Cayman’s navy vets focus of annual remembrance

| 08/11/2011

(CNS): The 201 Caymanian men who enlisted in the Trinidad Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (TRNVR) during World War II will be the focus of this year’s Remembrance Day ceremony on Sunday, 13 November, officials revealed this week. This year marks the 70th anniversary of their enlistment into the conflict when the harbours of the Western Atlantic and the Caribbean provided valuable bases for the allied navies. Trinidad held strategically valuable oil resources which was essential to Royal Navy and Allied ships, aircraft, tanks and other war machinery. Guarding this location in the southern Caribbean was of vital importance.

Convoys of allied ships and tankers that sailed from Trinidad were regularly stalked and destroyed by German submarines.  During the worst days of the conflict a call went out to the people of what was then the empire to sign up as volunteers. Over a thousand men from the West Indies joined the TRNVR, established in December 1939 to patrol the Caribbean with men from Cayman joining in 1941.

“Their main mission was to protect the one thing that was most critical to the British war effort and which by then was only available in Trinidad – oil. These young men performed a number of other significant duties too, including mine sweeping, submarine detection and convoy escort until the end of the war,” explained President of the Cayman Islands Veterans Association Captain Dale Banks.

“They were true heroes, but the vital role they played in winning the war has really never been widely told or celebrated,” he added.

Only a few veterans from these days are still alive with most of them being over  90 years old.

Describing the life and times of the Caymanian navy volunteers in his book The Forgotten Men of the Navy (2002), veteran Norman Rudolph McLaughlin wrote “…the top military brass bestowed a lot of praise on us and openly admitted that we were the cream of the naval crop.”

McLaughlin reveals that three men serving in the TRNVR lost their lives fighting for their country – Able Seaman Uline Eden of Savannah, Able Seaman Johnson of George Town and Able Seaman Harvey Smith of North Side.

Officials called on residents to honour the contributions of these and other war volunteers by attending the parade and ceremony at Elmslie Memorial Church at 10:45 a.m in George Town or  On Cayman Brac, the ceremony will be held at the Cenotaph at the District Administration Building at 10:40 a.m.

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