(Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, 1917 - 2013)
Nicknamed 'The Black Hornet,' Ulric Cross was a highly distinguished officer in the Royal Air Force during World War Two. His involvement in an elite Bomber Command unit over occupied Europe led him to become one of the most decorated West Indians of the Second World War.
Cross' subsequent, eminent career took him to three continents, spanned the rest of the 20th century, and was as varied as it was long: as a scholar and justice, Cross contributed to the legal systems in several newly independent African nations. He served his native Trinidad and Tobago in a range of diplomatic roles. And he became the face of a charity helping the most disadvantaged communities in his homeland.
Born in Port of Spain, Ulric Cross demonstrated academic promise in his early teens. He was awarded a prestigious college scholarship but saw his educational career derailed by his mother's passing when he was just thirteen years old. Leaving school, he alternated between junior jobs at a newspaper, in a law firm, and in the Civil Service.
When the Second World War broke out, Cross joined the Royal Air Force's Bomber Command, and rose to the position of Squadron Leader. Over 250 Trinidadians served in the RAF during the war, many as officers. Their efforts have subsequently often been overlooked, but during the war, Cross' service was recognized very highly, being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Distinguished Service Order. Cross was a member of the Pathfinder Force, an elite squadron in the RAF which flew risky, low-level missions ahead of the main bomber units. He flew over 80 missions over occupied Europe.
After the war, Cross resumed his studies, taking up law in London and contributing to the BBC as Talks Producer. When post-war independence movements took hold in Africa, Cross put his legal expertise to the service of several of the newly established nations, first becoming Senior Crown Counsel in Ghana, and subsequently Attorney General in Cameroon. In the 1970s, Cross worked as law professor at the University of Dar-es-Salaam while also serving as a justice on Tanzania's High Court. He then represented Trinidad and Tobago as High Commissioner in the UK, and as ambassador to France and Germany.
When Ulric Cross returned to Trinidad later in life, he founded a charity which combats poverty and unemployment in the country's capital through education and training, as well as providing legal aid, sports programmes and community art activities to the city's poorest areas. He passed away in 2013 at the age of 96.
Image: Portrait of Ulric Cross (c) Ean Flanders.