Millennibrum: Ex-serviceman looks at the changing times and landscape.
In 1944 Bill came to Britain via the USA to serve in the RAF. He was too young so he added two years onto his age. As part of the Empire he had been taught that Britain was a wonderful place. He was inspired to serve his country in time of war. Many other Jamaicans served in the RAF and Bill became a navigator, flying in Lancaster bombers. Unlike many others, Bill survived.
Given his experiences in Jamaica hostility came as a shock. Black servicemen were mocked and humiliated by their white counterparts. After the War when Belgium invited members of the RAF to come to a celebration, a notice appeared in the base to say that the invitation did not apply to West Indians.
When he left the RAF he sometimes had to sleep in doorways. Landlords and hotels often refused to take blacks, at a time when discrimination was not illegal. If people felt they were badly done by there was no one to complain to.
After the War, the RAF gave Bill a scholarship to gain a degree at Birkbeck College, London University. He read economics, commerce, accounting and mercantile law. After graduating he started work in the National Savings Bank. Blacks were not always recognised for the contributions they made but he formed part of a team in the pioneering work of setting up the National Girobank in Bootle with its complex computer systems.
In 1982 he moved to Birmingham to establish a regional headquarters in the city.
Now retired, he is an active member of the West Indian Servicemen and Women's Association and has visited most places in Europe. He is an enthusiast for art, history and adult education, but would like to see facilities in this last area improved. He hates war and sees a lot of poverty in Birmingham. People are not as polite as they should be and he would like to see educational standards raised.
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|Publication:||The Birmingham Post (England)|
|Date:||Nov 1, 2000|
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