Former RAF volunteer Harold Sinson returned to the UK on the Empire Windrush and managed to carve out a happy and productive life for himself


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Harold Orlando Sinson, better known as Harry, was just out of school when WWII broke out in 1939 and had found work at a foundry in British Guiana, present-day Guyana. In 1943 a friend who worked at the Daily Chronicle newspaper told him that the Royal Air Force had placed an ad for men and women from the colonies to volunteer to help Britain fight Hitler.

“I had this feeling of being able to do something, and if the air force thought we could help, so be it, we would go,” he recalled. In 1944, Harold travelled to the UK by steamship for training at Filey, Yorkshire, before being posted to Pembroke Docks in Wales. Military service gave him the opportunity to meet soldiers from allied countries and even German prisoners of war.

Following demobbing in 1947, he travelled home to British Guiana before finding work in Trinidad – where he boarded the MV Empire Windrush back to Blighty. Not having any accommodation arranged, he spent a few days at the Clapham South Deep Shelter in London before finding somewhere to live in nearby Balham.

He re-joined the RAF later that year. In 1950, he was re-united with Pauline Woolston, a young woman he’d first met in Yorkshire during the war. After managing to overcome opposition from her family, they married in 1953. The couple went on to have three daughters, one of whom served in the army.

Harold served in the RAF until he was 55 and then worked as a housing officer for the army for 10 years. After retiring he worked as a volunteer for the Citizens Advice Bureau and was an elder in his local Salvation Army church.

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