A little rain fell on the first morning of Cup Match 2012, damping not the spirits of the warring teams of cricketers of St Georges in the east and Somerset, or Gods Country, up here in the west, but rather adding to the heat of this August, 98 years after the temperature rose throughout Europe with the start of the Great War for Great Britain, which declared a contest with Germany on August 4, 1914. To play on the sportsmen (for nary a women is in the field), nearly a century has passed since that fateful day, its foreplay and aftermath, so well illuminated in the late Barbara Tuchmans classic book, The Guns of August, which focused on that first month of the worldwide conflict.
Bermuda had its own Guns of August, as many men and a few gentlewomen signed up to fight the Central Powers of Austria-Hungry, Bulgaria, Germany, the Ottoman Empire and others. The bloody statistics made childs-play of all earlier disagreements between nations, with over 38 million military loses, KIA, MIA or WIA. Of those, Bermudian losses totaled some eighty personnel, with some Missing in Action, such my ancestor cousin, Harold Collins Whitecross, whose remains were never found, but who is commemorated on the Addenda Panel at the Tyne Cot Memorial at West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. Others died after the War (probably as a result of it), such as Gunner A Manders of the BMA, who was buried on May 28, 1921 in the New York City Cedar Grove Cemetery in Flushing.
At the beginning of the Great War, Bermudians enlisted for service overseas in some numbers, given the small size of the population. The two local forces were divided generally with the black Bermudians serving in the Bermuda Militia Artillery, while white Bermudians enlisted in the Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps (the forces were combined into the Bermuda Regiment in 1965). The BMA was associated with the Royal Garrison Artillery in the war; the BVRC was aligned with the Lincolnshire Regiment. Some individuals signed up with the Royal Navy, the Royal Flying Corps or other forces. Field Marshal Douglas Haig issued a report on the Bermudians in service with the RGA and the Lincolns.
Bermuda Contingent of the Royal Garrison Artillery: This contingent served with the Canadian Corps during the operation in May and June, subsequent to the capture of Vimy Ridge. They were employed on Heavy Ammunition Dumps, and great satisfaction was expressed with their work. Though called upon to perform labour of the most arduous and exacting nature at all times of the day and night, they were not only willing and efficient but conspicuous for their cheeriness under all conditions. Their officers rendered valuable services in the management of the dumps. The unit also worked on ammunition dumps from end of June to the beginning of September (1917) in another Corps. On more than one occasion the dumps at which they were employed were ignited by hostile shell fire, and much of their work was done under shell fire. Their behaviour on all these occasions was excellent, and commanded the admiration of those with whom they were serving.
Contingents of the Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps: A contingent has been attached to the 1st Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment for over 2 ¼ years. Originally they joined as a complete Machine Gun Unit, and were found invaluable when there was a scarcity of this weapon in Flanders. Since the formation of regular Machine Gun Companies, the Bermuda Volunteers have been transformed into Lewis Gun Sections, in which sphere they have done good work. Physically and intellectually they are as fine men as any to be found to their Brigade, and their conduct has always been exemplary. It is hoped that many more soldiers of this stamp can be sent from the Island of Bermuda.
George Spring Bascome was one Bermudian who served in Europe and lived to tell some of the tale to Oda Mallory, who, as Blondell, long had a radio show that interviewed older people in the community.
George enlisted at the age of 18, being born on January 6, 1898 to George Bascome Sr and Ellen Spring. Heading over in 1916, It took 15 days to go across and on the 24th day, we were on the firing line. Gunner Bascome of the BMA saw action in France, Italy and Germany and narrowly escaped death when a barracks in Italy was bombed. He met George V in Marseilles, and was delighted to relate that to his granddaughter, Her Majesty the Queen, during her visit to Bermuda in March 1994.
Three months later, George took his last orders at the splendid age of 96; a good innings for a good gunner. Cup Match today is possible because of the sacrifices, some ultimate, that he and many Bermudians made in the Great, or First World War (191418), and the Second World War (193945), batting until the last light, as it were, for the freedoms so many in modern times take utterly for granted, while partying to a pitch around the pitch.
Edward Cecil Harris, MBE, JP, PHD, FSA is Executive Director of the National Museum at Dockyard. Comments may be made to firstname.lastname@example.org or 704-5480.