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Raynor retires as regiment honorary colonel

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The Honorary Colonel of the Royal Bermuda Regiment is to step down after more than 20 years in the role and almost 60 years in the military.

Lieutenant-Colonel Eugene Raynor, appointed as the first black commanding officer of the Bermuda Regiment in 1980, will be replaced by another former CO, Lieutenant-Colonel David Gibbons.

Colonel Raynor, who joined the segregated military as a private in the Bermuda Militia Artillery in 1961, said: “Being involved, in one way or another, has been pretty much a way of life.

“To be the Honorary Colonel of the Royal Bermuda Regiment is an honour very few people will have. It's been a good time and I've enjoyed every minute of it.”

Colonel Raynor achieved the rank of corporal in the BMA before he was commissioned in 1964.

He was one of the founding officers of the integrated Bermuda Regiment, formed from the BMA and the Bermuda Rifle Corps in 1965.

Colonel Raynor stood down as CO in 1984, but later joined the Defence Board and was made honorary colonel in 1999.

His role was to advise a series of governors, who act as the Commander-in-Chief of the RBR, and the regiment on military matters and to promote military service.

Colonel Raynor said: “Even though I'm not hands-on, I have been aware, and made myself aware, of what was going on.”

“I hope I have been useful, especially with the different governors I have met. I believe I have been useful there, to some extent.”

Colonel Raynor's military experience started as a toddler — his father, Vernon, was a soldier in the Bermuda Militia Infantry assigned to protection of the island's military installations in the Second World War.

He said in an interview as an adult that he remembered being mesmerised by his father's .303 Lee Enfield rifle when he came home on a break.

He said: “Another one of my earliest memories was watching parades — that was a major influence on me.”

Colonel Raynor later joined the BMA Cadet programme, even though he was three months short of the minimum age of 14.

He went on to sign up with the BMA and rose rapidly through the ranks.

Colonel Raynor was also one of the soldiers picked for the regiment's first overseas camp in Jamaica in 1968.

He was appointed as aide-de-camp to the governor in the 1970s and rose to the highest rank in the service less than a decade later.

Colonel Raynor said: “It's been a good time and I've enjoyed it.”

But the 77-year-old, awarded an OBE for his military service, added that he was aware of his advancing years and wanted to reduce his responsibilities, so decided to stand down from his honorary role and from the Defence Board.

Colonel Raynor added he would miss the camaraderie of the RBR most and the interaction with the ranks.

He said: “I've enjoyed that. With people over the years, I was hands-on. What the soldiers were doing, I was doing and I found that the soldiers really appreciated having me around.

“I was just as dirty coming out of the field as them.

“Later on, as honorary colonel, it was always my intent to visit them in the field and spend as much time with them as possible.

“Being with the troops at all levels was the best experience I had as a soldier.”

He added that being appointed the first black commanding officer was a pivotal event.

Colonel Raynor said: “It was a proud moment for me and for the whole island, really. It was a great ceremony at Police Field and the whole regiment turned out.”

He added that the RBR had changed in many ways — but that the commitment to service to the island in internal security and disaster relief was a constant.

Colonel Raynor said: “The regiment in its present state has had, over the past few years, the opportunities to improve its standard of operations and training and the chance to take part in major international exercises.

“The opportunities surpass the Jamaica exercise I was on in 1968.”

He added: “The regiment has been a major benefit to Bermuda. The RBR offers an opportunity for military training. Recruits will be doing things very different from their normal lives.

“People will find out there is a niche there that they can enjoy and that benefits individuals and the community.”

Colonel Raynor said: “It will be tough and starts being tough simply by being immersed in a disciplined activity.

“But when people come out after three years, they have things they can recall and use to guide them out of other problems life will throw at them.”

John Rankin, the Governor, thanked Colonel Raynor for his long service.

He added: “His advice, drawing on his long and distinguished experience, has played an important role in developing the regiment's work in support of the security and defence of Bermuda.

“I, and my predecessors as Governor, have been grateful for all he has done for the regiment throughout his career, not least during his service as commanding officer from 1980 to1984.”

Mr Rankin said: “At the same time I am very pleased to appoint Colonel Gibbons as his successor and look forward to working with Colonel Gibbons as the regiment continues to grow and develop in the post-conscription period.”

Now: Lieutenant-Colonel Eugene Raynor in his Royal Bermuda Regiment Honorary Colonel's uniform (File photograph)
Then: Private Eugene Raynor at the start of his military career in the BMA in the 1960s (File photograph)

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Published August 16, 2019 at 9:00 am (Updated August 16, 2019 at 9:37 am)

Raynor retires as regiment honorary colonel

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