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‘We chose the best man for the job’ Defence Board Chair

Appointing a non-Bermudian to command the Bermuda Regiment was no easy decision, Defence Board head Wendell Hollis acknowledged.

“We were extremely conscious and focused that any appointment in Bermuda of a non-Bermudian is always contentious for any position, from the lowest to the highest,” Major Hollis told

The Royal Gazette.

“We turned over rocks to the ‘nth’ degree to ensure there was no possible local candidates. At the end of the day, one test applied — and that was who was the best man for the job, and what was in the best interests of the Regiment.”

He added: “We knew there was a significant amount of Bermudian and non-Bermudian issues and questions that would be asked.”

The Regiment’s next CO, British Army officer Lt Col Michael Foster-Brown, is expected to assume the job when current CO Brian Gonsalves steps down in May.

It marks the first occasion that a non-Bermudian has held the job.

Major Hollis added that the saddest moment in his Regiment career had been learning of the death last September of Christian Wheddon, the Bermudian officer who had been preparing to assume post at the end of the current CO’s tenure.

“By the beginning of last year, we had realised that Major Wheddon was the contender for the position,” Major Hollis said.

Major Wheddon had been furthering his military career with the assistance of the British Army, and had just completely security detail at the London Olympics, when he was killed in a car accident in the UK.

Major Hollis said he had anticipated some reaction to the appointment of a non-Bermudian. “It’s not unexpected. But I just hope that people realise and accept that at the end of the day, there is a significant amount of work that has gone into this.”

As the head of the Promotions Committee, Major Hollis communicated the choice to the next in the chain of command: Governor George Fergusson.

Mr Fergusson acknowledged that “the first preference would have been to appoint a serving member of the Regiment to be a full-time Commanding Officer”.

“Following the tragic death of Major Chris Wheddon, who as you know was in the UK doing courses and attachments with a view to succeeding Lt Col Gonsalves, I accepted the advice of the Promotions Board that there was no internal candidate for the full time role. That left a choice between appointing a former officer on a part-time basis, or looking outside for a full time officer.”

He added: “I looked very carefully at both options — both had advantages and disadvantages.

“On balance, I thought that the changes likely to face the Regiment in the next few years meant that a full-time CO would continue to be needed.

“I am delighted that in Lt Col Foster-Brown we have secured the services of an officer with such excellent qualifications as a serving soldier, including as adjutant to a part-time Territorial Battalion.

“One of his tasks will be to ensure that we will be in a position to appoint someone from the Regiment when his tour of duty finishes.”

Current CO Lt Col Gonsalves said other Bermudian candidates than Major Wheddon had moved on to civil careers, complication the search for a Bermudian successor.

“In the past, it’s always been a Bermudian officer’s post, and to switch to an expatriate, of course you’re going to have people raise eyebrows,” he said. “But we’re professional soldiers. It’s bigger than individuals.”

Lt Col Foster-Brown, he said, is currently making his way back to the UK from his latest service in Afghanistan. “It will be a two to three year tenure, and I am confident that his successor will be a Bermudian,” the CO added.

Former CO Gavin Shorto acknowledged the break with the past was “very unusual”, adding: “For that reason, I’m sure people would not do this frivolously.”

Commander in chief of the Bermuda Regiment and Governor of Bermuda George Fergusson paid a visit to Warwick Camp during the 2013 Recruit Camp to watch lessons on weapons handling. Here his shown talking to some of the new soldiers.

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Published January 31, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated January 30, 2013 at 10:17 pm)

‘We chose the best man for the job’ Defence Board Chair

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