Jamaican history and service in the Royal Air Force was celebrated at RAF Wittering as retirees and serving personnel met for a special cultural event yesterday (22nd June).
Among the guests was Mr Albert Jarrett, an RAF Driver and weapons instructor during World War Two. He was born in Jamaica and joined the Royal Air Force in 1942, crossing the Atlantic at tremendous risk of attack from U-Boats and Bismarck class battleships.
At 98 years old he has lost none of his enthusiasm for the RAF. He said: “I spent more time on the range with new recruits. I was very small, and they couldn’t understand why I was so good at using the rifle, so they kept me behind to teach the recruits. It is wonderful, this is the memory. I’m so pleased at 98, not many of my type around and I’m so pleased to be here.”
The visit was a joint venture between RAF Wittering and The Forgotten Generations (TFG). TFG is an initiative to record the life stories and experiences of people from British African & Caribbean countries.
Among the guests was the newly appointed Honorary Air Commodore for 7644 Public Relations Squadron, Dr Marcia McLaughlin, founder and editor in chief of the Phoenix newspaper. She said: “The welcome from the officers and people has been amazing, the information I have received has been overwhelming. Today for me has been remarkable.”
TFG was founded by Donald Campbell, a retired Warrant Officer who spent 36 years in the RAF as an engineering, specialising in the maintenance of ejector seats and survival equipment. He said: “It’s absolutely fantastic to be here, for so many different reasons. It means a lot to our community.”
After a visit to the Station Heritage Centre, the guests moved on to the Station’s Golden Lion Leisure facility where Caribbean personnel from all three services gathered for lunch and a special presentation. Music on the steel drum was provided by Bandsman Alexander from the Coldstream Guards, and a lunch of mutton curry with rice and peas was prepared by chefs from RAF Wittering’s catering flight.
Corporal Elloise Messam was the project officer for the event. She said: “My grandfather was Jamaican, so I have really enjoyed planning this event. My Jamaican heritage is a massive influence on me, and I am so proud of it.”
At the end of the event Donald Campbell presented a picture of the Caribbean poppy to the Station, which was accepted by Wing Commander Jez Case, RAF Wittering Station Commander.
Wing Commander Case said: “Thank you everyone involved in today’s event, particularly our Project Officer, Corporal Messam. Cultural events like this are an enormously beneficial learning opportunity and it has been a privilege to welcome our guests and listen to their experiences and insights.”