The Military Service of Allan Charles Wilmot: Royal Navy & RAF during WW2

Allan volunteered first for the Royal Navy in 1941 when there was a call for service men from Jamaica. He saw an advertisement in the Jamaica Gleaner Newspaper when he was sixteen and a half years old and the advertisement stated that the British Government needed recruits for the Royal Navy. Allan applied, passed the test and was accepted.

His service on HMS Hauken had its dangers which came mainly from the German submarines in the area, and they often sank British and allied tankers as well as cargo boats. For instance, on May 25, 1942, the SS Empire Beatrice, an unescorted unarmed cargo ship, was sunk by a torpedo fired by a German U-boat. At the time, Allan was among the team that rescued 9 survivors from a raft and took them to Kingston, Jamaica.

However, he felt his career was not progressing fast enough. At the same time, the British Government began to recruit Jamaican volunteers for Royal Airforce Ground crew, and advertisements were published in the Jamaica Gleaner in late 1943.  He applied to the RAF and was accepted.

After WW2 ended, the British were quick to demob thousands of West Indian servicemen and women. Allan was among them and having returned to Jamaica in 1946 he felt it was not the place in which he would settle down, so he returned to London. Life in London in the winter of 1947 was not pleasant, but he survived. It soon dawned on him that he could employ his talents in London's show business, and he did so with a degree of success with the Southlanders, a male dinging quartet that dominated the entertainment scene from the 1950's to the early 1970's. The Southlanders shared the stage with most of Britain's popular performers, including Jimmy Young, Marti Wilde, Max Bygraves, Tommy Trinder, Petula Clark, Tommy Cooper, Tony Hancock, Bruce Forsyth, Helen Shapiro, David Frost, Norman Vaughan, Shirley Bassey, Tommy Steele, Cliff Richard and the Shadows, to name but a few. Also, the Southlanders hit records were produced by George Martin whose production, in the 1960's, made the Beatles music national and international favourites.

After 24 years in the business and with stiff competition from young talented groups, he realised his days as an entertainer were numbered.

Allan was successful in obtaining a job in the Post Office's Telecommunications Department in 1974, and he retired from the service in 1990. During the two decades that followed, he has played an important part in the establishment of the West Indian Ex-Services Association (now the West Indian Association of Service Personnel).

During the 1980's we obtained a permanent meeting place at 161, Clapham Manor Street, London, SW4. We had all served King and Country during WW2, and often reminisced about those years. It has always been our aim to ensure our contributions and service would not be forgotten by present and future generations of the British people. Our members provide social services voluntarily. I have held positions of responsibilities (including being President) in the Association over the years, and since 1998 have been a member of the Memorial Gate Council which is chaired by Baroness Flather, JP DL FRSA.

The Memorial Gates, a war memorial, located at the Hyde Park Corner end of Constitution Hill in London, commemorate the armed forces for the British Empire from Africa, the Caribbean and the five regions of the Indian subcontinent including Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka that served in WW1 and WW2. The memorial was officially inaugurated in 2002 by Her Majesty the Queen.