Soldier and Patriot – The Royal Gazette

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“From Server to Server – A History of War and a Tribute to a Bermuda Soldier”

World War II began on September 3, 1939, with Britain and Germany led by Winston Churchill and Adolf Hitler respectively.

At the start of the war, Bermuda’s military strength was considered insufficient to carry out all the necessary war operations. The Bermuda Militia artillery consisted of two black machine gun batteries under the orders of white officers and the Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps (BVRC) and Bermuda Volunteer Engineers (BVE) were made up of approximately 450 white soldiers.

Conscription was an option that was debated in the House, but was not accepted. Instead, the colonial government decided to have a recruiting campaign to increase the number of soldiers available.

Britain and Allied forces were to strengthen their forces against Germany, and Bermuda was to increase their military Home Guard and participate in overseas operations if necessary.

A decision was made to form an infantry company of black soldiers; Bermuda Militia Infantry. They would be placed under the command of the BMA and the expanded force would simply be called the Bermuda Militia.

On October 16, 1939, an advertisement published in The Royal Gazette titled “Recruits Wanted” for men to join BMA and BMI.

It was a time of racial segregation, yet during a war, to help save lives and a country, some people did not come together, at all costs. The Bermuda Militia was formed because of the power of color, not manpower.

BVRC and BVE would remain white and BMA and BMI would remain black.

Having two units instead of one must have been very expensive, however, the words of an MCP when discussing the increase in military strength were: “We cannot put them together, they will not get along”.

Thus, the white BVRC was barred at Prospect Garrison and Warwick Camp and the black BMI was barred at St David’s Battery and St George’s Garrison.

On October 16, 1939, the same day that the recruiting announcement appeared, Wentworth Eugene “Blacky” Bean, of Wellington Hill, St George’s, a waiter at the St George Hotel and husband of Winifred Evelyn Myrtle Talbot (newly married years old and having no children), enlisted in the Bermuda Militia Infantry and was stationed at St George’s Garrison.

All the hotels had closed or were in the process of closing because the war ended tourism and Bermuda was closing. Many were out of work and jobs were scarce.

At 32, Army Soldier # L / BDA / M6 Bean WE was perhaps the oldest recruit at the time, with most of the newly enlisted soldiers in their late teens and twenties. Some men applied at 17, knowing the official age to enlist was 18 to 45.

Perhaps, due to his age, maturity, and performance as a good soldier and leader, Bean WE was promoted to Lance Corporal on October 29, 1939, and on July 22, 1940, was promoted to the rank of Corporal of war.

It was a very hard and serious time for this newly formed Infantry, they had to hit the ground running. They were doing combat drills and a lot of war related stuff. Everything was moving at a rapid pace, as was Corporal Bean.

On February 12, 1944, three officers and 100 soldiers, including the current Sergeant Bean, were attached to the 1st Battalion Caribbean Regiment (Overseas Contingent). They were heading to the battlefields of Europe via the United States.

The Bermudans joined other soldiers from the West Indies at a military camp in North Carolina, where they formed the training cadre for the New Caribbean Regiment. They also trained at Fort Euston near Williamsburg, Virginia.

Growing in strength and numbers, Sergeant Bean found himself at the head of many men.

Once deemed ready for overseas service, the new unit was assigned to the Central Mediterranean Forces and sent to Italy, where it served briefly in the field. From Italy, the regiment was attached to British forces in the Middle East and were subsequently embarked on the Q troop transportueen from Bermuda and ohswindle as escorting large numbers of Axis POWs who were sent to Cairo, Egypt.

At that time, Sergeant Bean was promoted to Company Sergeant Major (CMS) or Warrant Officer Second Class (WO 2). His unit remained in the desert, keeping as many as 3,000 to 4,000 prisoners of war until the end of the war on September 2, 1945.

Another Bermudan, who was with CSM Bean throughout the war, Earl Darrell (rank unknown) of Warwick, told me this: “I have never been so proud of a fellow Bermudan that I saw Blackie standing in front of 3000. to 4000 prisoners shouting over the orders.

“He was only 5 feet 5 inches tall and couldn’t see the second row of prisoners, but his voice was louder than him. They all heard it because the desert was calm and so were the prisoners. He was a no-nonsense soldier. I felt so proud to be Bermudian ”.

Finally, hostilities ceased and on December 22, 1945, the Contingent embarked aboard the SS Highland monarch to Port Said, Egypt, for the return trip to Bermuda. On Monday January 7, 1946, the 100 Bermudan soldiers of the Caribbean Regiment landed at hangar # 1 in Hamilton.

Host committee organizers had planned to host a parade-style homecoming, including a welcoming speech from the Mayor of Hamilton and the Bermuda Militia Band, led by Sergeant WJ Furbert.

Those plans were dashed when thousands of friends and family, who had not seen the soldiers for more than 18 months, were overcome with excitement at the sight of their loved ones.

Cheers, applause, shouts and cries, drowned out all efforts to organize supporters.

They passed the wooden barriers and ropes held by the police who tried unsuccessfully to hold them back. The joy and happiness were out of control. Hugs and kisses were the order of the day.

When the excitement finally died down, the soldiers were trucked to Prospect where they were fed, marched and properly received, medically examined and given a week’s home leave.

On January 5, 1946, CSM Bean WE was released from full-time military service and attached to St David’s Battery.

His commander’s comments noted his military conduct as; “Exemplary and that he was, above average, intelligent, hardworking, cheerful and determined. Knows how to deal with men and gets results. Has a lot of initiative and enterprise. A good blender.

On May 10, 1946, Bean was recalled and returned to being a sergeant and told he had been selected to attend the Victory Parade in London.

He was one of 27 (two officers and 25 other ranks) chosen to be part of this special event. On May 10, the Victory Parade unit were airlifted to New York City where they spent three days before embarking on the Queen Marie for the United Kingdom.

On May 19, the Bermuda contingent arrived in Southampton, England for the Victory celebrations on June 8.

They were honored at a civic reception aboard the Queen mary and congratulated and thanked for volunteering their services and risking their lives for the good of all British citizens.

Shortly after arriving in England, they were taken to Waterloo Station and Kensington Gardens, where 10,000 tents were erected as headquarters in London for 14,000 colonial representatives.

Before the victory parade, the contingent enjoyed a period of visitation and hospitality, but they soon had to settle in to rehearse the marching exercises and their role in the parade.

The total distance the troops had to travel was seven miles. There were millions of spectators along the route.

Many of them camped along the sidewalks of London the day before. Although the Bermuda contingent was one of the smallest, there were many cheers, waving flags and cries of thanks and appreciation for their participation despite the constant rain.

Upon returning from the Victory Parade via BOAC on July 11, 1946, Sergeant Bean was relegated to the Bermuda Militia Reserves after completing the voluntary recall period.

MILITARY SERVICE: CSM Bean WE service with the BMI / BMA and the Caribbean Regiment included: five years in Bermuda, three months in the United States, four months in Italy and one year in Egypt.

MEDALS: The Star of Italy, the Defense Medal, the British War Medal. His deployment to Egypt was unfortunately too late to qualify for the Africa Star.

On July 1, 1946, the St George’s Hotel reopened, but it is not known whether Mr. Bean returned to his old job.

Note: Most of the information presented in this article was obtained from The Royal Gazette.

Thanks to Martin Buckley for sharing his military knowledge.

Sergeant Bean was the uncle I barely knew, but he felt the need to put his name on the war memorial on the Cabinet grounds and write his story the best I could.

Gerald L. Bean is Eugene Bean’s nephew


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