Brixton Calling: Alan Wilmott – soldier, singer and star

Written by on 22 June, 2017 in Brixton Calling, Features - 1 Comment

WW2 veteran Alan Wilmott talks to Delores William about his war experiences and life in Britain after the War. But there’s something unusual about this war hero. Delores popped in for tea and finds there’s more to Alan than his war service

Delores Williams with Alan Wilmott at the ceremony to unveil the African Caribbean war memorial in Windrush Square

Delores Williams with Alan Wilmott at the ceremony to unveil the African Caribbean war memorial in Windrush Square

 

Alan’s other claim to fame is as a member of the 50s pop group The Southlanders, who had a number one hit. One of the few black bands to do so. He toured with, and counted among his friends Frankie Vaughan, Cliff Richards, Spike Milligan and Marty Wilde.

He also features on the single I Have A Song – the fundraiser for the African Caribbean Memorial which was unveiled today – which, if it makes the charts, would make Allan Wimot the only living artist to have two pop hits seven decades apart.

Born in Kingston Jamaica in August 1925, he had won a legal scholarship when war broke out. “I had chance to do something. So, I joined the navy and was with minesweepers

Then he volunteered for RAF rescue service.

“Everything was so strange. People know nothing about you. What part of Africa is that? We knew everything about British Isles, they knew nothing about us.”

Alan’s experience of white people before in Jamaica was of rich people, so he got a shock when he arrived in Britain. People with no heating or running water, poor people. “Quite a shock. I didn’t realise it till came here. I was more well off than a lot of white people.”

His job with the RAF was to rescue flyers after they had been shot down. The RAF speed boat service rescued 17,000.

He describes white Americans as his enemies. “We went into places and were accepted.” But Black American soldiers were segregated and confined to barracks.

“We used to hit back hard. White Americans. Don’t mess with guys in the British uniform.

After the War Alan got together with his brother and started a quartet. He soon realised that. in those days. every British town had a theatre and there was room for his act “We  started to get a few breaks in the nightclubs.”

He acted as back-up group to Frankie Vaughan, MartiyWilde and counted Spike Milligan and Cliff Richards as friends.

“I got into Jewish folk tunes. They were surprised see black fellas singing these.

Southlanders was originally a quartet whose first hit was Why Must I Be Alone. He went on to have a number one with I Am A Mole And I Live In A Hole.

The Southlanders

The Southlanders

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