Caribbean contribution to war effort 'must not go unrecognised' says campaigner for memorial in Filey

A campaigner fighting for a plaque to the thousands of Caribbean servicemen and women stationed at Filey during the Second World War told councillors that “ignorance persists” if people’s “true stories” go unrecognised.

Filey Memorial Gardens
Filey Memorial Gardens

Glenn Parsons said some of the “mindless morons” who unleashed a torrent of racist abuse on three English footballers following the Euro 2020 final may have been deterred if they’d known of the “shared sacrifices” those from the Caribbean had made in Britain’s hour of need.

The Leeds barrister was addressing Filey councillors a year after the council was first approached about putting a memorial in the Memorial Gardens to the more than 4,000 volunteer ground crew stationed at a half-built Butlins at Hunmanby from 1940 onwards.

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In the past year Mr Parsons tried to have input in committee discussions over the plaque, but said the item was taken off the agenda “at the last moment on at least two occasions”, before a decision was made behind closed doors to have an “inclusive” plaque to all Allied servicemen.

Gilmour Westcarr, who was stationed at RA Hunmanby Moor

At the start of Tuesday's property meeting it was made clear that decision still stood, although mayor Jacqui Houlden-Banks said negotiations were ongoing with Scarborough Town Council over taking back control of the Memorial Gardens.

Mr Parsons, two of whose uncles were stationed at RAF Hunmanby Moor, began by reminding councillors of the saying that “only those with the power that get to write the histories”. He said Filey’s warm-hearted welcome over a decade before the Empire Windrush set sail “should be a source of great pride” but was largely forgotten.

Allowing only “the Allies” to be mentioned “does not redress the specific generational failing in recording history” as the term does not bring to mind the contribution of those from the Caribbean. If “the Allies” only were recorded, Mr Parsons said it would “run the risk of erasing completely (their contribution)”.

He referred to actor Laurence Fox, who had to be corrected by historians after criticising the war film 1917 for including a Sikh soldier, adding: “This isn’t about being woke or politically correct, this is about historical accuracy.”

People from the Caribbean being treated like illegal immigrants and denied housing and healthcare after 50 years in the UK was just one example of what happens when “everyone is lumped together, those without the power, do not get their true story told and ignorance persists”.

Mr Parsons was told he could apply again in four months. Afterwards he said he felt the meeting has been a waste of time, with the issue left in an “impenetrable bureaucratic tangle” .

Asked to comment, the town council said it had offered to put the plaque in two locations and were open to other options.