An Interview with Ulric Cross DFC.DSO
By Maureen M Dickson
Author of "Pilots and Soldiers of the Caribbean: Fighting Men of the Caribbean
Ulric Cross DFC. DSO
SQUADRON LEADER PHILIP LOUIE ULRIC CROSS DFC.DSO
(Distinguished Service Order - Distinguished Flying Cross)
I have written about Ulric Cross many times, but have never been asked what my impression of him was when I first met him. As I sat down to put pen to paper, I became overwhelmed. There was so much to tell about him, that I did not know where to start. Ulric Cross was a giant. He was well respected by everyone who met him, charismatic, generous of spirit, and courageous; the quintessential hero.
I had travelled by bus to Chelsea which was unusual for me as I drove everywhere. However, I decided to enjoy the sunshine, relax and take in the view. Soon I was standing at the street door of the home of Ulric’s brother. He opened the door and greeted me with, “You must be Maureen. Come in.” He led me into a large sunny room where there stood a very tall (6’ at least), well dressed, impressive-looking character. From his well-groomed hair and pressed suit, down to his shiny shoes he was well presented.
After shaking my hand, he motioned me to sit down, smiled and asked “How are you?”, immediately putting me at ease. I was taken by his presence and how at 90 years old plus not only was he tall and distinguished-looking, but also how well-spoken he was. There was a constant twinkle in his eye, that told you that life was for living; a smile and laughter that embodied fun, and an ease about him that made you feel relaxed - as if he was speaking to his best friend.
He told me that when he joined the RAF that he wanted to become a pilot, in fact, he said, “All my friends who joined at the same time wanted to become pilots”. He was first trained to fly a light aircraft in Trinidad by a visiting RAF Officer who was sent to Trinidad to find recruits.
He laughed as he told me that in order to pass the physical to get into the RAF he went on a diet of milk and bananas. “Why”? I asked. He replied. “Because milk was considered the perfect food because it is 1/3 carbohydrate, 1/3 protein, 1/3 fat and bananas were hermetically sealed. I don’t know if it was the diet”, he chuckled, "but I got in any way”.
After this interview, I met Ulric Cross a number of times. The last time I saw him was not long before he died when he asked me to go to Trinidad to see him on his birthday and join the celebrations. His daughter Nicola and I laughed at the fact that I was so in awe of her father.
When I think of him today, I remember after we came out of the Cameroon Embassy in Holland Park where we went to collect a certificate, which was awarded to him sometime before. I told him that if he waited at the entrance outside, I would go and call him a taxi in order to get him home. As I was about to turn away, he took out a cigarette and lit it up. “Ulric!” I cried “Don’t do that! Those things will kill you”. He stopped and looked at me, threw his head back and gave out a hearty laugh. It stopped me in my tracks.
What was I thinking? This is a man that went on 80 missions under fire over Germany, was shot down seven times, and survived? As I walked away, I glanced back at him and said: “As you were”. We both laughed.
Sadly, Ulric passed away in 2013. He was a true hero.
Read about him in the book "Pilots and Soldiers of the Caribbean; Fighting men of the Caribbean" by Maureen M Dickson
Paper back: ISBN 9781838012748
e-Book: ISBN 9781838012755
Available from this site, Amazon, Goodreads, Blackwell's
and other online stores