Just having celebrated the 50th anniversary of joining the Royal Air Force (January 1963) I had a look through my old files. A few years ago, I decided to get my old RAF records as keepsake for the family. Looking at the original typed or hand-written document, this was before computerization, I had a shock to find a particular annotation.
There next to my first names, (one misspelled), and in red ink there is the comment “non-British parentage“. Now that really upset me. Why would an official make such a comment next to my names? It is somewhat sinister.
Firstly, you need to remember that this was the early 60s. Secondly, spying and treason was prevalent in those years. Thirdly, discrimination on the basis of race, sex and religion was predominant.
Why would the official note that? They would have seen my birth certificate and passport details. I was born in England.
Why would the official note that? They knew my father was British, born in England and a serving member of Her Majesty’s armed forces at the time. They would have known that he had served as a soldier from the age of 16 and carried on his career throughout World War 2 and many post-war years. Did they forget that he was already in France and Belgium when the Nazi army invaded. That he was at the Dunkirk debacle and later returned again on D-day? Did they also forget all those Commonwealth men that came from afar to fight alongside the British? Did they not remember that non-British personnel took part in the famous Battle of Britain?
Why would the official note that? They knew my mother had dual-nationality British and Belgian. Maybe they did not know that she was a refugee during World War 2 having to flee on the roads to France from the advancing Nazi army. They probably did not know that she suffered during the occupation of Belgium. Or, that her father was suspected of hiding arms and had been interrogated at home with a German pistol pressed on his forehead.
Why would the official note that? My service record mentions “exemplary“. However, someone thought I was not of authentic origin. Now, that reminds us of a sinister period in European history. Someone could not handle the fact that, at a young age, I had the experience of schooling in three countries and a wider outlook on life. I am grateful that today we have moved on from that negative mindset. These days Great Britain is a reflection of the Global Village. However, I wonder what my grand-children will think about my generation when they see this red-ink annotation?