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Columns : Sip Sip History - Bahamas Historical Society Last Updated: Feb 6, 2017 - 2:32:04 PM

(VIDEO) West Indies Calling (1944): Bahamas Role in the War
By Jim Lawlor, BHS
Sep 9, 2011 - 12:00:01 PM

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The Bahamas Historical Society museum opening has been moved to Monday 19th September, 2011.

Our first talk of the year will take place on Thursday 29th September at 6pm – Heather Hatch will present her archeological findings at Harbour Island (details to follow). This pushes the intended IODE evening back to Thursday 27th October.

We received this extremely interesting information from Paul Aranha who wrote us as follows: These images have been taken from the film, West Indies Calling in the hope that names can be put to the faces of the Bahamian volunteers. I thought the following wartime information about World War 2 would also be of interest:

Tribune 23rd January 1943 - The Defences of Nassau..

Tribune representative taken on a tour of the new RAF Station …At this season of the year Nassau has long been the rendezvous for strangers from all round the world – new faces, new people, pockets bulging with money, young and old, all looking for rest, moderate recreation or rip roaring fun.


And Nassau has something to offer all comers.

For the youth of the town the most attractive features of “the season” was the new crop of young girls the winter drove south and every year from all parts of USA, Canada and great Britain with an occasional continental face give added variety to the patchwork of beauty.

This “season” the town is full of strangers – a different type of stranger….not looking for rest, fun and there is little time for recreation because they are engaged in the serious business of war.

…tables are turned…a new crop of boys attracting the attention of the Nassau girls…only there are not enough girls to go round
There are boys to suit every type and taste: The kilted Celts took a licking here, many fell victim to the charm of the Nassau ladies and signed their names in the book for the duration of life – now they are twain.


Then there are the Canadian and American Troops, the American men on the project and our own khaki lads.

But more and more the uniform of the RAF has come into evidence.

Planes drone overhead all day and all night. The island’s blackouts are not normal events – they are accompanied by planes speeding overhead and the light of flares that expose the objective…..

In recent months terrific explosions have come out of the west that caused the whole island to tremble…baby earthquakes would rock you out of bed.

Ships came, ships went, planes came, planes went – bringing men, material and equipment….


Nassau has been development conscious for a long time. But the greatest development of the age has been carried on behind forbidden boundaries.

From the original pioneer work of Sir Harry Oakes, who first created the landing field, the genius of the US Engineering Department, through the Lend-Lease Plan has now provided the vast network of landing areas to give Nassau one of the largest landing fields in the world – fields that may play an important part in the plans of the British airways for the development of great armadas for trans continental commercial flying after the war.

Nassau is a perfect country for flying. There are no icing conditions and most of the time the visibility is good.

The Oakes Airport was too low – the area settled water every time there was a heavy rainfall. A new airport had to be built in a new location. Hills had to be blasted away so that runways could be located on higher ground.

Along miles of smooth new highway we came to a new country. No longer was the lake seen from the elevation of a hill…the great booms had reduced the hill to the level of the lake.


On the far side of the lake were some fashionable homes of Nassau’s exclusive tourist colony, most now empty. On the other side were evidence of the area that Sir Harry Oakes chugged day after day on his great ‘iron horse’, making roads here there and everywhere.

There are military buildings everywhere..austere barracks for the men, quarters for officers.

In town efforts are being made to entertain the men: football, The Duchess of Windsor’s Canteen in the Bahamian Club premises, dances,  and of course ‘the date’ for the lucky few. The airport has a cinema and a recreation hall.

There is a modern Hospital for injuries and sickness.

With the establishment of this airport the old Nassau died…this airport did not kill Nassau, it is merely a symbol of a passing age. But its coming into being has conjured up visions of the future…..this airport seems to write clearly across the landscape a pattern of the new Nassau and the part it is destined to play in the post war world.


We are moving into a new world, a world in which men with vision, faith and enterprise will ride into the sun on the wings of time and progress.

(The tour was conducted by Flying Officer Pulitzer, veteran of American Expeditionary Force in WW1 and now in the Intelligence Branch of RAF…son of Joseph Pulitzer founder of the Pulitzer Prize)

Guardian 14th July 1944 :

Jeanne Bellamy’s Interview with Duke of Windsor from Miami Herald……


“We are far away from the war zones but we are training air crews for RAF”

“We have provided 6,000 farm labourers for USA”

“Some 80 Bahamians are serving overseas”

“I think for a small place we have not done so badly. It is not spectacular, but it’s a useful job.

I hope we are “moving into a new world, a world in which men (and women) with vision, faith and enterprise will ride into the sun on the wings of time and progress”.

The Bahamas Historical Society (BHS) is a non-profit organization dedicated to stimulating interest in Bahamian History and to the collection and preservation of material relating thereto. Its Headquarters, the former IODE Hall, was a gift from the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire (IODE). BHS is on Shirley Street and Elizabeth Avenue in Nassau. www.bahamashistoricalsociety. com

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