Memorial unveiled in Filey to honour 4,000 Caribbean servicemen who trained at RAF Hunmanby Moor in World War Two
Leeds barrister Glenn Parsons, who campaigned for three years to get the plaque installed, hopes it will serve as a "beacon for all people of colour" from the Commonwealth who contributed in WW2 and "who have been airbrushed from the pages of history".
The plaque was unveiled by Air Commodore Adam Sansom at 1pm on Saturday April 1 on what was the 105th anniversary of the RAF.
The original request to have the plaque in the town’s memorial gardens was turned down by Filey Council, but the owners of a property in nearby Queen Street later came forward to offer space on their front wall.
Mr Parsons, two of whose uncles, Gilmour Westcarr and Edwin Samuels, were stationed at RAF Hunmanby Moor, said the campaign for it to go up in the memorial gardens would continue.
There are graves of Caribbean servicemen at Harrogate's Stonefall cemetery, which show some were as young 19. Their families never saw them again and probably never visited their graves.
He said: "As delighted as I am with what has been achieved...this campaign will continue, as the only proper place for this plaque is in the Filey memorial gardens.
"That must be right, so that on Remembrance Sunday, when we stand in silence, to think about the people who lived, fought and died shoulder to shoulder, they can all be remembered by their friends and families, together in the same place."
The story of the servicemen, who travelled from thousands of miles away to help the motherland in its hour of need, has largely been forgotten.
The first mass immigration of people from the Caribbean included 97-year-old Alford Gardner, who was 18 when he arrived at the camp, requisitioned from Billy Butlin, to train as a mechanic, along with radio operators, cooks and clerks.
Mr Gardner, whose father Egbert Watson Gardner served in WW1 in France and Belgium, later returned on the Empire Windrush and lives in Leeds.
He spoke in 2021 of how local people had been "very welcoming and made us all feel at home".
Veterans Ralph Ottey, 99, Jake Jacob, 97, Jack Crawford, 99, Neil Flanigan, 98, and Gilbert Clarke, 97, also attended. Mr Flanigan joined the RAF in 1943, where he served as a technician in Bomber Command.
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.”
He was recently asked how it felt to finally get the plaque unveiled. “My initial response was to say that had I known it was going to take three years, I might not have started.
"But in fact, upon reflection, I realised that this unveiling has been at least 80 years in the making, if not over 100 years.”