Stop Press… Stop Press…Stop Press… Stop Press…Stop Press… Stop Press…
In the summer of 1944 one of the most important Military Campaigns of the 20th century took place on the French coastline of Normandy. That effort would ultimately lead to the liberation of Europe, and signal the beginning of the ending of WWII. The date was June 6th, also known as D-Day, and while the exploits of the allied campaign have long been lauded, the role service men and women of African Heritage played in the allied victory is not often acknowledged.
Whether they were from Continental Africa, the Caribbean, or African American soldiers, it easy to overlook the contribution of these unsung heroes and heroines.
An example of this is over 30,000 WWII African American Service Personnel were based in Wales as a lead up to D Day. They were based in places as far afield as Cardiff, Swansea, Barry, Abergavenny, Aberystwyth, Pontypool and Pembroke. One of the explanations giving for their lack of historical representation is that the US army was separated along the lines of race at that time, and many of the American GIs brought with them their home-grown prejudices.
Back in the US, African Americans could not travel in the same railway carriages, drink from the same water fountains or eat at the same cafes due to segregation and Jim-Crow laws. However, the American GIs were surprised and disappointed to discover that the people of Wales were far more welcoming of their African American countrymen than had been bargained for. In Wales, the Black GIs – the “tan Yanks” as they were affectionately known, were seen as Americans first.
One such group of African American servicemen were an aircrew based in Pembrokeshire, South Wales who arrived in the Spring of 1944. Among them were air and balloon pilots, and non-combat personnel like engineers, supply and transport staff. Some of their comrades were based not too far away in Pontypool, and it was this contingent i.e. the unheralded 320th Anti-Aircraft Barrage Balloon Battalion that provided the cover and protected allied troops from aerial attack at the start on 6th June 1944 D Day campaign.
To commemorate the role of these service personnel a Special Blue Plaque will be installed on the 6th June 2019 at RAF Carew Cheriton, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D Day Landings. The D Day Plaque will be installed on a War Bunker/Air Raid Shelter which is part of RAF Carew Cheriton Museum. The Ceremony is being sponsored by Nubian Jak Community Trust and delivered in partnership with RAF Carew Cheriton, 160th Infantry Brigade and HQ Wales,and Race Council Cymru (Wales).
Where: RAF Carew Cheriton: Carew Airfield, Carew, Pembrokeshire, SA70 8SX
When: 6th June 2019
Time: 14:00 – 15:00
Mayor of Pembroke Dock, Councilor Gordon Goff, said: “I am proud to have been invited to unveil the 75th Anniversary D Day Plaque, we at Pembroke Dock Town Council would like to thank the service personnel for their contribution whilst being based in Pembrokeshire and would like to thank the sponsors for supporting and arranging the ceremony.”
CEO of the Nubian Jak Group, Dr Jak Beula, Said: “It is a great honour to be involved in installing the first diverse Blue Plaque in South Wales. There could not be a more fitting date to remember the African American WWII service personnel who resided in region during WWII, than on the 75th anniversary of D Day to commemorate the bravery they displayed on the 6th June 1944”.
Secretary of RAF Carew Cheriton, Martin Hyde, said: “The Carew Cheriton Control Tower Group members feel honoured that the Nubian Jack Community Plaque is being placed on their building. The Group is presently creating a memorial stone dedicated to all the G I s of the 110th Infantry Regiment who served in Pembrokeshire prior to the D Day landings and the allied invasion of Europe. The two remembrance items will be complementary.”
Lieutenant Colonel of 160th Infantry Brigade and Headquarters Wales, Jonah MacGill, said: “160th Infantry Brigade and Headquarters Wales, on behalf of the Armed Forces in Wales, is extremely proud to be able to support this project which recognises the contribution of those African American Service Personnel who were based throughout Wales and who took part in D Day. We are pleased to be involved in the outstanding work of organisations such as the Nubian Jak Community Trust and Race Council Cymru. We hope that through all of our efforts we will arrive at a “new normal” whereby the incredible contribution and sacrifice of so many from across the globe, who came to the aid of Great Britain in times of conflict and need, is properly understood and acknowledged.”
Chief Executive of Race Council Cymru, Mrs Uzo Iwobi OBE, said: “Race Council Cymru is delighted that the contributions of African American, African and Caribbean servicemen and women are going to be acknowledged and marked with a historic D Day Plaque. This is long overdue and will go a long way to honour and recognise these significant and life changing contributions which ought to be better acknowledged. This is an exciting time for our Black History communities across Wales.“
Chair of RAF Association London and South East, Peter Ramrayka, said: “It gives me great pleasure to send best wishes to the Nubian Jak Community Trust and all the participants at the event on D Day 2019 to honour African American service personnel based in Wales in WW2. Members of our Branch were delighted to be involved in the public unveiling in 2017 of the War Memorial in Brixton, London honouring African and Caribbean Service personnel attended by the Secretary of State for Defence, the Mayors of London and Lambeth amongst others. Again in 2017 we were pleased to attend the unveiling of a blue plaque honouring Caribbean WW2 hero Flight Lieutenant Cy Grant. The Trust’s latest event continues to widen the knowledge and perpetuates the memory of the contributions made by black service personnel in both world wars and it is indeed commendable. Lest we Forget”
Interviews are available on request. Contact Tracey Francis at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Organiser: Nubian Jak Community Trust