Plea to make the 'invisible visible again' as veteran, 95, adds to calls for memorial to Caribbean servicemen at RAF Hunmanby Moor

One of the last surviving servicemen stationed at RAF Hunmanby Moor in WW2 has added his voice to calls for a memorial to 5,000 Caribbean servicemen in Filey.

Alford Gardner, 95 was 18 when he travelled 4,500 miles from Jamaica to train as a mechanic, along with radio operators, cooks and clerks at the camp, which later became Butlins.

Mr Gardner, whose father Egbert Watson Gardner served in WW1 in France and Belgium, is backing a campaign for a memorial plaque to commemorate the 5000 West Indian service men who passed through RAF Hunmanby.

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Mr Gardner, who later returned on the Empire Windrush and lives in Leeds, said it would be a "fitting tribute" for his fellow volunteers, recalling that local people had been "very welcoming and made us all feel at home",

Alford Gardner who arrived at RAF Hunmanby, Filey, on June 3 1944 Credit: Nigel Roddis/PA Wire

On the eve of Armistice Day 2021 barrister Glenn Parsons, who has been campaigning for the plaque in Filey Memorial Garden, urged town councillors to make his ancestors "visible again".

Addressing councillors on Wednesday, the Leeds barrister said the "really unique aspect" of the story was that the 5,000 men and women, including his uncles, were volunteers not conscripts. He said: "They didn’t have to come, but they came in answer to the call from the motherland, very much in her hour of need and they felt proud to do what they did and do it at a time when England was in a very perilous position."

With few survivors of that time left, this "very special story and part of Filey’s history" could be lost, he said, something he wasn't prepared to see.

He recalled the 26 years of campaigning it took for Patti Flynn, whose family came from Jamaica and settled in Wales, and whose father and brother were both killed in WW2, before Cardiff Council agreed to a plaque that recognised the contribution of people of colour to the war effort. Mr Parsons said if he had to keep returning to the council chamber, he would.

Alford Gardner (right), during his RAF service in 1947, who now lives in Leeds and who arrived in Britain in 1948 on the first Windrush ship to dock in Tilbury, Essex

The town council had previously said a memorial should include all Allied servicemen, as there were significant contributions from countries like Poland, France and Canada.

Mr Parsons said he'd be happy for all the Allies and Caribbean service personnel to be mentioned on the same plaque.

He said there were still people "both black and white, who to this day, do not know that people of colour wore uniforms of the regiments of this country, served in the RAF, who do not know that they fought and died in both world wars.

"Therefore, when they think of “all” and ‘allies’ and those who made those sacrifices, totally invisible in their thoughts are those brown and black faces many of whom were stationed here.

"A generic gesture of recognition now will only crystallise that invisibility.

"This is about honouring all those who made sacrifices. Ultimately, this is about our and Filey’s shared history and “making the invisible visible again”.

Town clerk David Liddle told The Yorkshire Post there was "certainly a move forward" at the meeting and he hoped a decision on the privately-funded memorial "would not take much longer".

The town council is formally adopting the memorial garden in December from Scarborough Council. Mr Liddle said: "There's a definitely a feeling of progress."