A Member of the RAF of Indeterminate Race – by Cy Grant
ISBN 1-84683-018-4 – Woodfield Publishing, 2006
The title of the book is taken from a caption below a picture of Cy in the German Newspaper, Volkischer Beobachter, in July 1943.” Ein Mitglied der Royal Air Force von unbestimmbarer Rasse!”
Presumably this was meant as a propaganda exercise for Nazi Master Race doctrine, implying that the RAF had to resort to the recruitment of people of unknown or ‘indeterminate’ race to fight their wars for them.
There is an element of truth in this. During World War II, the Royal Air Force had changed its mind about the recruitment of 'men of colour" into its privileged ranks, and by 1941 it was even prepared to recruit them from the colonies.
Cy Grant was one of the first to be recruited as aircrew as well as being commissioned as an officer.
As a navigator of a Lancaster bomber, he was shot down over Holland during the return leg of only his third mission, in just four days, over Germany. This period, from March to July 1943, marked the start of the massive air offensive over Germany known as the Battle of the Ruhr in which the RAF sustained its greatest losses during the entire war.
The book is a brief account of my prisoner of war experiences over a period of two years, time enough to reflect on the uniqueness of his situation, fighting a racist Nazi regime whilst himself being subject to racism in his own backyard, a situation albeit tempered by the exigencies of the threat to Britain.
Approx. 400 men from the Caribbean flew as Air Crew in the Royal Air Force during the last war – a fact that is little known. Of these, approximately 70 were commissioned as Officers and 103 decorated. Unless we are informed by the past we will never know who we are, where we are going and what we can do to help shape our future history.
A Member of the RAF of Indeterminate Race Cy’s war memoir is archived at the Imperial War Museum and the Ministry of Defence’s current We Were There Exhibition honours “the invaluable contribution made by all ethnic minorities to the Armed Forces.