Hundreds answer call to attend funeral of RAF veteran Oswald Dixon

Members of the public gather as the coffin of former RAF serviceman Oswald Dixon arrives for his funeral service
Members of the public gather as the coffin of former RAF serviceman Oswald Dixon arrives for his funeral service Credit: Peter Byrne/PA

During the height of the Second World War, with Britain desperate for reinforcements, Oswald Dixon was one of thousands of Jamaicans to answer the call for King and Country.

The 100-year-old died last month at a care home for service personnel in Salford, Greater Manchester, where he spent the last four years of his life. 

With no friends or family to speak of and suffering from blindness and dementia, staff feared his war service would pass unrecognised and launched a public campaign for mourners to attend his funeral.

On a rain-lashed afternoon this Wednesday at Salford’s Agecroft Crematorium they came in their droves, with hundreds of former and present service personnel honouring Oswald Dixon and the thousands of Caribbean men and women who answered the call to fight for a distant country.

Draped in a Union flag, Dixon’s coffin was carried into the chapel past a guard of honour formed by RAF personnel and watched by the Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer. 

Dixon was one of the thousands of Jamaican men and women to answer the call to fight for Britain Credit: Peter Byrne/PA

Donald Campbell, chairman of the National Caribbean Monument Charity, was among the regimental standard bearers. 

“Jamaicans in those days looked at England as the mother country and said they could not allow the Germans taking over so decided to fight,” said the 68-year-old former Warrant Officer. “But up until today we still feel as if this contribution is not fully recognised.”

Also in attendance was a man claiming to be Dixon’s estranged son, who says he thought his father had died years ago before reading about the appeal for mourners last week.

Edward Aspin, a 42-year-old bus driver who has lived in Dublin for the past 16 years and travelled with his family to the service, says his parents had separated and he had lost all touch with his father before he moved into the care home.

“This has been such a shock and I’m overwhelmed to be here,” he said. 

With no friends or family to speak of, staff at Dixon's care home made a public appeal for mourners to attend his funeral Credit: Peter Byrne/PA

Little is known of Dixon’s service history, only that he volunteered in Kingston, Jamaica in 1944 - alongside more than 6,000 Caribbean RAF servicemen to make the perilous Atlantic crossing.

He served as a flight mechanic and was selected to train new recruits before eventually retiring in 1949.

Staff at Broughton House care home recall a quiet man with a “wicked” sense of humour who would assiduously take a torch to bed with him every night.

Among the readings was a tribute from the Jamaican High Commissioner before the sounding of Last Post.