The WAWI Projects principle aim is to record and promote the history of the people who have served Britain. Whilst attending his uncle’s funeral (a National Service Veteran) H Barnes (WAWI founder) was approached by Dennis Joseph who asked if he would like to hear about an RAF veteran approaching their 100th Birthday.
Contacting our RAF Community Engagement Officer Sgt Chiv Chand, an invitation was issued to all interested parties to attend RAF Cosford in honour of the service and contributions made by Mr Nicholas born in Jamaica on 18th September 1923.
Ernest Nicholas was working for Nova Scotia Bank as a clerk when war broke out. That was until a perplexing and complex discrepancy was discovered following an audit. It was eventually resolved by Ernest who was subsequently recommended for promotion which sadly didn’t materialize.
That was the catalyst for him to change direction and volunteer to fight for King and Country.
He was recruited by the RAF in Mandeville in the parish of Manchester before making his way to Up Park Camp, Kingston where he joined fellow recruits awaiting assignment.
Ernest was assigned to the SS Cuba travelling to Greenock, Scotland. This route was chosen as German U-boats were not active this far north. He then went to Filey, Yorkshire for one month of training.
Laughing he told of his first meal of fish and chips which he enjoyed and then of the bottle on the table which he drank from. He thought it was wine but turned out to be vinegar. Fish and chips still remains his favorite English dish.
Following basic training he was stationed at Hartlebury where he was assigned to Supply and Logistics, assembling supplies for those going to the front line.
He happily remembered the names of some of his comrades; Bryan Gayle, Herbert Miller and Ron Daley a pianist and entertainer who he would meet again years later in Wolverhampton.
On demobilization he received the sum of £12.00, a suit and a pair of shoes. Believing his former job back in Jamaica no longer existed he decided to make England his home and moved to Stourbridge in the West Midlands.
His first lodgings was on Enville Street and he smiled as he remembered his landlady Mrs. May.
He initially found work at Bantock factory handling billets of steel which would eventually be processed for use on the railways. He then became an electrician’s mate and attended night classes where he gained a City and Guilds in electronics. His face lit up when he announced he had finished top of his class. He spent the next 28 years as a maintenance electrician at Roundoaks before retiring.
Throughout the day he recounted experiences and shared stories, some of which came as a great surprise even to his family. Such as the 1946 Commonwealth Victory Parade in London. He revealed he was one of 50 RAF West Indians to be invited to participate and we were delighted to be able to show the family the evidence https://www.whyarewestindians.co.uk/node/250
When asked if he had enjoyed his day, Mr Ernest Nicholas said he was very thankful to the RAF for their time, effort and the reception he had received and to meet such lovely people.
On behalf of the WAWI Project may we take this opportunity to say ‘Thank You’. It was a privilege and honour to spend time with a WWII RAF Veteran. Please accept our sincere congratulations and very best wishes for your pending Centenary Birthday celebrations.