Paying tribute to Cross, as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, at the memorial service in his honour at Memorial Park, Port-of-Spain Carmona quoted Cross as saying when Hitler had conquered all of Europe, and the world was drowning in fascism, and America was not yet in the war, he decided “to do something about it and volunteered to fly in the Royal Air Force” to fight bigotry.
The best tribute anyone can pay, he said, “is to stop talking. Stop writing fancy letters to the editor, and do what needs to be done like that great man, Justice Ulric Cross did, not only when he was in power, but when he was out of power.”
Representatives of organisations in which he played a major role also paid glowing tributes, while the TT Police Band, during intervals, played selected pieces such as “Battle of Britain March,” “Where Eagles Dare,” and “Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines.” Among those present were Cross’s widow, Ann, son Richard Finch, daughters Sue Hollick and Nicola Cross, his only surviving brother Neville of London. Cross died on October 4. His remains were cremated yesterday.
Also present were Acting Prime Minister Prakash Ramadhar, National Security Minister Captain Gary Griffith, other Government ministers, Leader of the Opposition Dr Keith Rowley, and heads of the military services.
The memorial, which told about Cross’s working life as public servant and volunteer, was more of a light-hearted celebratory nature, but it had an emotional moment when TT Defence Force (Air Guard) Group Captain Tyrone Rudolfo spoke of his relationship with Cross. He broke down for a few moments as he related a story of Cross being one of the last persons to speak with his uncle (whom he never knew) — an aviator in World War II whose fighter was hit broadside by the enemy and went down over Germany. Cross, who had lost a close friend, followed in his fighter the crashed plane down as far as he could.
After a few soldiers wiped tears away, Rudolfo caused some laughter when he related that Cross unknowingly made him an instant celebrity in London in 2011 when during a stay at the Royal Air Force Club in Piccadilly when a retired RAF aviator heard his accent at breakfast, asked him if he was Trinidadian, and if he knew Ulric Cross. When he told him that he not only knew him, but that the Piarco Air Station had been renamed the Ulric Cross Air Station, retired aviators were lining up to be his breakfast companion for the next five days that he stayed there to get up-to-date information on Cross. Though the two enjoyed a big brother and small brother relationship, and Rudolfo was higher in rank according to the military, he always addressed Cross as “Sir.”
At the time of his death, Rudolfo said Cross remained the most decorated aviator in the Caribbean having been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, 1944; Distinguished Service Order, 1945; Order of Merit — First Class, and the Order of Valour from the Federal Republic of Cameroon; Chaconia Gold Medal, 1983; Honorary Doctorate of Law, University of the West Indies, and Order of the Republic of TT, 2011. Recalling Cross’s humour, Chief Justice Ivor Archie said six years ago after Cross had just celebrated his 90th birthday, he told Archie, “I think I am about to have my mid-life crisis.” Though Cross described himself as an agnostic, he said he, Archie saw him as a man who had “much greater faith than myself” having survived a crash in which his fighter was a wreck, and getting up and walking again. “People like Ulric just don’t die,” he said, “their values, belief, actions and service remains etched in our national pages to be treasured, inspire and to be emulated. Big brother you have earned your place.”
Ronald Harford, banker and Chairman of the UWI Development and Endowment Fund noted that Cross was the fund’s first chairman, and “played a prominent part in all aspects of it.” The fund over the past 24 years has provided bursaries for more than 3,500 students and has a legacy fund of about $20 million to assist future students.
“A great raconteur of stories of his rich life experiences,” Harford said, “Ulric entertained and educated his audiences.”
British High Commissioner to TT, Arthur Snell in reflection said that Britain did not stand alone in the fight against fascism for the brief period during World War before America joined in. “That is historically inaccurate and forgets the absolutely essential contribution of countries that were then part of the British Empire, and now the Commonwealth.” Without the contribution of Commonwealth servicemen like Cross, he said, “the outcome of World War II would have been entirely different.” Cross’s service from the military to the judiciary, diplomatic field and into philanthropy, and refusing to retire from active service repeatedly, Snell said “is mind-boggling.”
Noting that 25 per cent of servicemen from the Commonwealth lost their lives in World War II, he said that Britain owed them a debt of gratitude. To this end, he said that a chapter in Britain’s history is being rewritten in recent years out of respect for the sacrifice the servicemen made. Also paying tributes were Philip Julien of Heroes Foundation who noted that Cross was the foundation’s first Board Chairman, and Anne Cross, niece of Ulric Cross, of the Cotton Tree Foundation, who noted that the foundation was formed by Cross and the late Desmond Allum to assist initially, the less fortunate in Port-of-Spain.
On behalf of the Royal Air Force Association of which Cross was a founder member, RAFA secretary Phyllis Hernandez said that one of Cross’s goal was to unite all military services to ensure their welfare on retirement.
Dominican and US-based aviator Gabriel Christian also presented a citation to Cross’s family on behalf of the US-based Tuskegee Airmen for Cross’s bravery in leading 25 missions in World War II.
Last but not least the Air Force Guard bid farewell in a “Missing Man Formation” with two helicopters flying over the Memorial Park. One flew back directly to the Ulric Cross airbase, while the other took a right angle as it flew over the park.