Questionable Parentage

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.

Form543RThere 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?

7 thoughts on “Questionable Parentage”

  1. Hi Mike/Michelle I think you must be my relative from Widnes England, Was your parents Renne/ Patrick?

  2. Pete ( geordie) Lynch I’ve applied for my service records so it should be interersting as with Irish ancestory I’ll probably be IRA

  3. HI Mike, I left a reply earlier on as soon as I saw this, but it doesn’t appear to have been printed. I find this absolutely appalling and I somehow feel ashamed that a service person could have annoted your paper work in such a manner!!!

  4. Mike –
    That annotation leaves me very disturbed. What on earth must be on mine. I was born in India in a British Military Hospital in Agra. My father was serving in the British Army and had returned from Egypt in 1944 and was sent there to try to keep order whilst Britain extracted itself before independence. He met my mother in ’45, they married in ’46 and I was born in ’47, returning by troopship to UK six months later. My father went on to serve his full 22 years, retiring as a WO2. I had great difficulty getting a British passport when I was in Germany in ’66 because of being born abroad, and even when I eventually did get one, it was a very low grade passport. After complaining at the home office I eventually got a full British Passport. So much for volunteering to serve in the Forces. There must be others out there with similar stories.

    1. As you say there must have been others with similar cases. I had the pleasure of working with many nationalities in the RAF from South Africa, various Caribbean countries, India, Malta and even Mauritius. The 60’s were a particularly difficult period as regards discrimination. It all depended on who you fell upon in the hierarchy. At one stage in my career I got fed up with the petty racism, after all, we were all doing the same job. Some Neanderthals acted as though it was still the Raj days. Even an inkling of foreign blood and you could be passed up in assessments and promotions. Believe me, in those days it was worse in the army.

  5. Quelle surprise Michel with a bureaucratic set of plonkers in RAF Admin! It probably taxed what few grey cells the individual had to think of that in any event. I’d plunk for Mauritian if I were you!

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