Funeral for black WWII hero who died alone moved to RAF Central Church after inundation of mourners

6 April 2023, 21:33 | Updated: 7 April 2023, 01:53

A funeral for one of the RAF's last black World War Two veterans has been moved to a much larger venue after so many people touched by his story wanted to attend.
A funeral for one of the RAF's last black World War Two veterans has been moved to a much larger venue after so many people touched by his story wanted to attend. Picture: Handout / Alamy

By Chris Samuel

The venue for the funeral of one of the RAF's last black World War II veterans has been moved by organisers after they were inundated with attendance requests by members of the public who were touched by his story.

Flight Sergeant Peter Brown - who came to the UK from Jamaica as part of the Windrush generation - died alone at the age of 96 in Maida Vale, west London, in December.

He was believed to be one, and perhaps the last, of the so-called "Pilots of the Caribbean".

Peter's funeral service was initially scheduled to be held at a chapel in Mortlake, south-west London, with a capacity of 140.

But it will now will take place at the RAF Central Church, St Clement Danes, in Westminster.

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Six-hundred spaces will be reserved for the public, with priority given to those who have a connection to the war hero.

Peter was born in Jamaica in 1926, and signed up to the RAF Volunteer Reserve in September 1943.

After training as a wireless operator/air gunner Peter (pictured) served in Lancaster bombers during the second world war.
After training as a wireless operator/air gunner Peter (pictured) served in Lancaster bombers during the second world war. Picture: Handout

After training as a wireless operator/air gunner he served in Lancaster bombers during the second world war.

Following the end of the war, he re-enlisted in the air force, working as a signaller.

Westminster City Council leader Adam Hug said: "The national response to Peter Brown's story has been overwhelming.

"The details of his life and subsequent search for relatives have truly captured the public imagination and moved people around the world.

"Our priority has always been to ensure Mr Brown receives a fitting, dignified send-off which allows those wishing to pay their respects the opportunity to do so.

"We are grateful to the RAF who have stepped in and provided a perfect venue to reflect Peter's military service.

Peter came to the Britain from Jamaica as part of the Windrush generation
Peter came to the Britain from Jamaica as part of the Windrush generation. Picture: Handout

"We will continue to work with the RAF, community groups and well-wishers to ensure the service represents the many aspects of Mr Brown's life."

An spokesperson for the RA said: "Flight Sergeant Brown is an example of the selfless contribution of all Commonwealth personnel who have served throughout the RAF's history.

"We should never forget their sacrifices which have defended our freedom and kept us safe."

The funeral will now be held at St Clement Danes in Westminster
The funeral will now be held at St Clement Danes in Westminster. Picture: Alamy

Peter Devitt, curator at the Royal Air Force Museum, previously told the BBC that as well as having to be the "ears and voice" of the plane, he would have had to tackle emergencies on board, and from time to time step in as a gunner.

"If the aircraft had to ditch in the sea he would have to stay at his post as long as possible to give the last position of where they were," he said.

"He was a brave, proficient, selfless man who chose to put himself in danger so we might be free."

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