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Respect for Navy Men

Two of Cayman's war veterans at a previous Remembrance Day Ceremony.

The annual Remembrance Day ceremony on Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac will be held this Sunday, 13 November.

This year's event specifically commemorates the 70th anniversary of the enlistment of 201 Caymanian men in the Trinidad Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (TRNVR) during World War II.

During this conflict the harbours of the Western Atlantic and the Caribbean provided valuable bases for the allied navies, while Trinidad held strategically valuable oil resources.

Converted and refined, Trinidad's oil became the fuel and lubricants necessary for Royal Navy and Allied ships, aircraft, tanks and other war machinery.

Guarding this location in the southern Caribbean was of vital importance. Convoys of allied ships and tankers that sailed from Trinidad were regularly stalked and destroyed by German submarines.

As the war worsened and with Britain bearing the brunt of the fighting up until then, a call went out to citizens of all British Overseas Territories to sign up as volunteers. Over a thousand men from the West Indies joined the TRNVR, established in December 1939 to patrol the Caribbean. The Caymanian contingent joined in 1941.

"Their main mission was to protect the one thing that was most critical to the British war effort and which by then was only available in Trinidad - oil. These young men performed a number of other significant duties too, including mine sweeping, submarine detection and convoy escort until the end of the war," explained President of the Cayman Islands Veterans Association Captain Dale Banks.

"They were true heroes, but the vital role they played in winning the war has really never been widely told or celebrated," he added.

Today, there are only about half a dozen of these Caymanians left alive as members of the Cayman Islands Veterans Association. Their average age is over 90 years.

Describing the life and times of the Caymanian navy volunteers in his book The Forgotten Men of the Navy (2002), veteran Norman Rudolph McLaughlin wrote "...the top military brass bestowed a lot of praise on us and openly admitted that we were the cream of the naval crop."

As remembered by Mr. McLaughlin, of the men serving in the TRNVR, three lost their lives fighting for their country - Able Seaman Uline Eden of Savannah, Able Seaman Johnson of George Town and Able Seaman Harvey Smith of North Side.

Residents are encouraged to honour the contributions of these and other war volunteers by attending this Sunday's parade and ceremony at Elmslie Memorial Church at 10:45 a.m. On Cayman Brac, the ceremony will be held at the Cenotaph at the District Administration Building at 10:40 a.m.

For further information contact: Cornelia Oliver