Call for memorial in Filey to honour 4,000 Caribbean servicemen who trained at RAF Hunmanby Moor in World War Two

They signed up in their thousands eager to help the motherland in her hour of need.

Gilmour Westcarr

The story of the 4,000 Caribbean servicemen who were stationed at RAF Hunmanby Moor, Filey, during World War Two, has largely been forgotten.

The men who volunteered as ground crew were put up at a camp, later Butlins, where they trained as mechanics, radio operators, cooks and clerks. Among them were Jamaicans Gilmour Westcarr and Edwin Samuels.

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Partly because of the warm welcome they got in Filey, both decided to return in the 1950s to help Britain in its post war regeneration efforts, says Gilmour’s nephew Glenn Parsons, who is leading a campaign for a memorial in the town.

Mr Parsons, a barrister in Leeds, says he is puzzled, as while initially enthusiastic Filey Town Council now appears to be backtracking – however he will address a committee next week.

The council will now only sanction a general memorial plaque, making no special mention of Caribbean service personnel.

Earlier this year the Government apologised after a review by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission found at least 116,000 World War One casualties, mostly of African, Indian or Egyptian origin, “were not commemorated by name or possibly not commemorated at all”.

Mr Parson said a non-specific plaque “will do nothing whatsoever to address the issue raised with the secretary of state Ben Wallace, regarding the lack of specific recognition of the contribution of ethnic minorities.

“However, worst of all in my view, Filey Council is in grave danger of failing to properly recognise and preserve a very important part of the social history of the town, for future generations.”

Mr Parsons said his uncle Gilmour “was always so proud he came”, adding: “My uncle was transferred to Gloucestershire and then at the end of the war they were all told to leave. Both returned in 1954.

“They’d been very well welcomed. There’s photos of them meeting the local vicar and coming for tea and cricket matches. There was a wonderful accord.”

Town clerk David Liddle said the council was “looking for inclusivity” and a memorial should include all Allied servicemen, as there were significant contributions from countries like Poland, France and Canada.

There was a concern if one was put up to Caribbean servicemen “would there be a need for another memorial to other countries or someone else”.

He said Scarborough Council would have the final say as the owner of Filey Memorial Gardens. However he added they were “happy to listen to the arguments put forward by Glenn.”