By Maureen Dickson, Author of “Pilots and Soldiers of The Caribbean: Fighting Men of the Caribbean”
E.R Brathwaite RAF Fighter Pilot WWII, writer of
“To Sir with Love”
Eustace Edward Ricardo Brathwaite was born in Georgetown, British Guiana (now Guyana) on the 27th of June 1912. After living in Britain, he moved to the U.S. and lived in Washington D.C.
He came from a privileged background as both his parents went to Oxford University, which meant that he grew up in an environment that involved education, achievement parental guidance and pride. Brathwaite attended Queen’s College, Guyana, and later The City College of New York.
E.R Brathwaite once said, “When I decided to move to England it was in pursuit of education. I was determined that I was not going to let anyone or group of persons interfere with that”.
Not much is known about E.R Brathwaite’s RAF years. One can only surmise, like most men of colour in the service, not much notice was taken of him. However, we know that he did participate in WWII by joining the RAF and becoming a fighter Pilot.
We know that at that time men of colour were not allowed to Pilot Lancaster bombers, due to the colour bar, although there were always the exceptions such as Billy Strachan. However, they were allowed to fly Spitfires and Mosquitos, as pathfinders fighting of the enemy in dog fights.
E.R Brathwaite would later describe his experience in the RAF as “I did not feel discriminated against because of my skin colour or ethnicity, I was just another pilot”
After the war, Brathwaite when to Cambridge and
wrote the book “To Sir with Love” about the time he spent teaching in an East End school. He said, “I was given a card by the children I was teaching, and on it was written, “To Sir with Love”. It was at this point I started to enjoy being a black teacher, being me”. The book was later turned into a film starring Sidney Poitier.