"Reflections On Fifty Years In Bermuda "
by
Chris Wilcox

Chris Wilcox's job application photo – March 1968

By the time you reach pensionable age every anniversary that you celebrate is a big number, and in my case the fiftieth anniversary of my appointment as a Bermuda Police Constable in June 1971 brought about changes in my life that I could never have envisaged back then. 

I was raised in Cheshire, England and prior to joining the then Police Force I worked as a Civil Servant for five years in Manchester (a steady but dull job).  I enjoyed travel, including hitchhiking holidays in Europe, which were memorable and unpredictable, but not really vacations.  I was also fortunate to attend some major sporting events at Wembley such as the World Speedway Championships (1967), the FA and League Cup Finals (1969 and 1970 respectively), plus the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh (1970), and I was a regular at Manchester City home games. 

Hitchhiking in western Sweden   
On board the 3-masted sailing ship, the Af Chapman,
   a Youth Hostel moored in Stockholm Harbour, July 1970
                                 

It was a truly different world back then, no cell phones and no computers, people wrote letters (by hand) and most families only had a small black and white TV. You could buy a ticket (seat) for a Beatles, Rolling Stones or Tamla Motown concert (featuring several of their top acts) for less than a pound, and I attended quite a few.

Bermuda Bound
I was interviewed in London for a position with the Bermuda Police by then Commissioner George Duckett and Superintendent Oliver Trott, and admit to being a little indifferent about my prospects - until I received notification of my actual appointment.  Like the majority of my basic training course colleagues (most of whom came from overseas), I really didn’t know fully what to expect of either the Police Force or Bermuda.  We were an eclectic bunch; 11 West Indians, 8 Brits, two Bermuda Cadets, and two women who had previously served as police officers in the United Kingdom.

My new colleagues included such characters as Martin Bowe (The Heineken Kid) and Howard D’Oliveira, the son of an Italian Countess, neither of whom stayed in the job very long, plus Ben Linton whom we sadly lost in 1991, and Kim Ingemann – one of four Bermudian brothers who were to serve with the then Bermuda Police Force.  A further three failed to stay the course and graduate. 

Basic Training Course #14  - September 1971
Top Row (l-r)  Roderick "Roddy" Barclay, Brian Parkin, Louis D'Olivera, Christopher "Chris" Wilcox, 
Martin Bowe, Kensley McDowell, Vernson Mills, Douglas Joslyn
Middle Row -  Martin Johnson, Noel "Ben" Linton, Kenneth Wright, 
Kim Ingemann (Cadet) Gordon Farquar,  Carrol Latchman, Ishmael Daniel
Seated -    Jeffrey Baker, Yvonne Yates, Sgt Barrie Meade, Chief Insp. Syke Smith, 
COP George Duckett, Insp. Dave Parsons, Sgt "Dick" Murphy, Patricia Warraker, Oral "David" Small
 
Passing Out Parade Inspection
COP George Duckett speaking with P.C. Chris Wilcox
Supt Syke Smith on left
 
First year on the job - Spring 1972
 

After Passing Out I was posted to Central Division, where I was assigned customary beat duties before serving as a Station Constable and then Divisional Clerk.  During this time I also married my Bermudian better half, Marianne, and we’re still going strong after more than forty years. 

Marianne and Chris’ wedding
 

A four-year attachment to Prosecutions followed in 1976, during which time the highly charged murder trials of Erskine “Buck” Burrows and Larry Tacklyn took place, and I found myself seconded for awhile to the Riot Squad, which was based at Prospect.  

 

A Week of Riots 
During the early evening of 30th November 1977 (the day before their scheduled executions), and after all appeal options had failed, a mob began attacking Hamilton Police Station and the vehicles parked there (the current site of the Government Administration Building).  The Riot Squad was mobilized and we drove down in our Land Rovers and formed up outside the old Magistrates Court building, complete with helmets, gas masks, wicker shields and long wooden sticks.  Facing us was a crowd of perhaps 200, who were milling about at the junction of Church and Parliament Streets.  We numbered just 29; one senior officer, 4 Sergeants and 24 Constables, but we were fortunate to have the right person in charge at that juncture in time; Chief Superintendent Jim McMaster.
  

Using a loudhailer he repeatedly directed the mob to disperse, and when they failed to do so, he ordered us to advance.  As we marched up Parliament Street, we banged our shields with our sticks in unison; it created a deafening sound and our would-be antagonists quickly became visibly anxious.  To our relief they fell back and we ‘took’ the higher ground.  Shortly afterwards we split up into smaller units and took up static positions at strategic road junctions in Hamilton.  It proved to be a long 12-hour night; we were repeatedly charged by the mob and we retaliated in turn with volleys of tear gas.  Finally after daybreak another Riot Squad Unit relieved us. 

A Riot Squad detachment during the December 1977 riots
 

Our Squad returned to duty at Headquarters before 8pm. that same evening and from the Police Club terrace we looked down over Hamilton at the many buildings, which the rioters had looted and set ablaze.  It was akin to Nero watching Rome burn, suggested one colleague.  Calm and order was finally restored a week later with the help of some very welcome heavy rain showers.

 

An Education In The Courts
Working in Magistrates Court was a valuable learning experience on many different levels – particularly through attending the weekday afternoon Plea Courts, where people came to answer all level of charges.  The three full time Magistrates back then, Richard Hector, K. C. Nadarajah and Gerald Price were as different from one another as chalk and cheese, and sometimes quite unpredictable.  I recall one afternoon when a regular offender, who was in Prison Custody and handcuffs, was brought before a particular Magistrate for his fortnightly remand appearance.  Following a brief exchange of words, the Magistrate instructed the Prison Officers to “Take him downstairs.”  They were somewhat perplexed since the Magistrate hadn’t made any ruling, but did as they were instructed.  As they exited the Court Room the Magistrate called me over and said, “Go downstairs and tell him (the prisoner) that he’s got six months.”  Why the Magistrate was reluctant to sentence this particular prisoner directly, I don’t know and can only surmise.  Perhaps he’d simply lost his train of thought – he did have previous for dozing off in the middle of boring cases – or then again! 

Quite a few colourful characters served in Prosecutions during my tenure including Bryn Jones and Derek Fletcher.  None more so than big Mike Parris, who drove a small Fiat car; it had a lawnmower engine and the bodywork was regularly patched up with concrete, so its top speed was less than 30pmh. 

 

Crime Prevention Officer
Through my interest in photography I was drawn to working in S.O.C.O., but my applications for a posting there were never successful.  However when a vacancy arose elsewhere within the Crime Prevention Department in 1980, I was pleased to accept the challenge.  After my experiences of working in Prosecutions it soon became apparent that as a CPO I was now dealing with a completely different cross section of the community – business owners, the media and members of the public who were co-operative and largely pro-Police.  To say the least, my job all of a sudden became much more pleasant. 
 

My new partner was Sergeant Roger Sherratt, an experienced and very enthusiastic officer who gave me a thorough grounding in all aspects of the job, and we developed an excellent working relationship.  We visited homes and businesses, staged exhibitions, expanded existing Police initiatives such as ‘U’ Mark, and developed new ones, and we would have undoubtedly achieved much more (in what was a relatively new area of policing for Bermuda) had Roger not been transferred elsewhere some three years later. 

The combined personnel of CRO & the CPU 1983.
(l-r) Andy Hall, Eddie Davies, Laverne Johnston, Roger Sherratt,
Mike Jent, Brian Callaghan and Chris Wilcox
 

As a CPO I interacted closely with the public and was given licence to introduce programmes such as Neighbourhood Watch (1983), and to produce a cross section of Police advisory leaflets, which were generously sponsored by the business community. 

The first Bermuda Neighbourhood Watch Group 
Granaway Heights, Southampton, 1983.
(l-r) Superintendent George Garrod, Group co-ordinators Eugene Carmichael 
and Sue Simons, Harry Viera (MP for S’ton. West) and Chris Wilcox
 
 
Grant of Status
I applied for and was granted Bermudian status in 1984 under the old system, in which approximately one quarter of the annual 400 or so applicants would usually be successful.  Appearing before a panel of Parliamentarians I remember being asked one particular contentious question.  “As a Police officer, what is your opinion of the Commissioner of Police?” (Freddie Bean).  I replied with a truthful, but diplomatic answer.

Greg Hopkins, Eddie Davies and myself made up the Crime Prevention Department during the late 1980s, and we occasionally had the services of Cadets who would go out and ‘U’ Mark people’s property - one such Cadet being Larry Mussenden.  PCs Darrin Simons and Nigel Richardson superseded Greg and Eddie in the early 1990s, and following a brief merger with Special Branch, Inspector Archie Husbands and PC Paul Wright joined the fold. 

The CPU produced over a dozen advisory brochures during the 1980s 
and 1990s, the contents of which can still be found on the Police website
 

As CPOs we had our own share of interesting and unusual stories, such as the occasion when Assistant Commissioner (Lenny) Edwards called me into his office to address a delicate situation.  Earlier that morning CID officers had apparently targeted the wrong house when carrying out a raid and executing a search, and this had left the elderly, single woman occupant somewhat shaken.  I was instructed to make contact and visit her residence (being cognizant that her son was a sitting MP) and to offer her home security advice - to deter uninvited people from entering her house in the future.  The irony!

40th birthday portrait with Marianne 1988

 

Around this time (the 1990s) I found my services in demand to produce large scale plan drawings of the scenes of major crimes – often murders – to aide both investigating CID officers and trial prosecutors.  I would sometimes devote days on the production of a single, large, scale drawing (32” x 40”), only to make a brief five-minute appearance in the Supreme Court witness box when tendering the said drawing in evidence.  It was a sign of the times back then that just about every murder or serious violent crime was domestic related and they invariably occurred on the weekend when people generally spent more time together.  Gang related murders had yet to arise.

My promotion to Sergeant came late - in 1995, close to my completion of 25 years service - and it was offered to me on the proviso that I served a further 3 years, which I agreed to do. 

 

Media Relations
A twelve-month secondment to Media Relations followed in 1996 during which time Canadian teenager Rebecca Middleton was savagely murdered on the Island. The Bermuda Police Service found itself under intense scrutiny, and not just from the local media.  My then colleague Gary Venning and I were bombarded for weeks with calls from the Canadian media, notably Toronto TV stations and newspapers, and even independent investigative reporters.
  

Gary and myself had a good relationship with the local press, but they became very dependent on our daily bulletins for their major news stories (which they still are to an extent).  We would send out our 11am. press release by e-mail.  If we hadn’t dispatched one by 11.05am. you could guarantee that the ‘phone would be ringing.  How dependent was the Press?  Well I recall one particular morning when I had absolutely nothing to report and so there was no press release that day.  Sure enough, after 11am. the ‘phone rang.  I explained to the anxious reporter on the other end that Bermuda was as quite as a mouse, and I had nothing to report, not even a vehicle accident.  “But you must have something,” he said.  “Invent something for me; a robbery or a series of break-ins may be!”

 Portrait with our Golden Retriever "Jamie" 1998
(photo by Ernie McCreight)
 

On my return to the Crime Prevention Unit, we launched the Police Night School programme.  The brainchild of then Commissioner Colin Coxall, it was initially wildly popular and attracted a diverse cross-section of the public; teachers, chefs, housewives and even lawyers!  Open to the public and free of charge, it was held at the Police Training School one evening each week over a period of several months.  Officers from different sections of the Service gave presentations and explained the workings of their particular departments.  All went well until the final presentation by SOCO officer Howard Cutts, when a woman saw a photograph of her murdered mother and almost fainted.  To be fair, everyone had been warned from the outset of the course that officers would be as open as reasonably possible in their presentations, and that some people might hear or come across disturbing images during the course of their talks. 

At Government House.
Awards and Honours evening 1996
 
Notching up my Fifty!
U.K. bound on board a British Airways Concorde 1998 

 

Historical Review
In 1999 the Service celebrated the 120th anniversary of its founding, and I was tasked by my close colleague Alex MacDonald (the Crime Stoppers Officer) and the commemorative Committee with writing an updated Historical Review.  Using the late Ted Burton’s wonderfully researched Centennial Police Magazine history of 1979 as the basis for my Review, I put together a new balanced history including details of events that had taken place during the two most recent decades of the Service up to 1999.  The Review was published in booklet form and also included on the new Bermuda Police Service Website, where it can still be viewed today, but minus the original accompanying photographs for some reason! 
 
Cover: Historical Review of the  
Bermuda Police Service 1879-1979 

 

Cover: The History of Policing In Bermuda   
One Hundred and Thirty Five Years of Service
 

With the turn of the century the Crime Prevention Unit became largely civilianized like many others within the Police Service.  My then colleagues Gail Correia and Yvonne Ricca moved on to pastures new, and in came Eric Bean (a former Police Officer himself), Rick Butler and Melinda Benevides, who was also a Bermuda Reserve Constable. 

After having conducted over 1,000 property surveys, delivered 500 talks and presentations, written dozens of articles for the Press, helped to stage countless exhibitions and produced a score of advisory brochures (which still appear on the Police website today), I retired from the Bermuda Police Service in July 2003 after 32 years service, twenty-two of which I had spent as a Crime Prevention Officer. 

 

Travel & Leisure
For several decades both before and after retiring from the police I pursued my interest in photography.  I bought some quality camera equipment over the years and even took a number of courses overseas.  Locally I served in various roles with the Bermuda Society of Arts from 1980 to 1988 (the latter two years as President), and over a period of 25 years I took photographs for two annual Bermuda calendars, the latter of which was entirely my own.  From the turn of the new century I also served for several years on the S.P.C.A. Committee and I wrote dozens of articles and compilations of animal stories for them, which appeared in the Bermuda Sun newspaper. 

Since we were first married my wife Marianne has made her career in airline management (over 40 years service with British Airways), and we have taken advantage of her airline concessions to travel the world (over fifty countries).  Our travels have included ocean and river cruises, safaris, train vacations and independent holidays too, and we’ve experienced just about every form of transportation from a submarine to a hot air balloon, helicopter and 3-seater Cessna to Concorde, and the Japanese bullet train to the Orient Express. Too many great trips and wonderful places to try and single out the best and most memorable, and yes, we still have a few more places on our bucket list to visit.  

Trusty camel and handler?
Marrakesh, Morocco 2017  
                          
A thorough drenching, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe 2019

We’ve also been fortunate to attend some amazing sporting events over the past two decades, notably the Wimbledon quarter finals in 1999 (Centre Court), the Commonwealth Games in Manchester 2002, the Olympic Games in London 2012 – where we witnessed Usain Bolt win the 200m final - plus numerous Premier League matches at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester. 

The Olympic Stadium, London.  Arriving early for an afternoon 
session of athletic heats and finals. July 2012

 

Post Retirement
Following a somewhat belated but enjoyable ‘gap year’, I returned to the work fold for fifteen months with a local alarm company before becoming the Director of Safety & Security at the 50-acre Elbow Beach Hotel in May 2006.  As my new job title implied, there was a strong emphasis on safety and I was responsible for annually reviewing and updating the health and safety operating standards and procedures (BCPs), which governed all staff members.  I was also required to conduct annual exercises with personnel; such as fire evacuations, bomb threats and robberies, as well as drowning scenarios at the beach and pool.  Despite always posting prominent notices beforehand, some guests mistook our mock exercises for the real thing, and they would rush to assist those colleagues who appeared to be in distress.  It was an enjoyable and rewarding job though, and I was able to incorporate certain modified police procedures and recording practices at the hotel for dealing with incidents and investigations. 
 

 Panoramic view of the Elbow Beach Hotel property

Elbow Beach - my place of employment between 2006 and 2013
 

I pocketed a whole new collection of stories from working at Elbow Beach, from the strange to the off-beat to the unexplainable. Take the two Bermudian college students who tried several times to set fire to the men’s beach bathroom below Café Lido (its built of concrete).  Then there was the local woman who tried to strangle a Security Officer because she didn’t like his tie, and the American gambler who came to Bermuda with $5,000 in cash, but said that he wasn’t able to find a game ‘down town’.  Afterwards he claimed that all his money had been stolen from his room, but he refused to allow Security personnel inside to make a check, and nor did he make a complaint of any kind to either the Hotel or the Police.  Perhaps I should collate the most memorable of the Police and Court stories, animal tales and Hotel stories, and publish them all in booklet form?

   

Published Books 
Since retiring for a second time (from Elbow Beach in 2013) I’ve been able to devote more time to my current interests of writing and genealogy – both rewarding, if time consuming – plus photography and more travel of course.  I’ve written two books, the first of which was “The History of Policing In Bermuda” together with former colleagues Andy Bermingham and Alex MacDonald (published 2014).  Not the catchiest title, but then we had to encompass three eras of policing, the first being the period up to 1878 when Bermuda had Parish Constables but no recognized Police Force.  We printed 500 limited and numbered hardback copies, which the production team signed, and which were snapped up in no time, and 1,000 softback copies, a few of which are still available for purchase. Hopefully some budding historian will take up the mantle to produce an updated and expanded history to mark the 150th anniversary of the Service in 2029? 
 
 Following a march through Hamilton and an address by Commissioner
 Michael DeSilva, those present formed up for a unique photograph.
I’m stood in the middle, right at the back. Oct. 2014 
 
Production team of the Police History book at the PRC launch, June 2015.
(l-r) Chris Wilcox, Andy Bermingham, Alex MacDonald and Cal Smith
 

My second book, “Bermuda: Parish By Parish” is a personal compilation of 137 photographs (including aerials), text, coats-of-arms and over 20 maps (published 2017).  A single printing of 1,500 hardback books.  Sales were good until Covid came along!  I’m now working on a third, non-Bermuda related book, which involves a lot of research.  

Book cover.  “Bermuda: Parish By Parish”
 

And so to genealogy, which can throw up plenty of surprises the more you delve into your personal family history, and this has been very true in my case.  With the help of another family member we’ve traced one branch of our tree (the Peels) all the way back to County Durham a century before the Norman Conquest of 1066.  And surprise, I have a direct family link to the Victorian era Prime Minister and ‘Father of Modern Policing’ himself, Sir Robert Peel – he is my 8th cousin 6 times removed.  

"Cousin Bobby" / Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850)

 

Peel founded the Metropolitan Police in 1829 and (with others) developed the nine basic principles or foundations, which still govern policing today.  According to Peel, the first and the most important principle was “The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder.”  Given my family connection to Sir Robert I was probably always fated to become a police officer, and more specifically a Crime Prevention Officer! 

 

Chris Wilcox
June 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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