Jamaican war veteran lied to join RAF at 16 after ships seen in Caribbean

A Jamaican Second World War veteran has described lying about his age to join the Royal Air Force at 16 after reading newspaper reports of ships being sighted in the Caribbean.

Gilbert Clarke, 98, who was born in Montego Bay, Jamaica, described feeling “very excited” when he joined the RAF as a mechanic and was then posted to South Virginia in the United States.

Mr Clarke recalled feeling a sense of duty to help stop Hitler and rejoicing as he heard planes flying towards Europe on D-Day in 1944.

He told the PA news agency that he lied about his age when he applied to join the war effort.

Mr Clarke said: “I had just left school at 16 and I thought ‘why not?’.

“In the newspapers and radio they said they’d sighted a few boats in the Caribbean so I thought I’d join up.

D-Day 80th anniversary
Mr Clarke, who now lives in London, went on to describe hearing planes flying towards Europe on D-Day (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

Speaking at an event organised by the Spirit of Normandy Trust, Mr Clarke continued: “Everyone was doing their bit, you know.

“It was important not to do nothing because Hitler… there was word in the Caribbean saying any time he could be colonising the Caribbean and South America, and so we had to do something.”

Talking about the journey from Jamaica to the US, he said: “In the Atlantic, many, many ships joined us and every now and again, the ships were torpedoed.”

D-Day 80th anniversary
Mr Clarke lied about his age to join the Royal Air Force in 1943 (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

Mr Clarke, who now lives in London, went on to describe hearing planes flying towards Europe on D-Day.

He recalled: “It started with that noise you hear.

“It was the planes going towards Europe – massive, massive planes.

“All the boys shouted ‘Give them hell boys!’, and then we thought that should be the end of the war, hopefully.”

“I felt very happy because I thought now maybe the war was coming to an end.”

MEMORIAL DDay
(PA Graphics)

While based at British and American air bases, Mr Clarke fitted, serviced and repaired radar and other electronic equipment for planes including Hurricanes and Spitfires.

Regarding the importance of commemorating the war and sharing memories with his fellow veterans, the former mechanic – who will travel to Normandy for the 80th anniversary of D-Day on June 6 – said: “I am happy to associate with people like us in remembrance of the D-Day invasion.

“Most of us ex-veterans, we all die off.

“We are the last few left.”