It is my privilege this morning to pay tribute on behalf of the Police Service to our former colleague, retired Detective Inspector Milton Murray Marsh, who served with distinction in the Bermuda Police from 1941 until his retirement in February 1964 - a period that saw many changes both in Bermuda and in the Bermuda Police Force.
I should point out that Milton retired from the Service just 3 months before I began my career here, but even though we never served together, his reputation was already firmly established in the Police, and he remained a familiar sight to law enforcement officers as both an excellent bailiff and as the Head of Security at Castle Harbour Hotel. I have never really heard Milton referred to by anything other than his full name - Milton Murray Marsh. That seems to be a statement in itself. He was a man of substance.
I should also briefly explain that early in 2010, I had a series of interviews with Milton at his home because I was embarking on a project to record the histories of former police officers on behalf of the Bermuda Ex-Police Officers Association, and where better to start than with our oldest retired officer. Interviewing Milton was both a pleasure and a fascinating history lesson.
You will be hearing in a few minutes about the fact that he was born in Charleston, Nevis, in 1910, and that his father Arthur Alexander Marsh was a police officer. Milton made no bones about the fact that it was tough being the son of a policeman and that he learned to take care of himself the hard way because he would sometimes be picked on by people his father had had to deal with.
As you will also hear, his father eventually settled in Bermuda, and Milton joined his family here and worked for a while before making the decision to join the Bermuda Police Force as a young constable in 1941, which he told me quite frankly, “seemed like the best of bad choices because jobs at that time were scarce especially for people of colour.” It was clear from our interviews that Milton had two strikes against him as young Bermuda police officer - he was black, and he was from the West Indies. On joining he was handed a worn out flashlight, a pair of handcuffs and truncheon, and off he went to patrol the beat in Hamilton with absolutely no training other than reading a few law books. How times have changed!
Milton married the love of his life, Miss Gwendolyn Williams in 1944, and Gwendolyn’s father was an outstanding police officer, Detective Sergeant J.J. Williams, who was one of Bermuda’s first ever Detectives. Perhaps it was partly because of the influence of his father-in-law that Milton was very keen to work in CID. While still a constable he had been transferred to West Division, Somerset, for a while and had fond memories of his association with Somerset’s two legendary detectives, Mike (Cann) and Spike (Hazell).
His opportunity came after he spotted a man acting suspiciously in Victoria Park, and Milton managed to catch the man red-handed committing an offence I’d never even heard of - “illegally pedaling liquor”! This arrest brought him to the attention of Detective Inspector Oliver Trott, another legendary detective, who recruited Milton onto his team in Central CID, a team that included several outstanding young detectives, including the late Sinclair Bean, Hubert Simmons, the late “Syke” Smith who rose through the ranks to become Deputy Commissioner, and a young man by the name of Frederick “Penny” Bean who went on to become the first born Bermudian to be promoted to the rank of Commissioner of Police.
Back in the day, police officers recruited from the UK would be sent on a training course prior to arriving in Bermuda, and when they returned to the UK on holiday they would sometimes be sent on a course while there. This was not offered to locally recruited officers, but as an example of Milton’s determination to succeed, he volunteered to pay for his own round trip to the UK for training, and he was sent on an attachment to Scotland Yard and to the Liverpool Police – paying his own way for the privilege. That was Milton’s way of leveling the “playing field”.
He was, by all accounts, an outstanding detective, rising to the rank of Detective Inspector. During his CID career he was awarded no less than 7 commendations for excellent work, with his last one being for another rather unusual case in which he successfully investigated a crime where a man was convicted for stealing and breaking OUT of Masters Store in Hamilton. I can assure you that most break-ins are exactly that - “break-INS” not break-OUTS”!
Nothing better exemplifies Milton’s police career that the wording that qualified him to be awarded the Colonial Police Medal for Meritorious Service by Her Majesty the Queen in 1963. The awardee had to provide:-
On his retirement from the Force, then Commissioner George Robins described Milton’s career throughout his period of service as “Exemplary”, and during our interview Milton told me that one of his proudest possessions was a letter from Commissioner Robins inviting him to become an Honorary Member of the Bermuda Police Officer’s Mess.
It is without doubt that Detective Inspector Milton Murray Marsh was a very dedicated police officer who greatly contributed to the efforts of the Bermuda Police Force in maintaining law and order throughout his service, and in particular during his service in the CID. It was a privilege for me to interview a man who epitomized the best qualities of a police officer, and who, at an age well in excess of 100 could still vividly recount his experiences (some of which I can’t repeat this morning) - and he did so with a twinkle in his eye!
On behalf of the Bermuda Police Service and all members of the Bermuda Ex-Police Officers Association, I salute our dear departed friend and colleague, and extend our sincere condolences to Milton Junior, Blanche, and to all of the family and friends of Detective Inspector Milton Murray Marsh.