Express & Star

RAF Cosford helps veteran Ernest's 100th birthday celebrations fly

Friends, ex-colleagues and military personnel gathered to celebrate the life, career and service of a Dudley veteran who has passed 100.

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Officers from RAF Cosford forming a guard of honour for RAF veteran Ernest Nicholas at the Gornal British Legion, Dudley

The party for Jamaican-born centenarian Ernest Nicholas took place at Gornal British Legion on Monday which was booked by staff at RAF Cosford, who were also in attendance.

Ernest was the subject of a project which aims to record and promote the history of West Indian people who have served Great Britain and had already received an award at the air base.

Staff then booked a 100th birthday party held in the legion building, in Ruiton Street, where friends and family organised a bumper celebration.

A guard of honour was held by RAF Cosford officers for Ernest as he arrived and ex-military personnel were the standard bearers.

Ernest started out as a bank clerk before the Second World War broke out and he signed up for active service, being recruited by the RAF in Mandeville in the parish of Manchester. He then made his way to Up Park Camp, Kingston where he joined fellow recruits awaiting assignment.

The celebrations for RAF veteran Ernest Nicholas

He was first assigned to the SS Cuba travelling to Greenock, went to Filey, Yorkshire, for one month of training and was then was stationed at Hartlebury where he was assigned to supply and logistics, helping those going to the front line.

Among his achievements was an appearance at the 1946 Commonwealth Victory Parade in London when Ernest was one of 50 RAF West Indians to be invited to participate.

When he was de-mobilised he decided to make England his home, believing his job in Jamaica to no longer exist and moved to Stourbridge, working at the Bantock factory, handling billets of steel which would eventually be processed for use on the railways.

He then became an electrician’s mate and attended night classes where he gained a City and Guilds in electronics, spending the next 28 years as a maintenance electrician at Round Oak Steelworks before retiring.

His daughter, Sharon, said Ernest was overwhelmed by all the birthday wishes, his cake, and the attention he received on his special day, including meeting fellow veterans.

Sharon Alexander, left, Ernest and Angela Alexander

She said: "It was a wonderful occasion, a brilliant turnout and the people from the Royal British Legion, RAF Cosford and all the other people who helped organise or contribute did a brilliant job for him.

" It was certainly organised with military precision and the family is very grateful to everyone who turned out and all concerned on an emotional and memorable day."