Council pays tribute to black wartime troops of WWII

South Kesteven District Council is marking October's Black History Month by recognising the contribution of black servicemen serving locally with American forces and the RAF during WWII.

In 1944, all major airfields around Grantham - North Witham, Barkston Heath, Fulbeck, Folkingham and Saltby -  were occupied by airmen and troops of the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) Troop Carrier Command.

Black soldiers were essential operational back-up for the USAAF troop transport aircrew involved in the uplift of thousands of troops and tonnes of equipment to Europe that year - including the military milestones of D Day and Arnhem that year.

Black air crew also enlisted with the RAF, including Bomber Command, whose heavy presence in the county led to Lincolnshire becoming known as 'Bomber County'.

Cllr Breda-Rae Griffin, Chairman of SKDC, said; "We continually pay tribute to this district's aviation heritage, but that history is not complete without recognising the role of black servicemen who came here to fight alongside our forces.

"Black History Month gives us time to reflect upon the sacrifices black servicemen have made for all of us in the district, and beyond. It also helps bring into focus how far-reaching the service and sacrifice was from allies of every nationality."

Bomber Command, whose history is enshrined in the International Bomber Command Centre (IBCC) at Lincoln, recorded a total 550 aircrew and 6,000 ground crew of African origin.

The IBCC has well documented stories of men from British colonies who volunteered to serve.

Its Digital Archive has interviewed the sons of three West African fliers who served with distinction in RAF Bomber Command: Eddy Smythe spoke about his father, John Henry Smythe; Olu Hyde recounted stories about father, Adesanya Hyde, and Neville Shenbanjo shared memories of his father, Akin Shenbanjo.

All can be accessed via www.internationalbcc.co.uk

Black History

Picture caption: Illustrating the comradeship in WWll, Sgt Leslie Gilkes from Trinidad, air gunner with No. 9 Squadron Bomber Command, with fellow air gunner Sgt J C Dickinson Royal Canadian Air Force.