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Wartime pilot Lamb featured in RAF Museum exhibition

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Bermudian war veteran Philip Lamb, who died earlier this year, is being honoured in a new exhibition at the Royal Air Force (RAF) Museum in London.

The exhibition entitled ‘Pilots of the Caribbean' opened earlier this month and recognises volunteers of African heritage in the RAF throughout the British Empire at the time of the Second World War, but most particularly from the Caribbean.

Mr Lamb, known affectionately to his friends and family as ‘Uncle Hunky' died at age 90, in May of this year. He was the last of the four black Bermudians who served in the RAF during the Second World War.

He joined the Bermuda Military Artillery (BMA) when he was 17, but after three years of drilling in the BMA camp in St David's, he became bored. He wanted to travel and put his training into action. He volunteered for the RAF along with Bermudians Randolph Richardson, Reuben Alias and Melvin Chesterfield Raynor. He completed his training in Moncton, New Brunswick.

He arrived on a troopship in Liverpool, England, just before Christmas 1944. Although the war was almost over the air raids continued. Three months after arriving in England, he was injured during an air raid on an aerodrome in one of the last air raids of the war. He was hospitalised and spent ten days laying next to another patient who was a German prisoner of war.

“The loss of other young men was one of the toughest things to deal with,” he said in a 2004 interview. “I had a buddy from Canada who got killed. He took up the muster and he became a pilot in the last part of the war. He must have been around 22 or 23 years old. After they made that raid on us I got the news that Keith (his friend) was shot down and killed. I took it hard. He was like a brother.”

Mr Lamb rose to the rank of Leading Aircraftsman. After the war he could have returned home immediately, but volunteered, instead, for several clean up jobs. He travelled all over Europe, the United Kingdom and Germany breaking down equipment. He found he had a lot of free time on his hands, and so volunteered to go on patrol torpedo (PT) boats to look for and blow up mines.

“It was a fast boat,” he said. “I stayed on it for six weeks, but it was too scary. All you had to do is strike one of those things and you were history.”

Mr Lamb finally returned to Bermuda after seven years and eight months of continuous service. He went to Canada to study diesel engineering, and then held various jobs and posts, over the years, including customs officer and immigration officer.

Unfortunately, he lost his medals with the passage of time.

Andrew Bermingham, author of Bermuda Military Rarities Revisited, was a long time friend of Mr Lamb. “I was very saddened when he passed away,” said Mr Bermingham. “ I met him first in 1984 when there was a tribute to veterans made by the Community and Cultural affairs Historical Heartbeats Committee at Commissioner's House. I orchestrated that event. One of the people invited was Philip Lamb.”

It was a Saturday afternoon, and Mr Lamb was the only person present who did not have any medals pinned to his chest. He got up, with a tear in his eye, and said he lost his medals. “They are long gone,” he said.

Mr Bermingham made contact with authorities in the United Kingdom and Mr Lamb was later presented with a replacement set of his lost medals. When Mr Lamb died earlier this year, he had a well attended funeral at the Chapel of Ease in St David's, and was featured in an obituary in the London-based Independent newspaper. This caught the attention of the RAF Museum in London.

“It is a wonderful museum built in tribute to that service,” said Mr Bermingham.

Pilots of the Caribbean will be open at the London branch of the museum until the summer of 2014 when it will be moved to the Cosford branch.

“I have seen previews of the exhibit,” said Mr Bermingham. “It is very touching. It shows pictures of his funeral at the Chapel of Ease in St David's, his medals and his cap and a photograph of him with his other airman friends.”

Useful website: www.rafmuseum.org.uk

Philip Lamb: One of four Bermudians who volunteered for the Royal Air Force.
War vet Philip Lamb, standing on the far right

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Published November 08, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated November 07, 2013 at 7:12 pm)

Wartime pilot Lamb featured in RAF Museum exhibition

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