William Maurice “Syke” Smith
Served from 1951 – 1981

This Tribute was lovingly submitted by Mrs Norma Smith

 Deputy Commissioner William Maurice "Syke" Smith

William Maurice Smith, better known by all as “Syke”, was one of the most charismatic and popular members of the Bermuda Police throughout his service.

He was born on September 27th 1930 in Pembroke, the first of five children born to Charles and Irene Smith. His mother died when he was just 9 years old but fortunately for Syke he had two wonderful aunts, Etta and Ann, who helped to raise him and his brothers.

Syke attended Central School and the Berkeley Institute where he excelled in his studies, was chosen head prefect boy, attained the rank of Lieutenant in the Cadet Corps, and passed through Cambridge with distinction. Although more than qualified to go to university, he chose to stay and help raise his younger brothers. Rather than travelling abroad to further his studies he later took correspondence courses through Queen’s University, and after taking summer courses in Canada, he earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree.

In March 1952 he married Norma (nee Pow) and they had five children - all boys - Kenneth, Raymond, Richard, Philip and Christopher.   A real family man, Syke loved his wife and children dearly and often attributed his success in life to Norma’s positive outlook and all-round support.

After working for several years for Tucker’s Commission Agency, Syke decided that he really wanted to serve his country so he joined the Bermuda Police Force on 1st January 1951 at the age of 21.

Young Police Constable "Syke" Smith

It was clear from the outset that Syke would do very well in the Police Force.  After a short spell in Central Division (Hamilton) he was transferred to Operations, and in March 1954 he was transferred into CID. Later in the year he attended a Detective Training Course in Jamaica along with fellow detective, Floyd “Happy” Duerden. He went on to be awarded a total of 7 Commissioner’s Commendations as a young detective for successfully investigating a variety of criminal cases which included burglary, rape, breaking and entering, wounding, and arson. He spent time in C.I.D., in Eastern Division (St. George’s) and in Summons and Warrants.

Sykes' Early Days in CID
(l-r)  Harold Moniz, John Joe Sheehy, Milton Murray Marsh, Sinclair Bean,  "Syke" Smith,
Oliver Trott, "Happy" Duerden, Mike Burke, Leon Bean, and Mike Kelly 
Detective "Syke" Smith
CID Officers Celebrate with a Song!
(l-r)  "Syke" Smith, Fred Bean, Sinclair Bean, and Hubert Simmons

In August 1960, Syke was promoted to Sergeant while serving in Central CID.

Group Photo taken at Prospect in the Early 1960's
"Syke" is on the back row 5th from left
Can anyone assist is identifying all the officers in this photograph?

The following year he attended Bramshill Police College, and just 2 years later, in 1963, he earned promotion to Inspector while still in C.I.D. and was transferred to Eastern CID as the Officer in Charge. His career continued on apace, being promoted to Chief Inspector in 1970, and being transferred as OIC “F’ Department Training School in 1971.  He showed great interest in the Annual Police Pedal Cycle Gymkhana during his time in charge of "F" Department.

Mid Ocean News Photo published 26th June 1971

For many years Syke went on overseas recruitment trips to both the U.K. and the West Indies, and many young police officers will remember being recruited by him.

After a spell as the Press Liaison Officer and as Supreme Court Officer during which time he regularly performed the duties of Black Rod for the ceremonial Opening of Parliament (he is believed to be the first officer of colour to perform this duty), Syke was promoted to Superintendent in 1973, at which time he was appointed OIC “F” Department.

"Syke" performs the duties of Black Rod.
Below he leads the Chief Justic, Sir Miles Abbott

He was chosen to attend a variety of overseas courses including two Special Branch Courses in England (1962 and 1969), an attachment to Washington in 1973, an Overseas Command Course in the U.K. and as a delegate to the IACP Hostage Taking Conference in the USA in 1977.

In September 1979, Syke was promoted to Assistant Commissioner in charge of “D” Department, and on 28th March 1981 he was promoted to the rank of Deputy Commissioner.

Whilst in the Police Force he had continued his studies, receiving his BA degree from Queen's University in 1976. He was designated a Fellow of the British Institute of Management in 1980.

"Syke" proudly graduates with his B.A. from Queen's University in 1976

Syke always showed tremendous concern and care for his fellow man and his community, both as a police officer and in his personal capacity through numerous organizations. These included:-

  • Vice President of the Bermuda Royal Commonwealth Society;
  • Making history as the first man of colour to become a Master of the Bermuda Garrison Lodge No. 580 (G.R.I.);
  • President of the Berkeley Institute Parent Teachers’ Association,
  • President of the Kiwanis (1978-1979), and
  • Member of the Saltus Grammar School Board of Trustees.

"Syke" with his Aunt Etta Simmons who helped to raise him, Norma and son Kenneth

His wife, Norma, who excelled in her own career as a Senior HM Customs Officer, rising to the rank of Deputy Collector of Customs, says, “Maurice, possessed many good qualities. He was a kind and loving husband and father. He could be stern but was always kind-hearted, he was demanding but always understanding, stately but flexible, and he was also deeply religious, and knew that God was his guiding light. He was a faithful member of Heard Chapel AME Church where he served on the Usher’s Board and sang with the Male Voice Choir.”

Norma and Syke relax at an official Police function

One of his fellow officers  once told Norma that he had very high regard for Syke because whilst  they were on an overseas course together, every night before retiring, Syke would kneel and say a prayer.  

While reminiscing about Sykes’ experiences in the Police Force, Norma recalled the occasion when he attended a family dispute (known in the Police as a “domestic disturbance”) between a husband and wife, and the wife suddenly turned on Syke and began to hit him!   On another occasion he went to investigate a case in Pembroke and an elderly woman threw her “slop bucket’ over him! Of course he made a quick retreat and dashed home to clean up. However, on arriving home Norma made him stay outside, strip and throw his clothes away, and wash himself thoroughly - OUTSIDE!

Officers in ceremonial uniform for Awards Ceremony at Government House
(l-r)  Campbell Simons,  Gerald "Gerry" James, Harry Lister,  "Syke" Smith, John Joe Sheehy, and Ernie Moniz

Throughout his police career Syke was always very popular, due to his dedication and professional ability, his great sense of humour, and his respect for people regardless of their class or colour. He was also a 'father figure' to young constables such as Dennis Ramsey, Sinclair White, Carlton Adams* and others.   On New Year's Day it became a tradition for them to visit the Smith family home for turkey soup and fish cakes.

The Smith Family Children

Raymond, Kenneth,  Richard, Philip and Christopher

Syke died suddenly on Sunday 15th June 1981, just 3 months after being promoted Deputy Commissioner.   He is sorely missed by both his family, and his friends & colleagues in the Bermuda Police.

____________________________

*Carlton Adams, who went on to become Assistant Commissioner and the longest serving officer in the history of the BPS, still has fond memories of those annual New Year’s Day visits to the Smith household.

Carlton says, “Syke and Mrs. Smith always made us welcome and very much at home. In many ways he was like a father to us, providing sage advice and patiently listening to whatever we had to say, even if it was one of my tirades!. He was always approachable, unintimidating, and never wore his rank on his sleeve.

Syke was someone you naturally looked up to. I always felt comfortable in his presence. I think he understood us as young men better than we understood ourselves! Above all I remember his sense of humour; ever ready to share a laugh.

When he passed I remember thinking that it was so unfair. There was only one Syke Smith. Today, looking back, I feel so privileged to have known him."

This Obituary was published in the Police Review in the U.K.  
Very few officers from overseas have an obituary in the Police Review  -
an obvious sign of the respect with which Syke was held both at home and abroad
 
15th June 2016
 
The Family of our dear departed colleague, William Maurice "Syke" Smith have requested that we publish this memorial to Syke on this, the 35th Anniversary of his passing.  All of us who knew Syke will have fond memories of  a great friend and fellow officer.
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Comments  

#1 Craig Shipman 2012-06-23 16:34
I have fond memories of "Syke" Smith and his family when my family would visit Bermuda. In the 70's my brother and I were young teens and long hair was popular. "Syke" would look at us, laugh and say, "you look like girls!"
Fast forward to today...I have no hair.
I hope the Smith family is well.
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