Black Eagles & The Spy Princess – 23 October


A special day of events recognising the heroic stories of African-Caribbean and Asian Personnel who have served with the Royal Air Force.

11.30-12.15     ‘Black Eagles’: African-Caribbean pilots in the First World War by Peter Devitt (Lecture Theatre)

‘Black Eagles’ tells the story of the pilots of African heritage who fought for Britain and for France. The presentation also traces the remarkable career of Ahmet Ali Celikten, the first known Black pilot, who flew for the Turkish Naval Air Service on the side of Germany.

12.00-12.20, 13.00-13.20, 13.30-13.50.     Jan Blake storyteller      (Art Gallery)

Quails, who meet their end, because they won’t stop quarrelling, a talkative tortoises who earns himself a cracked shell and a clever spider who can’t help but trick his friends and family.

Come and join internationally renowned storyteller Jan Blake as she takes you on a journey through Jamaica and the folktales of Ananse, the shape-shifting Trickster Spider and then to India, land of the Jakarta Tales, originally told by the Buddha and retold by Noor Inayat Khan, the spy princess.

13.00-14.00 Black and Asian pilots in the First World War – a guided tour by Peter Devitt (First World War in the Air)

During the First World War, large numbers of Black and Asian volunteers fought for Britain and an unknown number chose to join her flying services, the Royal Flying Corps (RFC), the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) and, from 1 April 1918, the Royal Air Force. Four Indian officers – Lieutenants Shri Krishna Chanda Welinkar, Indra Lal Roy, Hardit Singh Malik and Errol Suvo Chunder Sen – became fighter pilots with the RFC. The first Black volunteer to qualify as a pilot was Sergeant William Robinson Clarke from Jamaica who flew reconnaissance missions for the RFC over the Western Front.

14.00-14.30     Performance by an Indian dance troupe (Halton Gallery)

Bharatantyam is one of the most cherished elements of Indian Cultural Heritage. Originating over 2000 years ago, the classical dance form has been devotedly handed down from generation to generation, from the ancient temples, successively entering the Royal Courts and subsequently ascending to the stage.

Guru Sri Prakash Madagudde, of the Bhavan Centre, London, has played an incredibly significant role in popularising and shaping this art form in the UK today, ensuring the posterity of Bharatanatyam will continue to flourish.

15.00-16.00     Shrabani Basu – Liberte! The life of WWII heroine Noor Inayat Khan (Lecture Theatre)

Shrabani Basu, author of Spy Princess, traces the story of Noor Inayat Khan from her birth in Moscow to her death in a bleak concentration camp in Germany and looks at the spirit that moved her.




About seancreighton1947

Since moving to Norbury in July 2011 I have been active on local economy issues with Croydon TUC and Croydon Assembly, and am a member of the latter's Environment Forum. I am a member of the 5 Norbury Residents Associations Joint Planning Committee, and a Governor of Norbury Manor Primary School. I write for Croydon Citizen at I co-ordinate the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Croydon Radical History Networks and advise the North East People's History Project.. I give history talks and lead history walks. I retired in 2012 having worked in the community/voluntary sector and on heritage projects. My history interests include labour movement, mutuality, Black British, slavery & abolition, Edwardian roller skating and the social and political use of music and song. I have a particular interest in the histories of Battersea and Wandsworth, Croydon and Lambeth. I have a publishing imprint History & Social Action Publications.
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