Midshipman Dale ceremony: the beginnings
Here is the real story behind The Royal Gazette’s recent front-page photograph of our governor, Rena Lalgie, laying the Founder’s wreath at the Midshipman Dale Ceremony in St George’s.
The ceremony was founded by the first man from Bermuda to become a midshipman and graduate from the US Naval Academy — Captain Scarritt Adams, from Paget (Class of 1930).
During a holiday spent at home in Bermuda, while Captain Adams was showing a girlfriend around historic St Peter’s, he was astonished to discover a US midshipman’s impressive tombstone, dating back to 1812 in the graveyard. At the time of his discovery, there was no US military base or presence on the island, so it was an anomaly!
Captain Adams’s subsequent research told the touching tale of the kindness shown by the people of St George’s to this Midshipman Dale, who was a wounded prisoner of the War of 1812. He had been taken prisoner when his ship, the President, was captured by the British and taken to Bermuda. Eventfully, he died there on the island, on February 22, 1812. This was despite the dignified care provided by St Georgians to this seaman in distress, albeit an enemy seaman.
He became known as the last person to die in a British-American conflict, the irony being that the war was actually over. But news travelled slowly in those days and had not yet reached the fleet in the mid-Atlantic.
This riveting story stayed with the young officer Adams, as he started his naval duties and inspired the first Midshipman Dale Ceremony, starting with a cheque from Captain Adams for a Bermuda Passion Flower wreath to be laid at the tomb in thanksgiving for these good deeds — just as our governor did last week, almost 90 years later!
LOUISE HALL-REIDER (NÉE SCARRITT ADAMS)
Daughter of Captain Scarritt Adams
Medina, Washington State