Joe Mercer was one of a group of former Palestine Police officers recruited into the Bermuda Police Force in February 1949. They arrived here on board the RMS Caronia. Included in the group was the late Inspector Douglas “Red” Hebberd along with Charles John Aitken, Desmond Robert Crafter, Barry Ivor Elliott, John Ivor Elliott, Gregory Kynaston, , William Anthony McGrath, John Raymond Monk, Hamilton Saunders (an Irishman), Edgar William Talbot, Michael Joseph Troy, John Edward “Susy” O’Connor, John W. Steele, (E.J.) Lewis*, and a man named Gibbs*
Joe had earlier served in the British Army before applying to join the ex-Colonial Police where he had a choice of the Solomon Islands or Bermuda.
He only stayed in Bermuda for 9 months then went on to join the British South Africa Police (then Southern Rhodesia) and served for 2 terms before transferring to Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) where he became the officer-in-charge of Balovali District – an area of over 12,000 square miles on the Zambezi River and a far cry from Bermuda! He has never returned to the Island but met one of our former police officers, Derek Singleton, at a Memorial Ceremony for the BSAP being held in Rutland in 2010. Joe could only remember the first names of most of the men (listed above) who arrived in Bermuda with him in 1949 and he asked Derek if any of them might still be alive. We are not aware of any others who are still with us.
He subsequently sent us a photograph of himself and most of his fellow new Police recruits, along with other passengers, on board RMS Caronia en route to Bermuda. Perhaps it’s noteworthy that most of the other passengers were attractive young ladies!
Joe gave Derek his home address in England and his telephone number, so I was able to call him in October 2011 and have a brief conversation about his experiences in Bermuda. He is presently undergoing clinical trials – he was selected because he is otherwise in excellent shape - to treat prostate cancer so is not in the best of health, but he described how he and his fellow recruits were billeted in the old Hamiltonian Hotel (where the City Hall now stands).
He remembered the Queen of Bermuda calling in every week with over 700 passengers from the U.S. Joe also recalls attending the Arthur Murray School of Dance competitions held at the Elbow Beach Hotel, especially a very special day when he danced with the wife of the famous movie star, Alan Ladd, (Mrs. Sue Carol Ladd) who were both there along with the legendary Arthur Murray who operated the world’s most successful dance schools.
Amongst Joe’s memories of Bermuda were the time he went out with the nanny of the Captain of H.M.S. Glasgow, Sheila Redsull, from Portsmouth was loved Bermuda and was still here when he left; seeing the Yale University Wiffinpoofs performing; the U.S. military bases at Kindley and the Naval Annex; the Canadian Navy Base,and the Royal Navy Base at Dockyard.
But his fondest memories are his friendship with Bermudian police constable, Howard Mitchell. The two struck up a close friendship and Joe describes Howard as an excellent policeman. He was heartbroken to hear that both Howard and his wife had passed away in the past 2 years.
Young constables Howard Mitchell and Joe Mercer
Joe says Bermuda was a beautiful place but he yearned for wide open spaces, hence his reason for moving on to Southern Africa and Northern Rhodesia.
Editor’s note. While researching for this article I confirmed the full names of the recruits who joined the Bermuda Police along with Joe by checking on the official 1950 Bermuda Government blue book that records the names of all civil servants, including police officers. I was unable to find any reference to two of the names mentioned by Joe. These were E.J. Lewis and the man named Gibbs. However, Joe still has a record of the passengers on the RMS Caronia who came out to Bermuda to join the Police Force and both were included. They may have left before the blue book for 1950 was published.