A fine drizzle blew over Memorial Park in Port-of-Spain yesterday morning during an emotional and moving memorial service for world-acclaimed Trinidadian World War II hero, Philip Louis Ulric Cross.Cross passed away peacefully at 96 at his home in Port-of-Spain on October 4 and was cremated after a private funeral.
Born in 1917, he served as a squadron leader in the Royal Air Force at a time when this country was still a colony of Britain, and became the most highly decorated aviator in the Caribbean. He was also an international jurist.His heroic exploits in attacking Adolf Hitler's German army as he flew and his fellow crew members flew their Mosquito aircraft in over 80 operations earned him the soubriquet "Black Hornet" and inspired Ken Follett to make him the model for the character Charles Ford in his novel Hornet Flight.
British High Commissioner to T&T Arthur Snell, paying tribute at the service, said so important was the contribution of Cross and other West Indians in defending Britain that, without it, the outcome of WW II would have been different.Reflecting on the "remarkable things" Cross did for the United Kingdom, Snell said it is generally believed that in the early 1940s Britain stood alone.He said this was historically inaccurate because Britain had the help of the countries of the British Empire.
"Without the help of servicemen from the Commonwealth (like Cross), the outcome of World War II would have been entirely different."Snell commended Cross for "fighting for an empire that had not given him his freedom."He did it for a bigger cause. His sacrifice will never be forgotten in Britain."President Anthony Carmona, in his tribute, said fascism promoted by Hitler was spreading and it was this that inspired Cross.
"If we had asked him if he was a hero, he would have said he didn't consider himself one, that it just needed to be done."Carmona said Cross, asked once if he felt afraid during combat, said, "One cannot be trained to not be afraid, but one can be trained to conquer fear."Chief Justice Ivor Archie had earlier said in his address that Cross had described himself as an agnostic, but Carmona said his life showed he was a man of faith.
He quoted Isaiah 1:17: "Learn to do good, seek justice, correct oppression, bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause.""What greater prayer can one pray than by invoking such deeds?" he asked. Carmona urged that all should emulate Cross's example and stop talking and writing letters to the editor and do what needed to be done.Archie said Cross had asked for him to speak at his memorial service. Referring to Cross' agnosticism, he said, "I'm a man of faith but the scriptures say faith without works is dead."
He said when one looks at Cross's life, it took faith to do what he did.Group Captain of the T&T Defence Force Air Guard unit Tyrone Rudulfo cried when he paid tribute to Cross who, he said, was one of the last people to speak to his uncle, Capt Hyde, before his plane was shot down during the war.Hyde was flying with his little dog next to him when the Germans shot him down. Cross, who was just behind, flew down when he crashed and spoke to him before he died.
Several members of the Government, including Legal Affairs Prakash Ramadhar, Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley and Independent Liberal Party interim chairman Robin Montano attended the service.Divisional heads of the National Security Ministry and several other dignitaries were also at the service, which was held under a tent.