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Pop-up Version of For King, Country & Home Goes on Show

The late Charles Dawkins (L) with fellow West Indian WW2 RAF servicemen c. 1945. Photo courtesy of the Dawkins family.

A pop-up version of For King, Country & Home is on display at Jamaica House in Chapeltown this weekend, to coincide with Armistice Day (November 11), before moving to the Reginald Centre and then Hunslet Library later this month.

The hugely popular exhibition, which spent two months at Leeds Central Library earlier this year as part of the Out of Many Festival, also features two remarkable new stories – those of Ferdinand ‘Ricky’ Henriques and James Eccleston.

For King, Country & Home explores the lives and times of the Jamaican Second World War RAF veterans of Leeds who volunteered as teenagers and young men to answer Britain’s call to defend ‘the Mother Country’.

Curated by Out of Many Festival Director Susan Pitter, the exhibition includes photographs, keepsakes and memories gathered over the years of those who, pre-Windrush, helped to form the beginnings of the city’s black community as we know it today.

It also pays tribute to unidentified Caribbean veterans whose stories have rarely, if ever, been told before. They are remembered through a collection of moving portraits exchanged between the RAF men after the war as mementos of their brotherhood, friendship and time serving shoulder-to-shoulder with each other.

The story of ‘Ricky’ Henriques is one of two new additions to the exhibition. Kingston-born ‘Ricky’ worked as a Canadian National Steamships steward before volunteering to join the RAF. Arriving in Britain in 1944 at the age of 22 he was initially based, like so many other volunteers who came over from the Caribbean, at RAF Hunmanby Moor, near Filey.

Ferdinand Henriques c.1944

After he was demobbed in 1946, Ricky returned to Jamaica but it wasn’t long before wanderlust saw him join the Merchant Navy. Interestingly, he served as a seaman on India-bound HMT Empire Windrush in March 1948 – just two months before the ship famously left Jamaica for Tilbury with one of the first large groups of West Indians to settle in post-war Britain.

Ricky swapped life at sea for Leeds. He married Jean Selby and the couple went on to have 10 children. Ricky supported his family through various jobs, including with British Rail and at West Yorkshire Foundry as a painter and decorator.

He is joined in the exhibition by Jamaican-born James Eccleston. James arrived in the UK in 1943, serving at several RAF bases including Linton. He wanted to join RAF aircrew but instead was assigned to the wages section due to his shorthand, bookkeeping and typing skills.

James Eccleston c.1944

After the war, James found work at Wilson & Mathieson Engineering in Leeds where he met Yvonne Delamere who had been evacuated from Guernsey when Germany invaded in 1940. They moved to Guernsey, where their children Jimmy and Lindy were born, before returning to Leeds in 1956.

James worked as a capstan lathe operator at Crompton Parkinson until he retired in 1983. The father-of-three died 16 years later, remembered by his children as a quiet home-loving family man.

Out of Many Festival Director, Susan Pitter, said the pop-up version of the exhibition was another opportunity to bring these stories to a wider audience.

She said: “The significance of their service, joining the RAF as young men and teenage boys to fight a war thousands of miles away should not be underestimated. They were true pioneers who are too often unrecognised or under-valued. Their

contributions are a part of British history that deserves to be championed.”

Generously supported by Leeds Civic Trust Community Heritage Fund and staged in partnership with Leeds Libraries For King, Country and Home is a part of the

Jamaica Society Leeds Out of Many Festival made possible thanks to National

Lottery players by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Arts Council England.

For King, Country and Home is on display as follows;

Jamaica House, 277 Chapeltown Road, Leeds LS7 3HA

Saturday 11th November 11am – 3pm and Sunday 12th November 10.30am – 2.30pm

November 14th – 21st at The Reginald Centre library Chapeltown Road,  LS7 3EX

Nov 22nd – 28th at Hunslet Community Hub and Library Waterloo St, Leeds, LS10 2NS.

Opening times for both libraries are;  Mon, Thurs, Fri 9am-5pm; Tues 10am-5pm;  Weds 9am-7pm; Sat 10am-4pm. Closed on Sundays.

Admission is free.