De FREITAS – Celso Lima

1390726 – Celso Lima de Freitas – Warrant Officer

Celso de Freitas joined the Royal Air Force in 1940, and went into action as· a Sergeant-Observer. He took part in the now famous thousand-bomber raids on Cologne and Essen, and during a similar raid on Hamburg his plane was one of those which failed to return. On the way home both engines on one side of the giant bomber were shot away, and the pilot had to make a crash landing. The crew were badly shaken, but managed to get out of their plane and set it on fire; they were taken prisoner only a few miles from the coast.

[Source: Saint Stanislaus Magazine, april 1943] Read more

Celso de Freitas







He was one of the first to sign up from BG. His brother Arlindo de Freitas also signed up shortly afterwards.

Celso is one of the unfortunate prisoners of war who have been put in chains, and in a recent letter he speaks of the new experience of receiving Holy Communion in chains.
Mr. De Freitas was second only to South African, Billy Wade, in cricket batting averages in the POW camps and his style was later compared to Sir Colin Cowdrey. Cricket was going on in the POW camps as exercise and territorial rivalries led to informal “Tests”.  He is mentioned on pages 86/87 of this fascinating document which is a great read.

Celso was head of the British Guiana Volunteer Force (as its Lieutenant Colonel) in the run up to Guyanese independence. His small volunteer corps played a major role in quelling and preventing the political rioting which led up to the independence elections. He received an OBE (Mil) – a military OBE – for his efforts.

[Courtesy: Paul de Freitas]


Aircrew of No.15 Squadron in front of Short Stirling I, December 1941. Celso de Freitas is last row, second from left. (Click to enlarge)

[Source: History of War]





JOHNSON – Basil Lawrence Ivan

Serial Number: 1396487
RAF Trade: Flight Engineer
Date of Enlistment: 1939

Rank Achieved: Warrant Officer
Operational Sorties:  3 Ops with 115 Squadron, 47 ops with 156 Squadron

On 31st August 1941, he left New Providence for England via Miami, New York and Halifax, Nova Scotia from where he sailed to England in a convoy of ships arriving at Liverpool on September 19th 1941.  He spent several days in London and then went to Readcar to be outfitted and spent thirteen months in training and studying.  He passed out as a mechanic and later remustered to fitters course and then to aircrew as a Flight Engineer Air Gunner.   

He first served with the 115 Squadron of Bomber Command and later with Group 8 of 156 Squadron of the elite Path Finder Force, Bomber Command stationed at Warboys Airfield in South West England.

After completing thirty-six operational flights in April 1944 he was recommended and received the prestigious award of the Distinguished Flying Medal (D.F.M.). 

 His Wing Commander in the citation described him –

He is a member of an outstanding Path Finder Force crew, and his resourcefulness and unfailing efficiency have contributed to the aircraft returning to base from raids during which the safety of the aircraft depended upon his knowledge and skill.

He is cool and unruffled under fire and his consistent skill and reliability under harassing circumstances have been inspiring to other members of the crew.

His high sense of devotion to duty made him well worth of the Award of Distinguished Flying Medal.”


Read more about Mr. Johnson’s remarkable life and career at the wonderful website and here:

Basil Johnson 1 Basil Johonson 2

MARTIN – Albert William

MARTIN, ALBERT WILLIAM Initials: A W Nationality: United Kingdom Rank: Warrant Officer Regiment/Service: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve Unit Text: 307 (Polish) Sqdn.
Date of Death: 05/01/1945 Service No: 1390553 Additional information: Course 3, ATS, Trinidad, trained in Canada, Pilot, served 68 sqn jan-Dec 1944, when posted to 307 Sqn on 12/12/44.
Date: 05-JAN-1945. Type: de Havilland Mosquito NF.Mk.30. Operator: 307 (polish) Sqn RAF. Registration: MV545 Fatalities: Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 2 Airplane damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair). Location: sea 10 miles SW of Valley, Anglesey – United Kingdom. Phase: En route Nature: Military Departure airport: Church Fenton. Crashed in sea in bad weather on night navex 10m SW of Valley 5.1.45 cause unknown. Crew: W/O (1390553) Albert William MARTIN (pilot) RAFVR – killed P/O (189.447) Donald Frederick PRIOR (obs) RAFVR – killed . Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead Grave/Memorial Reference: Panel 269. Memorial: RUNNYMEDE MEMORIAL. Source cwgc, , Trinidad Guardian

De SILVA – Desmond Michael

R/95750 – Desmond Michael De Silva – W/O – 218 Squadron – KIA 24/08/1943

[Sources: CWGC and RCAF Casualty List 0918 and Chorley’s; courtesy Alieneyes]

W/O De Silva DFM shows up with parents in Flushing, NY. RCAF Casualty List 0918, however, shows W/O Desmond Michael De Silva DFM as being from Georgetown, British Guiana.

CWGC says 218 Squadron but Chorleys has him lost as a rear gunner on a Stirling from No. 623 Squadron. Both list him as an American from Flushing Meadows, NY City.

RCAF Casualty List 0918 and Chorley’s

HUXTABLE – Robert Gerald

R/133782 – W/O Robert Gerald Huxtable – Wireless Operator/Air Gunner – KIA  03/06/1944

[Source: CWGC]

Dave Champion (aug. 2010): Robert Huxtable, listed as being from Nassau, Bahamas, was actually born and bred in Toronto, Ontario. I pulled his RCAF service file a couple of days ago.

The Bahamas connection comes from the fact his ferrying unit was based there. He was killed, along with his crew, when his Marauder crashed just after takeoff in Egypt, now Sudan.

He was married and his wife was also from Toronto.

GOMEZ – Philip Vernon

1802295 – Wireless Operator – 95 Sqn/204 Sqn Coastal Command – Sunderland

Enlisted 1942. Aircraft ditched off West Africa. Demobbed 1946

[Source: CMHA]

GRAHAM – Ambrose Alexander

1391860 – A.A. Graham – Trinidad – W/O – Pilot – attested 6.6.41 – K. 12.9.44

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

From Operations Record Book, No. 118 Squadron at Peterhead:

24/9/43 F.Sgt. Pilot Graham 1391850 (!) from the West Indies posted from No. 52 O.T.U. During the Squadrons history we have had pilots from the following places: – Canada, New Zealand, Australia. Ceylon, France, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Norway, U.S.A. and now West Indies

12/10/43  AR323 F/Sgt Graham A.A. – Dawn Patrol 07:15-08:20 – Patrolled Peterhead – (unreadable)
14/10/43  AB782 F/Sgt Graham A.A. – Dawn Patrol 07:05-07:55 – Peterhead – (unreadable). Nothing to report
1/12/43    AR377 F/Sgt Graham A.A. – Scramble 11:10-11:40 – These two Sections were up from Castletown after X raid

2/12/43   BL335 F/Sgt Graham A.A. – Scramble 15:10-15:20 – Recalled when airborne. Friendly
5/12/43   BM272 F/Sgt Graham A.A. – Dawn Patrol 09:15-10:15 – Uneventful Dawn Patrol
7/12/43   AR377  F/Sgt Graham A.A. – Dusk Patrol 16:15-17:45 – Both patrols uneventful
9/12/43   BM648 F/Sgt Graham A.A. – Dusk Patrol 16:10-17:25 – Uneventful patrols

[Courtesy: Mark E .Salt, Buchan Aero Club/RAF Peterhead Historian]

1391860 – Warrant Officer – Pilot – 1690 Flt, RAF Scampton – Martinet – KIA at 24

Educated at QRC; nickname “Sonny”; Volunteer Trinidad ETS, trained at Piarco; Martinet HP321 of 1690 Flight, RAF Scampton, piloted by Graham with LAC Lewis on board encountered engine failure and force landed at Hucknall aerodrome. Graham killed instantly, Lewis died in hospital – Son of Ambrose Nathaniel and Francisca Graham, of Bpasso Piedpa, Trinidad.

[Source: CMHA]

Initials: A A
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Warrant Officer (Pilot)
Regiment/Service: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Age: 24
Date of Death: 12/09/1944
Service No: 1391860
Additional information: Son of Ambrose Nathaniel and Francisca Graham, of Bpasso Piedpa, Trinidad.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: Sec. D. Grave 7A.


HYDE – James Joseph

Flight Sergeant James Hyde of San Juan, Trinidad, a Spitfire pilot who arrived in Britain in 1942 to begin his training, here pictured in 1944 with his Squadron’s mascot, a dog called ‘Dingo’. He is wearing a life jacket, known universally as a Mae West, and is holding an oxygen mask and his flying gloves. Most air battles took place at altitudes in excess of 15,000 feet (c. 5000 metres) and oxygen and thermal protection were vital.

[Source: – Imperial War Museum (IWM) Reference CH11978]

1391841 – J.J. Hyde – Trinidad – W/O – Pilot – attested 6.6.41 – M. 25.9.44

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

1391841 – Warrant Officer – Pilot – 132 Sqn – Spitfire IXE, PL316 – KIA at 27 Volunteer Trinidad ETS, trained at Piarco. Took off at 1525hrs on 25 Sep 1944, tasked with providing aerial cover during the battle of Arnhem. Killed in dog fight over Nijmegen. Probably shot down by a/c of Jagdkorps II, probably I/JG26 or II JG26 which claimed 4 Spitfires each. See Top guns of the Luftwaffe, D Caldwell, pg 281. German a/c FW 190D-9 or Bf 109G-6. – Son of Joseph and Millicent Hyde, of San Juan, Trinidad.

[Source: CMHA]

Name: HYDE, JAMES JOSEPH Initials: J J Nationality: United Kingdom Rank: Warrant Officer (Pilot) Regiment/Service: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve Unit Text: 132 Sqdn. Age: 27 Date of Death: 25/09/1944 Service No: 1391841 Additional information: Son of Joseph and Millicent Hyde, of San Juan, Trinidad. Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead Grave/Memorial Reference: 17. A. 7. Cemetery: JONKERBOS WAR CEMETERY

[Source:]   Sgt Hyde 25 Course 58 OTU Grangemouth, Scotland August 1942

25 Course 58 OTU Grangemouth, Scotland, August 1942
Front row: Sgt. Mclaren, F/O Sanders, F/L Zweigbergh, S/Ldr Robinson, F/O Siekierski, P/O Czernecki;
2nd row: Sgt. Tamowicz, Sgt. Syperek, Sgt. Pomietlarz, Sgt. Sliwinski, Sgt. Blazejczyk, F/Sgt. Banys;
3rd row: Sgt. Dunajewski, F/Sgt. Chute, Sgt. Hyde, Sgt. Bielicki, Sgt. Ballantyne, Sgt. Bedowski.

[Photo courtesy Kelvin Youngs,]

From Operations Records Book, 164 (Argentine-British) Squadron at Peterhead

3.11.42 Another good day, with light West wind and about 30 miles visibility. the squadron practiced formation-flying, dog-fighting etc. P/O Young with Sgts. Hyde, Hynes & Hingston searched for a crashed Master aircraft from Fraserburgh without success.

12.11.42 Spit. V.B. W3426 Sgt. Hyde J.J. – Convoy Patrol 11:30-13:15 – Routine, without incident
15.11.42 Spit. V.B. AB133   Sgt. Hyde J.J. – Scramble 11:15-11:30 – No interception made
24.11.42 Spit. V.B. EP244  Sgt. Hyde J.J. – Convoy Patrol 15:50-17:10 – Patrol completed, without incident
29.11.42 Spit V.B. AB133   Sgt. Hyde J.J. – Convoy Patrol 9:15-10:50 – Convoy patrol, Patrol carried out without interruption
1.12.42 Spit. V.B. EP249   Sgt. Hyde J.J. – Convoy Patrol 12:30-13:25 – Routine Patrol
8.12.42 Spit. V.B. EP249  Sgt. Hyde J.J. – Convoy Patrol 8:40-1030 – Carried out without incident

View the complete ORB of 164 Squadron at Peterhead: ORB 164Sq Peterhead-Nov 1942-Feb 1943

[Courtesy: Mark E .Salt, Buchan Aero Club/RAF Peterhead Historian]

14, 132 Sqdn,RAF Detling, JJ Caulton front row, 5th from rightPilots of No. 132 City of Bombay Squadron (Detling, 1943-1944), featuring three Caribbean Spitfire-pilots:

F/Sgt James Joseph Hyde (from Trinidad) – front row, third from left.

F/Sgt Arthur O. Weeks (or Weekes, from Barbados) – back row, fourth from left.

F/Sgt Collins Alwyin Joseph (from Trinidad) – back row, sixth from right.

Other identified pilots are:

F/Lt Harold Edward ‘Harry’ Walmsley (British) – front row, eight from left.

F/O John Jeremy Caulton (from New Zealand) – front row, fifth from right.

Henry Lacey Smith (Australian) – front row, fourth from right.

(click on photo to enlarge)

[picture: copyright John Caulton, grandson of F/O J.J. Caulton]

Combat Film No 73. Flying Officer Weekes of 132 Squadron on 21/12/1943 at 1200, flying Supermarine Spitfire IX. Target: Focke-Wulf Fw 190. Fragment No. 73 is at 8:00 minutes into the film, which features a number of fragments of 132 Squadron.

[Copyright Imperial War Museum; courtesy John Caulton]

[Photo courtesy Kelvin Youngs]

ALCAZAR – William Etherington

JR56251 – Warrant Officer – RCAF – Observer – 405 Sqn – KIA on 30 June 1942LD FOREST WAR CEMETERY

Son of Sir Henry Albert Alcazar, K.C., and of Lady Alcazar (nee Stone), of Port-of-Spain, Trinidad.

[Source: CMHA]

[Trinidad Guardian 18 January 1944 – 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


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