Angus Anthony Wood (born 1918)

large group of men in suits pose for a photograph in front of a grand doorway

Angus Wood and his colleagues from the West Indies attended a welcome reception in London, where they were introduced to Ernest Bevan. Angus is in the front row with a coat over his arm.

Angus Wood was one of many West Indian people who, feeling patriotic to the King and 'Mother Country', volunteered to come to Britain in the Second World War to aid the war effort.

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, he left school at fourteen and started an engineering apprenticeship. He learnt many different trades, as the company made whatever was needed. Angus remembers making exercise bikes for the local sanatorium and painting the screen white at the local open air cinema.

Angus, along with others, was approached by a representative of the Ministry of Supply and asked to come to Great Britain. He left Kingston on 13 January 1940 on a converted banana boat. It called at New Brunswick in Canada, where it was piled high with ingots of base metals, lorry chassis, tins of food and other items to support Britain in the days of rationing.

They docked in Scotland and travelled by train to Liverpool. They went to live at the YMCA in Birkenhead. Angus's first impressions of Merseyside were that it was very cold, especially on the ferry, and surprise that he could not find an all-night cafe to get a snack.

Angus was employed at ROF Fazakerley, a newly opened rifle manufacturing factory, hastily built when the Enfield Factory in London was bombed. Initially he was treated a little differently, as the men at the factory did not realise that the language, schooling, training and culture was much the same in Jamaica as it was in Britain.

Once he proved that he knew his job he was treated the same as the other workers. His job, a protected occupation, was to set up machines that the women workers used to cut and grind components for rifles.

Angus also joined the factory's own Home Guard, performing night fire watches and guard duty before and after a full days work.

The women workers took pity on the men having to stay at the YMCA and helped them find lodgings with families in Liverpool. Angus lived for two years with the Roberts family, in Crescent Road, Fazakerley, before meeting his wife at the factory and setting up their own home.

Angus and his friends often went to the Grafton Ballroom and it was here that they experienced some racism. This was not from British people, but from American GIs who would try to stop their own Coloured servicemen going into the hall. They then tried to extend this rule to the Jamaican men, but the latter were having none of that!

After the war the men were offered the opportunity to return to Jamaica or stay in Britain. Angus, who was by then married with young children, chose to stay. He has lived and worked in Liverpool all his life, staying on at the factory until it closed in 1962.