My Favourite Immigration Story
Updated 11 July 2018
The main actor in this story was already in early old age when I first met him.
He was a local character in his community. He was always smartly dressed, trim, and well turned out from his smartly polished shoes to his well brushed hair.
One could see he was a former soldier. He was a gentleman in every sense.
The application process
In 1971 the British Government brought in the Immigration Act 1971, which changed the system by which immigrants brought their families to England. It was necessary for families to apply for Entry Clearances. The interviewing officers were naturally called Entry Clearance Officers (ECOs).
The Entry Clearance Officers could rarely rely on documentation, because many births were not registered until years later, and registrations were often not completely accurate.
The ECOs interviewed the older children and their mothers, trying to establish whether these individuals were related as claimed. It was quite common for people to present a teenage boy as their son, because in those days the legal working age was 14 years. An extra income would be helpful.
The appeal process
There was an appeal process. The immigration judges were often people who had lived in the British colonies, and so had some understanding of how the local people lived. Many were former colonial civil servants or former servicemen.
Our hero was appealing because the ECO had granted Entry Clearances to his wife and younger children, but not to the 14 year old eldest lad.
Our hero believed in British Justice, and had not bothered with a lawyer.
The only question was whether the person refused was truly his and his wife’s son.
He was called forward to give evidence. He stood very erect, and said
“I am a soldier. A soldier never lies.”
The judge had served in the Indian Army, and he recognised this phraseology. It was one of the phrases drilled into recruits.
“What is your rank and number?”
The soldier gave his number and rank. “Sir”
“What was your regiment?”
“Singapore Rifles, Sir”
“They were captured at Singapore?”
“Yes sir. I was in Japanese prison camps for six years”
In England at that time, a statement like that attracted attention. Nearly one quarter of all prisoners in the Japanese camps had died of starvation sickness and brutality.
Many survivors never recovered full health.
“Did you know Captain Hoskins of the Oxfordshire Regiment?”
“Yes, sir. I saved his life once.”
“The officers’ camp was next to our camp. One night Captain Hoskins sneaked out of his camp to catch a cat to eat.”
“Suddenly the alarms went off and the searchlights went on, looking for him.
“I realised that if he were caught he would be shot.
“If I ran out and I distracted the guards I would get a severe beating but he would live. So I did.
“I got a hard beating, but Captain Hoskins got back safely to his camp.”
The judge was quiet for a minute. Then he got up and he walked slowly to the soldier.
He put his arms around the soldier.
“I am Captain Hoskins”.
What’s This About?
The two men embraced.
“What’s all this about?”
“I’ll show you sir.”
He brought his wife and children in from the waiting room.
“You see my wife? She is fair. These children are fair.
“But my big son he is dark like me.
“The Entry Clearance Officer saw my fair wife, my fair children. He saw my dark son but he did not see me.”
The judge addressed the Home Office representative.
“Well, Home Office?”
“He hasn’t been sworn, yet, sir”
“Its all right. I know this man. Have you anything else to say?”
Judgement was given for the teenager.
Every family has its Sunday dinner stories – anecdotes about Grandad in the war or Susie’s first boss.
This story was a Sunday dinner story in that family.
I had this story from the dark son. It is my favourite immigration story.