P.C. John "Alfie" Fox
Served in Bermuda Police 1962-1964
 
EARLY LIFE

At the time of writing I am in my 73rd year. According to my Birth Certificate I was born on June the 8th 1938, in a nursing home in Oldham, Lancashire, England, to Walter Herbert “Bert” Fox (a Journalist of some note ) and Norah Tongue Page (a Domestic Science teacher).

Walter and Norah Fox circa 1936

I do not have many memories of my early youth, but I remember that Dad was an avid reader and a history buff, and I remember the family (I had two younger brothers) visiting very old castle ruins throughout Northern England and North Wales.

The Fox brothers in 1951
(Ascending)  John, Phillip and Stephen  
 

I remember on a number of occasions being taken to the Manchester Hippodrome to see variety shows that my Dad as a “Sub Ed” reviewed for the Manchester Evening Chronicle. I also remember attending Lancashire County Cricket matches at Old Trafford with an Uncle who was a sports writer on one of the National Newspapers.

Manchester Hippodrome

My Dad was not a physically strong man & was disabled with respect to serving during War ll. Dad died when I was 13 years old, this was shortly after we had moved from Shaw to Heaton Moor, Stockport. I was just set to start attending Stockport Grammar School, but because my father had been a Mason my brothers were sent to the Royal Masonic Boarding School in Bushey, Watford, outside of London, thus I was deprived of my brothers company during much of my teen years except for Christmas and school holidays.

Royal Masonic Boarding School, Bushey, Watford

My parents and my God Mother – Mary Butterworth, a spinster Infants School Headmistress, who lived upon Heyside, always encouraged us to read and bought any requested books, I was fond of R M Ballentyne’s Coral Island and Gorilla Hunters,  Rudyard Kipling’s Stalky and Co. and the stories from the BOP. They also encouraged us to join the Wolf Cubs and Boy Scouts. I spent wonderful times in the Scouts up until the year before I was ‘Called Up’.

I had left Grammar school at 16, with my five GCE’s and tried to join the Royal Navy under an Artificer Apprentice scheme, being tested and interviewed by the RN for two days at Gosport, but was saddened when I was failed and I was told my eye sight was not up to their standards, but they would however take me as a Naval recruit! (Thanks, but No Thanks)

So I returned to Stockport, and gave up my temporary job as a Racing Runner at Kelmsley newspapers and started work as a Laboratory Technician at Cornbrook Chemicals on New Bridge Lane in Stockport. We made many thousands of tons of Lead Chrome Yellow for the Royal Navy and also Zinc Chromate for the Royal Air Force. We also made lots of a Red Pigment that was used on De La Rue Playing Cards.

During this five years at Cornbrook I turned 18 and was ‘Deferred’ from National Service whilst pursuing an ONC in Chemistry at Stockport College (attending one day & 2 nights per week at College). At the age of 21, and tiring of the Night School “round-a-bout”, thinking that it would never end, I quit & cancelled my deferment and visited the Military recruiting office in Manchester. There I applied to join the Grenadier Guards but was told that was not possible.

 

LIFE IN THE GRENADIER GUARDS

Luckily the power of the ‘Masonic Order’ was able to get me in. Curiously one of my Laboratory colleagues who was on the same deferment, same age, same birth month, he received notification that his obligation for National Service was cancelled and the War Office had ceased UK National Service! (so I might have missed life as a Guardsman by just a few days.)

Early in January 1960 I arrived (shaking) at the Gates of Caterham and began that routine that initially you hated but that you slowly learned to endure. My twenty or so squad mates were a diverse bunch but all buckled down to carry our Squad throughout our training without a hitch.

However we were subject to a very odd experience. At this time The War Office, Ministry of Defence, decided that future Guards training would be done at Pirbright, so half way through our Basic training, we stopped Drilling, Ceremonial practices, Weapons training, March & Shoots and PT, and became moving slaves, packing up much of Caterham and driving it to Pirbright. Before we could resume our Basic training, we had to clean up that part of Pirbright which was to be ours. It had seemed abandoned likely for many years (Left since the end of WW ll ?).

Pirbright Barracks

I don’t know how much of my hard earned Brasso was used on shining the “green” Copper pipes in the Bathroom facilities & how many tooth brushes were used to remove scale from “around the bend “ in the Toilets. Eventually our Squad leader L/Sgt Burke and the Drill Sergeants and the Sergeant Major were satisfied and Basic Training began all over again.

We hadn’t lost much of our recently previously acquired skills and soon were starting to get pretty sharp and we were even allowed a weekend Leave. After Basic Training in July, nearly 6 months after we had arrived at Caterham, the Squad was shipped out to BAOR. Germany.

We were actually one of the very last groups to be moved by Sea (like sheep) in a Troop Ship, an (awful experience) from Harwich to the Hague, then across Europe via the “A” train to Dusseldorf our base at  Hubblerath Barracks joining the 2nd Battalion who had been in Germany for over a year.  I settled into the routine initially in 1st. Company but soon was moved to 2nd. Company,

During  the time we spent in Germany we were very lucky as we were always on the move. Always involved in Exercises from big ones - ( NATO “Holdfast”) to small Battalion ones and everything in between. We covered much of the East German border from the North in Putlos by Wilhemsahven, down to the Winter training on skis in Lengries near the Austrian Border where we were billeted with the Yanks and saw what US troops got for food. Winter Warfare training, putting a bunch of lads from all over England onto skis and telling them to slide down a hill. Ridiculous!  We all primarily spent many hours cleaning our Rifles to prevent rapid rusting, but as I said the grub was darned good.

There were many small exercises in places that I can no longer remember. I do remember staying and guarding an Ammo dump at a place called Vogelsang, had to be the wettest place I had ever been at that time. Luckily we stayed in Bell tents with wooden floors so we could get dried out a bit. The ammunition was guarded permanently by civilian Germans, with German Shepherd dogs that snarled wildly as we passed them as we patrolled around the outside of the Germans, who were inside the Wire compound?

When we did the big 4 day NATO “Holdfast”, we had a day of practice sailing on German Navy ships that approached a sandy beach, where we all went over the side into DUKW’s. The practice day was a great day, warm, calm sea, easy climb down into the boats then a short ride to the beach where the DUKW’s’s  drove up onto the sand hills were we deployed, a most enjoyable day.

The next day starting the exercise, it was cold, dark, windy, sea swells, DUKW’s bobbing up and down against the ship, lads getting tangled in the netting and getting banged twixt Net & DUKW and Ship. When we were finally “aboard”, we pulled away and motored to within about 50 feet of the waters edge when they dropped the ramp and ordered us out into the sea. They had us wade ashore, rifles in two hands, way up in the air and then scramble  (supposedly under fire) up into the sand hills, then we spread out and then finally marched single file inland for about 5 miles, where we “dug in” near a Farmer’s Barn.

Thank goodness, at least we were then able to dry off and change into dry clothes, socks, drawers and lower trousers and get some relatively warm sleep. After 4 days we were eventually “blown up” and sent back many miles to Hubblerah Barracks in Dusseldorf .

I calculated and determined that in our 14 months in Germany, we spent about 3 months in Hubblerath Barracks but that 3 months was as days, weeks and weekends  - “we were always on the go” .

I was lucky that my CO thought I had the makings of an NCO (He knew I had failed a WOSB during Basic during the Pirbright 

move ) so after 3 weeks of more “Luf Rit Luf” and all the trimmings, I ‘passed out’ with a couple of stripes  - I think I got some more money but don’t remember it being enough to buy more than another can of Brasso and one can of boot polish and a block of Blanko.

  
L/Cpl John Fox
2nd Btn Exercises -  Senneleger

The Stripes ‘earned’ me a transfer to Support Co and a couple of weeks weapon training on a 3 inch Mortar.  I actually enjoyed the mortar, got my own 3 man crew and a small truck,  and never had to slog it again on any of the training exercises, but digging the mortar pits was no fun, about the size of a small ‘lake’ ( I believe we only ever did one proper one, thank goodness). 

One very interesting thing about being a member of the Corporals Mess was that we were asked (told) to go watch one of our lads box in the BAOR Championships held in Berlin. So we travelled by coach through the Russian controlled part of East Germany into Berlin. Odd being ‘inspected’ by Russians.

We were billeted in the Barracks next to Spandau Prison, and from the Barrack’s attic windows you could see how the complex was laid out, although “Forbaden”. I think every one got some pics of the place (I think there were 3 of the really bad Nazi lads as inmates at that time. Doenitz was one, plus the crazy Hess who parachuted into Scotland but not sure who was the third?

Spandau Prison

What we didn’t know at that time was that we were in Berlin in July 1961, i.e one month before the date officially credited as being the “Start” of the building of the Berlin Wall.

Another notable side trip was a visit to the Memorial Graves at Bergen - Belsen, some marked “Here lie the remains of 30,000 people,  no trees, no bushes, no grass, no weeds, no birds, no noise ….eery and not a nice place.

Stark memorial at Bergen-Belsen

In November 1961, 2nd Battalion were flown back to … you guessed it, Caterham which was now the place where all Public duties training was done and where ‘Guards were mounted from’ i.e. drove up to Wellington Barracks and then marched to whichever. As I was due out in January 1962 I couldn’t get any home leave but did manage a nice weekend down in Lands End - made sure I got the maximum mileage out of those train warrants.

After we had been tutored in all the Ceremonials we took over Public duties from the Scots Guards on Dec 31 thru to Jan 1 -  a 48 hour Guard which was not too bad as a Cpl ….. but experienced a sensation like I will never again,  being within the Tower of London as the New Year was sounded in ….. awesome noise  - Ship’s Horns  - Church Bells - echoing into the inner square of the Tower ….. but then by 03:00 hr. absolute quiet, almost Ghostly.

Later that morning being in the Guard room with my feet up, having one of the Sentry Box bells ring indicated trouble. I threw on the great coat grabbed the rifle and ‘double timed’ to the Box adjacent to the main square, to be confronted with the Guardsman having a drunken civilian up against the Tower Wall with his bayonet pressing on the civvies chest, whilst a rapidly sobering young lady was in the box pressing on Bell. Turns out there had been a party for relatives of the “Beefeaters” and these two had managed to avoid leaving. The civvy had started taunting the Guard who simply pushed him to the wall and kept him there with his rifle, bayonet affixed  - the Gal who was familiar with procedures had pushed the bell. We readily persuaded the civvy who I think from the smell of him had wet himself, to leave with the young lady so there was no report - thank goodness,

One thing that was really strange (and after the fact, humorous) at the very start of this 48 hour Guard was that we formally exchanged, “signed off “all equipment from the Scots Guards but our Officer I/C realized that we were being asked to sign over for a box of .303 ammunition  (we had in all my time since Jan 1960  been using 7.65 mm but the ammo at the Tower had been .303 for at least all that time.

There was a 4 hour delay before the very unhappy Scots Guards  could dismount until a box of 7.65 mm was obtained from somewhere.

Back in those days we only had empty magazines on our rifles but the real stuff was on hand for “emergencies”  (I cannot believe that these days that the Magazines are empty).

I only got stuck for one more Ceremonial and that was a 24 hour around Jan 9th 1962 on St James Palace.  An interesting but uneventful Guard but I do remember the presence of the Public, being polite and closer than at the Tower (we were fully exposed to the street at St James, and we felt very proud marching the Guard out and bring the old Guard back in).

My Discharge papers tell me I was a good Corporal and I could go home on Jan 14th.1962 . You couldn’t see me for the trail of dust that went from Caterham  back to Stockport where I was very idle for two weeks renewing my association with both The Plough and The Crown on Heaton Moor Road.

HEADING FOR BERMUDA

I soon realized I would have to work again.  The Laboratories at Cornbrook were very encouraging, wanting me back, but I had to reluctantly admit that HM Grenadiers had inspired me to seek further adventure abroad, so I contacted the Colonial Office and asked if there was a need for Police Officers overseas (Not sure how I got onto this idea? ) They interviewed me in London as they staffed officers to the Hong Kong Police Force, the British South African Police Force and the Bermuda Police  Force …. but number one choice, HK was full,  BSAP was 3½ year contract (with training in Swahili - did not appeal ) and Bermuda which was 3 years  ….. so we agreed on Bermuda, but first had to spend 15 weeks training with the Metropolitan Police Force in London  - the first 2 weeks at Peel House which was located in the centre of London. We had wonderful visits to a different surrounding Pub almost every night but then the Met. moved the Training Depot to Hendon – however  we could still sneak back into ‘The Smoke’ on the “Tube” several times a week.

Training Course at Hendon - June 1962
P.C. John Fox is 3rd from left in the third row up. Tony Saunders is 5th from left in same row.
Both are wearing flat caps. 

ARRIVING IN BERMUDA

After successfully ‘Passing Out’, in July 1962, I clambered aboard a BOAC Turbo Prop plane for a near 11 hour journey, flying to Shannon and then on to USA Kindley Air Force Base –i.e. “Bermuda International Airport”.

After being shown my quarters I was promptly introduced to the Commissioner of Police, and the Senior Officers explained that we were a quasi-military Police Force & we were expected to respond immediately (always on call 24 hours). I was then shown around the New Barracks in Prospect “up above Hamilton”. They had a fantastic PO’s Mess – you always heard the strains of Ray Charles’ music.

After settling in for two days, getting “kitted out”, I was driven in the Duty Car to Hamilton Police station and reported for duty and was assigned to another officer so we would perform posted Foot Patrols. No idea why but after a number of day, evening and night patrols I was re-posted to the Eastern end of the island, St. George’s, and performed the same duties as I had in the main City Hamilton (except most night patrols were carried out in one of the two Duty cars  - Sunbeam Talbots.

THE SWINGIN’ SIXTIES

I should point out that this was 1962 (the start of the swinging 60’s), and this was Bermuda which at that time was “Booze & Babes”. Every April the Island was inundated with upward of 5,000 College kids, primary females in their late teens to early 20’s, and as young males (many of whom were ex-National Service men who had served in “crack” regiments) we had a duty to ensure that the female tourists were shown a good time. Even when the College weeks were over there was always an excess of female tourists to be looked after!

Believe it or believe it not, most of the guys on the Force after several months of non stop “babes”, began to look for steady girl friends and the main King Edward Hospital was the best source of gals. Don’t know if any one ever took a count of how many Cops married Nurses but even now, as I read our old Quarterly Police magazines, you need more than two hands to keep a tally.

Some of the guys latched on to US females and flew north to get married, then they “bought out” any residual training costs (I bought out my contract when, after getting engaged, my fiancé and I decided we would get married in Canada - I had “no idea” where Canada was when this was occurring - I had always thought that I was slowly moving toward Australia, but that was not to be.

LIFE IN ST. GEORGE’S

My time in St. George’s was amazing.  St George’s was much more tranquil than Hamilton (not that Hamilton was problematic). During night shift it was often difficult to stay awake. As in Hamilton in the first days I was assigned to patrol with an officer who knew the ropes and explained any peculiarities or trends. For instance in the early part of the evening we were generally bugged by youngsters on their motor bicycles speeding past us.

In spring-time several vessels of the Canadian navy came down to Bermuda where they repainted their ships.  In the evenings the sailors, who were generally very young, were allowed to go on shore leave in uniform. Being young they all headed to the local bars and proceeded to drink themselves silly, then stagger back to their ships. We would walk behind them tapping our nightsticks reminding them to hurry along. We never had any problems with these lads. One of them told me he came from a place called Saskatchewan?

One incident that I remember from those early days in St Georges while getting to know the beat was on a late patrol with my mentor passing St. Georges only Cinema and being told to go check the rear fire doors that were built in tiny alcoves. (Editors note -  the building although still there is now derelict.)  The evening wasn’t completely dark as it was well illuminated by moonlight, but the first door I checked using my ‘Police issue flashlight’ tugging the door handles. The second exit I did not bother with the flashlight and reached in for the handle and found myself touching some young ladies rear end. I do not know who was more distressed? But I ended up flashing my flashlight and finding a couple in the midst of “amorous activity”. I told them to stop it and get on home. I returned to the front of the cinema where my partner awaited and told him what had transpired  - he thought it was hysterical  but then wanted to go and charge them for obscene behavior or some such  but it wasn’t something that I wanted to be involved with.

One pleasant activity I was introduced to with one of the experienced officers was joining the rummies on the docks by the Dinghy Club. These rummies bought Black Rum (in Coke Bottles) from Goslings and sipped their rum thru out the night. They always offered the cops a drink and I think every one initially tried a drink but it wasn’t common to share with them other than your first initial contact but they did have some nice benches where a Cop could sit and rest a while.

I remember my first drink was awful strong and I was given a bottle of water which turned out to be rain water but it had obviously been collected from off a surface that had been exposed to salt water so I remember referring to the drink as black rum and salt water, a drink to be avoided.

In the early days following my arrival in St Georges, and as a result of earlier labor disruptions (which had occurred prior to my arrival in Bermuda and occurred again following my departure) we were subjected to Tear Gas Exposure, training deemed necessary and probably correctly so such that you would know what all parties would have to contend with in the event of using tear gas in a riot situation. The exercise was done on the QT at Gates Fort, a very small fort which consisted of one room that had a large steel door which was always kept barred and locked.

The personnel was split into two groups, one assembled in the morning at the fort (I was in the first group). Everyone was issued with a gas-mask and shown how to fit it on one’s face, then we paraded into the small room which had no illumination and an Officer from Special Branch who had come from Hamilton for the exercise detonated a tear gas canister. We had been told to stay put for 5 minutes and then on hearing a whistle we were to remove the gas masks and vacate the room. I think we all did as instructed but we had no idea just how devastatingly potent and incapacitating tear gas was, and it was near madness as we scrambled, fleeing from the Fort into the fresh air, collapsing on to the hillside lawn gasping and awaiting the cessation of tearing. We recovered in about 15 minutes and were in good order in the afternoon telling all our buddies who were due for the afternoon session that it was no big deal ! It was however a big deal and I was glad I was never confronted with tear gas again.

I think the tear gas experience had some similarities to the experience we had in the Army when we got to throw hand grenades (except you knew the Hand Grenades were potentially deadly but obviously you didn’t experience any damage, however with tear gas, you did get damaged)

Several months (three) after being in St George’s, a tragedy that showed the quasi-military nature of the Bermuda Police Force i.e. being on call 24 hr. was executed. I had completed a rotation of Evenings and was due for two days off, thus I had been doing the usual celebrating at the Gunpowder Tavern and returned to Barracks at near 2 am on the 27th of October 1962,  in a very inebriated state.

I was roused out with a significantly drunken stupor or hangover at 05:00 hrs and ordered to report immediately to Ferry Reach, the crash  site of a USAF Boeing RB-47 H BW Stratojet. The plane had crashed on take off several hours earlier and because of a full fuel load it was apparently an all consuming Inferno and when I arrived there was a scene of massive charring with parts remaining no bigger than several inches. I was in a terrible state, head pounding, smell of burning, dry-throat, nauseous, no one around but I was awaiting the USAF base personal - thankfully they arrived in force with Coffee.  I was relieved later in the morning but it wasn’t until some months later that I was able to appreciate that a monumental disaster had occurred.


P.C. Fox at the scene of the aircraft crash at Ferry Reach

During the generally five weeks of College Weeks we in St Georges Mess advertised (some Hotels allowed us to put up notices on their bulletin boards because we were the Cops) a big party with free booze and I remember one that was very well attended such that we had to phone to Hamilton HQ and Somerset to get more cops (I think at that party Ruth acted as a ‘Den mother’) 

One significant change that occurred during my time on the Force was the changeover from Ex-Military types (the availability of National Service men had been drastically reduced as Britain had terminated National Service in 1960. e.g. my own case being that I was one of the very last NS men) with the subsequent employment of trained young British City and County Police Officers. These new guys after an orientation period were introduced into the Force, while Bermuda logically was training Bermudians, largely coloured Bermudians. I felt that the introduction of the non-military types slowly destroyed the esprit de corps that existed when I first arrived. The new chaps lived more by the rule book.

We had one chap Roger Taplin posted to St George’s who had been a County (Berkshire?) Police Officer with a broad county accent, seemingly a nice chap. I was able to sell my Honda to Roger for a good price, he paying cash. Some months later Roger was arrested for the theft and conversion of counter cheques from one of the Dock side Shipping Companies. He obtained several thousand pounds but in retrospect it was a most stupid crime. He was sentenced to two years in Casemates Jail in Somerset - Sgt. Sid Gregory was the only one of our guys that ever went to visit Taplin, where Sid said Taplin was suffering badly!

Perhaps the worst Criminal case that we encountered in my time in Bermuda happened in the early Spring of 1964 with the brutal attack and attempted rape of a Scottish nanny who was employed by a wealthy couple who lived on the outskirts of the golf course at the Castle Harbor Hotel. The lass after she had put the kids to bed, was beaten about the head with a solid glass ash tray then dragged from the house and tied to a tree where an attempted rape had been unsuccessfully tried. She was then left and subsequently found by her returning employers. 

The lass although significantly injured was released from hospital after about a week and she remained on the island until the case was resolved. Unfortunately the villain wasn’t soon apprehended and the case dragged on for over six weeks causing an intense negative effect on tourism. Fingerprint evidence on the assault weapon and the description given of the attacker,  being  a light skinned individual, resulted in the Police Commissioner ‘volunteering’ all Police Officers to submit their fingerprints for exclusion. Following the case being solved, at a later time at the Prospect HQ. the Commissioner conducted an informal ceremonial bonfire of the Police Officers finger prints.

As the case had dragged on the Force called in the services of Central Office of the UK’s New Scotland Yard (Detective Superintendent B. Halliday and Det. Sgt. R. Peeling ) who began a formal systematic review of all evidence gathered  and it was soon realized that an overlooked note in a Parish Constables notebook  (I believe it was Laurie Jackson) recorded seeing the individual who was on the road close to the scene of the crime. When officers were sent to interview the individual he readily confessed to the crime. There was some doubt as to whether the guy, who lived with his family on St. David’s Island, was fully in command of his facilities and it was believed that he was regarded as been somewhat backward.

It’s worth noting that it was recorded in the Bermuda Police Force Magazine of Winter 1982, (20 years later) that Laurie Jackson was a Detective Chief Inspector and had been awarded the Colonial Police Medal in Her Majesty’s Birthday Honours list - quite a distinction.   (Editors note -  Laurie Jackson went on to become Superintendent in charge of CID and had a very distinguished 30 year (1981-1991) career and was held in the highest regard by his colleagues in CID

The Supreme Court and the Police wished to see the handing out of the maximum sentence which was 12 years for the assault to run consecutively with 6 years for the attempted rape i.e. 18 years to be served in Casemates Prison.  And possibly to confirm the villains mental competence, when sentenced, he turned, smiling and waving to his family who were in attendance. The Scottish lass was also in attendance at the trial and she flew away from Bermuda back to the UK the following day!

At the time of my arrival in the St George Mess the inhabitants all had nicknames awarded for any number of reasons many unknown! Resident when I arrived were John Tanner (The Animal), John Travis (“Boob” – “Boo Boo”, TV Bear), TV ”Bat” Harper, Max “The Hair” Morris (The Bat). John “Johnnie” Johnson.  I was christened “The Elf”, I believed because of my ears, but The Elf soon became Alf and then Alfie. We also had Jim Ripley arriving the late Fall and Jim’s manner was such that he was nicknamed ‘The Fuhrer’.  In a short time this became a problem when Special Branch got word of someone in St George’s being called “The Fuhrer”. We received a visit from SB and were told to “Can it” “Cease with the nickname The Fuhrer”.  Jim became just Ripley.

As stated earlier, life in the Eastern division barracks was great. Just around the corner from the Barracks was the Gun Powder Tavern, a wonderful underground cavern bar. It had been carved out of natural limestone many years ago, said to be around the time of the American Revolution, and as the name spelt out it was used to store Gun Powder. Its uniqueness made it the prime ‘watering hole’ in St George’s. Because of its location Police Officers were always welcome although I never remember any trouble that that we had to deal with. On most nights the Bar featured a very talented elderly coloured piano player, Earl Roach - very popular with all attendees. 

It was in The Gun Powder Tavern on Good Friday April 12th 1963 that I met Ruth, a Canadian nurse from the King Edward Hospital in Hamilton. She was visiting St George’s with another nurse, they having driven down to St Georges on their Mobylettes. Ruth was knitting a pair of socks for her father and the knitting was passed down the bar for several folks to add a few stitches. She was also minus her contact lenses and was subsequently confused when I had arranged to meet her for a date. From that Easter when we met we had a really good time. Her friend Arlene from California came and stayed and we all got to play tourists.

Alfie and Ruth relaxing in the sun

I did a couple of months foot patrols and bicycle patrols and then the chap who was Mess Caterer decided he was going back to the UK and so the Force asked for volunteers (The St. George’s MC was a Police Constable, who sometimes, but very rarely did some coppering). So they chose me, but first they had to teach me to drive as the MC had to drive into Hamilton periodically to pick up provisions for the Mess.

The MC hired a Cook (we already had a good one) but she had to be provided with any food she requested for the lunches and dinners she made. The MC also collected monthly Mess Fees from the near 20 guys who lived in the Mess.  He also had to “balance the books”, and additionally had to arrange for all maintenance of the Mess ... but he had a “secret weapon” i.e. two juvenile prisoners were picked up daily from the Senior Training School and delivered to the Mess at about 7 am and generally returned at 4 pm.  The prisoners were trusty types due for release soon and they came to us and were assigned to cleaning the Mess. It was considered a “plum” so there was rarely any problem. The Prison Service considered the use of the prisoners as valuable training. Any adverse reports on  prisoners would mean being taken off Mess duties  -  not something they wished to happen.

In fact life was so smooth that the MC (me) could often be found about half a mile away lying on the private beach of the St. George’s Hotel, supping the odd free ale that the Hotel provided, They liked having a copper around - not that I ever heard or saw any reason why a cop would be required.

Alfie and Ruth take a boat tour in Hamilton.
Ruth flashes her engagement ring to good friend Arlene 

Unfortunately at some point it was found that the MC (me) had too much free time on his hands so he (me) was recruited for two days a week - always in the morning -  as Clerk of the St. George’s Magistrate’s Court, which involved some typing of the charges  e.g.“ Being the driver of motor vehicle licence No P1234 did drive the said vehicle in a careless manner“ and holding the Bible for “swearing in”.  But I soon got a handle on that situation and was still able to get back to my 3 to 4 afternoons on the beach.

The Food aspect of the Mess consisted of a kitchen and a locked storeroom. The kitchen had of a large stove, deep fat fryer and several toasters, and a very large fridge. The storeroom contained some shelves for canned dry goods and three large chest freezers and two large fridges. It should be remembered that much of our food by necessity was purchased frozen and thus required freezing.

In my time we never had a problem with spoilt food but we did have a problem, an ongoing problem, with cockroaches (as was encountered anywhere on the Island, due to Bermuda’s hot and humid climate.) Annually we had a company that came in and sealed the storeroom and fumigated it, and later that day after ventilating, we sent the prisoners in with vacuum cleaner, dustpans and brooms to remove the dead roaches  - it was really quite amazing to see what I think was a large population of these critters. They thrived especially in the insulated electronic innards of fridges and freezers.

Your first exposure to cockroaches was when you came off nights and entered the kitchen area switching on the light and seeing the little buggers scurrying in to the dark crevices of the kitchen. Getting rid of cockroaches was totally ongoing and it turned out to be an impossible task 

The MC also collected monthly Mess Fees, as I remember about 20 pounds a month; not a bad rate considering we got paid I think about 800 pounds per annum. But it should be noted that the salary which seemed great when advertised in England, was found in Bermuda to be significantly less great due to Bermuda’s high cost of living; everything came from outside Bermuda, only booze i.e. hard liquor seemed cheap). Mess fees were paid by the near 20 guys who lived in the Mess, and the MC also had to balance the books. This was a wee bit tricky, as there was resentment if a profit was shown that was thought to be excessive. Every month the MC presented the Ledger Book to one of the Senior Officers at the Prospect HQ and I was never questioned as to the accuracy.  Occasionally Mess members asked to see the books but there was never any problems, only the occasional grumble which was squelched by a question like “Do you want the job?”

The MC additionally also arranged for all maintenance of the Mess, physical - all cleaning and laundry and any repairs, arranged thru Mr. Greene in Government Crown Services (which was located on the ground floor of the Barrack building).

In St Georges we had good contact with most folk. One fellow, Capt. Murphy ran a Charter Fishing Boat often taking tourists from the St George’s Hotel for part or whole day fishing trips. “Murph”, who when he needed crew  would contact the Mess and see if anyone was interested. There was no pay but significant amounts of Rum Swizzle (an activity involved in just about all things Bermudian) and it was a pleasant day or few hours at sea, plus we often got the chance to drop hand lines over the side and catch Rock Hind and Red Snapper which we took to the Cook and she would do fresh Fish and Chips for the Evening meal. This was one of the Messes favorite meals. It was only after several outings with Murph that I realized that maybe the whole fishing thing was precarious when he described his debts and the fact that only one of his twinengine motors functioned. Nevertheless we continued to assist when possible as it was good fun.

One aspect of Policing in Bermuda at that time was the use of Parish Constables i.e. Police officers who almost totally functioned within their area of Bermuda known as a Parish. The 9 Parishes were historic land areas and were quite large and it had been determined that there was considerable value having officers (usually colored but not always) on the ground. Parish Constables usually patrolled on large motor bikes but occasionally they came into the Station and did a night of evening driving one of the Station Police Cars. I was lucky on several occasions to be assigned to PC Furbert, a very large dark skinned colored officer.

Furbert was a gentle giant with a booming voice when he addressed a group, but was soft spoken in one to one conversations (He was said to be one of only three folk on the Island who had perfect pitch, played wonderful piano and he made extra money tuning pianos, something that was regularly necessary in Bermuda’s heat and humidity)  I remember two incidents where I was  pleased to be partnered with PC Furbert. The first was one night when we were called to a disturbance at Chicks Bar in downtown St Georges back streets. We responded because we hadn’t got out of town in time and Furbert dropped me at the door and went to park the car around the corner. I went in before Furbert joined me and was confronted by a minor drunken squabble and I was immediately pushed up against the wall trapped by a couple of guys holding me enclosed in the horizontal legs of a chair. I was unharmed but was unable to move.

Moments later the sound of Furbert’s booming voice enquiring “What are you guys doing with Constable Fox? Cease immediately!”  They did and the event was over, with Furbert cautioning them that he was on duty for another 7 hours and he didn’t want to be disturbed again, “Understood?”

I remember one other incident in particularly when I was out with Constable Furbert. One task that befell Parish Constables was the serving of various Warrants to appear in Court (Parish Constables largely worked evenings which was ideal for serving Warrants when folk were home in the evening ) so on this occasion we were to serve a Summons on a light skinned colored chap for non-payment of monies to a separated spouse.

We approached the chaps house up a treed lane in the dusk and Furbert asked me to knock on the door and serve the chap which I did, but after so doing the fellow was pushed out of the way and an irate young lady began loudly screaming at me that it was the fault of the white police officers who caused all the trouble that resulted in summonsing black people. Furbert, sitting in the car under the trees, climbed out and in his booming voice asked, “Matilda, what was all the rubbish you are talking?”  - Matilda was immediately quiet and apologized to PC Furbert saying that she hadn’t seen him there. Furbert was a good man  – “Salt of the Earth”.

There was one other story about a Parish Constable whom I had met but had not a lot of contact with, John “Tiny/Wakey” Wakefield, an English lad who looked after the city Parish for Hamilton. ‘Wakey’ was another of these great big guys (6 feet 3 – 280 lbs), a bit of a legend, a very sociable chap who quaffed beer in vast quantities with seemingly no ill effects.

John Wayne, the Film actor had a very large motorised Yacht which was crewed down to Bermuda periodically. We would see it in moored out in the middle of Hamilton Harbour,  and Wayne would fly down and spend time aboard. “Wakey” had met Wayne on one of these visits and they had formed a friendship, such that whenever Wayne visited the Island, “Wakey” would take vacation and go spend his time ‘on board’ where they would consume Scotch whisky and smoke cigars.

   

HEADING FOR CANADA

I completed my tour with the Bermuda Police from St. George’s, leaving with my soon to be Canadian Bride in May 1964 and entered Canada on May 24th which was also the same date five years later that I was awarded my Canadian Citizenship). I joined my fiance and my soon to be parents-in-law in Smiths Falls a small town about 35 miles from Ottawa.

John and Ruth on their wedding day
18th September 1964

After looking at employment possibilities (interviews) at the monster chemical companies  (Dupont, ICI, etc ) dotted along the St Lawrence seaway and seeking info from the RCMP, OPP, and Prison services, whilst doing a six week spell as a casual labourer with eight other chaps at Hershey’s in Smiths Falls (carrying 100 lbs sacks of Cocoa Beans out of Railway Box Cars and stacking them into 25 ft x 25 ft squares, 40 feet up wards – they used a conveyor belt for that last part) then walking back to the soon to be in-laws home to do a sweat replacement thing, consuming the best part of a 12 pack (my Bermuda training came in very handy).

One of those summer evenings we read an Ad. in the Ottawa Journal “Require Lab Tech for Printing co in Ottawa west end “. We borrowed my fiance’s girl friend’s VW Beetle and drove to Ottawa and in August 1964, I was hired for $95  per week as junior Lab Tech at the Canadian Bank Note Co.Ltd.

During the next 36½ years I witnessed and participated in many changes in the world of Security Printing. The company when I joined was owned by the American Bank Note Co. where all the profits went to the USA.

As time went by “National Interests” lead to the company being acquired by a Canadian much to the relief of the Canadian government as our primary business was the production of Government products i.e. Canadian Bank Notes, Postage Stamps, Passports, Canada Savings Bonds Immigration documents, Liquor label Revenue Stamps and many other Government documents.

As time went by and operations were streamlined we produced many similar documents for other foreign countries. I was lucky in that my boss (a Scot) was very forward thinking and he reorganized what was a Chemical Laboratory into a Research and Development Dept. and we took on more staff and space and “cannibalised” processes used in other industries into procedures and processes that made us very competitive and in fact a world leader in some aspects of our business (we had representatives from a number of other Countries, States and Private Institutions visit us and enter into various agreements).

John's mother, Norah visiting Canada in the winter
 

My expertise over time meant that I liaised with the RCMP Laboratories, consulted with the US Secret Service and other Canadian Police agencies, and I got to see some very interesting ‘documents’ (one of these days I may write a book when my Federal Security Clearence can be scrapped).

It’s interesting at this time seeing the New Canadian $100 Bank Note printed on the Polymer Plastic substrate, and remembering meeting the Australians who had come to show their new Plastic notes, over 20 + years ago and my telling our group that in my humble opinion for a secure bank note, what the Aussies had come up with was surely the way to go!  I hope that now it does Canada as well as it did the Aussies.

After approximately 25 years in the Research end of the business I was asked to assist in the formation of a QC Dept (formally splitting of QC from the Labs ) so I spent the next 10 years educating a small group into the ways of QC and specifically getting the Company ISO 9000 qualified. In this position I had to deal with customers, Canadian and foreign, to ensure that we met all their criteria. I guess I was fortunate as we never had anything rejected, maybe I do have a “silver tongue”?

When I retired, made redundant as part of a downsizing, I was able to start enjoying myself at an early age and have had so far near 15 years of enjoyment that I might not have had if I had been working until I was 65 ?

I have been able to build and rebuild things, sheds & showers, do the plumbing of hot water tanks, etc. in an old cottage colony that we were part of. I have helped my son with modernizing his Office and also change all the illumination in his six car garage such that he could use it as a Teaching/Recreation facility. I have gardened and made modifications of many kinds in our house that we bought in 1964.

John "Alfie" and Ruth

In the 51 years Ruth and I have been married, I have tried to be a good husband and look after my wonderful wife, the Nurse I found in Bermuda all those years ago, who has raised our two sons, both experts in their own fields, and now her time has been transferred from me in recent years to our two 3 and 4 year old grand daughters.

The Fox Family get together
(l-r)  Son Jeff, brother Stephen, John "Alfie", Maggie, Sam, Michael, Karla and Ruth

Ruth has been very good to me; remember she was a nurse, she has looked after me through  two hip replacements and a knee replacement (I have great success with my replacements and although I am not anywhere near as nimble as I once was I am able to swim daily although I cut back when the weather gets too cold) .

So the question is, did the joint replacements come about from my military career or my police adventures or the fact that I put on too much weight, or that I smoked for many years or that I consumed copious quantities of beer?  Fortunately,  “wised up” and ceased both of the latter indulgencies nearly 25 years ago.

John is still enjoying life to the full

I am just glad that I can potter around and continue to learn all about using my computer and communicate with new folk and folk from many years past, sharing memories and photographs

 But Boy! Do I wish we had had Digital Cameras way back in the 1950‘s.

 

 

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#1 Dave Adam 2017-01-23 20:56
Alf...Your article brought back memories of St George. My first night on duty was New Years Eve 1962 .During the shift our duty driver collided with a wall on Water St while allegedly ferrying guests from the Dingy Club to the Mess. Eugene Creighton and I were first on scene at that vicious attack in Tuckers Town, I remember feeling so angry when I saw that poor girl. Tiny was quite a character, one night while on crime patrol we somehow ended up at Palmetto Bay and Tiny playing piano for the guests. I did extra duty at a society wedding at Deepdene Manor with him..he knew everybody and made sure we had all the food and champagne we could handle

MC was a great job..I took over when Boob Travis left..Great memories !
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