Trinidadian Ulric Cross Made Us Proud

Reproduced from the UK Telegraph

Ulric Cross

Ulric Cross

Ulric Cross, who has died aged 96, is thought to have been the most decorated Caribbean airman of the Second World War; he went on to enjoy a distinguished career in Trinidad as a judge and diplomat.

Cross was working for Trinidad Railways when the war broke out, and was anxious to play his part. “The world was drowning in Fascism and America was not yet in the war,” he later recalled. “So I decided to do something about it and volunteered to fight in the RAF.”

Philip Louis Ulric Cross was born on May 1 1917 in Port of Spain, Trinidad, and won a government scholarship to St Mary’s College. His first job was with the Trinidad Guardian before he spent four years working in a solicitor’s office. In 1941, after three years working for the railway, he joined the RAF and sailed for England.

Cross trained as a navigator at Cranwell before joining No 139 (Jamaica) Squadron, equipped with the Mosquito — many of the aircraft were paid for by donations made by the citizens of Jamaica. Cross was in fact then the only West Indian on the squadron, where his comrades gave him the fond nickname “The Black Hornet”.

He made a number of precision daylight attacks at low level over France and Germany before No 139 converted to night operations with Bomber Command’s Pathfinder Force. The squadron supported the main bomber force, dropping “window” electronic countermeasures to confuse German radars, before embarking on a number of “spoof” raids on other targets with the aim of drawing the Luftwaffe night fighter force away from the main target to be attacked by the heavy bombers.

On the night of August 18 1943, Cross and his pilot, Roy Crampton, took part in a diversionary raid against Berlin as the main force attacked the German rocket testing facility at Peenemunde. Over Berlin, the starboard engine of their Mosquito was hit by flak when they were flying at 30,000ft and it had to be shut down. The two men then flew their damaged aircraft 500 miles back to base on one engine, all the time steadily losing height. They landed at the first available airfield in Norfolk, where the aircraft careered across the field and came to a stop at the edge of a quarry.

November 1943 saw the start of the Battle of Berlin, and Cross made 22 sorties to the “Big City” in the high-flying Mosquito. The squadron became part of the Light Night Striking Force, identifying targets for the main bomber force with the new marking aid “Oboe”. Having completed 30 operations Cross was eligible for a rest, but he volunteered to carry on. He also declined to be rested after 50 operations, when he was awarded a DFC.

During April 1944 he attacked targets in the Ruhr, and when Bomber Command’s heavy bomber squadrons were diverted to support the D-Day offensive, Cross and his colleagues continued to mount “nuisance raids” over German cities with the aim of denying sleep to the factory workers and forcing the German military to retain thousands of men on air defence duties.

Finally, after completing 80 operations over enemy territory, Cross was rested at the end of 1944, and shortly afterwards was awarded a DSO for his “fine example of keenness and devotion to duty” and his “exceptional navigation ability”.

He was then seconded to the Colonial Office as the liaison officer for colonial forces in the RAF. He left the service as a squadron leader in 1947 to study Law at Middle Temple, and was called to the Bar in 1949.

For four years Cross was legal adviser to the Controller of Imports and Exports in Trinidad and Tobago before becoming a lecturer at the University of West Indies in Trinidad.

After four years in London working with the BBC, in 1958 he went to Africa to practise Law. In Ghana he became a Senior Crown Counsel and lecturer at the Ghana School of Law. From 1960 to 1966 he was in Cameroon as Senior Crown Counsel and Attorney General . The Cameroon government appointed him to its Order of Merit and Order of Valour.

In 1967 Cross became a High Court judge in Tanzania and chaired the Permanent Labour Tribunal. Four years later he returned to Trinidad, where he served as a judge of the High Court and, from 1979, of the Court of Appeal. His work as chairman of the Law Reform Commission of Trinidad was acknowledged by the country’s Prime Minister, who observed: “Some of his judgments changed the landscape of Trinidad and Tobago.”

In 1990 Cross became his country’s High Commissioner in London, a post he held for three years; he combined this appointment with those of Ambassador to Germany and to France.

On his return to Trinidad, Cross was active in a number of charitable causes, including the Cotton Tree Foundation to aid the deprived, and in 2011 he received his nation’s highest award, the Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. In the same year the local military airbase at Piarco was renamed the Ulric Cross Air Station.

The thriller writer Ken Follett based the character of the black squadron leader, Charles Ford, on Ulric Cross in his book Hornet Flight, published in 2002.

Ulric Cross’s wife, Ann, predeceased him, and he is survived by a son and two daughters.

Ulric Cross, born May 1 1917, died October 3 2013

15 thoughts on “Trinidadian Ulric Cross Made Us Proud

  1. What an exciting life this man lived! This is a piece of history every Caribbean person should know about. Ulric Cross should be a National hero for the Caribbean and a role model for lawyers and judges as well as children. I do hope a documentary was made while he was alive. A true Caribbean hero!

  2. On first glance there were giants in the Caribbean in that era. Ulric Cross was just one of them. Dipper Barrow was another and Julian Marryshaw who passed away, relatively unheralded, a couple of years ago was another. Their stories need to be told on a continuing basis to the youth who know little or nothing of the heights reached by this pantheon of heroes.

    But I said at first glance. We also know little of the youngsters who are blazing trails in several important fields of endeavor globally right now. Their stories must also be told as examples for other youth to emulate or aspire towards. Many Bajans and other Caribbean nationals, besides Rihanna, are near to or at the top of their professions globally and one thing that succeeding Governments here has done well is to foster a new spirit of confidence in the youth that they can do almost anything.

    • @checkit-out

      So there is a legitimate role for the Historian?

      On 9 October 2013 11:48, Barbados Underground

  3. This gent’s story should be used in every school as an example of what we Cbean people can achieve if we focus our minds on a successful life!

  4. Commandeer Philip Ulric Cross……people of the Caribbean salute you. A special breed indeed…Black Hornet fly on to the end. Truly, a job well done.

  5. David | October 9, 2013 at 8:34 AM |

    So there is a legitimate role for the Historian?

    On 9 October 2013 11:48, Barbados Underground
    There certainly is, David , men like Ulric Cross and Dipper Barrow were very reluctant to pen their memoirs ,or even talk much about their war time experiences,except in the company of other ex Servicemen. That’s why it fell on Capt Peter Morgan , after the death of the Dipper, to pen his biography to some extent. Ironically Cap. Morgan also had so great experiences during WW2, but as far as I know,did not pen his own experience.
    We will be pushed to see men of the calibre of Ulric Cross, in these parts.

  6. @Col Bugs
    The mentioned Gents were Giants, a long since extinct specie in the Cbean!

    These youngsters today are Giant————- Partyers!

  7. MoneyBrain

    These men laid their lives on the line for the British crown. The did the crown return the favour ..? I hope that men like Cross had strong and demonstrated convictions as to how the peoples in Southern Africa and the Mau Mau, a number of peoples on the Indian sub-continent were treated after the war, on the hundreds of thousands of Cubans that had to sent to South America to free Africans from the Dutch allies. I wonder what his views were on the increased incidents of lynching in the US. The so called world wars should be put in context before there is a rush to create idols.

  8. @Baffy
    Good points BUT the critical point is that these Gents believed they were defending the people against Hitler who was a relentless, racist Psychopath during that period, for sure! So they were dealing with the most pressing issue preventing any progress for Cbean people and others. Priorities Baffy! Would you have been pleased with a Hitler Victory? What would he have wrought on darker peeps? Would Hitler have treated darker peeps like the Jews or?????

  9. BAFBFP;
    Commander Cross and other outstanding Caribbean heroes of that era were inured in and were therefore products of that era’s high society. I suspect that few of them had overweening social consciences that spent excessive time on the trials and travails of ordinary folk outside their Caribbean communities even though I suspect they would have taken the side of the underdogs in the instances you mention above. These men were however the heavy hitters, the faux royalty, the outstanding people of their respective caribbean societies. They were usually affable, very bright individuals, the soul of parties, folk who rubbed shoulders with kings but did not lose the common touch. They led in everything they did. They were the natural leaders.

    Both Barrow and Julian Marryshaw (very good friends) were equally at home in the elite atmosphere of London and the rumshop in Bridgetown. They were naturals. They exuded total self confidence from every pore. They were liked but even perhaps slightly feared by ordinary people.

    It is this same degree of self confidence I now see in several of our youngsters who know without a doubt that they are as good as anyone else on this earth in anything that they put their minds to. The educational system that Barrow midwifed along with the thrust by successive governments to ensure that Barbados became and remained a recognized part of the world economy and polity despite our miniscule size, is largely responsible for where we as a country and people have reached in comparison with our neighbours.

    I suspect that their contributions to our history would be grossly but incorrectly undervalued if we judged them by the yardstick of today’s concerns that is essentially a product of our times.

    Barbados now has some tribulations to surmount but we will eventually do so. But we must not let our youth revert to a situation where they feel that they and we are powerless to rise again. Publicising the histories of our past and present heavy hitters should help a bit in this regard.

  10. MoneyBrain | October 9, 2013 at 8:21 PM |
    Good points BUT the critical point is that these Gents believed they were defending the people against Hitler who was a relentless, racist Psychopath during that period, for sure! So they were dealing with the most pressing issue preventing any progress for Cbean people and others. Priorities Baffy! Would you have been pleased with a Hitler
    And straight from the horse’s mouth. A black woman who is the grand daughter of one of Hitler’s sadistic butchers.

  11. Of course I meant South Africa and not South America. No a Europe dominated by a Third Reich would have benefited no one with dark, skin, but let’s not get carried away here. Those wars were not fought in defense of Blacks, Jews and Gypsies they were wars of dominion.

  12. @Bafffy
    Correct you are.
    Any minority group has to research the situation carefully and plot strategy to suit. That is why i always recommend that since Bim is between Europe and America the concept of HATING WHITEY makes little sense because you have to work with the dominant power in order to eventually extricate yourself in the long term. Negotiation outranks potentially unproductive aggression.

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