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#1 May 24, 2019 11:37 am

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Dudley Thompson and the RAF recruiting sargeant

In the early days of the Second World War, coloured chaps from the colonies weren’t exactly welcomed into the British Armed Forces. Despite the hostilities, the nation’s racial standards had to be maintained. Dudley Thompson QC, former Jamaican Minister of Defense, tells a great story of his encounter at the Royal Air Force recruiting office in 1940. On the form all applicants had to answer the question: “Are you of pure European descent?” Dudley, decidedly dark, ticked the box marked yes, and calmly handed it over to the recruiting sergeant. The sergeant went through the form, paused when he got to that answer and asked Thompson if he’d understood the question properly.

“Yes of course,” said Dudley. “What made you believe I didn’t understand the question, sergeant?”

This was clearly too much for the poor man to deal with this morning.

“Nothing, nothing at all. Welcome to the RAF!”

Dudley Thompson went on to a distinguished career in as a Flight Lieutenant in the RAF, flying dozens of missions over Germany in Lancaster Bombers. After the war, Thompson went on to a distinguished career in law, defended the Mau-Mau of Kenya, entered politics in Jamaica and became a global Pan African icon.

Later on, when all their boys of pure European descent were being decimated by the Nazis, the British Armed Forces turned a blind eye to that question – anyone would do. In fact many West Indians like Dudley and Ulric Cross from Trinidad served with distinction. But most black soldiers found themselves restricted to support roles like digging latrines while the white soldiers got on with the real business of fighting.

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#2 May 24, 2019 4:12 pm

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Re: Dudley Thompson and the RAF recruiting sargeant

Good to see you back.

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#3 May 24, 2019 4:39 pm

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Re: Dudley Thompson and the RAF recruiting sargeant

This flipping reply problem is what's keeping me off.

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