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Celebrating Regiment’s 50 years of service

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One of the major events to celebrate the creation of the modern Bermuda Regiment took place yesterday.

Poor weather forced a change of venue from Government House to the Ruth Seaton James Auditorium at CedarBridge Academy for the Reunion Concert to celebrate the 50th birthday of the Regiment.

But the turnout, close to the 400 maximum for the original venue, showed that the Regiment is still a force to be reckoned with after half a century of protecting our Island home from man-made and natural catastrophes.

The audience at CedarBridge saw one side of the Regiment yesterday — the music, pomp and circumstance that the Regiment Band and Corps of Drums brings to occasions as varied as the solemn Remembrance Day Parade in November, to the fun atmosphere of Harbour Nights throughout the summer.

But what many in the audience yesterday perhaps did not realise was that, over the same weekend, scores of Regiment personnel took part in a gruelling series of exercises in the dust and dirt at the back of Dockyard to hone their skills in their equally valuable public order role.

Kitted out with helmets, riot shields and flame-proof overalls, Regiment personnel sweated through a series of tests of their skills in dealing with large-scale public disorder.

When we add that to the near-universal acclaim the Regiment received for its role in helping to deal with the unprecedented strike of two hurricanes within a few days last year, it is clear the Island's armed service is a valuable resource for the community it exists to serve.

And — when we consider that the Regiment is likely to play a major role on land and at sea as part of what will be a major security exercise surrounding the America's Cup — the Regiment's budget, cut by 5 per cent in February, begins to look like a bargain.

The Regiment has not been without controversy and never short of critics, especially over conscription, ironically a matter for successive Governments, not the Regiment itself.

But the fact that this year's Recruit Camp attracted a record number of volunteers speaks as much of the value people see in Regiment training as it does of the recession which may have influenced some to join up.

Commanding Officer Lt Col Michael Foster-Brown, a British Army officer seconded to Bermuda at short notice after the death of Major Chris Wheddon, destined to have been the next CO, while on duty in England, has also played a major part in ensuring the Regiment's continuing relevance.

Col Foster-Brown's experience of a modern Army with high standards and expectations and one that had to ensure training was relevant, worthwhile and interesting as it also struggled to attract enough recruits during the boom years of the 2000s, has been invaluable.

It is also worth reflecting on the changes the Regiment has perhaps helped to make in the culture of Bermuda, born, as it was, out of the Island's history of racism and segregation.

It was, 50 years ago, created out of the largely black Bermuda Militia Artillery and the mostly white Bermuda Rifles. Now men and women, of whatever ethnic origin or nationality, serve on equal terms under a flag and cap badge, which is itself a tribute to its predecessors, both of which served with distinction in two World Wars.

At a time when the Island is facing unprecedented pressures, both financial and social, its part in uniting people from all walks of life and instilling a sense of pride and discipline so evident at this year's passing out parade for recruits cannot be underestimated.

One Private soldier perhaps summed it up best when he said: “It doesn't matter where you come from, where you are, what your lifestyle on the outside is like — there's only one colour here. Green.” So we hope the community can come together to help to celebrate the Regiment's 50th at the many events planned.

Nearly 400 people attended the Reunion Concert at the Ruth Seaton James Auditorium yesterday to see the Bermuda Regiment Band and Corps of Drums perform, along with other local bands. The event was part of a series of celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the Regiment (Photo by Nicola Muirhead)
Nearly 400 people attended the Reunion Concert at the Ruth Seaton James Auditorium yesterday to see the Bermuda Regiment Band and Corps of Drums perform, along with other local bands. The event was part of a series of celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the Regiment (Photo by Nicola Muirhead)
Nearly 400 people attended the Reunion Concert at the Ruth Seaton James Auditorium yesterday to see the Bermuda Regiment Band and Corps of Drums perform, along with other local bands. The event was part of a series of celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the Regiment (Photo by Nicola Muirhead)

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Published April 13, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated April 13, 2015 at 12:28 am)

Celebrating Regiment’s 50 years of service

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