THEN AND NOW
Most of us reach a point in our lives when we wish we had asked more questions of our parents and grandparents about their lives and experiences before they pass on and the information they could so easily have provided is lost forever. I see this ‘Then and Now’ as being an opportunity to provide information about me and my life for my sons and future generations of my family as well as for expobermuda.
I was born in Kingston on Thames Hospital south London in August 1941, it was of course wartime. I was brought up in an upstairs flat in Durham Road, Raynes Park a very pleasant suburb in south London which adjoins Wimbledon. My father was a baker by trade, as was his father, but joined the London Fire Brigade on the outbreak of war.
Mike's father, Percy, as a young man in the 1920's delivering bread for the family bakery
Mike's father in London Fire Brigade uniform during World War II
Some of my earliest memories are of the sirens sounding in the dead of night and my mother taking me in my siren suit, an all in one garment very similar to one often worn by Winston Churchill during the war, to the communal shelter in the local park where, during the day, we played above it. At other times during air raids we used the Morrison shelter which was a case of hiding under the dining table which had been reinforced by steel supports and steel sheeting surrounded by a metal cage which was designed in the event of the house being bombed, to keep you alive until you were dug out.
Illustration of how to build a Morrison Shelter issued in 1941, the year Mike was born
There was also an Anderson shelter, built by my father, which took up most of the very small back yard. Responsibility for keeping me safe during the bombings fell to my mother as for most of this time my father was in central London fighting the raging fires which the Germans were using to direct even more bombs.
Fireman were kept bust during the Blitz trying to put out fires from the endless bombing
At the end of the war my father returned to his job as a baker/confectioner and I enjoyed a normal childhood – simple pleasures - playing football and cricket in the local park – making go-carts in which we hurtled down hills with barely secured wheels and feet as brakes. We also spent a lot of time playing on the numerous bombsites in the area. I thought nothing of it at the time but looking back a very hazardous thing to do, climbing unstable staircases, stepping over gaping holes surrounded by walls that could have come down at any time. Can you imagine that being allowed these days!
I first attended Cottenham Park infant school in Raynes Park and then Old Central Junior School on Wimbledon Common where I was a well behaved student who learnt very little which resulted in me failing the 11 plus. I had no idea what it was about or the advantages of passing it and my parents just weren’t into education but, like a lot of working class families, were more interested in their children getting a job on leaving school which suited me just fine. From aged 11 years I attended Bushey Secondary Modern School, learned very little there either but I do still have the metal foot scraper it took me several terms to make in metal work class – sadly I no longer have the cigarette box made in woodwork class. It wasn’t easy being at a south London school and I recall regularly having to physically fight to defend myself against some oaf who had picked on me for no good reason.
In June 1954 aged 13 years I told my mother I felt unwell – she thought I was putting it on to avoid school but allowed me to stay at home anyway. As I was still unwell after a couple of days she called the doctor and within an hour of him examining me I was in hospital with a Pleural Effusion - Fluid on the lung. After having some of it drained using a very large needle pushed into my back between my ribs I spent the next five months in hospital and a further three months at the Metropolitan Convalescence home in Broadstairs, Kent and didn’t set a foot on the floor for those first five months. Whilst at the convalescent home I was wheeled around Broadstairs flat on my back in a full length Victorian style wicker basket to avoid me over exerting myself
Whilst still in hospital my parents bought me a Sun Vitesse Racing Bike in Magenta, a colour I was unfamiliar with at the time although that’s not the case now as I keep having to replace Magenta printer ink which probably costs more than the bike did back then. When my health improved sufficiently I was allowed to return home and after a total of 11 months I returned to school but only for the mornings. I wasn’t allowed to ride my new bike, but I was so proud of it I pushed it to school. The 11 months away from school at such a critical stage in my education was clearly a factor in my complete lack of educational achievement. When I left school I didn’t know what a GCE was let alone pass one and missing nearly a year’s education at this age didn’t help. To be frank I disliked school intensely and was just pleased to leave and get out to work and earn some money.
Although my father was a qualified baker and confectioner there was more money to be earned working on the bread rounds and from an early age and while still at school I worked long hours with him on rounds in south London at weekends and during school holidays. It was hard work with very early starts and late finishes, but I well remember him taking me to Fiddlers, a workman’s café, for mid morning dripping on toast and mugs of Camp coffee. (I don’t mean you drink it with a limp wrist) He also paid me well and allowed me to keep all the tips given to me by customers.
I couldn’t wait to leave school; and did so – still aged 14 in July 1956 and the day after my 15th birthday in the August I started work, wearing an old suit of my father’s, at Bentalls a large department store in Kingston on Thames. At last no school! After training I was given the job of trimming wallpaper – do you remember the wastage at the edge of the rolls which was there to prevent damage to the edges, problem was it had to be removed before the paper could be hung. Not what I had in mind at all, I wanted to be a furniture buyer – whatever that was? So I left Bentalls after a few weeks and got a job as a junior sales ass’t at Meakers, a gents outfitters next to Wimbledon Station. I quite enjoyed my time there but was always looking for something more interesting. During my morning and afternoon tea breaks I would go to the Lyons Tea shop next door and scan the newspapers which contained pages and pages of adverts for jobs, there were hundreds every day. It really was the easiest thing to leave one job at the end of one week and start a new one on the following Monday. My weekly wage at this time was £3.00, less than the price of a pint of beer at my local now!
To earn extra money I also sold evening newspapers outside Raynes Park Railway Station, calling out Star – News – Stannard (Standard) in my best cockney accent. On Jan 9th 1957 I was asked to remain at work longer than normal as a fresh batch of newspapers would shortly be delivered by train which would contain news of an historic event. It must be remembered that newspapers were the main means of getting news to the general public. The papers duly arrived and I went round the local pubs calling out “Eden Resigns – Eden Resigns” I had absolutely no idea who Eden was or why he had resigned. He was of course the Prime Minister and he resigned due to ill health following the Suez crisis.
Still only 15 years old I applied for and got a job as a messenger boy with the advertising side of the Rank Organisation in the West End of London. It was a great job. I would be called up from a small room in the bowels of 11 Hill Street in Mayfair and given a film or other package to get to Soho or some other London location as quickly as possible. Sometimes we were given the taxi fare to ensure that more urgent items arrived very quickly – but we messenger boys would often run and jump on a bus, the old hop on and hop off type, and pocket the difference. I took over the job from Terry Nelhams who had gone off to make his fortune as Adam Faith!
Sometimes we were treated to a showing of a film that had not yet been released which meant leaving work quite late and I well remember walking to the bus stop in Park Lane and being accosted by the ladies of the night who were, at that time, found outside just about every door in the Mayfair area. “Hello sweetie”, “Hello sonny”, highly embarrassed I would just keep my head down and walk a bit quicker in the hope that they might leave me alone. Normal progress for messenger boys would be to move upstairs to another dep’t and after a while I was promoted to the cutting rooms. I quite enjoyed the work splicing film together for adverts that topped and tailed the films in Cinemas all over the country. Problem was that the dep’t was run by an obnoxious little Irishman called Paddy Fitzpatrick who seemed to take an instant dislike to me and the feeling was mutual. He got up my nose once too often and there was some pushing and shoving. Needless to say it was me who got the sack. My hard working parents were mortified.
I quickly got a job back in Wimbledon at the Provincial Wallpaper Company where much of my time was spent on the lathe like machine once again cutting the wastage off the edge of wallpaper. (Back where I started)
In 1958 something happened that probably had the biggest impact on my future life. My family moved from our upstairs flat in Raynes Park, Wimbledon to Crawley in Sussex, a new overflow town for London. My father got a job in the town with Surrey Super Loaf and six weeks later we were allocated a brand new three bedroom house. It was a fantastic opportunity and it changed the life of all of us. It was a very brave move by my parents as my father would have been 50 at the time and my mother five years younger but it had a very positive effect on the lives of us all. I have two younger sisters and the eldest, Brenda, went on to become a councillor in Crawley and later Mayor of the town. She is still a very highly respected Crawley Councillor as well as being a West Sussex County Councillor. My youngest sister, Norma, went on to be successful within the private sector and I doubt that any of this would have happened if the family had stayed in London. As will be seen later it also changed my life dramatically.
On moving to Crawley I got a job as a junior carpet salesman at Perrings a very well know furniture store in Crawley town centre. The windows of our shop looked out on the windows of the Co-op Store across a walkway and I often wonder what became of Valerie the lovely window dresser there who I went out with a couple of times.
I was obviously still looking for something more for in 1958 and still only 17 years old I visited a display by the army in a park in Crawley where I spoke to a very nice recruiting Sergeant and duly signed up for nine years with the Royal Army Service Corp, much to the concern of my parents who, after much persuasion by me did, eventually, agree to sign the necessary consent. I could have signed up for six years but I got an extra £1.00 per week by going for nine…..£6.00 rather than £5.00!
For initial training I was posted to Aldershot the home of the British Army and it was very, very hard. Square bashing, weapons training etc etc. coupled with very strict discipline. At that time the RASC provided clerks and drivers to the British Army so after nine weeks I was moved to a camp in Yeovil in Somerset to be trained to drive large army vehicles, possibly tank transporters. My initial training had gone well but I was beginning to wonder if I had made the right decision. On a weekend at home in Crawley I didn’t say anything to my parents but my father must have picked up on something because, just before I left to return, he said to me - if you think you have made a mistake son don’t be afraid to admit it.
I gave it a lot more thought and realised that to remain in the army for the nine years would not be the best thing for me in the long run. I told my senior officers of my decision to buy myself out of the army, with the £20.00 loaned to me by my parents, and from then on my life became very difficult as I was a marked man. Whilst I was waiting for the release paperwork to go through I was punished for several very, very minor infringements such as a flick of yellow duster on my otherwise immaculate uniform and equipment. More than once I was frog marched at a very fast pace along with other ‘offenders’ to carry out some horrible task or other, usually in the toilets or kitchens until late at night only to have to parade next day at the crack of dawn turned out immaculately. This meant staying up all night for several days on the trot to clean my uniform and kit, it was soul destroying, but that was the object of the exercise. Had I left it until I was fully trained I could not have afforded to buy myself out and my life would have been entirely different. For all that I don’t regret joining the army, despite the harsh and petty discipline, I saw it as another life experience, and it taught me a lot, particularly about self discipline. In fact I later joined the Territorial Army which I enjoyed.
On my return to Crawley I was fortunate to get my job back at Perrings. While I had been away Perrings had employed another young salesman who had spent a short time as a police officer in the Sussex Police, but who had to leave for family reasons and it was him who first suggested that I join the police. A suggestion that completely and dramatically changed the course of my life and I certainly wouldn’t be writing this had I not followed up on his suggestion.
I turned 19 years of age in August 1960 and the following month I joined the then West Sussex Constabulary and after three months training at Sandgate in Kent, was posted to Chichester the beautiful county town of West Sussex. I walked the streets for eight hours in all weathers shaking door handles and almost crying from the pain in my slim back and shoulders from the weight of the army style great coat’s we wore, possibly with a heavy felt cape over that if particularly cold or wet. I was housed in the section house at 105 Kingsham Road along with other young officers who became friends for life. In fact we still have reunions as the ‘105 Club’ with our President being the poor training Inspector who was responsible for the section house and its inhabitants. It was a very happy time for me, I had found what I had been searching for since leaving school and in one position or another I was employed by a police force as an officer and civilian for the next 42 years.
In 1962 I was posted to Petworth where there was no section house and I was lodged with the Parvin family, George the father was the local gravedigger for the council. They were a wonderful family and they made my stay with them very enjoyable. I was in Petworth, a very rural town, during one of the worst winters on record which made all aspects of life extremely difficult both on and off duty.
Still not satisfied with my lot, I applied to become a Traffic Motorcyclist and in the spring of 1963 I moved to the traffic office in Crawley, once again living in a section house. I attended a Police Advanced Motorcycle Course in Kent on a 650cc Triumph an enjoyable but very hard course which I am pleased to say I passed. On duty in and around Crawley I rode a maroon 500cc Triumph Speed Twin complete with Corker helmet, breeches and heavy army style dispatch riders boots. The A23 London to Brighton Road passes right by Crawley and I spent much of my time on this road attending accidents and reporting motorists for offences etc. It was at the time of the Mods and Rockers and on the occasions they were all going to Brighton, usually for a fight, I spent a lot of time chasing large groups of Rockers travelling at speeds my bike just couldn’t match, all good fun though, any excuse for a burn up. At this time there were few police vehicles on the road so I was used a great deal for all sorts of general enquiries which was good for experience and added interest to the job.
In the summer of 1964 I went on holiday to Spain with friends and realised just how much I enjoyed a hot and sunny climate. Shortly after returning from Spain I saw an advert for the Bermuda Police, applied and was interviewed at the Crown Agents in London and was very pleased to be informed that I had been accepted.
In the November of 1964 I left a chilly UK and flew to Bermuda. As we approached the Island we flew into a really bad storm with torrential rain and extremely poor visibility. The pilot reduced height to come into land and only at the last minute seemed to realise that he was not going to get down safely and so when very close to the ground gunned the plane and climbed away which was slightly disconcerting. After circling for a while he again came into land and I am pleased to say we made a safe landing. I was met at the airport by Dick Johnson who had also been in the West Sussex Constabulary before going to Bermuda. As a trained officer I was the only recruit arriving that day. I well remember the drive from the airport in torrential rain and being surprised to see policemen walking about wearing helmets, very large, long raincoats and no trousers!..... just shoes and long socks. Due to my previous service in the UK I didn’t undergo any training on my arrival and within a couple of days found myself walking the beat in Hamilton. During those early days I was introduced to lots of people, many of them Bermudians who would ask me my name and when I replied Mike Caulkett would, with much finger slapping, shout hey man , ‘Coolcat’ and from that time on I became either ‘Coolcat’ or simply ‘Cool’. All I can say is, if you are going to have to live with a nickname they don’t get much better…. or cooler!
One of the most rewarding aspects of the Bermuda Police was the large number of real characters in the force. I suppose the fact that British officers on the force were made up 100% of individuals who had chosen to get off their backsides and leave the UK to travel to a small island in the Atlantic that they probably knew little about which set them apart from those colleagues left behind.
There are far too many incidents, memories and characters to mention them all here but it would be remiss of me not to mention some of those that I can still recall and either laugh or wince at.
Shortly after arrival in Bermuda, like Tom Barnes mentioned in his Then & Now I bought the loudest checked jacket that you have ever seen, it fitted well and I was very pleased with it although not convinced that I would have the nerve to wear it. To avoid the inevitable mickey taking I remember slipping out of the block I stayed in to have my photo taken before dashing back in. Finally decided that it was too much so took it to the cleaners in Hamilton and asked them to dye it a darker shade of blue. If you are interested it could well still be in the shop as I never did collect it!
An early memory that springs to mind was duty in the birdcage at Heyls Corner with the attention of Amer
ican tourists anxious to photograph the ‘Bobby’ and calling out “Hey bobby, say something English” I have to say that it was tempting to respond with something Anglo Saxon - fortunately resisted. The upside of this duty was the approaches made by young American tourists of the female variety! Then there was the gate duty at the docks, can anyone please tell me why we were there? What a complete waste of time.
Shortly after arrival I attended an incident where Polly Smith the ex professional boxer and a very large man was resisting his return to a secure establishment. He had his back to a coral wall and had a small horseshoe of around eight officers standing around him. The Inspector, (Bean I think) in attendance asked Polly several times to go quietly otherwise it would be necessary for him to call on his officers to take him by force. Needless to say Polly ignored all these requests and the Inspector said, OK chaps get him, not an officer moved, not a muscle twitched. After several such orders from the Inspector with a similar response from his officers I thought, someone has got to make the first move and decided that if I could rush Polly and get inside his punches everyone would respond and this is what I did. The only problem was that Polly grabbed me, held me tight and close and bit a chunk out of my eyebrow and spat it out. I am pleased to say that, as I had hoped all the officers did react and I was eventually separated from Polly’s grasp. Lesson learned; don’t rush in where others have more sense than to tread!
The following memories are not in any particular order, date or significance.
BELCO RIOT - The riots in February 1965 at BELCO which took place only three months after my arrival in Bermuda. Much has been written about this time and most will know what happened so I will merely say that I attended and it was an experience I wouldn’t want to repeat. I received a badly cut lip in this incident so having only been in Bermuda a short time I had already sustained more injuries than in the previous four years in my old UK force.
VOLLEYBALL AT ELBOW BEACH - Hours and hours of volleyball at Elbow Beach sometimes in teams made up of friends/colleagues sometimes against teams of American tourists and frequently against teams made up of European hotel staff. The visits after to the Elbow Beach staff club, right on the beach were welcome and enjoyable and also led me to meeting Jill, who worked at the EB hotel and has now been my wife of for over 40 years. The French barman Jean Claude was a miserable bugger but did make excellent Daiquiris which was another good reason for spending so much time there.
RUGBY - I played very little rugby in the UK prior to arriving in Bermuda but I am pleased to say I was encouraged to play in Bermuda and, despite the injuries, enjoyed many years of playing for the Bermuda Police. I was also fortunate to play in New York as part of a Bermuda touring team and what an experience it was. Although I can’t remember much about the rugby side of things I do remember being dragged from the bar, picked up and fed through the open window of our airport coach outside Drakes Drum in central New York and on route to the airport using a bag full of dirty kit for a purpose it was never designed for! Dave Needham thought this was hilarious and quite acceptable on a rugby tour until he realised it was his kit bag. On pain of death or serious injury I did wash and press it all for him.
I also took part in a film produced to encourage tourism titled ‘The Island Nobody Wanted’ and It was another enjoyable experience, initially I appeared as a ‘Bobby’ and later as a ‘tourist’ filmed from behind running into the sea holding the hand of a young lady. I would love to see this film again if anybody knows if it is still available in any sort of format. (Editors note - After reading this article in May 2016, John Skinner contacted myself and Mike Caulkett and advised that 'The Island Nobody Wanted' can be viewed on You Tube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ux97p7Mz_8U It is quite fascinating to see Bermuda as it was in the 1960's and prior to then. There are several shots of Mike, including a sequence where he re-enacts issuing a "Green Ticket" to an attractive young lady for wearing her shorts too short! And I wonder how many of our former colleagues will eeasily recognize a young and vert smart P.C. Bryant Richards directing traffic on the birdcage and helping out a young lady with her bike. Those were the days!
As the holder of a Police Advanced Motorcycle Certificate from the UK I was, after a few months on the beat, posted to Cycle Squad and what an experience that was and what characters made up the squad. Most of our time was spent riding round the island, often much too fast regularly chasing youngsters on mopeds, either stolen or that they had made illegal by the addition of gears. I think I am right when I say that in one of the years that I was on the squad around 1,800 two wheeled vehicles were stolen, not bad for a population of around 45,000. A very enjoyable part of our duties was the recovery of bikes that had been dumped in the sea, often off coral ledges, and some great days were spent snorkelling with a grappling hook on the end of a long length of rope.
In the UK now everything is controlled to a ridiculous level by Health and Safety rules and regulations but none of this applied in Bermuda in the 60’s. In Cycle Squad, we used a Dodge truck with a wired cage on the back to recover bikes and on one occasion we were told to attend a beach on the south shore. On arrival I saw a group of CID officers, some of senior rank, gathered around a large oil drum and they weren’t playing calypso music. The top had been prised off the barrel and the barrel was filled to the top with tar which had become shiny and rock hard. Obviously acting on information received one of the detectives, with me looking on, started to hack away at the tar with a some sort of heavy metal instrument. After a while the object of the search started to show itself – sticks of dynamite!! Had this even been suspected in the UK an area of hundreds of yards would have been cleared and the army bomb disposal people would be called in to safely deal with the explosive, but not in Bermuda. Between us we manhandled the barrel into the back of the cycle squad truck and we were instructed to take it to HQ a trip that included driving over sand dunes, rocky paths and winding bumpy roads for several miles. Fortunately without being blown to smithereens.
AMERICAN ROAD TRIP - 1966
I have always been interested in motorsport and was very keen to see the Indianapolis 500 in America. With this in mind, in May 1966, I organised a road trip around America which towards the end would take in the Indy 500. I am pleased to say that I was joined on the trip by Jim McIlwain, Ray Banks and Duncan Batchelor. We flew to Washington and picked up a Plymouth Fury which was to us, coming from Bermuda, an enormous car.After sightseeing in Washington we completed a clockwise tour of America taking in most of the big cities and covered around 8,000 miles. We were all familiar with the song by Frank Sinatra, ‘It happened in Monteray’ and at one point we were close to the Mexican Border and saw on the map a place called Monteray so we decided to go there. We drove for hours and hours across baking hot desert lands with large cactus only to find that it didn’t happen in that Monteray which was a one eyed place and I well remember us having a beer in a bar with a donkey in the same room.
Later we were driving north from San Francisco to Los Angeles when we passed through the Monteray where it did happen. All in all we had a great time although the sleeping arrangements didn’t work out too well for me. We booked cheap motels all of which had two large beds in them and at the start of the trip we drew lots to see who would sleep with whom. Now Jim was of slim build and there was nothing to spare on Ray. Duncan however, known as the bear, was as can be seen from the attached photos a different kettle of fish altogether at over 6’0” and about 17 stone. Guess who I got to sleep with? those that know me will know that I am over 6’5”. Can you believe that we wore formal Bermuda shorts and jackets and ties to go on a road trip around America…… tee shirts and cargo shorts these days. Not a cross word passed between us throughout the month long trip and many happy memories from that trip remain with me.
After my time in Cycle squad I was posted to traffic and enjoyed driving, first the little Riley’s which were a bit of a challenge for me and later the Cortina’s which were considerably more comfortable. For much of my time on traffic I was partnered with Arthur Bean and I have to say that I couldn’t have wished for a better crew mate… what a guy, we just seemed to click and our shifts were a hoot from start to finish.
On traffic we regularly did speed checks and on one occasion I was driving with Derek Jenkinson operating a radar gun that looked like a big chrome space gun, we were sat up on Harbour Road when we clocked a lad go past us on a moped at well above the 20MPH speed limit and I gave chase. I quickly got up behind the moped but was unable to safely stop it on the winding narrow road. All of a sudden the lad turned left into the back of the Belmont Hotel and golf course. I said to Derek “Don’t worry this road only goes to the back of the hotel so he has nowhere to go”. Wrong! The lad rode his moped along a narrow piece of grass between the 18th hole and a grass bank and headed off down the main fairway. The strip of grass was too narrow for all four wheels of the car so I went through with the nearside wheels half-way up the bank with Derek hanging on to his door so as not to land in the driving seat with me. There then opened before us the 18th fairway with a number of American tourist golfers on it. Initially the moped, closely followed by us in the police car, went straight down the middle of the fairway before the moped rider suddenly swerved off to the left to ride down the side of the fairway. I decided that the shortest route to cut him off would be to continue down the centre.
Wrong again! Travelling at a fair speed I realised too late why the lad, who clearly had local knowledge, had gone off to the side. Halfway down the fairway took had a big dip and we just took off with all four wheel off the ground for quite some distance, still observed by some very amazed tourist, before hitting the ground with a considerable impact. (Images of Keystone Cops) Derek’s chair gave way and everything in the car, including all the radar gear ended up in a heap. I drove on, more determined than ever to catch the little bugger. Problem was that the front wheels were no longer facing in the same direction and the steering wheel was banging from side to side, not quite what Derek, a police driving instructor and the best driver in the force was used to.
Having just about wrecked the car it was now even more imperative that I catch him so I continued to chase the moped up a steep rocky path that took us on to the main drive of the hotel. It was then that we had a stroke of luck as the back mudguard on the bike came loose jamming the back wheel, forcing the rider to stop and Derek leapt out of the car to apprehend the youth. On inspecting our poor car I noticed a line of black oil coming from under the front and on inspection I discovered that the sump cover had been torn open on the rocky path. I have to say that I expected to be in a lot of trouble but that wasn’t the case, in fact I was congratulated for catching the youth. Surprisingly, there was only the speeding offence to deal with
To break in at this point:- In Jan 2011 I re-established contact with Roger Sherratt at the time he was developing the Expo website and he sent me a lengthy email mentioning many names of officers from my era. I have included below part of my response to Roger which includes my recollections of some of those mentioned by him:
Willy Galloway: For a time I lived with Bill Pritchard and Gordon Howard at Palm Springs which was lively at times with one of them supporting Everton and the other Liverpool. One Christmas we entertained some of the single lads from barracks to a full blown Christmas dinner including turkey with all the trimmings. One of those who joined us was Willy Galloway. Some months later I was in the A&E at King Edward taking a statement when Willy was brought in having come off his police motorcycle and was clearly in a bad way, despite the best efforts of the doctors and nurses he sadly died in front of us. (I can’t recall who my traffic partner was that day)
David and Penny Long: I was best man at Penny and David’s wedding and after losing contact for a while we found each other a few years ago and have had fairly regular e-mail contact since. Over the past few years Jill and I have enjoyed holidays on Anna Maria Island on the Gulf Coast of Florida and a few years ago we drove from there to spend some time with Penny and David at their lovely home in Daytona Beach. They live on what is known as a ‘Fly in’ and a runway runs right through the middle of the development as many of the residents own light aircraft which they taxi to the runway or hangers adjoining their house. We drove around in a golf buggy and had to pull over on occasions to give way to taxiing planes that have right of way over normal road vehicles, quite bizarre. CLICK HERE for article on David Long in "Then and Now".
Jim and Dianne McIlwain: Jim, a proud Scotsman arrived in Bermuda shortly after me and his greatest claim to fame shortly after his arrival was to use the same razor blade for longer than anyone had ever done. I can’t recall the number of uses but it was impressive. Did I mention that he was Scottish? As previously mentioned Jim was a member of our group that toured the states. Whilst on holiday in the UK a few years ago Jim and his wife Dianne surprised me with a visit to the Police Station I was working in at the time and it was good to see them. Unfortunately their schedule was tight so they were unable to join Jill and me at home that evening. I have also been in contact with Jim by e-mail and phone over the past couple of years.
Alex Forbes: I was best man at Alex and Val’s wedding and played rugby with Alex for many years and Jill and I stayed with Alex and Val when we returned to Bermuda for a belated honeymoon in 1972. I lost touch with Alex for a few years after this but saw him and Val in 1989 when I visited Bermuda for the boxing reunion when Alex and Val treated Dave Needham and me to very nice lunch.
Keith Dunmore: Keith and Ros first met at a New Years day party where I was living at Shelly Bay with Gerry Swales (Whatever happened to him?) and the rest as they say is history. I was an usher at their wedding and this was the first ‘formal’ date I had with Jill. I have kept in touch with Keith and his family over the years and I stayed with them when I returned for the 89 boxing reunion. Keith, Ros and their daughters have visited us in the UK and our sons Ben and Alex stayed with the Dunmore family in 2000 when Ben was at the end of a year going around the world and we flew Alex to Bermuda to spend his 18th birthday with Ben before they both flew back to the UK. Some years ago Jill and I attended the wedding of Keith and Ros’s eldest daughter, Lisa, at Goodwood house, Chichester in Sussex. It was a fantastic wedding on a glorious day and it is right up there with the best weddings Jill and I have been to.
Paul Farrell: I was very friendly with Paul and his wife Carola, was an usher at their wedding and on occasions house sat for them, unfortunately I also attended Paul’s funeral in London some years ago. After the funeral service we all retired to a hotel room where there was an abundance of food and drink. I have to say that as more drink was consumed things took an unusual slightly bizarre turn as return charge phone calls were made from the hotel room to Bermuda including to the then Assistant Commissioner Harold Moniz. Most of this activity was instigated by Basil Haddrell, the Metropolitan Police Officer who had originally come to Bermuda to investigate the murders of George Ducket the Police Commissioner and the Island’s Governor when he had got to know Paul well. I left the hotel in a bit of a state, had no idea where I was and just kept walking until I came across an underground station and a train that would get me back to Victoria and my train back to Sussex. I remember that Tony Watson was also at the funeral but I haven’t had contact with him for many years now.
Alastair “Shakey” Johnson: What a great character, I really liked him. Many was the time we would be in the PRC worse for drink and Shakey would challenge me to a wrestling match, a challenge I invariably took up and we would wrestle on a patch of nearby grass until we were both completely exhausted. It has been good to hear of him, via expobermuda and to see that he is well.
Mike Lohan: I didn’t know Mike very well but he once asked me to look after his family home while he and his family were off the island for a time, presumably because I had a reputation for being a reliable house sitter. It unfortunately turned out to be a complete disaster as everything that could go wrong did go wrong. The washing machine broke down, a ceiling heater in the bathroom overheated and burned out, ladies clothing in a wardrobe fell on to a wardrobe heater and the plastic clothes covers melted and became welded to several items of clothing. I had all my belongings in a large travelling trunk that I placed on the floor under a window, it rained one day when the window was open and it got wet causing some of the metal fittings on the trunk to become rusty and badly mark the rug that the trunk was sitting on. One of my responsibilities was to feed the family cat while they were away and from memory I have a feeling that I had been feeding the wrong cat and I am not sure if they ever saw their own cat again. I well remember Mike and his wife returning from their holiday and thanking me for looking after the house and saying that they had a thank you present which they would give me at a later date once they had unpacked etc. I then explained about all the things that had broken and gone wrong and, not surprisingly, I never did see my present.
Jack Rouse: I socialised and played rugby with Jack and thought a lot of him and it was him who first mentioned to me the chance of sailing on the 'Fletcher Christian' a venture he was closely involved in. Jack and his wife Pru later returned to the UK but I lost contact with him. Some years later I was very sad to learn of Jack’s death in Fiji where he had become an important figure in local politics. Sometime after this I saw Jack’s son playing rugby for Fiji on the television and through the Fijian Rugby Authorities I sent him a letter saying how sorry I was to hear of his father’s death and telling him of the respect, particularly on the rugby field, that I had for his father and the value I placed on his friendship. I later had a nice reply from Pru and when our son Ben was in Fiji in 2000 he made contact with Jack’s son.
Tom Barnes: Tom left Bermuda with me on the Fletcher Christian and after returned to the UK where he joined the same force as me. He and his wife Juliet live on the coast in Sussex only an hour’s drive away, and Jill and I see quite a lot of them. (CLICK HERE for article on Tom Barnes in our Then and Now column)
Ray Banks: I am also in quite regular e-mail contact with Ray Banks who lives on the west coast of Canada and Dennis Meehan who lives in Darwin, Australia after retiring from a very successful career with the Northern Territories Police. (CLICK HERE for article on Ray Banks in our Then and Now column)
Eric Sanderson: Eric left Bermuda with me on the Fletcher Christian and after arrival in Australia decided to settle there, the wise man, and for a number of years flew as a steward with Qantas the Australian Airline. Whilst he was flying Eric would on occasions visit Jill and me often with his good friend Dennis. I am sure that it is no coincidence these visits often coincided with the televising of big sporting events taking place on our side of the world that were not available to view in Australia at that time! I am still in occasional e-mail contact with Eric who, after leaving Qantas, went on to become a successful businessman in Sydney. Either side of the Millennium our son Ben was in Sydney with his friend on their round the world trip when they were befriended by Eric and his family, wife Jill and three children, and Eric employed Ben and his friend on building work for some time which provided them with much needed funds. During this time, Ben discovered something that I already knew: that Eric is great company, particularly after a beer or two, and a good friend to have.
Mike (centre) with Dennis and Eric on visit to England
Eric Sanderson visits Mike and Jill and young Alex
Towards the end of the sixties I well remember being part of a team vetting and putting back on planes to America individuals holding extreme views who were planning to attend a black power conference and who’s presence in Bermuda was not welcome. I think those on the team, which included Alex Forbes, were chosen as being individuals who could deal with the sensitive situations that arose without causing increased antagonism. After a few days and after the last person had left and the airport was closed, our group was in good spirits. Most will know that there were, and maybe still are, several stuffed fish hanging on the walls of the airport. Well, we changed all the fish around so that under the 8’ Wahoo now appeared a plaque which read something like, "This fish can be caught in the shallows around Bermuda" and under a very small fish, possibly a Pompano, there was a plaque saying,"This powerful fighting fish can be caught off the deep waters of Bermuda"! Several other similar changes were made and I still laugh to myself every time I think about the next batch of tourists coming through the airport.
I recently bought and read (August 2013) ‘Justice Denied’ by Mel Ayton. I was interested to read of the people and places that I knew so well and of the dreadful events that occurred shortly after I left the island that I knew little about. After finishing the book I was left with a feeling of sadness, not just for those who died but for Bermuda itself and the majority of the people living there whatever their race or background.
In the spring of 1970 I left Bermuda on the Fletcher Christian and my story of that trip can be found elsewhere on this site as Fletcher Christian Part 1 and Fletcher Christian Part 2. (CLICK HERE for Part 1)
Bermuda was, for me, a life changing, life enhancing experience and I shall never forget the island or the many, many people I met there that enriched my life.
Here are a few random photos of my time in Bermuda:-
On arrival back in the UK later in 1970 I did the one thing I said I would not do and re-joined Sussex Police. I had served for four years prior to Bermuda and quite frankly with a total of ten years' service at home and in Bermuda it was what I knew best, in fact it was all I knew! Having been out of the country for so long I had to attend basic training again at Sandgate in Kent with all the young recruits. That went OK and I only missed the baton of honour by one point. After training I was posted to Worthing, first on the beat and then as a panda car driver. I have to say that on many cold, wet and miserable days and particularly nights I did question the wisdom of leaving Bermuda where I feel I could have had a reasonable career.
In November 1971 Jill and I married and we bought our first house in Worthing. Jill had returned to the UK when I set off on the Fletcher Christian and was, on my return to the UK, flying as a stewardess with BOAC. At that time female cabin staff had to be single, so our wedding in 1971 had to be kept secret while she continued to fly. In the spring of 1972 she informed BOAC that she was resigning. But not before we took advantage of cheap flights of £28.00 return each for a belated honeymoon in Bermuda where we stayed with Alec and Val Forbes and Tom and Morag Smith.
In 1975 I went into CID at Littlehampton where I spent a couple of happy years before being promoted to uniform Sergeant at Bognor Regis, and Jill and I moved to that area. (I now know why the last words of King George V were “Bugger Bognor”) It’s a dump! After only seven weeks in this post I was approached by the head of CID to see if I would be interested in moving to Special Branch as a Detective Sgt. My answer: - “How the hell would I know, no bugger knows what they do” However, I did take up this position with responsibilities for observing and reporting to the Security Service the activities of subversive extreme groups and doing all those other things that SB officers do – if you don’t know what they are I couldn’t possible tell you! If I did I would have to kill you!
After about five years in this role I was again promoted, this time as a uniform Inspector back at Bognor. Bugger! Fortunately I was saved as after a short while I was moved back into SB as a Detective Inspector with responsibility, with a team of Detective Sergeants and Detective Constables, for the aforementioned things across the western half of the county of Sussex. During this time I was involved in the close protection of Gov’t ministers at the Tory party Conference in Brighton when the bomb went off at the Grand Hotel, a dramatic and historic event to be involved in.
Aftermath of the Brighton Bomb
As you might imagine the immediate aftermath of the bomb going off was hectic to say the least.
I had been assigned to provide personal protection, along with his Metropolitan Police protection team, for the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Geoffrey Howe, at all times he was away from the hotel or conference centre. Late in the evening before the bomb went off he and Lady Howe said that they wanted to walk around the block of the Grand Hotel to give their little terrier, ‘Budget’ (He was the Chancellor!) some exercise before they retired for the night. I walked with them and on returning to the main entrance of the hotel I saw them into the lobby where I bid them goodnight as they now came under the security of the hotel, or so I thought.
I returned to Brighton Police Station where I handed in certain equipment for secure storage, booked off duty and drove to our home near Bognor Regis, it was now the early hours of the morning. I had only been in bed a short time when I received a telephone call from a colleague who merely said “A bomb has gone off at the hotel” I acknowledged what he had said but nothing further was said or needed to be said. I got dressed and drove straight back to Brighton Police Station where, by this time, the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher and most of her cabinet were assembled. Mrs Thatcher, despite having escaped death by a few feet was defiant and was determined that the conference would go ahead as normal in the morning. She and her husband Dennis were then rushed to a Gov’t House in Kent to rest, clean up and prepare for what was to follow.
I returned to the hotel with a Gov’t Minister to recover Gov’t papers, red boxes etc. and, where possible personal belongings. Due to the severe damage caused to parts of the hotel this turned out to be a very hazardous exercise. The main damage was not caused by the bomb itself but by the seven ton chimney block that toppled and travelled down through the front centre of the building taking everything it passed with it. This is what caused the deaths and serious injuries.
Many of those due to attend the conference in a few hours' time were now without appropriate clothing as dust and debris covered night ware just wouldn’t do. With a view to overcoming this problem, phone calls were made at a high level in the Conservative Party which resulted in the Marks and Spencer store in Brighton being opened early at 8.00am and clothing was obtained by those who needed it. I am pleased to say that as a result of the efforts of many people the conference did start, as scheduled, at 9.30am.
As a result of very thorough and diligent police work the man who placed the bomb was identified by a part of a palm print found on a hotel registration card he had filled out some three months earlier when he placed the bomb with its long delay. He was Patrick Magee a senior figure in the IRA who was later found guilty of five murders and other associated offences and was sentenced to a minimum of thirty five years imprisonment. He was in fact released after serving only fourteen years under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
Both as a Detective Sergeant and Detective Inspector in Special Branch I was involved in the arrangements for the security and close protection of members of the Royal Family and Gov’t Ministers visiting Sussex who were considered to be at risk. It was at the time the IRA was very active so the threat was very real. Prince Charles paid very regular visits to Sussex to play Polo, sometimes twice a week in the summer, so he got to know me quite well and it reached the point where he called me Mike and I called him……Your Royal Highness!
There were many amusing stories to be told whilst protecting Prince Charles at Polo a couple of which I repeat below.
On one occasion I was in my office prior to leaving for the Polo ground at Cowdray Park near Midhurst where Prince Charles was due to play later that day, when I took a phone call from Insp Paul Officer (That was his surname) – Officer, one of his Metropolitan Police Royalty Protection Team. He explained that he was still in Wales with the Prince who was due to pilot a Wessex helicopter of the Queens Flight from Wales to play Polo. Paul explained that he was unable to travel back on the helicopter with the Prince and asked me if I would pick up the Prince from where he would be landing at Cowdray House which was some distance from the Polo ground on the Cowdray Estate; I of course agreed to do this.
I set out for the area in good time to ensure that everything was in place for the protection of the Prince and to be ready to pick him up from Cowdray House. I drove first to the Polo ground where an earlier game was taking place where I was very surprised to see the RAF Fire Tender and crew that attends all landings of the Royal Helicopter carrying a member of the Royal family. The ‘H’ which designates the landing spot was also laid out on the ground not too far from the polo pitch where the earlier game was taking place. I asked who had decided that the Prince would land here rather than Cowdray House as I had been told and was advised that it was Lord Cowdray the owner of the whole Cowdray Estate and large chunks of West Sussex. In the light of this there wasn’t much I could do, but I knew that the Prince would not be happy arriving in full public view at a private engagement in a large red helicopter belonging to his mother.
Sometime later I heard the unmistakable sound of the helicopter approaching and saw it come into view. It moved towards our location but suddenly veered off towards Cowdray House, I was right but being right didn’t help me now, stuck as I was some considerable distance from Cowdray House along very narrow country lanes where I was due to meet and pick up Prince Charles but I wasn’t too concerned as I felt I could get to Cowdray House in time. I went briskly to my car and then, horror of horrors I could see the keys hanging in the ignition and realised that I had locked myself out of my car, something you could do in a Ford Granada at that time. Paul Officer had told me that Prince Charles wouldn’t get in a car with anyone but me so I couldn’t call on anyone else for assistance. (No Police radio, no such thing as a mobile phone) Panic stricken….it doesn’t get close; I was almost paralysed with anxiety. I was about to fail to meet and pick up the future King of England, career? What career? My mind then cleared long enough for me to start thinking and I suddenly remembered that some time previously I had wired a spare set of keys to the cars exhaust system. In my best bib and tucker I dived under the car and waggled the keys until the fairly thick wire snapped. Out from under the car sweating like a pig and feeling rather nauseas I jumped in and roared away to Cowdray House. All I can say is that it is a very good thing that nothing came the other way on the narrow lanes as I drove in a manner not to be encouraged. I arrived at Cowdray House just as the Prince walked from the helicopter to where I had skidded to a stop. Perfect timing! A slightly irritated Prince Charles asked me who had decided that he would land at the side of the Polo ground and I was very happy to tell him that it was Lord Cowdray who I felt would soon be receiving some advice from one of the few people in the country who outranked him.
On another occasion, while the Prince was playing I was chatting to Paul Officer when he told me that Prince Charles was looking to buy a home outside of London. I said that I hoped it wouldn’t be in Sussex as the security implications would be huge. A few days later I was again at a Polo match chatting to Paul Officer when he told me that he had let slip to the Prince my comments about hoping he wouldn’t be buying a house in Sussex and that as a result the Prince wasn’t at all pleased with me. I was of course mortified both for myself and for the reputation of the Sussex Police who I represented.
Sure enough, the next time the Prince came near to me, rather than acknowledging me with a question about my health or my family he completely blanked me and it was obvious he was displeased. I didn’t know how to deal with this and could see a lot of report writing to set the record straight along with a fair amount of grovelling. Career? What career? This went on for the whole afternoon with the Prince showing his displeasure and me getting more concerned by the minute. Then, just before they were due to leave Paul Officer told me that he hadn’t said anything to the Prince and that the whole thing had been a wind up at my expense and I had been well and truly hooked. In that case, why was the Prince ignoring me? Apparently Paul had just asked him to treat me that way and he had gone along with it without, I am pleased to say, knowing the whole story. Shortly after the Prince approached me and apologised for the way he had been with me and said that he had been asked to be that way but didn’t know why. Thank you Paul!
Polo at Cowdray at the weekend was a big event attended by hundreds of people, including coach loads of American Tourists mainly there to see Prince Charles at quite close quarters in fairly relaxed circumstances. Like most of the players, the Prince would park his vehicle within a roped off area where he would chat to friends prior to and between Polo matches. Large crowds would gather and the ropes were not really up to the job. Together with some uniform officers I stood with my back to the crowd with my arms outstretched and asked them to keep back and respect the Prince’s privacy and I have to say that this was very effective with most people complying.
On one particular day however, an elderly gentleman wearing a bright Hawaiian style shirt and a straw hat kept encroaching further forward than the rest of the crowd which encouraged them to move forward and I was getting more and more irritated, particularly as I had on several occasions, politely asked him to move back. Once again he edged forward and seemed to be trying to get the attention of Prince Charles so I very firmly told him to move back or on security grounds I would have to have him moved away. His reply: - “I am Lord Cowdray and I just wanted a word with the Prince” Career? What career? Lesson learned: - Not all men wearing Hawaiian shirts and straw hats are American tourists and some can even be one of the biggest landowner’s and wealthiest members of the aristocracy in the country.
I always found Prince Charles to be a genuinely caring individual who was always interested in the welfare of those around him and he always enquired about the health of Jill after he learned that she had been unwell.
In 1985 after around twelve years in SB I became a Prosecutions Inspector at Haywards Heath, representing the police in court and with responsibility for a crime/non crime process unit made up of police officers and civilians and it was from this position that I retired in 1996 after 36 years as a police officer at home and in Bermuda. I then worked on with Sussex Police for a further seven years as a Licensing Officer, (liquor) a civilian post, where I continued to represent the police in court on applications for new licensees, changes to premises etc.
Our eldest son Ben, 37, has been a Scenes of Crime Officer/Crime Scene investigator with the Sussex Police for the past twelve years, a specialised civilian role, and is currently a Senior CSI working out of Worthing. When on call he can have total responsibility for serious crimes in the whole of Sussex and Surrey. He lives with his wife Hayley in Newick about four miles from where we have lived for the past 32 years in a village near Haywards Heath in Mid Sussex. Our youngest son Alex, 31, was also a SOCO/CSI working alongside his brother, but five years ago he joined the Metropolitan Police as an officer and is currently stationed at Croydon in South London. He lives about ten miles from us in a village just north of Brighton. Talk about keeping it in the family!
I have been fully retired since 2005 and in the summer of 2009 Jill joined me in retirement after 23 years with Reed Publishers. Over the years we have enjoyed some great holidays, many in the States, we enjoy our home and garden and with both our sons close by we seem to fill our time enjoyably and fairly leisurely. I have experienced some health problems over the past few years that have caused difficulties, but they have eased of late and I am pleased to say that Jill and I are doing OK, apart from age related things that many of you reading this will be familiar with. Weather permitting, I still get out on the bike and try to use my indoor rower as much as I can.
Here is a random selection of photos taken more recently:-
The Caulketts with new addition - Ben's new wife Hayley on their wedding day April 2012
Much credit for the existence of the ‘expobermuda’ website must go to Roger Sherratt for providing such a fantastic way for us to keep in contact with and updated on the lives of friends and former colleagues. Thank you Roger and all the others involved.