The quest into your family history is so much more than compiling a mere list of names and places and dates. The intrigue lies in the life stories of the men and women behind those names.
As a boy, I remember my grandmother mentioning that her cousin, Warren, was killed during World War II. The Bahamas, a British colony at that time, played a vital role in the war as an Atlantic air and sea base. It is estimated that 200-300 Bahamians served during the war, representing either Britain, Canada or the United States. Fourteen of those men lost their lives in active service, including Warren.
In the Bahamas Historical Society’s November 2011 newsletter, Jane Lloyd recounts…
During the Second World War, Oakes Field was used by the Royal Air Force as a training base…The RAF’s No. 250 Air-Sea Rescue Unit was one of the units based in The Bahamas and they were equipped with amphibious aircraft and fast launches. They operated from bases at Fort Montagu, Lyford Cay and Harbour Island. Their function was to rescue the crews of aircraft which carne down in the sea and to co-operate with naval forces in the area. There was also a fully-equipped RAF hospital situated at Oakes Field to deal with service casualties. Apart from transient aircrew personnel passing through these units, over 3,000 officers and men were stationed in The Bahamas.
Warren Maurice Lightbourn was born in September of 1919 to Maurice & Ida Lightbourn. Maurice owned a photography studio on Frederick Street in Nassau and captured a few wedding portraits of my parents. My mother recalls Ida being a talented artist.
Last summer, while visiting my mom’s sister in the Abacos, I perused her photo album and, with my iPhone in hand, snapped a bunch of her black and white photos, including this portrait of Warren handsomely dressed in uniform.
Not much is known of the journey that led Warren to join the RAF or even his tasks or accomplishments while in the service. However, in 1945 on Valentine’s Day, Warren was killed when his plane was shot down. What is known is recorded in this amazing website Caribbean Aircrew in the RAF during WW2. A small excerpt from the site…
Aircrew Flt Lt Warren Maurice, LIGHTBOURN
Service No: 119573 Service: RAFVR
Trade/Branch: Pilot Squadron(s): 610 Sqn
Station/Unit/Ship: B.78 Eindhoven
Group: 127 Wing Command: 2TAF
Nationality: Bahamas / Disposal: KIA / Age 25 years / Date Died: 14 Feb 1945
Aircraft 1: Spitfire XIV
A few days ago, I received an email with the photo below attached from a cousin in Florida. Even though we have never met in person, we have spoken on the phone, exchanged family history emails and shared priceless photos of our common Bahamian ancestors.
His story is far from being told. If anyone has any insight or facts to share on Warren, please leave a comment on this article. I came across this poem posted on the Bahamas Historical Society’s website that was penned in 1941 for the airmen serving in the war.