Living Memorial | Alvin Chy-Quene
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Alvin Chy-Quene

About This Project

Alvin Chy-Quene left his home in Trinidad to join the Royal Air Force in the spring of 1944. His parents didn’t know he was fighting for the RAF until he left his native land. On his journey to Britain, he boarded a troop ship that took him to Jamaica for three days, where it collected “last batch” volunteers. Collectively they then sailed in a convey that included submarines and destroyers, to break through the blockade of German “u boats” that circled the Caribbean. The ship eventually disembarked in Glasgow. At his RAF camp in Wiltshire, Chy-Quene met fellow countryman (then) flight lieutenant Ulric Cross. Chy-Quene served “all over” Britain, doing ground crew jobs like loading munitions on to Spitfire, Hurricane and Halifax aircraft.


When arriving in Britain, it was the first time he came across “rough looking” white men with tattoos. It was a bit of a culture shock because previously the only white men he had seen were smart, colonial administration officials. At this time, British men were not well informed of black people before they joined the war effort. Chy-Quene recalls how some of his fellow white troops thought he and his fellow Caribbean troops lived in trees. He would often play along with this story and the white troops would believe them. Also, when speaking in Caribbean dialects amongst his fellow troops, Englishmen didn’t understand it and were asked what language they were speaking.


When serving in the war, Hitler was immediately an enemy. Chy-Quene and his fellow Trinidadians sang calypso songs against Hitler that implored him to leave the British Empire alone. Chy-Quene is now an active member of the West Indian Association of Service Personnel.





Royal Air Force