In Trinidad and Tobago, November is the month of remembrance. During this month we remember those who have gone before us with the Christian celebration of All Saints and All Souls. Additionally, we celebrate Remembrance Day (also called Poppy Day), in which we remember those service men and women who have fallen in combat, particularly during World Wars I and II.
In the United States of America, Remembrance Day is known as Veterans’ Day.
This November 2021, let us remember Phillip Louis Ulric Cross, World War II hero, lawyer, international jurist, Attorney General, Pan Africanist, diplomat, professor and philanthropist.
Phillip Louis Ulric Cross: The Story of a Hero and Patriot
Phillip Louis Ulric Cross
Image Source: Heritage Library Division, Phillip Ulric Cross Collection.
On 4 October 2013, Trinidad and Tobago suffered a great loss with the passing of Justice Phillip Louis Ulric Cross, a brilliant, courageous, multi-talented, decorated son of the soil, at the age of ninety-six (96). Despite an ordinary childhood in colonial Trinidad, tragedy and barriers of colour, race and class, he achieved his dreams and fulfilled his remarkable destiny.
He delivered sterling service to the British war effort in World War II, was an esteemed lawyer, international jurist, the Attorney General in Cameroon, dedicated Pan Africanist, diplomat, professor and philanthropist. He invaluably impacted not only Trinidad and Tobago, but Africa and the World.
Let’s take a closer look at the life of this national hero and patriot…
Who was Phillip Louis Ulric Cross?
On May 1, 1917, Cross, the second of nine children, was born in Belmont. He attended Tranquillity Boys’ Intermediate Government School, followed by St. Mary’s College on a government scholarship. As a teenager, he had ambitions of being a flight lieutenant, which his peers thought crazy. Family tragedy led him to leave school to work. He was employed at the Trinidad Guardian, then at a Solicitor’s Office, and later with the Trinidad Government Railways. His real love, however, was aviation and he wanted to travel the world.
The World War II Hero
In 1941, the twenty-four (24) year old Cross, who described himself as adventurous and idealistic, volunteered to fight in the war (WW II). His had romantic notions of the Royal Air Force (RAF). Desiring to escape the stifling colonial society in Trinidad, and to do his part in defeating Hitler and fascism, led him to sign up. He was assigned Bomber Command navigator in the 139 (Jamaica) Squadron with the British RAF. In 1946, the only West Indian in his squadron, Cross was promoted to squadron leader. The excellent navigator was selected to join the elite Pathfinder Force. He completed eighty (80) bombing missions over Europe. Fondly called “The Black Hornet” by his comrades, Cross is believed to be the most decorated West Indian squadron leader of World War II. He exited the RAF as squadron leader in 1947, and went on to explore his talents in other fields.
Cross (circled in the front row) with other Commonwealth volunteers in the RAF.
Image Source: John-Lall; Caption Source: “Ulric Cross”
The Lawyer, Broadcaster and Activist
Cross studied law at Middle Temple, London and was called to the Bar in 1949. Between 1949 to 1953, he worked in Trinidad as a Legal Advisor to the Controller of Imports and Exports and lectured in Trade Union history and law at the University of the West Indies.
From 1953 to 1957, he was the Talks Producer at the British Broadcasting Corporation in London on a segment dealing with African and Caribbean issues. His career is believed to have been curtailed because of his affiliation with Pan African revolutionaries. Along with other Trinidadian intellectuals and activists (such as CLR James and George Padmore), and African leaders (Kwame Nkrumah and Patrice Lumumba), he fought against colonialism and lobbied for African freedom.
Work in Africa
From 1958 to 1974, Cross put his legal education to use in Africa, practising law in senior legal positions and lecturing at universities. He contributed to the judicial system in Africa and the political development of post-independence Ghana, Cameroon and Tanzania. Cross also worked in Ethiopia and Kenya. He held a number of portfolios such as Senior Crown Council (Ghana), Attorney General and Member of Parliament (Cameroon), High Court Judge, Chairman of the Permanent Labour Tribunal and Professor at the University of Dar-es-Salaam (Tanzania), External Examiner at the University of Nairobi (Kenya), and was advisor to the presidents of Ghana and Tanzania.
In 1974, the legal luminary returned to Trinidad and Tobago to take up the position of High Court Judge in the Judiciary of Trinidad and Tobago. He was promoted to Court of Appeal Judge in 1979. In the 1980s, Cross served as Chairman of the Law Reform Commission and Chairman of the Commonwealth Foundation in 1983. In the 1990s, he was appointed High Commissioner for Trinidad and Tobago to the United Kingdom and Ambassador of Trinidad and Tobago to France and Germany. He was also a consultant with Trinity Chambers.
Cross impacted many lives in Trinidad and Tobago through his partnerships with organisations that helped the less fortunate, and disenfranchised youth. Such organizations included the Express Children’s Fund, Heroes Foundation and the Cotton Tree Foundation, that participated in ventures to assist with education, training, mentorship, counselling and self-help programmes.
National and International Recognition
In recognition of his work, Justice Phillip Louis Ulric Cross, was presented with the Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. He was also recognised for his significant contributions in World War II, to the Federal Republic of Cameroon, and the Trinidad and Tobago Public Service and sphere of law. He received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of the West Indies and the local military airbase in Piarco was renamed the Ulric Cross Air Station.
Image courtesy the TT Air Guard, Ministry of National Security.
Ceremony renaming the Piarco Air Station to the Squadron Leader Ulric Cross Air Station on 8th June 2011.
Cross’ life was so intriguing that he inspired books including a comic book and an award-winning biopic.
Cross had three children, Sue, Richard and Nicola. He led a fun and active life, and his career path allowed him to achieve his desire to travel the world.
The Phillip Louis Ulric Cross Collection
The Heritage Library Division was gifted the Phillip Louis Ulric Cross Collection by his daughter, Ms Nicola Cross. This collection is comprised of documents, hand written notes, books, images and various memorabilia.
To discover more on Trinidad and Tobago’s rich history, follow the Heritage Library Division on Facebook @NALISHLDTT or the NALIS blog, peruse our Subject Guide or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
All copyright of the images is held by NALIS. Reproduction and distribution without written permission is prohibited.
John-Lall, Rapheal. “Corporate T&T not Investing in Filmmaking.” Guardian [Trinidad and Tobago], 2 May 2013, Business Guardian, p. 6.
Phillip Louis Ulric Cross Collection, Heritage Library Division, NALIS, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.
“Ulric Cross.” The Sunday Times, 11 Oct. 2013, www.thetimes.co.uk/article/ulric-cross-3fh3n5jz55l. Accessed 11 Jul. 2021.
“Ulric Cross: An Obituary from the Telegraph.” Repeating Islands. 12 Oct. 2013, repeatingislands.com/2013/10/12/ulric-cross-an-obituary-from-the-telegraph/. Accessed 5 Jul. 2021.
“Ulric Cross Documentary ‘Hero’ Coming Next Year.” TnT Mirror [Trinidad and Tobago], 14 Jul. 2013, p. 4.
Information complied by: Leigh Shand, Librarian I, Heritage Library Division