Thanks to Caribbeans like Billy
16 May, 2019 — By John Gulliver
THIS is an eulogy to a man I had never met or, I have to confess, I had never even heard of before. So, many readers, too, may never have heard of the man who lead such a remarkable life that has gripped me.
I came across his name, Billy Strachan, because a reader, David Horsley, a retired school teacher, sent me a little biography he had written – obviously a labour of love.
Why is he remarkable? Because he left his native island Jamaica at the start of the Second World War, at 18, determined to join the Royal Air Force, wandered into a ministry office in Whitehall where staff wondered who he was – and somehow got chatting to a member of the staff who persuaded him to go to Blackpool where RAF recruits gathered.
Thus began his life of sheer heroism, becoming one of the few black pilots in the RAF, flying many bombing missions over Germany. Then after the war he studied law, wrote several books on law that became standard textbooks for students, and rose to a high position as a senior clerk of Clerkenwell Court.
But he was also a man who wanted to change life for the better, not only for people in this country but also those in the post-war colonies. So he became active in such organisations as the Movement for Colonial Freedom.
He died in 1998 at 77.
We forget our heroes at our peril. It was because of men like Billy Strachan that Britain helped to win the Second World War.
At such an anxious time as the rise of far right extremism, as well as the “hostile environment” engendered by the Home Office, we should remember the part Caribbeans, Africans and Asians played in the defence of this country.
• The booklet, Billy Strachan, 1921-1998, by David Horsley, is published by Caribbean Labour Solidarity which meets in Islington.
Copies, costing £2, are available from David Horsley Contact firstname.lastname@example.org