The journey begins closer to home

Clues from Desmond Maingot's memoirs

Sometimes the inclination to think the best story is miles away has led us to miss the incredible information “hiding” in plain sight within easy reach. Sometimes the journey begins much closer to home, such was the case with clues to my own father’s path to join the war.

My mother’s sister Marina, and her husband Bernard Maingot from Trinidad, practically raised some of my siblings. Their wisdom and grace is much revered in our close knit family.

The first step

The journey begins in June 1943, Bernard’s eldest brother Desmond boarded the SS El Nil in Trinidad to go off to war. 6 other Trinidadians, 1 Grenadian and 1 St. Lucian – Cyril Devaux – left with him. All with hopes of becoming pilots through the British Commonwealth Ait Training Plan.

Out of the nine men only Cyril Devaux would be selected for pilot training while the other men were placed in other air force positions. Ironically all probably saw combat related service due to the shorter training periods. By virtue of a longer training program my father didn’t.

The journey began on SS El Nil.
SS El Nil

One of the group, Trevor Rostant – my father’s best and lifelong friend, served as a mechanic with Bomber Command. Here he witnessed the horrors of war first hand as heavily damaged planes returned from bombing runs over Europe.

Desmond Maingot describes how the journey began in his memoirs.
Desmond Maingot’s memoire describing his departure from Trinidad in June 1943 aboard the SS El Nil. Included in the group of 9 are Cyril Devaux and his best friend Trevor Rostant.

Within the family

Desmond Maingot serving as a wireless air gunner deployed to the Burma theater. One night during severe weather he ended up baling out. I am indebted to him for writing his memoirs before he passed in 2012.

After four years of research into veterans all over the world it only occurred to me two days ago to enquire of his brother, my uncle Bernard! Bernard recalled the dreaded news that his brother had gone missing and then the wonderful relief at learning he was safe a few days later. Desmond’s wonderful memoir provides some wonderful details into my father’s formal entry into WWII which LBP webmaster Lars McKie has already begun to drill deeper into.

No doubt there will be more on this in future posts.

Cyril Devaux and Trevor Rostant somewhere in Canada during their training.
Cyril Devaux (left) and Trevor Rostant (right).
Somewhere in Canada.

For now we remember Desmond Maingot, Trevor Rostant and the thousands of men and women like him from the Caribbean who did their part, courageously and without fanfare, in the defense of freedom.

Remembrance

In a similar twist, we learned of the passing of an ATA icon Eleanor Wadsworth. Like Mary Ellis she delivered several types of aircraft to front lines during the war.

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-norfolk-55601962…

Because of the tendency of these giants to quietly go about their lives, we sadly too often do not hear of their extraordinary deeds until they have passed. In this case, Wadsworth lived a mere 30 minutes away from LBP UK based associate Ross Stewart. Her signature would have been perhaps one of the easiest to acquire, if only we had known. Today we remember her along with all the unsung women of WWII whose overlooked contributions impacted in ways that may never be properly appreciated.

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