Black Briton Raphael Ennevor’s heroic act in wartime Brixham

In 1941, the fishing town of Brixham had swelled in numbers with the stationing of US and Canadian regiments preparing for D-Day. One such soldier was Raphael Ennevor – a British West Indian man who, living in Montreal at the outbreak of World War Two, had enrolled in the Royal Canadian Artillery.

In July 1941, 24 year old Raphael was still recuperating from an injury to his spine and had recently had his cast removed. Walking by Brixham harbour, he saw a child fall in the water. He leaped off the harbour wall fully clothed, rescuing the 5 year old girl from drowning.

The Brixham Western Guardian of 17 July 1941 describe his act as a ‘meritoriously gallant rescue’, and report how the young man was reluctant to give his name for any acclaim, and how a local café gave him shelter as he dried his clothes.

news article from Brixham Western Guardian, July 1941
news article from Brixham Western Guardian, July 1941
Mandeville, Jamaica
Mandeville, Jamaica

Raphael Simpson Ennevor – Simpson sometimes spelt Stimpson – was born in 1917 in the St Elizabeth / Mandeville area of south-west Jamaica – at that time part of Britain. His mother was French, and his father Jamaican. Raphael was the descendant of both a white plantation owner and enslaver, and black enslaved people who had laboured on Berlin Plantation in St Elizabeth. In 1940 he married Canadian Muriel Parker, before being posted to the UK.

His act of heroism in Brixham was reported in the local press and as far afield as his wife’s home country of Canada, and in the Kingston, Jamaica newspaper The Daily Gleaner. Happily, Raphael Ennevor survived the war and settled with his wife in Montego Bay where, from 1960, they ran a boutique and art gallery. He died in 1983.

Brixham Heritage Museum is pleased to share the story of his heroic act which saved the life of a Brixham child, and are committed to incorporating stories like these of Black British history into our future exhibitions and website.

For more about Brixham during World War Two, in which Ennevor’s story is found, you can purchase ‘Keep Smiling Through: the Brixham Home Front 1939-1945’ by Samantha Little from our museum shop.

written by Anna Kisby Compton

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