Black History Month

Contribution Of West Indians During Second World War 'Overlooked'

RAF and Royal Navy veteran Allan Wilmot describes his wartime service for Black History Month.

A warning, during the interview Allan describes in frank and honest terms the racism he sometimes encountered.

Allan Charles Wilmot was born in Jamaica in 1925. 

After leaving college in 1941, aged 16, he lied about his age to join the Royal Navy. He said "they wanted you and didn't ask any questions."

"You are happy that you are serving and helping the British Empire in their hour of need."

16-year-old Allan Wilmot in Royal Navy uniform
16-year-old Allan Wilmot lied about his age to join the Royal Navy in 1941.

Allan served on a minesweeper, HMS Hauken, escorting convoys to the Panama Canal, and picking up survivors from torpedoed ships in the waters around the West Indies.

In 1943 Allan joined the air sea rescue team of the RAF. He said he got along well with his white colleagues, but less so with the American soldiers who were openly racist. The US had segregated black and white troops when they first came to Britain to join the war.

A fellow black airman with Allan Wilmot in RAF uniforms
A fellow black airman with Allan Wilmot in their RAF uniforms.

After the war, Allan went back home to Jamaica in 1946. But he soon realised the government hadn’t prepared for returning war veterans and there was a lack of jobs.

Allan took the opportunity to come back England at a time when Britain was desperate for help to rebuild the country after the devastation caused by the war.

He said he was disappointed to discover the mood had changed.

"You helped us in the war, the war's over, what have you come back for."

Allan has become a leading member of the West Indian Ex-Service Association, where he has been highlighting the contributions made by black servicemen and women during the Second World War.

"It is beyond doubt the help that we gave"

Allan C Wilmot
Allan C Wilmot says the contribution made by West Indians during the Second World War has been overlooked.