Expo recently held our first social function in 2 years to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of all of the young police officers who joined the Bermuda Police Service in 1970 and 1971, and it turned out to be a most sucessful event. CLICK HERE to review the article http://expobermuda.com/index.php/lia/1045-first-expo-function-in-two-years-held-at-prc-2 Our good friend Davie Kerr happened to mention on Facebook that he celebrated the 55th Anniversary of his own arrival here in Bermuda so I wrote and asked him if he could write a few notes about his recollection of applying to join the Bermuda Police, his arival here, wh he joined with, and his first impressions of the Island. After all these years I figured even Davie would have only distant memories of what happened 55 years ago - but his reply below clearly shows that even with the passage f time his memory is as sharp as ever. I have to wonder how many of us can remember our first days as young police officers all those years ago. Davie once again proves that he has on incredible memory!
Before coming to Bermuda I'd served for 3 years (one as a Cadet and two as a PC) in the City of Dundee Police in Scotland. I was quite happy in Dundee, but I'd never been abroad (apart from once to England in '58) and wanted to do some overseas travelling, so, being a Scot, I asked myself 'What's the cheapest way to do this?' and the answer came back 'Join an overseas Police Force and let the Govt pay for it!' I happened to see an ad for Bermuda in a copy of "Police Review" and thought 'Yeah, I'd like some of that', so I applied in July '66 and had my interview at the Crown Agents, 4 Millbank, the following month. It seemed to go OK, and they said afterwards "Well, we can't say anything right now as you're not 21 yet, but we'll let you know after your birthday." And, lo and behold, a week after my 21st birthday I got a letter from Crown Agents, basically saying "Pack your bags; you're going to Bermuda in 7 weeks' time!"
Incidentally, I only recall two of the many questions I was asked at that interview. The first one was the obvious one, "What do you know about Bermuda?", to which I replied something like "Not a lot, but I know it's in the western North Atlantic, I know it's British but it's nearer to the US than it is to Britain, and I know it's not in the Caribbean." "Not bad," they said: "that's more than many people know!" The other one was "If you get this job, you'll be going to a mixed race community and a mixed race Police force: you're quite likely to have a black Sgt or a black Insp. Does that worry you?" "Not in the least: as long as he's a decent bloke and knows his stuff, I don't care whether he's black, white, or 3 shades of green!" And that was the way it worked out. I had some great white bosses, some great back bosses, a few bloody awful white bosses, a few bloody awful black bosses, and the rest in between!
I travelled down to London by train on the Sunday (leaving Scotland in snow!), spent the night with family friends in Epsom Downs, and turned up at Heathrow Airport for the 1100 flight to Bermuda the following day (Monday, 14 Nov 66). I found myself sitting just behind Davie "Bones" Fraser, so we got chatting for most of the rest of the flight, then found out that Malky Smith, Gerry Ardis and Barrie Mancell were not far away, and then the party was completed by George Rushe "joining the crew". As I recall we had 3 Scots, 1 Englishman (who had actually been born in the Irish Republic), 1 Welshman and 1 N Irishman: Gerry had I believe been in the Merchant Navy before joining the Royal Ulster Constabulary, Malky was a time-served carpenter before joining Glasgow City Police, "Bones" was actually a time-served butcher before joining Lanarkshire Constabulary, and I think (but can't guarantee) that the other 3 of us had all been Cadets before joining our respective forces as regulars, George in the Met, Barrie in South Wales and me in Dundee City. Incidentally the minimum height requirement for Scottish Police forces then was 5'10", and I just squeezed in, but the minimum height for Bermuda was 5'8", so I thought I'd be one of the bigger lads. Wrong! Bones and Malky were both 6'4, Gerry was 6'2", Barrie and George were both 6', so I was still the midget at 5'10"! Oddly enough one of the first people I met in Bermuda was the late Willie Galloway, who'd been too wee for the Scottish Police so had joined Bermuda, and by a strange coincidence his best mate, one Ally Shepherd, had served with me in Dundee!
My first recollection of seeing Bermuda from the air was lots of green, interspersed with white house roofs every so often; a bit of a change from today where it's lots of white roofs, interspersed with bits of green every so often! When we landed, and were coming down the steps to leave the plane, I remember feeling this hot draught: I thought that the pilot simply hadn't switched the engines off yet, but I walked away from the plane, still felt the hot draught, and realised 'Oh God: it's real!' I was glad we'd come when we did, though, as it gave us time to acclimatise to the heat and humidity before it really set in around Easter next year: my late wife Claire arrived fresh from N Ireland in the middle of July minus her luggage, but that's another story!
Anyway, we were met and made welcome by Sgt Jimmy Woodward, loaded into one of the old Austin minibuses and taken to Prospect, where we were all quartered in McBeath Block: not exactly the height of luxury, but it did the turn! I can't remember the exact dimensions of the rooms, but I'm pretty sure that they were no more than 10' square with just one window, so I think the first thing we all did was to buy fans!
We spent a very pleasant first week just settling in, finding our way around, and during the day going out with various Traffic men to "get the feel of the territory": I can't remember everyone who took us out, but two names I do remember are Dave Adam and Harvey Fothergill (and oddly enough, many years later Harvey's daughter was one of my Outward Bound students!). The following week we began our 2-week Localisation Course under CI Roy Chandler and Sgt John Cafferkey in "Clock Block", which was then Training School, and we managed to blot our collective copybooks on the first morning by failing to salute Commissioner George Robins when he drove past us in his wee Fiat! We saw this wee car coming, but it was only when it was right beside us that we saw the loads of "scrambled egg" on the peak of the cap, and by then it was too late! Not long after class began that morning he came in to reprimand us: I'm sure we all thought (but none of us dared say) "Sir, if we'd known it was your car we'd happily have saluted you, but nobody told us that P3000 was your car!"
Oddly enough, my most abiding memory of Training School was of all the flies that buzzed in through the open windows, and trying to kill them while not too blatantly ignoring whoever was lecturing us at the time!
After our Localisation Course we were all posted to Central, and I struck dead lucky: I was sent to Sgt Gerry Harvey's watch which had him as Watch Sgt, Cannoth "Kenny" Roberts as Station Sgt, Ray Banks as Duty Driver (a position in which I eventually succeeded him after he left for Canada several months later), Alistair "Shakey" Johnson as Station Constable and A/Sgt, and Barry Meyers, Tommy Barnes, Ralph Sealy, Pat McBride, Ian Mitchell, Dave "Big Joe" Needham and Brian Kent as the other PC's. Gerry was heard to remark that we maybe weren't the most intellectual watch around, but when it came to "getting down and dirty" he wouldn't want any other watch!
Right, as regards a wee bit on each of us, here goes:-
Gerry was our "senior citizen", having served in the RUC for 5 years before deciding to seek pastures new. With his former Merchant Navy experience he was a natural for Marine Section, where he eventually landed up as Sgt before moving to Civvy Street some 10 years later. He was also the only one of us who'd ridden a motorcycle before, and, as I was the first one to buy a bike, he taught all of us to ride my bike!
Malky was a time-served carpenter before joining Glasgow City Police and then going to Bermuda, where his woodworking talent was soon recognised by his appointment as Force Carpenter: I couldn't tell you the last time I actually saw him in uniform!
"Bones", despite his skeletal build (hence his nickname!), was a time-served butcher before joining Lanarkshire Constabulary, and his time in the spotlight came during the 1967 enquiry into the Prospect Mess "mess", when almost all of the single men living in Prospect Barracks boycotted the mess in protest against the poor quality food we were getting for our £28 a month (which we had to pay, whether we ate all our meals there or not). The bloke running the mess, one Toni Bachetti, claimed that a particular cut of meat he was serving us was called "silverside", and Bones stood up before the enquiry board and said "I was a time-served butcher before I joined the Police, and I can tell you for a fact that that's not silverside: it's whatever-it-was, a very inferior cut." Largely as a result of Bones' testimony the mess was closed down, to re-open some months later under the benign reign of Lucretia "Mrs B" Brangman, "Bermuda Mum" to so many of us: talk about chalk and cheese!
George, being ex-Met, reckoned he was rather intellectually superior to the rest of us yokels, but was rather brought down to earth by the end-of-course exam. Four of us scored in the 70's %, Malky got 66%, and poor George only got 49%! However, that rather put an end to his upper-crustness, and he was just "one of the boys" from then on. He was actually a lovely bloke once you got to know him: he'd do anything to help you, and if you wanted to discuss obscure points of law he was The Man, but I'm sorry; he should never EVER have been allowed out unsupervised! I remember being radio man in Ops one afternoon when someone had turned George loose on a 350cc Triumph (that act in itself should have set alarm bells ringing!), and about 30 minutes after he'd left the yard I got this plaintive call over Channel 3: "Davie, I'm out of gas!" Fortunately I was able to tell him how to switch on the reserve tank and he made it back to Ops, but I don't think he ever went out on two wheels again! His finest hour as far as I was concerned, though, was undoubtedly during "The Story of the Saga of the Rubber-Soled Shoes", which has been gone into in detail elsewhere, and it was about 18 months after that when he was promoted to Sgt on the most appropriate date: April the first!
Barrie was the last of us to go for his motorcycle test. We were practising on the old Top Square at Prospect, and the only time we had was after classes by which time it was dusk. On this particular evening Barrie went wobbling off into the dusk: Gerry, in an attempt to show him how easy motorcycling was, shouted "Barrie, it's like riding a pedal cycle, but you don't have to pedal", and out of the gloom came this Welsh lilt "I can't ride a pedal cycle, boyo!" Quick postponement of his test for a week, but he got through. However, in an indirect sequel to that, he and I were both on the same Advanced Driving Course in Jan '69, and the ADC in those days included 2 1/2 days on motorcycles: we two were paired off under Derek Jenkinson, and on the last morning we were at the entrance to Castle Harbour Hotel when Jenks said "Right, we're going to do a fairly fast run along South Road to John Smith's Bay. Tuck in behind me, and follow my line as closely as possible." So off we went, Jenks, me and Barrie in that order. We got to John Smith's Bay (well, Jenks and I did) and waited for Barrie, then after about 5 minutes of no-show Jenks said "OK, you go back along South Road, I'll go Harrington Sound and Paynter's Road, and we'll meet back here." Fine, and I was the one who met Barrie puttering along South Road in second gear doing about 15 mph! When the dust had settled we'd both passed, but a couple of years later I was semi-permanent radio man and HE'd been posted to Motorcycle Section! "Square pegs in round holes", anyone?
My chief claim to fame (or maybe notoriety) during those early days was riding my bike along the old railway track behind Prospect, completely forgetting that the rear brake was operated by my right foot, and stopping by pulling on the front brake and disengaging the clutch: I think my first warrant card photo clearly shows the resultant scar on my chin! I think my only other known talent back then was the ability to eat virtually anything, and I remember Malky saying to me one day "Davie, I'll bet you can't eat two Dixie-cups of ice cream in under 100 seconds." Challenge accepted! Les "Bloodnut" Tomlinson was the official timekeeper as he'd just bought one of those posh watches which included a stopwatch, and there was a great cheer when he announced the final time as 49.8 seconds!
Just to show you how well we all got on together, we began having reunion brunches or dinners after 5 years' service and I think had one every year from then on until we'd all retired. One year we went to The Reefs up in Southampton, and there bumped into Ray Bell, who'd come out nearly 4 years after we did. We told him why we were there and that all of us were still on the island, to which he replied "That's the opposite from me: 25 of us came out together, and I'm the only one left!"