The Caribbean at war

Over 10,000 service men and women from the colonial Caribbean signed up to defend the UK against the might of Germany. The Caribbean at war may have been a tiny number compared to say Canada or India. But significant in the context of our minuscule region.

Max Shingleton-Smith is about the same age now as I was when I stumbled on my father’s logbook. He is your average preteen facing down the same challenges of 2020 as kids his age around the globe. At the end of the day, 2020 is going to be a repeat year for school. This too shall pass.

Max Shingleton-Smith
Max Shingleton-Smith

Ultimate sacrifices

Max has the fairly unique status of being a St. Lucian lad with two great-uncles – one each from his mother and father – who made the ultimate sacrifice during WWII. Desmond du Boulay and David Kipps Shingleton-Smith both died while serving with the Royal Air Force during the war.

Desmond DuBoulay served as an Air Gunner with the Royal Canadian Air Force 426 Sqdn. He was among a crew of 8 aboard Lancaster DS676 on a mission to bomb Berlin on 24 August 1943. The plane was shot down by a night fighter and crashed at Gusen, 13 km WSW of Genthin.

All 8 are buried in the Berlin War Cemetery, he was only 20 years old. Desmond was one of six children from the DuBoulay family in Soufriere, St. Lucia. His parents erected a small shrine to their fallen son near the family home.

The text inscribed on the shrine erected by the DuBoulay family.

One of Desmond’s sisters is Marguerite, Max’s grandmother.

Camille DuBoulay

Another Caribbean at war was Desmonds two years younger sister sister Camille. She followed in her brother’s footsteps and boarded a ship for England in 1944 as a member of the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS).

I can’t imagine how she managed to convince them, but she did, and this after a German U-boat had torpedoed two ships in Castries harbor in 1942. The war was real and present – even in tiny remote St. Lucia, and yet Camille overcame these hurdles, and sailed off to war.

There are multiple stories of parents sending several children off to war. (Mr. Bardsley in the post below was one of 8 brothers to serve, all of whom returned safely). It’s impossible to fathom a parent’s dread, when after losing one son, a daughter decides to follow suit, especially one so small and petit as Camille DuBoulay.

She served for 2 years in the UK, returning safely in 1946, no doubt much to the relief of her parents and siblings. 2 years after that, she married a man named Dennis Devaux, my father’s older brother. She once told me with a mischievous grin that part of her duties involved manning the “ack ack” guns during the time of the buzz bombs. What she lacked in physical stature she absolutely made up for in spunk and determination. Someone was smart enough to commemorate her efforts on a postage stamp.

Camille DuBoulay pictured on a stamp.

Sadly, I was too young to appreciate the significance of her contribution. Thank you Aunty Camille and thank you Desmond and David. You are all remembered.

Legacy and tribute

Max’s mother is Camille’s niece, Rachael. His father is Stephen Shingleton-Smith and every memorial day, they pay solemn tribute at the war cenotaph in Castries to their stoic family heroes.

Max may not fully appreciate the significance of this legacy at the moment. But his parents are ensuring that someday he will.

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