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New book traces 135 years of policing in Bermuda

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A founding member of the Nazi party took refuge in Bermuda after Adolf Hitler put him on his hit list.

Otto Strasser lived here for several months before authorities in Canada allowed him to enter there.

His notoriety drew the attention of British author HG Wells, who famously travelled to the Island in search of him.

Strasser's is likely the first file ever compiled by local police.

It's one of several “significant or particularly interesting” security facts laid out in a new book about the Bermuda Police Service in honour of its 135th anniversary.

Written by retired officers Alex MacDonald, Andrew Bermingham and Christopher Wilcox, the book details the development of the Bermuda Police Force from 1879 to present day.

“[Strasser], along with his brother Gregor and Adolf Hitler, founded the Nazi party,” explained Mr Bermingham.

“He left Germany in 1927 and ended up in Bermuda. He stayed here for a year and then sought refuge in Canada.

“During his time here he was interviewed by HG Wells who wondered why he was not arrested as he was a war criminal.”

The book also contains hundreds of photographs. Among them, images of officers who have served during the past decade, Governor Sir Richard Sharples and his aide-de-camp, Hugh Sayers, the day before they were assassinated, US President John F Kennedy on a visit here and the first ever police station in Hamilton.

“This book is only possible through the efforts of a man called Ted Burton,” said Mr Bermingham.

“In 1955 he wrote the first history of the Bermuda Police. It was supplemented by the fact that for many years the police had a magazine published every three months by then Assistant Commissioner James Hanlon supported by Chief Inspector James McNiven.”

Added Mr MacDonald: “The police officer doesn't work by himself. He needs the support of his family. As a retired officer I see it as an historical piece for generations before and after me.”

Mr Bermingham produced the magazine for a decade starting in 1985; the job was then taken over by Mr MacDonald in 1995 and Mr Wilcox in 2001.

“A lot of people like history but it's a pictorial as well,” said Mr MacDonald. “I don't think there are too many pictures of reserve officers on Front Street walking in the 1950s. We tried to capture the faces of the service.”

Work on the book started in April.

The men were assisted by Police Media Relations staff as well as retired officers and family members of officers who have died, Mr Bermingham added.

“We got photos from all corners of the world. A picture of the first Hamilton Police Station came from Australia. It was taken in 1899. It's on the site of the old Magistrates' Court building on Parliament Street.”

Other interesting tidbits? There were about 1000 cars on the Island in the 1940s — only one belonged to the police and it was solely for the use of the Commissioner.

Also included are the details surrounding the death of Cambridge Beaches proprietor Hugh Gray's wife in the 1920s.

The Grays went to lunch with Inspector Dennis Alderson and at 3am the following morning, they all decided to go for a boat ride.

“Allegedly a squall blew up and the boat turned over,” said Mr Bermingham. “Inspector Alderson and Mrs Gray died; Hugh Gray was rescued. Five days later Inspector Vernon Jackson was called to Spanish Point where they'd found the body of Inspector Alderson. He was known to wear a cummerbund around his waist and it was found around his neck.”

There was an inquest, however the magistrate didn't allow Mr Gray to be questioned and he was cleared of any wrongdoing.

“There was a rumour that it was a love triangle that went wrong,” Mr Bermingham said.

The book can now be ordered at the Bookmart at Brown and Company. Copies will be limited to a single printing of 2,000 copies. The 1,500 softbound copies are priced at $36; 500 hard-bound copies are $60.

A detachment of police officers outside the first Hamilton Police Station in 1899 with magistrate W.A.M Frith (seated) Photo supplied
Constable Howard Mitchell with US military personnel on Reid Street in 1945
Blue is the colour: The Blue Heron on her slip prior to being launched
Hard craft: Constables Dave Garland and Derek Jenkinson built the first police boat, The Blue Heron
Grounds for hope: US President John F Kennedy plants a tree in the grounds of Government House in 1961. He was on the Island for meetings with British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan
Chief Inspector Dave Parsons and Sergeants John Van de Weg and John Harvey with 'seasoned' officers at the conclusion of a constables' refresher course in 1974.
Bermuda Police Commissioners past and present: (Standing, left to right) George Jackson, Commissioner Michael DeSilva and Jonathan Smith. (Seated) Clive Donald (left) and Frederick “Penny” Bean

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Published December 29, 2014 at 8:00 am (Updated December 29, 2014 at 12:34 am)

New book traces 135 years of policing in Bermuda

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