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Wednesday, December 7, 2022
Ralph Ottey and Alford Garder

Caribbean veterans honoured for war service

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At a special ceremony at RAF Marham in Norfolk, on 19 October, Jamaican veterans Ralph Ottey, 98, and Alford Gardner, 96, were presented with campaign medals by Marham Station Commander Group Captain Fred Wrigglesworth.

Ralph Ottey initially served as a driver at RAF Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire, later becoming chauffeur for the station’s senior technical officer.
Alford Gardner also kept men and material moving for the Royal Air Force, serving as a motor mechanic at Weeton, near Blackpool, Lancashire. He enjoyed his war work: “I had a whale of a time, when I was young and fit,” he said.

The ceremony had special significance for Gp Capt Wrigglesworth. Noting that he was awarding the two men their medals during Black History Month, he said, “For me to be able to do that as a station commander with African heritage of my own is just the cherry on top.”

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Gardner took part in the unveiling of the Windrush Monument at Waterloo station in June. Ottey wrote about his wartime experiences in his 2004 book Stranger Bwoy in the Royal Air Force in Lincolnshire 1944-1948. After the war ended in 1945, he returned to Jamaica for a while – but was drawn back to Boston, Lincolnshire, by memories of Mavis, who he had met during his wartime service and who subsequently became his wife.

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