A Guyanese man who had fought in World War 2 for Great Britain, and was once Adolf’s Hitler’s prisoner of war, was recently honoured in England.
Cyril “Cy” Grant, who was born in the then British Guiana, had hoped for a better life when he signed up to fight for Britain during the war, and at a time when British law had initially forbid the hiring of black people or any Asian from joining the army.
But after suffering a tremendous loss of life during the war, many whites were refusing to sign up. As a result, Britain recruited several battalions of Afro Caribbean men from the Caribbean to help it to regain its grounds in the war.
According to reports in several British mainstream publications, Grant arrived in England in 1941 after passing a rigorous test, and was commissioned as a Navigator of a Lancaster Bomber aircraft.
But after three missions, Grant’s plane was shot down over Holland during the Battle of the Ruhr, resulting in the death of two crew members.
He, along with a few others were then captured by the German army and held at Stalag Luft III Prison, which was made famous by a subsequent film “The Great Escape”.
However, fortunately, after the war ended a year later, Grant was among the few prisoners of war that had survived, despite being at a prison camp where allied forces were often executed under Hitler’s orders.
He then returned to Britain and studied law, and was enlisted as a Barrister.
But being a black man in a then racially charged Europe, white law firms throughout England were reluctant to enlist him.
As a result, Grant was forced to take up a career in entertainment and small-time acting in order to support his family.
He later became one of the most successful black actors in his time, and had appeared in several big-screen films including Shaft in Africa (1973) and At The Earth’s Core (1976), among others.
He died in February 2010, and was recently honoured at the Marcus Garvey library in Tottenham.
His works are also celebrated each year in the UK during his death anniversary.