The Police Marine Division - The Royal Bahamas Defence Force by yaosaigeng


									                                The Police Marine Division

       Prior to 1973, The Bahamas government‟s only legislated law enforcement branch was
the Royal Bahamas Police Force. Formed in 1840, two years following the abolition of slavery,
the law enforcement efforts of the Royal Bahamas Police Force were primarily land-based until
1958. It was during that year when the organization received their first boat, The Sea Lion, and
was able to perform limited harbour patrol duties. Until Independence, sporadic patrols were
performed by units of the Royal Navy.

When was the Police Marine Division formed?
       The Police Marine Division (PMD) was formed in 1971 with the acquisition of four 60
foot Mark I Keith Nelson type vessels- Acklins, Andros, San Salvador and Eleuthera.

What was its purpose, location and why was it disbanded?
        The Police Marine Division was tasked with eradicating the escalated 1960s flow of
narcotics and illegal immigrants, particularly from Haiti into Bahamian territory. The Police
Marine Division operated from the Old Lighthouse Depot, on East Bay Street, which currently
serves as the home base of the Drug Enforcement Marine Unit. The Marine Division
experienced several successes in both the immigration and poaching trends. An increasing
narcotic trade and its shipment through Bahamian waters were also brought to light in the 1970s.
The Police Marine Division also proved successful in apprehending a great deal of narcotics
traffickers and confiscating their shipments, planes and boats. Despite these triumphs, however,
the unit proved inadequate for the large number of illegal operatives availing themselves of the
amenities in Bahamian waters. Consequently, an alternative was sought—hence the birth of the
Royal Bahamas Defence Force.

Who were the Persons tasked with directing the PMD?
       Assistant Commissioner Lawrence Major was placed in charge of the new unit that
amounted to some 68 men in total. Deputy Superintendent Leon Smith was appointed as his
Second-In-Command (2IC). The names of persons who transferred from the ranks of the Police
Force into the Bahamas Defence Force when it was eventually formed were:

   Deputy Superintendent            Leon Smith             (Retired Commodore)
   Assistant Superintendent         Amos Rolle             (Retired Snr. Cdr)
   Chief Inspector                  Wilmore E. Munroe      (Former Snr. Lt)
   Chief Inspector                  Batchelette LaFleur    (former Lt. Cdr)
   Corporal                         David Duncombe         (Retired Lt. Cdr)
   Corporal                         Milo Knowles           (Retired CPO)
   Constable                        Edison Rolle           (Lt. Cdr)
   Constable                        Henchell Pratt         (Retired P/O)
   Constable                        Rudolph Sweeting       (MIA)
   Constable                        Dudley Smith           (Retired CPO)
   Constable                        Peterson James         (Retired FCPO)
   Constable                        David Ferguson         (left before ranks..went to Airport)
   Constable                        Raphael Deleveaux      (Retired FCPO)
   Constable                        Stephen Johnson        (Retired FCPO)
   Constable                        Charles Newbold       (died before ranks; first Mil funeral)
   Constable                        Denzil Clark          (FCPO)
   Constable                        Everette Ingraham     (Resigned L/M)
   Constable                        Oscar Miller          (Retired CPO)
   Constable                        Gregory Curry         (FCPO)
   Constable                        Leslie Forbes         (FCPO)
   Constable                        John Minns            (Retired L/M)
   Constable                        Addington Cox         (Retired CPO)
   Constable                        Bradley Smith         (CPO)
   Constable                        Trevor Ford           (Retired PO)

William Miller, Dudley K. Allens, Kenneth Turnquest and Maurice Williams were also Police
Marines who transferred at a later date.

                   The Formation of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force

Prime Minister Pindling’s Vision for the Defence Force

Prime Minister Lynden Oscar Pindling agitated for the Marine Division of the Police Force to be
transformed into a Coast Guard that would be trained to operate on land, in the air and on the
sea. In his October 28th 1975 speech to the 20th National General Convention of the Progressive
Liberal Party:

“I propose that the Bahamas proceed immediately to develop a defence capability; that the
Marine Division of the Royal Bahamas Police Force be reorganized, retrained and expanded as
a Coast Guard; and that the Coast Guard be augmented by a unit trained with flexibility to
operate on land, in the air and on the sea. It is my considered judgment that such a combined
and integrated force would more adequately protect our nation‟s vital interests.
“Let me hasten to advise you, however, that the national interest will not be served by a mere
show piece; that at defence force, in the ordinary sense of the word, will not be worth the
investment that is necessary. What I am talking about is an agency which will function in a
manner consistent with the aims and objectives of national development; one which will operate
in a manner consonant with our social and economic priorities: one which will be trained and
prepared to itself implement some of the tasks of national development.”

 “I see a force which will not only safeguard our sovereignty and independence but will also
rescue lives at sea; a force which not only will keep out poachers and smugglers but    will
man our lighthouses and watch our sea-lanes; a force which not only will help to keep the peace
but will also supply food and emergency relief to an island community ravaged by a disastrous
hurricane or take needed medical services to isolated communities; a force which not only will
exemplify discipline, but will also exemplify the same by example in our communities whether
they may help to repair schools and roads and drains. In other words, fellow delegates, I see a
people‟s defence force which fits totally within our philosophy of development, is dedicated to
progress with self-reliance and further helps us to tighten up and toughen up.

In the beginning
        A team from Vosper Thornycroft in the United Kingdom in 1975 carried out a feasibility
study for the expansion of the Police Marine Division into a Defence Force with additional patrol
craft, personnel and possible sites for a venue. A complete check and refitting of all craft were
also carried out. A letter of Instruction to Vosper Thornycroft to proceed with design drawings
was issued on 1 May 1976 and the work on the companion site surveys was commissioned.
        The Attorney General, the Honourable Paul Adderley, had set about drafting the Defence
Act that would govern the institution. A Bahamian, Brigadier David Hartman Smith, CVO,
OBE, ED, who had served as a former Chief of Staff in the Jamaican Defence Force from 1965
to 1973, was appointed as a Defense Advisor to the Bahamian government from 1975 to 1980.
Therefore, the Bahamas Defence Act came to be based on the skeleton of the Jamaican Defence

How did it go from the PMD to the Bahamas Defence Force to the Royal Bahamas Defence
Force (dates, and significance?)

        The Prime Minister‟s speech began the groundwork for today‟s Royal Bahamas Defence
Force. The Speech was delivered in 1975. On January 1st, 1976, the Ministry of Defence was
formed and the actual Act that would legalize the Force ratified in 1979.
        From 1976, however, personnel of the Police Marine Division were preparing for the
inevitable transfer to the Defence Force, upon the dissolution of their unit, which was met with
some resistance. This in itself was not smooth sailing. Naturally, the men of the Royal Bahamas
Police Force were well established and were reluctant to transfer to an entity whose orders,
regulations, pay and benefit schemes were less attractive compared to what they were presently
receiving, and would not be known until the passing of the Defence Act.
        The Ministry of Defence in England along with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
soon selected Captain William Casper Carnegie Swinley. This was in conjunction with requests
from the Bahamian Government. The British Admiralty Board approved his nomination for a
three year loan service, of course subject to him satisfactorily reaching terms and conditions of
service as set out in the Memorandum of Understanding.

How did it become official?
        The road to establishing the military seemed clearer and more imminent with the
acquisition of a Royal Navy Commander, who was to become the Commander Designate and
create a Bahamian Navy along the lines of the Royal Navy, but tailored to the specific needs and
geography of The Bahamas.
        Commodore William Swinley arrived in The Bahamas during the first week in September
1976 to plan and create a navy for a country that had no ships, no base, no military personnel, no
uniforms, no regulations; a country that had no foundation, only an idea.
        Commodore Swinley with a paper and pencil delved into his initial tasks: discovering the
Bahamian way of doing things, finding an office and hiring an assistant.
        The Police Marines proved very accommodating and Commodore Swinley, the lone
member of the Force, was flown around The Bahamas several times on reconnaissance missions
in their airplane, stopping at every inhabited island in the archipelago. He is often quoted as
saying, “I literally counted 200 illegal vessels in the Great Bahama Bank during one mission
before giving up count.” He was also allowed to accompany the Police on several maritime

patrols to familiarize himself with the challenges and capabilities needed to navigate Bahamian
waters. Those missions showed him exactly how far reaching the poaching problem had become
during the „Lobster Wars‟ and thus how to launch a campaign to stop them.

Rudiments Established

        An office in the building that housed the Cabinet Office had been set up for the
Commodore Designate‟s use and Mrs. Alice Seymour had been appointed as his personal
assistant. Constant briefings, discussions and revisions were held with the Prime Minister,
Secretary to the Cabinet, Deputy Permanent Secretary and Police Commissioner regarding his
findings and recommendations.
        Commodore Swinley, in conjunction with the Cabinet office, designed the Bahamian
ensign, the crests and the uniform that the men would wear. He also proposed that the cap
badges be a representation of the Bahamian coat of arms. The uniforms were in effect an
improvement of the Royal Navy‟s tropical rig. He consulted with the then Director of
Education, Mr. Gurth Archer to determine the appropriate academic requirements for Bahamians
who would want to join the Defence Force, once the recruitment efforts were underway.
        Many places, including several spots at Clifton Pier, the Bayshore Marina, several family
island sites and the Coral Harbour Resort had all been under consideration for use as the venue
for the Force. The Old Lighthouse Depot, where the Police Marines were stationed was
unsuitable for many reasons. Finally an October 7th, 1976 article in the Tribune read:
“According to a Government release, the Defence headquarters and base will be at Coral
Harbour and the planning for this is in an advanced stage. The release further stated that
several more patrol craft have now been ordered and these will arrive in The Bahamas in stages
between the autumn of next year and the end of 1978”.
        The slowly increasing team of officers and marines found that their initial tasking
involved creating workable conditions at the Coral Harbour Resort and Marina that had been
closed since 1971, when it had ceased operations.

Defence Force and Coral Harbour Base Receive Royal Commission

        Prime Minister Pindling had had planned to allow Queen Elizabeth to lay the cornerstone
for the Royal Bahamas Defence Force at Coral Harbour during her Silver Jubilee visit in
October. However, the purchase of the property did not go through in time and the Broadcasting
Corporation of the Bahamas was christened instead. Her Royal Highness Princess Anne was
scheduled to attend the Commemorative Celebrations of the Bahamas‟ 250th Anniversary (3rd
oldest outside of Great Britain) of partaking in Commonwealth Parliament Government in
September 1979. Prime Minister Pindling prudently capitalized on this visit and invited her to
commission the Coral Harbour Base that had just been occupied by the small unit. Amazingly,
the request was met with a positive response promptly, despite the common practice of ensuring
an entity is a lasting one before presenting it with the royal insignia.
        In February 1979, the Prime Minister Pindling, Deputy Prime Minister AD Hanna and
senior Defence Force officers walked around the Base, evaluating necessary actions needed to be
taken to make it ready for the Commissioning. Consequently, one of the most important
moments in Bahamas Defence Force history occurred on Saturday 29th September 1979. The
Princess, herself an honourary member of the Women‟s Royal Navy Service (WRNS) and her
then husband, Captain Mark Phillips, visited the Bahamas Defence Force Base and unveiled a
plaque designating the Base as: “Her Majesty‟s Bahamian Ship Coral Harbour,” and officially
conferred the title „Royal‟ on the Force, making it known therafter as the Royal Bahamas
Defence Force.
        In a short ceremony, the Prime Minister Lynden O. Pindling delivered remarks and
promised the addition of modern accommodation docks and repair shops for the newly
commissioned royal entity. Cannon John Calnan and the Reverend Ranfurly Brown prayed and
blessed the event and the entity while the Royal Bahamas Police Force Band played.     Also,
in attendance at the event were the Minister of Health, Perry Christie and his wife, the then
Minister of Youth, Sports and Community Affairs, Kendal Nottage, the Minister for Transport,
Phillip M. Bethel and the Member of Parliament for Pinedale, Milo Butler Jr., Mrs Pindling and
Lady Cash. The platoons were inspected by Princess Anne and she was introduced to the
officers, all of whom she spoke with.
         She walked around the base, embarked Marlin with Captain Leon Smith and accepted
the Royal Salute from the honour guard to conclude the Commissioning Ceremony

                      Entries of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force

First Entry
       A recruitment campaign began for marines almost immediately after Commodore
Designate Swinley‟s arrival in 1976. The Ministry of Defence published the following release in
the Nassau Guardian looking for candidates who were:

                “17 1/2 – 25 years old
                Bahamian nationality
                Holding two advanced level certificates
                Three ordinary level certificates (including Math, English and wherever possible
                       physics or a degree from a recognized university)
                Medically fit
                Without speech or sight defects

         Application forms are available at the Cabinet Office, first floor, Churchill Building
         between 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. beginning October 12. Closing date for submitting
         applications is October 31. It was stated that the salary would be good and the facilities
         (opportunities) offered from the date of enlistment in the force are “unlimited‟ and

       The selection tests were held on the 18th, 19th and 20th April 1977 for the droves of
anxious young men clamoring to become marines. The first group of enlisted men, 27 in total,
joined the ranks on 02nd May 1977. These were: Antonio Collie, Hubert Smith, Wilmore
Munroe, Herman Gaitor, Michael Hudson, Leroy Whylly, Luke Bethel, Andrew Seymour,
Keith Baker, Sidney Barr, Neville Moss, Brian Evans, Joseph Forbes, Stafford Knowles,
Anvil Cunningham, Andrew Farrington, Hylan Johnson, Floyd Deveaux, Peter Carroll,

    The Nassau Guardian, 09 October 1976.
Kenrick Brennen, Anthony Marshall, Anthony Forbes, Andrew Butler, Cyril Sands, Curtis
Ferguson and Brian Pennerman.

First Officers
        Signed training agreements with the British government secured two slots in January
1977 for the Junior Officers Course at the Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC) in Dartmouth,
        These first two openings for the Junior Officers Course were filled by Kenneth Gordon
Turnquest, 23, and 19 year old Peter Daniel Drudge Jr. in January 1977. Turnquest had already
been serving on the Police Force and Drudge was attending the University of South Florida. The
two midshipmen spent a very intensive three terms at the Britannia Royal Naval College and
were among the nine who passed the course in its entirety, out of forty who underwent it. Donald
Livingston Weir became the third Midshipman selected to undergo officer training. He left in
April 1977 to join Turnquest and Drudge.
        The course trained the young men in areas as Ships‟ Stability, Radar Technology, Naval
Traditions, Strategic Studies, Operations, Meteorology, Oceanography, Rules of the Road,
Navigation, Seamanship, Communications, Engineering, Damage Control, Parade and Physical
Training and a 9 week Initial Sea Training Course onboard a Royal Navy Battleship. Upon their
return to The Bahamas, they were promoted to Acting Sub-Lieutenants.

Recruitment and Enlistment Continues

         By the time the second entry began training almost a year later, in January 1978, the
organization was still struggling to achieve the subtle balance that would dictate a smooth and
seamless operation. It is often remembered that this particular entry went through their entire
training period in civilian clothes, as their uniforms, ordered from England, were held up in
transit for one reason or another.
         In a 09 February 1978 presentation to the Kiwanis Club of Fort Montague, the
Commander Designate exclaimed that applications were very heavily oversubscribed, i.e. about
three hundred young men had applied to fulfill the thirty positions advertised. They were also
informed that hundreds of young women, too, were calling to ask how and when they could join
and he admitted that in „due time‟ as he saw a number of administrative and radio operating
billets that women could fill.
         Fourteen days after the force became official, NE 6, who also happened to be the first
entry to be trained on Coral Harbour Base, began their training. Up to this point, all other entries
were trained at the Police Training College in Oakes Field.
         Commodore Belton during his tenure also began the practice of aligning officer recruits
with an enlisted entry, thereby familiarizing them with military practices and giving them several
months of sea time, before sending them to Dartmouth BRNC to complete the Young Officer‟s
         In a letter dated 10 March 1982 to Captain GB Evans RN who was the Director of Naval
Assistance Overseas, Commodore Belton secured spots for an Upper Yardman. History was
made in April 1982 when L/S Andrew Farrington became the first rating to attend the
International Midshipman Course at the Britannia Royal Naval College. Soon after, Petty
Officer William Munroe became the first marine to undergo and pass the Special Duties Officer
Course also at the BRNC in Dartmouth, England. In the same vein, Kenneth Forbes became the
first enlisted to attend the Officer Cadet School in the United States.

        It was often said that those who undergo the Midshipman Course at Dartmouth could
progress straight through the ranks, up to Commodore. It is alleged also that those who have
done the Special Duties or Upper Yardsman course knew that the furthest their careers could
ever progress would be to the rank of Lieutenant Commander and the post of Commodore would
never be opened to them. The appointment of Lieutenant Commander Clifford Scavella, who
completed the Upper Yardman‟s or Special Duties Course at the Britannia Royal Naval College
has since debunked this myth.

Women Join
        „It was time for women to join the ranks of the Defence Force.‟ Prime Minister Pindling
said these words which heralded of course, controvertibly, the single most important and
politically progressive occurrence during this Era-the decision to allow females to enlist in the
Royal Bahamas Defence Force. Commodore Swinley shared that Mrs. Marguerette Pindling
(now Lady) also advocated for this move.
        Whenever asked about the advent of females in the Force, Commodore Smith fondly
recalls how impressed he had been with the Women Royal Naval Service (WRNS) when he had
been at the Naval Staff School in Greenwich, England in 1979. He instantly realized that
allowing women to join the ranks and working watches with the marines would ensure the
prompt preparation of sailing orders and reports despite the vessel‟s arrival time. Upon his return
to The Bahamas, Smith sold his idea to the then Prime Minister and Secretary to the Cabinet, Sir
Lynden O. Pindling and Mrs. Margaret MacDonald.
        Under the directives of Commodore Smith, the first woman entry was allowed to enlist
on 28 October 1985, following a total of 17 all male entries joining. These history makers were
Prenell Armbrister, Shane Bain, Cheryl Bethel, Mynez Cargill, Bianca Cleare, Carolyn
Douglas, Cynthia Edgecombe, Glenva Evans, Idamae Ferguson, Christine Gibson, Marsha
Grant, Gaye Major, Julianna Major, Aura Pratt, Joan Thompson and Verna Wood.
        They were chaperoned nightly by Sergeant Ella Mae Rolle of the Royal Bahamas Police
Force. Mrs. Ena Mae Rolle, a civilian who served as an Executive Officer in the Ministry of
Defence acted as their Divisional Officer during the days. The Training Officer at that time was
Lt. Commander Godfrey Rolle, who was assisted by Force Chief Petty Officer David Duncombe.
        Cheryl Bethel and Gaye Major were the first females to undertake the WRNS, leaving in
1985. July MacDonald would become the first female that would attend the International
Midshipman Training Course at Dartmouth. This Royal Navy course allowed the integration of
women into the regular navy and the course included a three-month international sea training
course that was previously omitted from the WRNS course.


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