Sam King MBE was born into a farming family in Jamaica in 1926. During this period the island was a part of the British Empire. So, as an act of patriotism, King decided to join the Royal Air Force (RAF) and, after a long journey abroad a ship, landed in Greenock, Scotland, in 1944. He was then sent, with other Caribbean volunteers, to the RAF’s Filey Camp, north Yorkshire, for training. King said he was shocked at the devastation German bombing had caused Britain. He became a skilled aircraft fitter, stationed throughout the country, working as ground crew, repairing planes that had come back from air raids over France and Germany.
King was among more than 17,500 male and female volunteers from the West Indies and Caribbean who travelled to Britain to help in the fight against Hitler’s Nazis. Speaking about his wartime service, King commented: “England said it needed men and I took the test for the RAF and passed. My mother said: ‘Son, the Mother Country is at war, go and if you live, this will have been a good thing.’ Lots of us volunteered. They wanted me to be a rear gunner. But my mother said no, as the average life for them was six months. I’m glad I could help. I did my bit for King and country.”
After the war, King bought his own house, at Camberwell, south London, as it was difficult because of racism for black people to rent a home. He went on to be a community activist and Labour councillor. King became Mayor of Southwark, south London, in 1983. He was honoured with a Member of the British Empire (MBE) award for his community service.
King wrote an autobiography, Sam King. Climbing up the rough side of the mountain.