History of Aviation Part 3

Aviation during WW 2

During the terrible years of the Second World War life in Trinidad changed, and changed some more again towards its end.

The young men who had attended the A.T.C., the flying school, had to leave their jobs in Port-of-Spain where they had worked as clerks or just enjoyed the good times, and were now fighting for their very lives. In 1943, twelve men from Trinidad died for liberty in the airwar over London and the European continent. They were flying a variety of craft from Avenger Torpedo Bombers to Spitfires, Hurricanes and Lancaster Bombers over the Hamburg docks.

The picture seems to come to you in black and white. The men: ernest, even handsome in their formal haircuts. The girls with unplucked eyebrows, some wearing white socks with their little pumps. Green Corner saw hundreds of sailor suits and white caps. The young Americans had boyish faces, and they would soon see action at Midway or Guada Canal or in the battle for the Coral Sea. From time to time, you could catch glimpses in the throng of the smart blue of a aircraft pilot, a more tailored cut, gold wings catching the harsh neon light.

BWIA pilots in 1943/44 literally held the islands together. The war in the South Atlantic, just off Mayaro, Toco and Maracas, forced all but the navy and the merchant marine to take to the sky. New air hostesses joined the crew, Helen Scharf, Margarete Bolton and Dolores Gibb. The colonial government felt that the airline's significance in the context of the war was becoming far too important for it to continue to be controlled by one man alone, Mr. Lowell Yerex. During one of his frequent absences - he travelled a lot to the Argentines and Brazil - he was ousted by a boardroom 'coup d'etat'. New shares were issued and the government bought them up to take over the controlling interest of the airline. The 'History of Aviation in Trinidad and Tobago' continues: "After this, his [Yerex'] influence in BWIA steadily declined."

This quite forgotten pioneer, this true entrepreneur, died in his adopted home of Argentina in 1968. The post of Director of Civil Aviation was handed over to Wing Commander Maurice Banks in 1944. After the war was won, Banks guided the fortunes of BWIA.

Fernand Farfan flew Spitfires in the Middle East. He had been trained at Piarco. Having joined up in 1941, Farfan took part in that famous battle at the Falaise Gap. He returned home as the first local pilot to fly for BWIA.

Philip Kelshall had flown Mosquito fighters on night missions over London, so as to surprise the intruders - which was considered as dangerous. Kelshall also served with the 29th Nightfighter Squadron. When his official 'tour' was over, he returned to Trinidad in July 1946 to become the second local pilot for BWIA.

Esmond Farfan returned to Trinidad at the end of the war. He had served as Captain of a mighty Lancaster bomber over the shrapnel-filled sky of Berlin. He had seen the fires of Stuttgart and Darmstadt, and was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross. Esmond was to become BWIA's third local pilot and served the airline for 33 years.

As the Trinidadian pilots came home, some found jobs with the airline, as did many navigators, engineers and mechanics. This was the core from which the 'esprit de corps' came. These young men and women set the tone for generations to come.

"They gave to BWIA a unique sense of class'" as one retiree told me. "We started off first class from the very beginning." K.T. Murray took the post of C.E.O. as the challenge to rebuild the world's civilian fleets gathered momentum. BWIA looked at the Lockheed 14. These planes were really retired bombers, and served well in the interim. But it was the Lodestars and Vickers Vikings that became the real first fleet. BWIA had by then moved into the old fleet air arm facilities, occupying the four western hangars at Piarco, and was ready to face 'modern times'.

© Paria Publishing Company Limited 2000


| The Immortal 45 | The History of banking | History of Aviation | The Lost Portraits |
| Nothing has changed in 200 years | The Antique Saints of Trinidad | The men who shaped the 20th century in T & T |
| The Missions | The History of Sugar Cane and Rum | Comfortable with cocoa |
| Religious diversity in the Indian-Trinidadian community | Gouverneur Chapeau Paille - Sir Ralph Woodford |