Alexander “Sandy” Sommerville, CPM
Served from August 1965 to December 1969

P.C. Alex "Sandy" Sommerville

I was born in Lanarkshire, Scotland in 1944. My early life was spent in a village located on the upper banks of the River Clyde and during holidays I enjoyed time working on the local farms and nurseries that surrounded my small village, Broomhouse, which was near a larger village called Uddingston, where I was educated at the local Primary and Grammar Schools. I spent my summer holidays from about the age of 12 to 16 on the Isle of Arran working on my father's cousin's tenanted farm in Whiting Bay. I always thought that I knew my local village area well, but when I went back to Scotland on my first leave from Bermuda a motorway by-passing my village had been built and I could not find my way into the village although I could see it! I had to travel into Glasgow, find some roads that I knew and come back on the old road network to get home. Some of my ex-UK police colleagues with whom I had kept in touch, found this highly amusing and did not let me forget!

Although I gained a scholarship to University in 1961 I felt that I had had enough of education and like all persons of my age I knew better than my Mother (Father died when I was 15 and I had no siblings) and so I decided against it much to the anger and disappointment of my family! I applied for and was accepted as a Civil Service Cadet but found this job to be mind-numbingly uninspiring so I waited until I was 18 and joined the Dunbartonshire Police Cadet Corps, moving on to the Dunbartonshire Constabulary in 1963.
I again found this somewhat tedious as it was a time of the "senior/junior man syndrome" and being the junior man I kept getting all the lowly and rotten jobs so I decided to apply for a Commission in HM Forces as well as apply for a post in as many Colonial Police Forces that were left. This included Hong Kong, Fiji, British West Indies, Solomon Islands and Bermuda etc. etc. I also applied for the South African Police as well as Rhodesia but the latter very quickly became a non-starter as I would have lost my UK passport owing to the Smith Regime's stance.
Shortly after I had completed my two year Police probation period and was confirmed as a Constable, I was called for interview at Edinburgh Castle for a Commission in the Army. At that time the Royal Military Police were forming their own officer corps and having been in the civilian police this was to my advantage. I passed this interview and was then sent to Westbury in Wiltshire for further assessment at WASBE (War Office Selection Board as it was then.)  Several of the Colonial Police Forces were not recruiting (ironically one was HK) either as there were no vacancies or the Territory was approaching Independence and the only positive reply came from Bermuda.
I then went for interview, medical etc., like everyone else and then waited. In the 1960s there were two daily postal deliveries in the UK, and in the morning post I received an offer from the Army and quickly penned a letter accepting. However I did not post it and in the afternoon a letter arrived offering me an appointment in Bermuda. So I had a major decision to make - Army or Bermuda? It took all of about one tenth of a second to decide on Bermuda especially as I had family there. I wrote to the War Office declining the offer, advising that I was off to sunnier climes. As fate would have it when I was the Staff Officer in charge of the Police/ Military Operations Formation in HK, one of my opposite numbers from the Army was one of the chaps I had gone through officer selection course at Westbury with. He was an ex-Metropolitan constable and he had been promoted to Lt. Colonel and appointed as the Royal Military Police Provost Marshall in HK - such a small world.
I went out to Bermuda in August 1965 with people such as Mike Jent, George Rose, Brian 'Chalky' White, Barry Budinger, Mike Proctor and Malcolm (or was it Mike?) Menzies, and after initial training I was sent to the great metropolis of Hamilton where I served in Central Division where 'Nobby' Clarke was the Chief Inspector and Tommy Doyle was one of the Inspectors.  

New Recruits on the balcony at Police Headquarters
(l-r) M. "Trevor" Menzies,  Alan Procter, Mike Jent, Alex "Sandy" Sommerville,
George Rose and Brian "Chalky" White

The sergeants were people like Joe Colton, Andy Maule, Jimmy Moir (another ex-Dunbartonshire man); Hilton 'Jelly Bean' Wingood; Eugene 'Buck' Woods who was a super bloke and who took a great liking to Philippa - in fact he even suggested that she reconsider marrying such a reprobate as me; Gerry Harvey and Mike Burke who, with his wife, always made Philippa and I welcome in their home. (Mike’s wife's name was Cam I think.) Also, never to be forgotten was the mighty Gerry James who regularly played squash with me as well as the unbeatable Ian Scotland!

Professionally I had always fancied Operations (Traffic Division) and as I had held my UK Police Driver's licence, after a suitable period in Central I applied for a driving course and was eventually accepted at the Driver Training School and placed under the tutelage of Ernie Moniz and Derek Jenkinson. 'Chief' (Roy) Chandler was the final examiner and he, for his sins passed me!  

Shortly after that I was posted to Operations Division where there were such characters as Nick Hall, Lawrence 'Mincy' Rawlins, Andy Bermingham, Dave Cann (now Du Cann) Harold Moniz, Dick Murphy, Alex Forbes, Mike Caulkett, and Roger Sherratt, all of whom were of the 'older intake.' I remember that we used to wear blue ties at that time but the Force changed to black ties and the blue tie became a bit of a 'status symbol'  as it identified the "longer serving" members.

P.C. Sommerville with new Tango 5

It was in Operations that I met Inspector Jim McMaster, a very hard taskmaster but an excellent boss. Also there were Clive Donald, George Garrod, and Willy Galloway who was tragically killed whilst on duty on McGall's Hill riding one of the Police motor cycles and was buried with full honours in the Prospect Cemetery.
Another colleague I remember was Alan Keagle, who, when he left Bermuda went to New Zealand and joined the New Zealand Traffic Police (a separate organisation from the regular police at one time) and whilst he was serving there, he visited HK. I was the Commanding Officer of Traffic Kowloon and he made contact and we caught up with each other over his week in the Colony. I was so pleased this had happened as sadly Alan committed suicide shortly after returning to New Zealand. This was truly a tragic loss of a good man and I know he was very close to Dave Du Cann who took it rather badly.
I also recall that Nick Hall, who was OIC Radar for a while, instigated a 'Blue Max Medal' (after the popular film of that name) and this was given to the Radar Team that caught the largest number of speeders in any one month. Not quite politically correct but good fun. This was when I met Paul Farrell and a life-long friendship developed between Paul, Carola (his wife) Philippa and I and we were devastated by his untimely death. Carola however remains in touch and visits us whenever she is in the UK.

Philippa and Alex with Carola Farrell

There was also that luminary and supporter of the Heineken Brewery, Mike 'Heineken' Helan who was an absolute hoot when he had had one over the eight - or nine or ten! Also, one of the Bermuda Commissioners, Frederick “Penny” Bean paid a visit to Hong Kong and I was assigned as his 'Tourist Guide.' I had first met him when he was a D/Sgt in the Drug Squad and we went in to Happy Valley to carry out a major raid and arrest, which was successful. However when we met and I recounted this incident, he had no recollection of me at all - such is life! Paul Wakefield was also an officer I remember well and indeed he and his wife Kam visited Philippa and I in Hong Kong when they were on business
I also remember Tommy Barnes who was stabbed up in Paget. Dennis Brookes and I were there and the culprit ran his Moby at me narrowly missing me and although he got away I still maintain that I hit him (or something with my 'stick') but to no avail. I did identify a suspect by his silhouette but in the end it turned out not to be him although the real culprit was caught several years later and I believe convicted - cannot get them all right! I also remember working the Hamilton Docks and when checking the vehicles out of the docks, was often confronted by certain police officers moonlighting as commercial vehicle drivers - this was always kept quiet!
The riots were also a strong memory and I saw three or four of them, usually around the New Year. Mind you the first one happened not long after we arrived in Bermuda in 1965 and the following formal training in CADUC (Control and Dispersal of Unruly Crowds - how quaint that sounds today! ) was certainly greatly appreciated .

Something else I remember quite vividly was as a single officer living in the barracks being forced to eat in the Prospect Mess which meant that single men could not afford eat out and pay the Mess account.Consequently we had no option but to eat in the mess under Tony Bachetti's management. After the wonderful food of The Spot Restaurant in Hamilton where both dear old Tony the Portuguese manager and Rosie the wonderful large, jovial Bermudian female cook worked under the watchful eye of Mrs Pereira, the owner who always looked after the Police, the food in the Mess was awful. Indeed I recall being told that more money was spent on Police dog food than on us! Despite complaints nothing was done until the Governor directed that the head of the Hotel School at Prospect, Neil Hansford-Smith, carry out a full enquiry into this travesty. As the enquiry was being held there was a very suspicious fire at Prospect HQ and as I recall, it was considered rather strange that it was only the cabinets with the Mess Records that had been destroyed but I am of course open to correction on this one. However the end game was that we no longer had to "eat in" at Prospect.

Alex and Philippa

 Also my own claim to fame was damaging one of the Traffic Cortina's quite badly. I think I was with Dave Ashurt when we stopped a drunk driver, a white Bermudian, who literally fell out of his car and was stinking of alcohol. We arrested him and took him to Central Station where the Duty Sergeant certified that he was not under the influence and told Dave and I that he could drive home. This drunk staggered back to his car and we followed him along Broadway and it was clear that he was drunk as he was all over the road and refused to stop for the bell and blue light. I told Dave to get into the back seat and I rammed this car, forcing the driver into the left hand side wall. We then took him to King Edward Hospital where the duty doctor certified that the driver was not suffering from any illness but that he was very much under the influence of alcohol. So we re-arrested him and took him back to Central Station with this medical report to be met with a tirade of abuse from the said Duty Sergeant (whom I remember well but will not name!) and this time he was forced to lock him up.
However next morning Jim McMaster had me called in to Operations and I was told in no uncertain terms that I had acted stupidly, illegally and that not only would I be disciplined, I would require to pay for the damage to the car or may have to replace it. This came as a bit of a jolt and although I tried to explain why this had happened Inspector Mac was having none of it. Just then Deputy Commissioner Frank B. Williams, appeared on the scene and asked about the incident. Inspector Mac briefed him about what had happened and what his decision was, and I was clearly in a cold sweat when 'introduced' as the driver of the patrol car. Mr Williams took one look at me and turned to Inspector Mac and said that he did not agree with the decision and that the matter should be closed there and then, and in his opinion, he could not see what else could have been done at the time! Great relief from one PC 116 Sommerville.
There are other incidents I clearly remember like the time Commissioner George Robins saw a traffic car perched on the steep slope on the right hand side of a roadside near to Prospect with a certain late Sergeant, and good friend of mine, asleep at the steering wheel - he wasn't even in Traffic and nobody knew how he had got possession of the car!
All in all I had a wonderful time in Bermuda and despite my ups and downs, I left the Force shortly after George Duckett became Commissioner with an Exemplary Discharge Certificate recommended by the future Attorney General, Barry Meade - Now there is another story!
On leaving Bermuda in December 1969, having married Philippa Ryding, (a nurse at King Edward Hospital) in September of that year, I was appointed to the Cayman Islands Police as Inspector and was responsible for setting up a new traffic department, a new communication system and was appointed a District Court Prosecutor. The Force was 'old' Colonial in organisation in that it was responsible for Police, Prisons and Immigration matters - all quite different from my time in Bermuda. During my service in Cayman, I was sent on attachments to New York City Police; Miami City Police; Dade County Police, Florida; Jamaica Police; a number of UK Forces and spent three months in Canada at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police College in Ottawa for senior officer training, followed by an attachment with the Toronto Metropolitan Police. I also worked with "friends" from Langley, Virginia as they had an interest in Cuba and the Cayman Islands are very close indeed to that country.



I was transferred to Hong Kong in late 1973 as Inspector and retired in the rank of Senior Superintendent, being struck off strength on 30.6.1997 (handover date of HK to China). Notwithstanding previous police training and experience, on arrival in Hong Kong I had to undergo six months training at the Police Training School and on completion of the training, I was awarded the Baton of Honour. This training was followed by an intensive three month language course studying Cantonese, the local Chinese dialect. Failure to gain the elementary language certificate within the first three years resulted in dismissal from the Force, whilst obtaining the intermediate certificate was a perquisite to promotion to the higher ranks, so there was quite a strong incentive to pass these exams. I was also given an official Chinese name which is SUM Ming-wai, a Chinese transliteration of 'Sommerville.'

Superintendent Sommerville cutting up a rather large pig

The photograph above was taken when I became Commanding Officer, Traffic Kowloon, officiating at a 'Bal Saan' cermony (cutting a pig) after taking command of the Formation. This was a serious Chinese custom to ensure the Formation had good luck and would operate efficiently, and honoured the Chinese God 'Kwan Daai' who was the 'Police' God as well as the God of War!

During my service in HK I served in numerous formations including commanding officer in Traffic Formations; Traffic Headquarters, Police/Military Operations; several major operational commands and administrative posts as well as a fairly long stint in Police HQ as one of the Commissioner's Staff Officers. I also attended numerous Police and Government training courses and as part of one such course for senior officers, I was attached to the Korean Government and visited the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea. This was quite a hairy experience especially when we were taken down the tunnels that had been made by the North Koreans with an apparent view for the passage of troops for some future planned invasion of South Korea!  I received the CPM in the 1990 Queen's Honour List and was awarded three commendations during my service. Although I was asked to stay on after 1997, Philippa's health was deteriorating with arthritis so that was my main reason for retiring and I decided to return to UK. After retirement to the UK I did enrole in University and took a Masters Degree in Antiques, graduating in 2009.

Dear Philippa has already undergone major surgery for five joint replacements because of the arthritis and now her spine is slowly collapsing and the arthritis is creeping into her jaw bones, causing some discomfort when she is eating. However she keeps up her good humour (has to do so being married to me for 43 years!) but the problem is that as she trained as an orthopaedic nurse she is all too aware of the final outcome of this wretched and incurable condition and she will probably be in a wheel chair in the near future. However she fights on quite bravely and does not let it get her down too much. She celebrated her 70th birthday in August 2010, when the family came from all over to the celebration.
Our younger son William is married into a local farming family and with his wife and son, live only 5 miles away from us so we see a lot of them. However, watching our grandson George grow up so quickly is quite frightening! William is the sales director for a corporate insurance company operating out of London, whilst Gregory, our eldest son, who was born in the Cayman Islands during my service there, has Caymanian Status (similar to Bermuda Status so he does not need work permits etc.) and lives on Grand Cayman. He works for the US conglomerate McCormick Spices as their Global Certification Director and has his main home, with his fiancé, on Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman. They have a second home in Portland, Oregon where they enjoy skiing. So I guess in a way it is like father like son in that Gregory and I are world wanderers.

Sandy and his family during Philippa’s 70th birthday celebrations
Standing (l-r)  William and Gregory.  Seated  -   Christine (William’s wife),  Philippa,
George (8 year old grandchild), Sandy, and Emma (Gregory’s fiancé)

I keep in touch with my cousins, Jimmy & Jeannette Vallis in Bermuda and quite often pick up news from them regarding the 'older' Bermuda Police Officers as Jimmy and Jeannette are both from established Bermudian families. We are also in regular touch with Carola Farrell who has stayed with us on several occasions during her UK visits.  A few years ago, we had a surprise visit from Dennis Brookes when we lived in Derbyshire and caught up with more Bermuda news then.
At present we are living in Norfolk and I am involved in local politics - (where has my sanity gone?) after having done 8 years as a District and Parish Councillor in Derbyshire.  I was invited to stand for the local Parish Council in last year's elections and was voted on to the Parish Council where I live and am now the Vice-Chairman. I am also a member of the District Council's Standards Committee which monitors the behaviour of all the Parish and District Councillors in our area and deals with all the complaints made about Councillors. (Policing background coming to the fore!) This is very interesting work but quite time consuming, so free time is really quite a luxury. I have also been nominated (from a cast of thousands!!) to manage applications for a number of major grants being sought by the local Parish Council and this is a nightmare as I have to deal with both local and central government bodies. I must admit that when I speak with officers in Central Government in London, I wonder if they live on the same planet as the rest if us!
Councillor Sommerville 
Dave Cook has kept me apprised of current matters and of the sad passing of several Bermuda Officers, many of whom I recall, the most recent being Russ Delahey. Russ reached the rank of Superintendent in the Royal Hong Kong Police but we never served together although we were at one time both in the same Police District. (Keeping in mind that the RHKPF was some 32,000 strong this was not unusual, but we did meet at the occasional Mess Night in the Gazetted Officers' Mess at PHQ). The other Bermuda Officer who served in HK was Norrie Galbraith who also reached the rank of Superintendent but again we never served together but met up on Mess Nights. I keep in touch with Dave DuCann who now resides in New Zealand having been with the Bank of New Zealand on the credit card security side of things (I think!)  By the time I took early retirement from the RHKPF, aged 52, there were quite a number of ex-Bermuda Police Officers in the Inspectorate ranks, but they all looked so VERY young and I did not know any of them.

In retirement I also took up voluntary charity work for the Soldiers', Sailors', and Airmen's Families Association (SSAFA.) I worked for the charity for eight years, starting as a case worker and finally ended up as the Divisional Treasurer before leaving Derbyshire for Norfolk. I was also appointed by the Secretary of State to the East Midlands War Pension Committee and I found both the charity work and the Committee to be most rewarding work. I came across many of the old WW II servicemen who had incredible tales to tell, but I was also quite shocked at the attitude and lack of care that the British Government has taken towards the health and well being of our soldiers both past and present.

As for my hobbies, I continue to enjoy reading about history and carrying out family research. For ten years, I had a small business which dealt in antique silver and had a good private client base which, when I gave the business up, I passed on to a close friend whose family has been in the antique and restoration trades since the late 19th century. I no longer trade but I do carry out some private consultancy work in respect of antique silver. All in all I am kept busy, which, after a long, active and interesting police career, I am very grateful for.
Wishing all the very best to my former colleagues and friends in Bermuda.
Alexander “Sandy” Sommerville