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Policeman swapped PJs for paradise

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Roger Sherratt took to wearing his pyjamas under his police uniform to stay warm as he walked his beat outside Birmingham in 1963.

Two pairs of gloves and two pairs of socks completed his outfit. It was one of England's coldest winters — temperatures remained below freezing for 90 consecutive days.

When the 22-year-old spotted the ad for a job here, he didn't hesitate to apply.

Mr Sherratt stepped off the plane in Bermuda in May 1964 and thought the heat was emanating from the engines.

It was only as he walked across the tarmac that he realised that the heat was Bermuda itself.

“I couldn't believe how hot it was,” he said. “And it was evening.”

The Belco riots broke out a year after his arrival, resulting from a dispute between the Bermuda Industrial Union and the electricity company over workers' rights.

“I was down there the morning of the riots, Mr Sherratt said, “but I had to go to court to give evidence and missed all the action. That was one of the major events in Bermuda's history. I think the police were just trying to do their job.

“We were completely unarmed and some of the protesters had brought weapons with them.

“One of the police officers, Ian Davies, was struck over the head and was never the same afterward. He had to be pensioned off and went back to England. He died a few years ago.”

The event gave Mr Sherratt an acute awareness of the racial disparity in Bermuda.

“I believed more had to be done to improve relations between the police and the community.

“I thought one of the ways to do this was through the youth. I'd always had an interest in young people.”

To this end, he and two other officers started the annual Police Pedal Cycle Gymkhana for children, which still goes on today.

He met his wife, Marian in 1969 and they had their first date at a Police Club barbecue.

“It was love at first sight, but there was a problem because Marian was about to leave Bermuda six weeks later to live in Australia,” he said.

“It was time for drastic action. I proposed to her ten days later; she accepted, and the rest, as they say, is history.

“We have been happily married for 46 years.”

Today the couple love playing golf together at Riddell's Bay Golf Club. But Mr Sherratt started out as a cricket player.

“I was never Cup Match material though,” he laughed. Later, his interest transferred to squash.

“There was a squash court at the police barracks,” he said.

“When we had a night shift we had an hour break, and I would often nab someone else to play squash at 3am or 4am.

“It was the perfect sport for a policeman because you can play it at any time of the day and it usually takes less than an hour. ”

Over the years he frequently represented Bermuda in squash tournaments, and introduced his son Thomas to the game. In 1989, he won the Caribbean Veteran Squash Championship and his son won the Caribbean Under-16 title.

“We had two winners in the same house,” Mr Sherratt said proudly.

He still plays occasionally.

He was born in Biddulph, North Staffordshire, the son of coal miner.

His father, Joseph, worked in the Chatterley Whitfield colliery from the time he was 14, as did his own father and brothers. Conditions in the mines were terrible, the pay was poor and the work was dangerous.

“It was especially dangerous at what they called the pit face which is where my dad worked as a coal cutter,” said Mr Sherratt.

“He had several friends killed due to pit collapses, and I can remember hearing the pit siren sound whenever there was a serious accident which invariably meant that someone had been killed or injured.

“After I came to Bermuda as a young policeman he was quite badly injured in a pit collapse and had to be dug out and rescued with a broken leg and other injuries. My dad was absolutely adamant that none of his children should ever work in the mines, and none of us did. I was the oldest child, and I had two younger brothers and a much younger sister.”

Mr Sherratt left school at 16. He doesn't remember exactly why he chose to go into the police.

“It just came upon me one day that I should apply to join,” he said.

But from the moment he put on the uniform he knew he was in the right profession.

“I loved the job and dealing with people,” he said. “I loved the excitement. It has a lot to offer.”

He spent 29 of his 32 years as a police officer in Bermuda. Part of that time was in the Community Relations Department, liaising with the media.

“Being a police spokesman was definitely a highlight, for me,” he said. “I would like to think I had some positive influence on the way people felt about the police. I still have people saying I remember you from when you were police spokesman.”

He retired from the service in 1992. He was then secretary for the Corporation of Hamilton for 12 years, and for the Human Rights Commission for one year.

In retirement, his passion is maintaining the Bermuda Ex Police Officers Association website, expobermuda.com.

It's populated by the memories of past officers and many historic photographs.

“We're always looking for more photographs and memories,” he said.

Last month he was thrilled to receive a commendation from Police Commissioner Michael DeSilva for the work.

“It was a complete surprise,” said Mr Sherratt. “Marian came with me and it was a real honour to receive it.”

The couple have two children, Joanna Sherratt-Wyer and Thomas, and five grandchildren.

Police officers await instruction on February 2, 1965, the day of the Belco riot. Roger Sherratt is first on the left in the front row (Photograph supplied)
A young Roger Sherratt directing traffic at the Birdcage on Front Street in 1964
Roger Sherratt with Marian, who have been married for 46 years (Photograph supplied)
Retired police officer Roger Sherratt and his wife Marian. (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Retired police officer Roger Sherratt and his wife Marian. (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Retired police officer Roger Sherratt and his wife Marian. (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Retired police officer and keen golfer Roger Sherratt with his wife Marian (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Police officers await instruction on February 2, 1965, the day of the Belco riot. Roger Sherratt is first on the left in the front row (Photograph supplied)

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Published February 09, 2016 at 8:00 am (Updated March 01, 2016 at 9:46 am)

Policeman swapped PJs for paradise

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