An awesome transformation
We never cease to marvel at how the Bermuda Regiment can take 70-odd raw recruits off the streets one Sunday morning and within two weeks completely transform them into the smart, disciplined soldiers who enthusiastically exhibited their skills a week ago at Warwick Camp.
It was the 46th Annual Recruit Camp Passing out Parade for the Bermuda Regiment since it was formed in 1965 through amalgamation of the old, black Bermuda Militia Artillery (BMAs) and the white Bermuda Rifles, once the BVRC, short for Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps.
After having lost count of the number of those parades we’ve covered down through the years, I have no hesitation in echoing as “awesome” the description given by Captain Kenji Bean, 2nd in command of the Training Team of how that transformation was effected.
No one mentioned it outright, but the Regiment has somewhat been under siege recently by considerable negative publicity generated in the media. But it was not reflected in the morale of the men and women “passing out”, and the hundreds of family and friends who lined up to get into the camp, and then sat in the fine rain to see it happen.
Regiment Commanding Officer, Lt. Col B.N. Gonsalves recalled telling the recruits, after they had come through the gates of Warwick Camp, that in the next two weeks they would experience the military first hand and be able to form their own conclusion of what life is like at Warwick Camp; and that they would make themselves, their families, their employers, their fellow recruits and their country proud.
The CO noted some entered the gates willingly, others less so. Some of them ran, some of them walked. Some of them were punctual, some of them were late. Today, every one of them runs, everyone is punctual, and most important of all, they are now willingly working together as a team!
It was his fervent belief that the Bermuda Regiment serves a more important and vital role in the community now than ever before.
“This institution is an existing, valid, and inexpensive solution for helping to reduce the anti-social behaviour that has become dangerously prevalent across our island,” he said.
In his role as Master of Ceremonies, Capt Bean, with wit and humour, revealed some of what it took to get the raw recruits to the stage seen on parade; he said they endured a complete change to their daily routine.
They woke before six every morning, were subjected to an intense physical regime, including the infamous beach run “with the inevitable detour into the healing waters of Horseshow Bay”. They then had only an hour to shower, shave, change into their uniforms, eat breakfast, and clean their barracks before morning inspection. Daily lessons included foot drill, weapons training, fieldcraft, target shooting, first aid, get ready for dinner at six every evening, lights were out by 11pm and readied for six hours sleep.
I have done extensive research in the Archives in Bermuda and London for a book I have written on Bermuda’s military forces dating way back to the year 1687 up until June 15, 1896. That when the BMAs, upon becoming, the first of two units the Act of Bermuda’s parliament mandated in 1892, described as, “their first spectacular passing out parade, in St George’s and inspection by the Governor and Commander-in-Chief”.
As special reference is made in the yet-to-be published book, to the role of Black Bermudians in defense of their homeland, it would seem timely to carry in the adjoining columns excerpts in the first of a two-part series saluting the start this week of February, the Black History Month.
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