The Royal Lincolnshire Regiment and the Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps
The Royal Anglian Regiment and the Bermuda Regiment
1914 to 2014
by Seán Pòl Ó Creachmhaoil (formerly a corporal of the Bermuda Regiment, 1992 to 1997)
written 30 July 2014
Located 640 miles off North Carolina (1,000 miles from the West Indies, and 770 miles from Nova Scotia), Bermuda's remoteness had made it excess-to-need for the English, and subsequently the British, armed forces between its official colonisation by the Virginia Company in 1612 (permanent settlement having begun in 1609) and the gaining of independence by the United States in 1783. The loss of the continental colonies robbed the Royal Navy of all of its bases between Nova Scotia and Florida (which Britain had returned to Spain, but where she retained a naval base 'til the colony was ceded to the USA). The Royal Navy immediately identified Bermuda as the lynch pin by which it could maintain its control of North American and West Indian waters, and in 1795 it began developing what would become its headquarters, primary base and dockyard for the region.
Prior to this, Bermuda's defence had mostly been left in the hands of her own privateering ships and her militia. Every able-bodied man, free or enslaved, was required to serve in the militia, which included infantry, mounted infantry, and artillery sub units, organised on a parochial basis (Bermuda has nine parishes, which are both political and religious). While most militiamen were only embodied annually for training, or during wartime, a small pool of standing militia artillerymen manned coastal batteries in a ring of forts built by the colonial government.
In 1701, the War of the Spanish Succession led to an independent company (drawn from the 2nd Foot) being stationed in Bermuda by the English Army, which remained until after the Seven Years War. It was replaced by a company of the 9th Foot and a detachment from the Bahamas Independent Company, but these units were also withdrawn in 1768. Regular soldiers were stationed in Bermuda again for the duration of the American War of Independence (1775-1783), when the sympathies of Bermudians were initially with the rebels, but the permanent garrisoning of Bermuda by the British Army did not recommence until 1793, following the French Revolution, when a detachment of the 47th Foot was posted there.
The British Army garrison grew rapidly in parallel with the Royal Naval establishment in the colony. From then on, the governors of the colony (who also filled the roles of Commander-in-Chief and Vice-Admiral) were drawn almost exclusively from the senior ranks of the army, primarily from the Royal Artillery or the Royal Engineers, which reflected the great expenditure on coastal artillery and fortifications during the course of the 19th Century. The infantry, however, remained an important component of the garrison, tasked with guard duty, and standing ready to repel any force that should manage to land on Bermuda despite the best efforts of the Royal Navy and the Royal Artillery. Infantry battalions normally were posted to Bermuda for three years.
Nominally Lincolnshire regiments had been posted to the garrison before 2 Lincolns: the 81st Regiment of Foot (Royal Lincoln Volunteers), from 1829 to 1831 (following amalgamations in 1881, 1970, and 2006, its lineage is continued today by the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment (King's, Lancashire and Border) (LANCS)), and the 69th Regiment of Foot (The South Lincolnshire Regiment), from 1870 to 1873 (following amalgamations in 1881, 1969 and 2006, The Royal Welsh). The Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps did not come into existence 'til 1894. The original militia had ceased to exist after the American War of 1812 as the colonial parliament saw no need for it given the build up of the regular army garrison. Although there were short-lived schemes to provide a militia without the aid or funds of the colonial parliament, no permanent reserve to the garrison would exist 'til the end of 1894, when the Secretary of State for War finally succeeded in pushing the local government to raise two part-time units (although the War Office bore the burden of funding them through an annual stipend to the colonial government).
The BVRC was the first, raised in 1894 with a mandated strength of three-hundred officers and enlisted men split between three companies (A, B, and C, located at the West End, in the Centre, and at the East End of Bermuda), each with its own armoury (drill hall). A fourth (headquarters) company was also located centrally, at the Armoury Building in the City of Hamilton, the colonial capital. It's recruitment was exclusively from the white population. It was organised, and its volunteers served, under identical conditions to the Volunteer Force (VF) rifle corps already raised by Lords-Lieutenant of British counties. The second unit, the Bermuda Militia Artillery, which recruited primarily blacks (although only whites could receive commissions) was raised in 1895, providing a part-time reserve to the Royal Artillery (between 1899 and 1924, the Royal Garrison Artillery).
In Britain, the VF went through a series of reorganisations, with most units losing their unique identities and becoming numbered Territorial Force battalions of their local Regular Army regiment in 1908 (many volunteer rifle corps had already been retitled in this way following the 1881 Childers reforms, evidently including the volunteer battalions of the Lincolnshire Regiment). Terms of service were introduced (prior to this, a volunteer could quit with fourteen days notice, except while embodied for annual training or emergency). Similar changes would not be effected in Bermuda 'til after the First World War.
In 1914, 2 Lincolns, under Lieutenant-Colonel George Bunbury McAndrew, was posted to Bermuda and stationed at Prospect Camp, in Devonshire Parish, on the outskirts of the City of Hamilton (the colonial capital). When war was declared on the 4th of August, the battalion was under orders to return to Britain, with a Canadian battalion to replace it. The Governor of Bermuda, Lieutenant-General Sir George Bullock, was temporarily abroad and Lieutenant-Colonel McAndrew filled his place, overseeing the placement of the colony onto a war footing. This included the embodiment of the BVRC (the BMA had already been embodied for annual training). 2 Lincolns returned to England, via Nova Scotia, in September, and arrived in France on the 6th of November (1 Lincolns having arrived there on the 14th of August).
When it deployed to the Western Front, C Company, 2 Lincolns included a former Bermudian policeman, Corporal George C. Wailes (who had originally enlisted in the Royal Fusiliers. His father, also named George C. Wailes, had been a Private soldier, posted to Bermuda in 1883 with the 2nd Battalion, 84th Foot (York and Lancashire Regiment), who had purchased his discharge in 1885 and married and raised a family in Bermuda). Wailes was wounded at Ypres on the 17th of November, 1914, and sent to a hospital in England to convalesce. He returned to the Western Front the following year, but was medically discharged after receiving another seven wounds in March, 1915. He returned to Bermuda in April.
2 Lincolns appears to have gained at least two other soldiers from Bermuda: Lance-Corporal Louis William Morris (another former Bermuda Police constable), killed on the 7th of December, 1914, and a Private Farrier. An English soldier of 2 Lincoln, Lance Corporal W. Clifford (who had been assigned to Government House while in Bermuda), wrote frequent letters from the Front to friends in the colony, extracts of which were printed in Bermuda's daily newspaper, the Royal Gazette.
Bermuda's permanent population at the turn of the century was roughly 19,000. A quarter of the inhabitants were military personnel, and a somewhat larger fraction of its military-age men. With such a small civilian population, the embodiment of the two voluntary units for the duration of the war threatened to bring the colony's economy grinding to a halt. Consequently, the BVRC permitted many of its soldiers to continue their civil jobs in between taking turns standing guard at key points and patrolling. Although conscription was discussed, it would not be introduced in Bermuda before the end of the war made it unnecessary. Despite the shortage of manpower, both voluntary units began planning to send drafts to the Western Front in 1914. The BMA was prevented from doing so 'til 1916, when the first of its two drafts (together totalling 264 officers and enlisted men) that would compose the Bermuda Contingent Royal Garrison Artillery (BCRGA) was sent to France.
The BVRC, however, formed a detachment at Warwick Camp, the garrison's rifle ranges, in December, 1914. In addition to volunteers who had already been serving, new recruits enlisted specifically for service on the Western Front, growing the contingent to a full company of eighty-eight other ranks under the command of Captain Richard J. Tucker. The contingent trained in Bermuda through the winter. Due to a shortage of officers, the role of adjutant was filled by the Governor and Commander-in-Chief, himself, resulting in the contingent being nicknamed "Bullock's Boys". The contingent was shipped to Nova Scotia in May, and crossed the Atlantic with a larger Canadian deployment, arriving in England on the 20th of May, 1915. It joined the Lincolnshire Regiment at the regimental depot in Grimsby.
It was decided to re-enlist all of the men into the Lincolns and spread them around the regiment where replacements were needed, but Captain Tucker was in possession of a letter from the War Office instructing that they were to remain together as a unit. Although they continued to wear the BVRC cap badge, all were given Lincolnshire Regiment numbers in place of their BVRC ones. The Bermudians had hoped to be attached to 2 Lincolns, but joined 1 Lincolns on the Western Front as an extra company by the start of July, evidently while the battalion was still engaged at Ypres. The contingent was the first colonial volunteer unit to reach the Front.
During the course of the next year, the contingent was greatly reduced by casualties. More than half of what had remained of its strength was lost at the Battle of Guedecourt on the 25th of September, 1916, and it was no longer able to function as a rifle company. The survivors were merged with the BVRC's Second Contingent, of one officer and thirty-six other ranks, which had been trained and equipped in Bermuda as Vickers machinegunners, and which had joined 1 Lincolns at Marles-les-Mines in October. The Vickers guns were taken away and all of the men were retrained as Lewis Light Machine-Gunners, providing a dozen gun teams to 1 Lincolns.
The BVRC contingent served with 1 Lincolns 'til the end of the war, following which 1 Lincolns, with a number of Bermudians, was hurried to Ireland where conflict was brewing between the British government and the nascent Irish Republic. What remained of the BVRC contingents returned to Bermuda in May, 1919. They had earned for the BVRC the battle awards Ypres 1915, Neuve Chapelle, Loos, Somme 1916, Ypres 1917, Lys, Hindenburg Line, Messines 1917, and Somme 1918.
The two BVRC contingents had lost more than three-quarters of their combined strength by the end of the war, including forty who were killed-in-action or died-of-wounds (some after having transferred to other regiments or corps). Major R. J. Tucker received the O.B.E, and returned to Bermuda after the war to command the BVRC, retiring with the rank of Colonel (the first member of the BVRC to hold that rank) in 1923. Six members of the two contingents received the Military Medal. Sixteen enlisted men were commissioned, including R.C. Earl, who had been a Colour Sergeant in the First Contingent in 1914. After returning to Bermuda from Ireland, he continued his career with the BVRC, eventually becoming the Commanding Officer with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel (he would still be serving as Adjutant in the 1950s). Some of those commissioned moved to other units in the process, including flying ace Squadron Leader Arthur Rowe Spurling, who had been a Private in the First Contingent (he was awarded the DFC after he and his observer/rear-gunner, Sergeant Frank Bell, attacked thirty German fighters with their DH-9 bomber, shooting down five of them) and Second Lieutenant Henry Joseph Watlington (killed in action over the Western Front in July, 1917), who both transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. Sergeant C. H. Young also transferred to the RFC on the 2nd of August, 1916 (at least eighteen other Bermudians would serve in the RFC, RNAS or RAF during the First World War. This was despite the fact that motor vehicles were banned from Bermuda's roads 'til 1948, and the first aeroplane would not fly over the archipelago 'til May, 1919, when the governor, General Sir James Willcocks, was carried aloft by the floatplane of a visiting US Naval vessel).
Following the war, the BVRC (and the BMA) was demobilised and briefly disembodied. Many of its previous soldiers re-enlisted when it was built back up. It was reorganised in accordance with the Territorial Army, with the introduction of terms of service. Its link with the Lincolnshire Regiment was made permanent with the alliance of the two units approved by the King. From then on, the Lincolnshire Regiment took on an avuncular role to the BVRC that was similar to that between its own Regular Army and Territorial Army battalions. It provided the BVRC with a steady stream of officers and warrant officers under loan to its permanent staff.
The colonial parliament also began to contribute an increasing share towards the costs of the two territorials between the wars. During this period, the War Office began to reduce the size of the Regular Army component of the Bermuda Garrison. The creation of the part-time units had been intended to enable this decades earlier as relatively quiet Bermuda was absorbing a massive chunk of the 19th Century Imperial defence budget. The Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers companies were withdrawn completely in 1928, with the BMA and the Bermuda Volunteer Engineers (raised in 1931) taking on their responsibilities. The regular infantry had never been less than a full battalion, and had sometimes numbered two. From 1919 onwards, the norm became to split a single battalion between Jamaica and Bermuda, with Bermuda receiving at first usually a wing, and then a single company. This placed a greater weight on the BVRC. With the commencement of the Second World War, the BVRC began mobilisation on the 3rd of September, 1939. The part-time units moved to a full-time basis for the duration of the war, and conscription (to which all military-aged British males resident in Bermuda were liable) was quickly introduced. In October, 1939, the Bermuda Militia Infantry (BMI), which recruited blacks and was grouped administratively with the BMA, was raised and trained under the 2nd Battalion, King's Shropshire Light Infantr. Initially, it was tasked only with protecting St. David's Battery, but its role expanded as the unit grew. Patrolling and mounting guards in Bermuda was divided thereafter between the three infantry units.
As in the First World War, Bermuda became a hub for trans-Atlantic convoys (coded BHX, they joined with HX-coded convoys from Halifax, Nova Scotia to complete the crossings to Europe). In addition to the British Army garrison and the Royal Naval Dockyard, two seaplane bases had been added in the 1930s: the Fleet Air Arm's maintenance base on Ireland Island (later on Boaz Island) and the civil airport on Darrell's Island, which was taken over by the Royal Air Force during the war. During the course of the war, the Royal Canadian Navy also operated a base, HMCS Somers Isles, in Bermuda, and the United States was given ninety-nine year leases for a US Navy shipping and seaplane base and a US Army Air Forces airfield (the latter to be operated jointly with the Royal Air Force). When the airfield became operational in 1943, it for the first time allowed landplanes to operate from Bermuda, as well as to stage through on trans-Atlantic crossings. The American bases also resulted in detachments from the US Marine Corps and the US Army being posted to Bermuda to bolster the colony's ground defences.
The strategic roles filled by Bermuda during the war placed a great importance on its defence. Despite its obligations to the garrison, the BVRC formed a small contingent of seventeen officers and other ranks who had volunteered for overseas service. This was sent to the Lincolnshire Regiment in June, 1940, accompanied by one officer of the BMA and four sappers of the BVE (all probably having previously been riflemen as the BVE recruited only from the ranks of the BVRC, from which the BMA also commissioned most of its white officers) who detached from them in England to join their respective corps.
Unlike during the First World War, the BVRC contingent would not remain together as a unit, and its members would not continue to wear the BVRC badge. The officers were re-commissioned into the Lincolnshire Regiment, and the other ranks were re-enlisted. The 1940 Contingent included three officers who would reach the rank of Major with the Lincolnshire Regiment. Lieutenant John Brownlow Tucker (later a Lieutenant-Colonel, and the first commanding officer of the Bermuda Regiment) would command C Company of 1 Lincolns in the Far East, and Lieutenant Anthony Frith "Toby" Smith would be killed-in-action at the Battle of Overloon in 1944 while commanding B Company of 2 Lincolns (he is now the subject of the book and award-winning film "In The Hour of Victory". His brother, Lieutenant Philip Adrian Dunscombe Smith, who was also a member of this contingent, reached the rank of Captain with the Lincolns, being posted to the Middle East in 1943, then to the Allied Military Liaison Depot in Mitlini, Greece. By 1945, he was attached to the UNRRA in the Aegean islands). The third, Second-Lieutenant Patrick Lynn Purcell, was the attachment from the BMA who, due to his coastal artillery experience in Bermuda, was assigned by the Royal Artillery to a coastal battery in Sierra Leone, where he was no more likely to see action. Purcell subsequently transferred to the Lincolnshire Regiment and was assigned to the 4th Battalion. Due to his pre-war experience working as a journalist for The Royal Gazette, in Bermuda, he was appointed Press Chief of 1 Corps, responsible for oversight of the German news media in the British Area of Occupation on the war's end.
A fourth Bermudian officer, Major-General Glyn Charles Anglim Gilbert, MC (a cousin of A.F. and P.A.D. Smith), reached the rank of Major while serving in the Lincolnshire Regiment during the war. Unlike the others, he had not previously served in Bermuda, having received a regular commission directly into the Lincolns in 1939. After the war, he transferred to the Parachute Regiment, retiring from the army in 1974 as the commander of the 3rd Mechanised Division (which by coincidence he had served within during the Second World War, when 2 Lincolns had composed part of it, and which had previously been commanded by Lieutenant-General Sir Denis J. C. K. Bernard, who - as Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Bermuda - had seen off the 1940 contingent that had included Lt-Col. Tucker, Major Smith and Major Purcell. It had also previously been commanded by Field-Marshall Montgomery, who was to personally decorate Gilbert with the Military Cross in 1944).
Following the departure of this contingent, a moratorium was placed on any further drafts overseas for fear of weakening the defences. Although no Axis force could hope to capture and hold Bermuda, an attack by German naval vessels or aircraft was a very real possibility during the early years of the war, as was the landing of a raiding party or saboteurs. Although many members of the BVRC managed to escape guard duty in Bermuda by volunteering to train at the Bermuda Flying School on Darrell's Island as pilots for the RAF and FAA (for which only serving personnel could apply for selection), it became very difficult for those in the local forces to transfer overseas until 1943, by when the German navy was no longer able to pose a threat to Bermuda. As the US Army and US Marine Corps had built up substantial artillery and infantry forces in the colony, the moratorium on sending detachments overseas was lifted. Both the BVRC and the Bermuda Militia (the BMA and the BMI together) formed company-strength contingents for overseas services . The two contingents combined as the Command Training Battalion at Prospect Camp in 1944 to train for the European theatre of operations. In April, the Bermuda Militia contingent was sent to North Carolina to form the training cadre of the new Caribbean Regiment, which served briefly in Italy before escorting prisoners-of-war to Egypt where they remained as guards. The BVRC contingent was sent to the Lincolnshire Regiment in May, with all the men re-enlisted, as with the 1940 contingent.
It had been hoped to keep them together as a unit, but it was feared that the effect on tiny Bermuda should that unit suffer heavy casualties was too great to warrant the risk, so the men were split amongst various companies of the regiment. Most were assigned to 2 Lincolns, in which Major Gilbert was the Officer Commanding C Company, which had landed at Normandy in June and fought its way North into the Low Countries as part of the 3rd Division. In September, 1944, the Allies launched Operation Market Garden with the objective of ceasing a series of bridges across the Rhine. This involved landing airborne forces to capture the bridges and prevent them being destroyed, while conventional ground forces fought their way through to relieve them. 2 Lincolns part in the battle would go well, though not without cost. On the night of the 18th September, 1944, the battalion was tasked with forcing its way across the Meuse-Escaut canal on the right side of a destroyed bridge at Lille St. Hubert, while the Royal Ulster Rifles were to cross on the left. 2 Lincolns assault across the canal was to be carried out by two companies: "D" Company on the left and "C" Company under Glyn Gilbert on the right. "A" Company was to follow "C" Company, then to fan out to the right. The remaining company, "B" Company, was held in reserve. By 2.15 am all of 2 Lincoln's companies were across, with "A" Company still fighting the Germans in the marshes while the others were digging in at the village of Broeck. Casualties had been heavy, however, particularly in the two assaulting companies. Major Gilbert had lost all of his officers in the space of fifteen minutes (he, himself, was the only rifle company commander in the 3rd Division who was not killed or wounded between D-Day, on the 6th of June, 1944, and the 10th of May, 1945, when the war in Europe ended). One of his Privates, L. Woolley, would receive the Military Medal for his subsequent actions, assuming 'command of a disorganized and leaderless section and [taking] it through to its objective'. Under fire from a German 20mm cannon as well as machine guns and mortars, Glyn took direct control of his leaderless platoons to complete the crossing. For their actions, he and the Officer Commanding D Company, Major P. H. W. Clarke, were awarded the Military Cross. As he put it, 'later that day [of the crossing], the ribbon was pinned on [by Field-Marshall Montgomery] while we were still in the field. The next day we were relieved by a contingent of Bermudians'.
That contingent was brought over from England by Major Anthony F. Smith. He had been used primarily as an instructor since transferring to the Lincolnshire Regiment in 1940. When Brigadier Maconochie, the Garrison Commander of Bermuda, visited England in August of 1944 and found him instructing, Major Smith asked him to intercede on his behalf to gain a transfer to the newly arrived second BVRC contingent. Among the other ex-BVRC men he found under his command were another of Major G.C.A. Gilbert's cousins, Lieutenant Ambrose R. Gosling, and Lieutenant H. J. Smith. Another was CSM Edgar Ward, who had been part of the 1916 BVRC Contingent to 1 Lincolns, and had accepted a demotion to platoon sergeant in order to accompany the 1944 contingent (he continued serving as part of the permanent staff of the BVRC after the Second World War. In 1953, by when the BVRC had been renamed the Bermuda Rifles, he was its RQMS. He retired with the rank of Captain in 1965). They were thrown into action immediately at the Battle of Overloon. Major A.F. Smith was killed-in-action on the 14th of October while taking part in a battalion attack on a heavily defended wood near Venrai, along with four other Bermudians: Private John DeSilva, Private Willard Patterson and Private Richard Martin White.
Sergeant George Fisher of the 1940 BVRC contingent had transferred to the 1st Battalion of The Border Regiment, an air landing unit. He took part in the Battle of Arnhem, where he was shot in both legs and became a prisoner-of-war (as did another Bermudian airborne soldier, Captain Gordon Welch). Ten of the BVRC men from the 1944 contingent answered a call for volunteers from the Lincolnshire Regiment for the Parachute Regiment, missing Operation Market Garden by the skin of their teeth, before joining the 13th Battalion within the 5th Parachute Brigade of the 6th Airborne Divison and fighting as conventional infantry in the Battle of the Bulge. They subsequently returned to England to prepare for the crossing of the Rhine, taking part in Operation Varsity. After VE Day, they were sent to the Far East. These soldiers included Anthony Madeiros. When his parachute battalion was disbanded after the war, Madeiros returned to the Lincolnshire Regiment, joining 2 Lincolns in Palestine where the battalion had been posted for two years. It was here that he made the acquaintance of Major G.C.A. Gilbert (who was staying in the King David Hotel at the time it was bombed by the Irgun on the 22nd of July, 1946), with the two becoming life-long friends.
Although the Bermudian contributions in both world wars were small, they were significant in terms of Bermuda's size and population. During the Second World War, Bermuda contributed more people to the armed forces, per capita, than any other part of the British Empire, and had the highest percentage of its service personnel to serve overseas.
After the war, Bermuda's importance to Imperial security was re-appraised in light of the large American bases, the NATO alliance, the rapid reduction of Britain's empire, and the budgetary constraints resulting from war debt. The locally-raised units were all demobilised after the war, with the BVE, BMI, and the Home Guard disbanded. The BVRC and the BMA were both reduced to skeleton command structures in 1946, but built up again through new recruiting in 1951, when the BVRC's name was modified to the Bermuda Rifles. The Royal Lincolnshire Regiment, as it was now titled, continued its relationship with the unit as before. When the Royal Lincolnshire Regiment was amalgamated into the 2nd East Anglian Regiment in 1960, its role in relationship to the Bermuda Rifles passed to the new regiment.
Also in 1951, the Royal Navy began the closure of the Royal Naval Dockyard, immediately withdrawing its floating dry dock and most of its personnel. The process of winding down the naval base would stretch through most of the decade, leaving only a small resupply station, HMS Malabar, which was to remain until 1995. Although the position that had originally been the Commander-in-Chief of the North America and West Indies Station was to become the Senior Naval Officer West Indies (SNOWI), the de facto senior British officer in the North America and West Indies region, who also continued to be based in Bermuda 'til the position was abolished in 1976, it was decided that there were insufficient strategic assets in Bermuda to justify the retention of a regular army garrison.
Accordingly, the Highland Brigade detachment that was then at Prospect Camp was withdrawn on the 1 May, 1953, and was not replaced. The Bermuda Rifles and the BMA continued were retained, but, with the coastal artillery defences being both hopelessly outdated and unnecessary (thanks to the US airbases), the last guns were taken out of use and the BMA converted to the infantry role (although remaining badged as Royal Artillery). This was the last year in which an Imperial Defence Plan, under which the two units' roles were assigned, was to be issued. The decision to withdraw regular soldiers was quickly reversed. In July, 1953, the Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, was to host the US President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and the French Premier, Joseph Laniel, at a summit in Bermuda to discuss the security of Western Europe. As it was desired that the world's press should see the leaders greeted on British territory by a British Army, rather than a US Air Force or US Navy, honour guard, a detachment of the Royal Welch Fusiliers was hurried to Bermuda in June. As the conference was ultimately delayed 'til the 4th of December, they spent the rest of the year in Bermuda.
During his stay in Bermuda, the Prime Minister was persuaded of the symbolic importance of retaining a garrison in the colony (which, despite its small size and population, was then contributing ten per cent of the dollars earned by the entire Sterling area) and he reversed the decision to end it. 'A' Company, 1st Battalion, Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry (1 DCLI) arrived on the 1st of March, 1954, to resume garrison duty at Prospect Camp under the Garrison Commander, Brigadier James Alverstone Mackworth Rice-Evans of the Royal Welch Fusiliers. The garrison's reprieve was to be short-lived. In 1953, the British Army had numbered more than 400,000. The 1957 Defence White Paper called for reducing this to a mandated strength of 165,000. As it also called for the end of conscription, it was uncertain that even this reduced strength could be maintained. The British Army could not afford to waste even a single company where there was no military requirement for it, especially as the Bermuda Rifles and the BMA could fill its role. The garrison headquarters and the DCLI company, with their attachments from other corps, were withdrawn in 1957 and not replaced.
The Bermuda Rifles and the BMA took on the ceremonial obligations that had previously been undertaken by the regular soldiers. The two units continued to be recruited along racial lines. When parading together, the BMA, as part of the Royal Regiment of Artillery, took precedence, which caused some displeasure among whites. This was resolved by combining the detachments of the two units for ceremonial duties. By 1965, segregation was coming to be seen as dangerously outdated, and the two units were amalgamated on the 1st of September.
The 2nd East Anglian Regiment had been amalgamated into the Royal Anglian Regiment the previous year. The two new regiments continued with the same relationship as their predecessors. The first Commanding Officer of the Bermuda Regiment was Lieutenant-Colonel Brownlow Tucker, previously of the BVRC and the Lincolnshire Regiment, who had also been the Commanding Officer of the Bermuda Militia Artillery prior to amalgamation. The new unit originally numbered about 400. On the advice of Major-General Glyn Gilbert, this was increased to a full battalion of three rifle companies and a support company, numbering around 700 (this followed a period of civil disturbance in 1977 that had revealed the unit was too small to fulfil its Internal Security obligations without denying its soldiers periods of rest). Conscription had been reintroduced in the 1950s to keep the Bermuda Rifles and the BMA up to strength, and this was retained by the Bermuda Regiment. Otherwise, it operates identically to UK territorial units.
Volunteers and conscripts serve an initial three-year enlistment. The Bermuda Regiment spends half of its annual training schedule on conventional light infantry tactics, and half on the Internal Security (IS) role. The unit is tasked with home defence, and a soldier cannot be sent overseas on active service without his consent (although the unit has, and does, send individuals, detachments and companies overseas to train). A soldier is required to attend a minimum of one drill night per week, one weekend camp per month, and one two-week annual camp per year, as well as to pass riflery and fitness tests, in order to be judged efficient and to receive his annual bounty. Volunteers for commissions (who are required to have attained at least the rank of Lance-Corporal) are trained within the unit, then attend RMA Sandhurst to be tested, with successful candidates receiving the Queen's commission. All sergeants attend the Platoon Sergeant's Battle Course at Brecon Beacons (presumably the same course that was introduced originally in the 1960s for NCOs of the Parachute Regiment by Major-General G.C.A. Gilbert when he was its Regimental Colonel, and which was eventually made mandatory throughout the British Army's infantry regiments).
Junior NCOs of the Bermuda Regiment have been able to attend skill-at-arms courses at the Royal Anglian depot. The Royal Anglian Regiment has made a great effort to share the benefit of its experience with the Bermuda Regiment, helping it to maintain practices and standards in common with the rest of the British Army. The Bermuda Regiment's Staff Officer is normally assigned by the Royal Anglian Regiment, as are the Warrant Officers who serve as Permanent Staff Instructors (PSI; now Full-Time Instructor (FTI)) to each of each of the rifle companies (which have been reduced to two due to the falling number of post-"baby boom" Bermudian males of military age). Senior NCOs are also loaned for the Bermuda Regiment's two week recruit camp in January (this provides only an introduction to service. Each recruit then spends the remainder of his first year in Training Company). As the Bermuda Regiment often struggles to find officers within its own ranks who both meet the requirements for particular permanent staff positions, and who are willing to leave their civil careers for years at a time, most of these positions have been filled from time to time by Regular Army loan personnel, usually from the Royal Anglians. These have included the positions of Second-In-Command, Adjutant, Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM), Training Officer, and Training Wing Warrant Officer. The Royal Anglian Regiment provided the Bermuda Regiment with its first nine Adjutants, from 1965 to 1984. In 1996, when this writer was serving in the Bermuda Regiment, the Second-in-Command, Staff Officer, and Adjutant were all on loan from the Royal Anglian Regiment.
In addition to Royal Anglian Regiment loan personnel provided to the Bermuda Regiment, many officers, warrant officers and senior NCOs of the Bermuda Regiment have served on attachment to the Royal Anglian Regiment over the years, including a brief attachment of the entire cadre of officers, warrant officers and NCOs of the Bermuda Regiment to a battalion of the Royal Anglians that was posted to Belize in the 1980s to guard against a Guatemalan invasion.
The long relationship between the two units has been put under strain, now, by Army 2020, the plans for the British Army that come in response to the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) published by the British Government in October, 2010. The Territorial Army has been retitled the British Army Reserve, and is being more fully integrated with the Regular Army. This involves a reduction of the Regular Army, with the Reserve compensating by taking on much of its workload. The new manpower and budgetary constraints mean that the Royal Anglian Regiment will no longer be permitted to loan serving personnel to the Bermuda Regiment. The working relationship between the two units will continue, however, as the Bermuda Regiment takes on retiring officers and warrant officers of the Royal Anglian Regiment to fill the same roles.
The Bermuda Regiment itself faces new challenges and changes. Following the 2012 road accident death in Oxfordshire of Major Christian Wheddon of the Bermuda Regiment, who was being driven to a posting with the Royal Anglian Regiment as part of his training to assume command of the Bermuda Regiment, the unit's command passed to Lieutenant-Colonel Michael Foster-Brown of The Rifles in June, 2013. This is the first time the Bermuda Regiment has had to look outside its own ranks to fill the role. The Bermuda Regiment, which is funded entirely by the local government, has operated within a tightening budget as the effects of the global recession have reached Bermuda. It has also faced increasing discontent with the practice of conscription, although it is believed that it cannot maintain the strength necessary to meet its obligations if it must rely entirely on volunteers (who currently make up only a quarter of its manpower). In the Throne Speech at the end of 2012, the Bermuda Government committed itself to ending conscription, and the mandated strength of the Bermuda Regiment may be reduced from 400 to as few as 100.
At the same time, the role of the Bermuda Regiment is undergoing change. Originally, the local territorial units existed specifically to meet Imperial requirements to defend Bermuda as a strategic naval and military base. With the closure of the Royal Naval Dockyard, and the increasing disturbances of the Civil Rights Era, the Bermuda Rifles and the BMA, and subsequently the Bermuda Regiment, placed great emphasis on Internal Security training. The last three decades have seen no similar disturbances, but a new role has emerged. As Bermuda is occasionally struck by hurricane-strength storms, the Bermuda Regiment has most frequently been embodied to assist with the cleaning-up of debris and the restoration of infrastructure. It has been increasingly called upon to provide the same sort of relief to British territories in the West Indies which lack their own military units (other than the Royal Montserrat Defence Force, which numbers only twenty). This is technically the responsibility of the West Indies Guardship (now known as Atlantic Patrol Tasking North) of the Royal Navy, as the only unit of the British armed forces normally assigned to the West Indies. When assistance is required rapidly, however, it has been advantageous to the British Government to rely on the Bermuda Regiment, only a thousand miles from the West Indies, which can quickly fly in detachments by RAF transport to provide something more like a local response.
The constraints placed on the armed forces by Army 2020, and the perceived weakening of the West Indies Guardship role (which had formerly been filled by a Royal Navy frigate but is now, for budgetary reasons, performed by a Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker or transport, supported by a frigate during the hurricane season) may mean that the ability to rely on the Bermuda Regiment to respond to emergencies in British territories in the West Indies is likely to take on increased importance. At home, the Bermuda Government has also been making increased use of the Bermuda Regiment to assist the Bermuda Police in patrolling the waters of Bermuda. As there is no HM Coast Guard or similar unit in Bermuda, policing local waters (which include an economic exclusion zone within a radius of 200 miles from shore), as well as providing near-shore rescue services, has been the responsibility of the Marine Section of the Bermuda Police Service (usually referred to as "Marine Police"). The Bermuda Regiment has always had its own Rigid Raiders, used to secure danger areas off the coastal rifle ranges at Warwick Camp, and occasionally to move small teams of soldiers about the archipelago. As the majority of the islands are networked by bridges and causeways, the Bermuda Regiment has little reliance on boats for transport in its military role. It has, however, been suggested that it would be more relevant to Bermuda's needs if it were remodelled more along the lines of the Coast Guard, or at least the Royal Marines, and it has received the transfer of boats from the Marine Police as it has taken on more responsibility for Bermuda's maritime security. With new roles and a smaller size, it has also been proposed that the Bermuda Regiment might best meet its obligations if it becomes a full-time unit, or at least contains a full-time sub-unit.
Both the Bermuda Regiment and the Royal Gibraltar Regiment received corps warrants, moving them out of the nebulous zone they had occupied within the British armed forces to become nominally part of the British Army (the Bermuda Regiment is listed as 28th in the British Army's overall order of precedence, a position it actually inherited from its predecessors which had shared it with the former part-time units of the Channel Islands and Malta). The Royal Gibraltar Regiment, also an allied regiment of the Royal Anglian Regiment (when Bermuda was still an Imperial fortress, it was dubbed "The Gibraltar of the West", and both colonies are locally nicknamed "The Rock"), has taken on the roles vacated by the Regular Army detachment withdrawn from Gibraltar in 1991. This has involved part of the regiment becoming a full-time unit. There are currently no plans for the Ministry of Defence to make similarly greater use of the Bermuda Regiment, or to integrate it more closely into the British Army, but the visit paid to the regiment at Warwick Camp by the Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Peter Wall, in March, 2013, may indicate that the need to ensure the best use is made of all elements of the British Army in light of Army 2020 means that the unit is not being overlooked.
Those with an interest in the links between the Lincolns and the BVRC may wish to visit the following websites:
Bermuda Honour Roll Of War Dead
The Great War, 1914-1918
(BVRC contingents to the Lincolnshire Regiment)
SECOND WORLD WAR, 1939-1945
(BVRC contingents to the Lincolnshire Regiment)