Sunday, September 21, 2008

I remember Sam Estwick

During the First World War, patriotic black Canadians lined up to join the armed forces but weren’t allowed to enlist. In 1916, the Second Construction Battalion out of Pictou, Nova Scotia was formed, the first black battalion in Canadian history. They were responsible for crucial work building bridges, digging trenches and clearing roads. In the Second World War, black Canadians tried to enlist again. This time, men like Sam Estwick were allowed to join.Served: As a Leading Aircraftman in the Second World WarSam Estwick immigrated to Canada from Barbados at the age of four and his family settled in Glace Bay, N.S. When war broke out, Mr. Estwick heard the Air Force was looking for fighter pilots. But when he showed up in Halifax to enlist, the officers at the recruiting office wouldn’t take him. “What do you mean? There’s a war,” Mr. Estwick said. “We can’t trust a black pilot,” they told him.Top-secret radar work: Rejected by the Halifax recruiting station, Mr. Estwick went home and wrote a letter to his MP who brought the issue up in Parliament. Still, nothing changed. But his high-school diploma and strong academic record showed he was just what the Air Force was looking for in its top-secret radar program.
Thousands of radar technicians were trained and sent around the world to serve on aircraft, ships and air strips. Mr. Estwick was the top of his class in radar school at Clinton, Ont. He was sent overseas in December 1942.Why he joined: Mr. Estwick will never forget what his church minister said to him when he won a school award the age of 14. “He said to me, ‘That goes to prove that a young lad of your colour can be as good as any other colour.’” Mr. Estwick also remembers meeting members of the Second Construction Battalion from the First World War.
“My family was from Barbados so we had a very strong allegiance to the British,” Mr. Estwick said. “Everyone would say how handsome they all looked in uniform.”The longest layover of his life: After advanced training in England, Mr. Estwick was assigned to duty in India by ship, with a 10-day layover in Durban, South Africa. Despite the red maple leaf sewn onto his uniform, Mr. Estwick was continuously denied entry into the local restaurants. One night when he and a group of his radar buddies went into a bar, a beefy bartender ordered Mr. Estwick out. Mr. Estwick was only 5-foot-7 but he had a reputation as a feisty boxer with an attitude. He was ready to fight the bartender when a British commando stepped in. “He said: ‘Hold on, Canada. He’s too big. That guy’s more my size. Let me do it.’” Mr. Estwick recalled. “And he took the guy down.”

Service to honour WWII RAF airmen

RAF pilots who defeated the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain are being remembered at a thanksgiving service at Westminster Abbey.
Veterans and their families are attending, along with the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall and Defence Secretary Des Browne.
The service marks the 68th anniversary of the battle that cost 544 airmen.
It was these crewmen Winston Churchill referred to in his phrase "never was so much owed by so many to so few".
The service is also being attended by Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy.
After the ceremony, the Prince of Wales, who is patron of the Battle of Britain Fighter Association, and the Duchess were due to meet former aircrew members.
Four Tornado F3s were also taking part in a fly-past over Westminster Abbey.
The defeat of Nazi Germany's Luftwaffe by the RAF's Hurricane and Spitfire pilots came at a cost of more than 1,000 fighter planes.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Veteran reunited with lost medals

Veteran reunited with lost medals

Mr Brown lost his medals as he boarded a boat using his walking frame
A 93-year-old veteran of the Dunkirk evacuation has been reunited with war medals after they were recovered by scuba divers from the River Thames.
Charles Brown lost two rows of medals last Sunday as he boarded a boat during the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships cruise from Kingston to Weybridge.
Mr Brown said he was "emotional" about the medals which included an OBE, a Dunkirk and Normandy campaign medal.
Divers from Teddington Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) found them.
Scuba divers began their fingertip search near Kingston Bridge at about 1100 BST on Saturday.

Last week attempts to recover the medals with magnets proved unsuccessful.
Mr Brown lost the medals from the breast pocket of his jacket as he used his walking frame to board a boat near Kingston Bridge.
On hearing about the recovery Mr Brown, who is originally from Southwark in south London, came to the riverside from his care home in Woking, Surrey.
He said: "I do get a bit emotional because these medals meant so much to me. I wasn't a celebrity, a pop singer or a cricketer, these medals were what I was proud of.
"I'm not going to be celebrating with cream cakes or anything like that, just having the medals back is enough for me."
Poor visibility
Malcolm Miatt, operations manager at Teddington RNLI, said: "It was a fingertip search on a grid pattern. I wasn't sure that we'd find the medals because they have been down there all week."
RNLI's helmsman and experienced scuba diver Jean-Pierre Trenque, who led the dive, said: "It was quite dark but surprisingly we had probably half a metre visibility in there.
"I literally just went in the water, straight down the wall, we had good datum where the medals had been dropped and I didn't think they would have drifted too much."
Mr Brown, who joined the army as a volunteer in 1939, was a tank transporter and fought a rear guard defence at Dunkirk.
He was one of the last off the beach during the evacuation.