The Caribbean’s most decorated Royal Air Force (RAF) member during the Second World War has died.
Ulric Cross, the recipient of the Distinguished Service Order and the Distinguished Flying Cross, died at his Trinidad home last week. He was 96.
Born in Belmont, Cross attended Tranquility High School and St. Mary’s College where he studied English, Greek, Latin, French and Spanish. He was also part of a book club that published a magazine, The Dawn.
After graduating, he worked briefly on the railroad before joining the RAF.
“The world was drowning in fascism and America was not yet in the war, so I decided to do something about it and volunteered to fight for the RAF,” Cross said in For King and Country: The Service and Sacrifice of the British West Indian Military written by Justice Dr. Irving Andre and Gabriel Christian. “I felt no racial prejudice during or after my training. The only thing was that we were surprised of how ignorant regular English people were of their own history and what was going on around Europe and the world.”
A squadron leader who flew 80 missions over Germany, Cross was among 250 Trinidadians & Tobagonians that saw combat action in the RAF during the war. Nearly 50 died.
Dr. Andre and Christian made contact with Cross by phone about five years ago prior to the book’s publication.
“More than any other, the extraordinary exploits of Cross during World War Two shattered the myth that Blacks lacked the intellectual wherewithal to become airmen in the Royal Air Force,” Andre said. “He, along with the Right Honourable Dudley Thompson and William Arthur Strachan of Jamaica, Cy Grant of Guyana, Arthur Weekes of Barbados, Collins Joseph of Trinidad & Tobago, Harold Bryant of Dominica and thousands of other West Indians established a glorious tradition of excellence and accomplishment in the RAF for which we are eternally grateful.”
Toronto-based Frances-Anne Solomon is directing a 75-minute feature documentary, HERO, that’s inspired by Cross’ life. It’s scheduled to be released next year.
“HERO explores not just the life, but also the times that Ulric Cross was born into and starred in,” said Solomon who founded the Caribbean Tales Film Festival. “It highlights the often unsung heroism of many Trinbagonians and Diaspora nationals whose lives intersected with his, including George Padmore, CLR James, Henry Sylvester Williams, Learie Constantine and Una Marsden. Ultimately, the film is about us, who we are as Caribbean people and as citizens of the world.”
After the war, Cross worked briefly at the Colonial Office before enrolling at Middle Temple to study law. Called to the Bar in 1949, he served as senior counsel in the Attorney General’s office in Ghana where he met Maurice Charles, Canada’s first Black judge who died last June at age 92.
Cross also spent seven years in the Cameroon as a lawyer and 12 years as a high court judge in Tanzania and T & T before joining the diplomatic service. He was the twin-island republic’s ambassador to France, Germany, Norway, Sweden and Finland and High Commissioner to London.
T & T Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said Cross was an exemplar and shining example to the people of Trinidad & Tobago.
“If there was one national in this country who made his mark internationally, it was him,” she said. “He was a man of all seasons and he will be remembered.”
In June 2011, the Air Guard Station at Piarco International Airport was renamed after Cross who, a few months later that year, was bestowed with The Order of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago, the country’s highest national honour.
Married twice, Cross is survived by three children.