MOD (left) and AE]


Here is a photo of the legendary Squadron Leader (139 “Jamaica” Squadron)  Phillip Louis Ulric Cross, DFC, DSO, of Trinidad. He later held the position of Chief Liaison Officer for Demobilization of all Colonial Forces, ably assisted by Jamaican born Flight Lieutenant Dudley Thompson. Squadron Leader Cross is alive at 91 after having served as a Judge in Ghana, Cameroon, Tanzania and Trinidad. Later he served as ambassador of Trinidad and Tobago to Germany, France, Norway and High Commissioner to the UK.  Amazingly, he still writes opinion and is as lucid and aware as can be imagined. I am in regular contact with him and we are trying to bring him to the US for interviews preliminary to a documentary.

[Picture below copyright Ean Flanders]



Phillip Louis Ulric Cross, DFC, DSO World War II Royal Air Force Squadron Leader (139 “Jamaica Squadron”) Excerpt of April 2008 interview of by Gabriel J. Christian – For King & Country (Irving Andre & Gabriel Christian) After high school [at St. Mary’s Port of Spain], I worked for a while with the  [Trinidad] government on the railroad. But by 1941, Britain stood alone. Dunkirk had been a defeat for Britain and Hitler had conquered all of Europe. 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.  We took the ship Strathall for twelve days days, straight to Greenock. A lorry awaited us and took us straight into the uniform of the RAF and training. So from November 1941 to November 1942, I trained at Cranwell on the wireless, did meteorology, bomb aiming, navigation and Morse code. I graduated as a Pilot Officer and was assigned to Bomber Command I served as a navigator in the Pathfinder section of 139 squadron; the famous “Jamaica Squadron” of the RAF.  The pathfinders led the way on bombing raids and marked the target; a most dangerous task.  Our unit flew the famous Mosquito bomber, which was made mainly of wood. Jamaica had paid for many of the planes of 139 squadron, hence the name.  There was also a Trinidad Squadron, where Trinidad had paid for those planes. I was the only West Indian on my squadron. I was lucky to have served at fixed pre war bases such as Marham, Wyton and Upwood. The fixed bases were more comfortable. There were many other temporary bases which had been scattered across the United Kingdom.  I flew 30 missions over Germany and occupied Europe. After 30 missions one earns a rest and can divert to teaching other pilots etc. However, I was interested in continuing the mission. At 50 missions, they again asked me to take a rest. I declined and flew 80 missions over Germany and occupied Europe before the war ended.  I did 22 missions over Berlin and made it through much flak; but one had to focus on the mission. My most harrowing mission was when one of the engines of our Mosquito fighter-bomber was shot up over Germany and we came down to 7,000 feet from 35,000 feet. We struggled back to England and crash landed in a quarry. It was a narrow escape but we made it out alive. The navigator is key, as we are the ones who tell the pilot how to get to and from the destination or target.   I ended the war as a squadron leader and was then sent to the Colonial Office to act as liaison for all colonial forces. It was there that I was phoned and advised that I was awarded the DSO. A plane was sent for me and I was given the award and we had a party. In all 250 Trinidadians flew in combat in the RAF during the war and 50 died in action. Many hundreds more, maybe more than a thousand, served with other West Indians, as ground crew. I knew the Jamaican Vincent Bunting; he was a fighter pilot and I believe he flew in the Battle of Britain. I met him in England. Julian Marryshow of Grenada was also a fighter pilot and he is still alive, I believe.  Osborne (should read Osmond, see remark below) Kelsick of Montserrat was a fighter pilot. I met Michael Manley of Jamaica in London, still in the uniform of the Royal Canadian Air Force and we became friends.  Billy Strachan of Jamaica was a bomber pilot.  Winston Racile and Gilbert Hubah came to England with me on the Strathall; they were both of East Indian origin and became RAF fighter pilots. Our Trinidadian contingent also had people of Indian, Chinese and European origin.  I knew Dyrample of Dominica (Edward Scobie) and would meet him when we went down to London.  Dudley Thompson of Jamaica was a flight officer and he was my assistant at the Colonial Office after the war.

[Courtesy Gabriel Christian]

‘Hero’ is a movie on the life and times of Ulric Cross. It opened the 2019 Caribbean Film Festival at the American Film Institute, Silver Spring, Maryland on the evening of June 6, 2019. The highly acclaimed new film was shot in Trinidad, the UK, Ghana, and Canada. Cross is portrayed by the lead actor Nikolai Salcedo of Trinidad. Funded by Republic Bank of Trinidad & Tobago, the film boasts an all-star international and Pan African cast including Jamaican born Peter Williams, the UK’s Joseph Marcel, Fraser James, and Pippa Nixon; Ghanaian superstars John Dumelo and Adjetey Anang.

Read more on Dominicanewsonline



Next Entries »