NOTE FROM THE EDITOR - Since I first joined the Bermuda Police in 1964, I've been aware that Tony Saunders had been a serving police officer before my time, and that he had held the position of Clerk to the House of Assembly for several years. I also knew that Tony had been an active member of the Ex-Police Association, and he and his wife Janice would often attend our ExPo social functions while I was serving on the Executive Committee.
I always found Tony to be a mine of useful information about our former colleagues, and I would often suggest to Tony that he write an article for our "Then and Now" column about his time with the Bermuda Police. I was pleasantly surprised when Tony finally agreed to put pen to paper, or rather that he put fingers to computer keyboard. What surprised me even more was that Tony actually served for a very short time as a constable before being seconded to the the Prison Service following a riot at Hamilton Gaol in 1955. Despite his short length of service Tony has written this excellent account which I believe will be of great interest to both his contemporaries and others who are interested in the history of the Bermuda Police Service.
The recent loss of Brian Flook reminds me that if I want to be written up in “There and Now” I ought to be doing something about it, after all I have just had my 90th birthday!!
Where to start? I’m Tony Saunders and I arrived here in March 1955 and became PC 55. I arrived with my bicycle along with David Parsons on board the RMS Ebro and was met on the docks by Derek Brashier and Ian Morrison.
So, let’s backtrack to how I came to be here and my story really begins when I was 16 and still at school. I came home to find a gentleman offering me a career with the police starting as a cadet. I said “why not” so there my career began somewhat as an office boy, but in uniform, in Gorse Hill, Swindon. There was a slight intermission while I signed up for my National Service but, after a week with the RAF at Padgate, my sinus problems resulted in my being discharged and so back to being a police cadet!
Young P.C. Tony Saunders in Wiltshire Police
At the age of 19 I applied to join the Wiltshire Police but was told that if I wasn’t fit enough for National Service I wasn’t good enough for them!! However, the Hampshire Police saw no such problem and, after 3 months at Mill Meece, where my training as a police cadet stood me in good shape, I was posted to Alton. I could hardly have wished for a better posting but was pleasantly surprised some 2 years later to be told I was moving to Winchester where I was to work in the Information Room at headquarters. That was fascinating because in addition to record keeping I was working at a massive table with a map of Hampshire and in wireless contact with all of the patrol cars.
I can now relate a story concerning Peter Edney with whom we lost contact one night. Our last contact with him was at an inactive airport where he would have been checking out the buildings so the duty officer was dispatched there. Peter was duly found, having woken up the local farmer, to help him in getting his car out of the mud. It turned out that Peter had been chasing rabbits on the runway, the game being to mesmerize them before striking them a glancing blow on the head and then taking them home! Unfortunately, he lost control and ended up stuck in the mud.
Peter subsequently followed me out to Bermuda where he became a member of the Police motor cycle display team and later on took over the maintenance of the police vehicles. While playing cricket with the police county team I witnessed, with surprise, seeing our chief constable R.D. Lemon come on to bowl, with some success, under arm!
Now my career was to make a significant change. After much prompting by my parents I decided it was time to get some overseas experience as a policeman and Bermuda took my fancy. The Crown Agents cleared me and, without leaving me in any doubt, I received my sailing instructions so, there I was off to Bermuda on the RMS Ebro after close to 5 years with the Hampshire Police as PC 595. On board the RMS Ebro David Parsons and I enjoyed the company of two young ladies and David, in particular, had his hands full as shown in the attached photo! Surprisingly enough we never kept in touch with them.
I fell in love with Bermuda straight away and really enjoyed the companionship of my many colleagues at the police club located at the rear of the Hamilton Hotel between Victoria Street and Wesley Street.
Hamilton Hotel blazing on 22nd December 1955
In December 1955 the Hamilton Hotel was destroyed by fire and, in a Royal Gazette article, mention is made of Commissioner Henderson assigning duties to the men who were then present, including the need to empty all their gear from the building. One of the many photo's in the RG, which I attach, shows Barry King and John Bull sorting out their possessions on Victoria Street.
As it happened, the police barracks were not damaged in the fire and we were able to continue living there for the time being. Admiralty House had become vacant in 1956 and some of the guys then moved in to provide security. Clarence Cove was located there and I frequently used it for a swim overlooked by “Neptune”, once the great figure head of HMS Irresistible. In1959 the Garrison having departed we were able to move to Prospect. By then I had already moved out and, for a while, was living at the St. George’s Police Barracks by the Garrison field before moving into accommodation at the Prison Farm. However, I’m getting ahead of myself so let’s get back to those days before I became a prison officer!
We had been well looked after in our canteen by a Mrs. Smith and Pearl, and Tom Gray who was our mess caterer. I have attached a photo of the canteen being decorated, presumably for Christmas. Present are Mrs. Smith, David Parsons, Fred Eastwood, Bob Railton, me in the background, Ted Burton and Jim McNiven. We had a bar and took turns to act as bar tenders and it was well patronized by Eric and Louise Medeiros and Bill and Bessie Barton who all tended to mother us “youngsters”. Attached to the bar was a nice lounge for entertaining.
In the early days all my free daytime was spent cycling to Elbow Beach where one of the hotel’s beach chalets was reserved for the police so I was quickly losing my whiteness! Summer time and it didn’t take me long to realize cycling was no fun so I bought a second hand B.S.A. motor cycle from Neil Brown. I have attached a photo of Neil and me standing on the verandah entrance to the Club.
Pedal cycles in those days had to be licensed. I couldn’t wait to get involved in cricket and my day came when I was invited to play against the Western Stars in the small field off Serpentine Road. What a disaster that turned out to be; I got my chance to bowl and was promptly hit for 2 sixes clean into the road by Bunkers Bean! Needless to say I wasn’t invited again!. I did play cricket with The Travellers and also football with the police team at which time segregation was in place with two distinct divisions in play.
I also played a lot of tennis, usually with Alan Waddicor, Derek Brashier and Arthur Rose. In those days the Hamilton Princess Hotel had tennis courts at the front of the hotel bordering Pitts Bay Road.
Nowadays you never see a policeman walking the beat but in my days around 6 of us would check in at the start of our shift where we would be updated by the duty sergeant and given our beats to patrol. Front and Reid Streets were always busy in the daytime with traffic and tourists and there was almost always a policeman keeping an eye on things and one directing traffic from the bird cage. In those days Reid Street was one way travelling East (not West as at present).
If you were on duty on the Mondays when the Queen of Bermuda and the Ocean Monarch docked you had fun checking out the disembarking tourists and issuing the green ticket to those showing too much leg! In the evenings and at night time the back of town and the Eastern areas were usually patrolled by two of us.
We were all friendly with 'Trusty' the Alsatian and at night, if you were one of his favourites, he would accompany you on the beat. ( CLICK HERE for our ExPo article on 'Trusty'). I never had any problems although on one occasion I did have to go to the bar in the run down Canadian Hotel building on Reid Street East following a complaint by a lady. Fortunately for me, the fellow at the bar gave me no trouble and willingly accompanied me to the police station!
There was a nice café, the Tea Cosy, on Reid Street which had a balcony overlooking the street and at night it was a great place to sit and watch. However, you had to be careful not to get too comfortable or else you were in danger of falling asleep!
As young policemen we never had much money and so we frequently became pall bearers to earn some extra cash. Weekend security was needed on Darrell’s Island, the former airport, which was used for a short time as a film studio. Our job was to make sure there were no visitors and I spent a couple of pleasant Sundays there relaxing in the control tower! Once a week Dr. Barbara Ball (who later achieved fame with the BIU) gave Ju-Jitsu lessons in our basement but it seemed that all I did was learn to fall without hurting myself! Also weekly I would take my khaki (brown) shorts and shirt to the Chinese laundry on East Broadway where they would be returned so heavily starched that I would have difficulty opening up the pants! In addition to the laundry, the Chinese also had a popular restaurant on Reid Street above what is now the Phoenix.
One evening John Bull and I were asked to go the Coral Island Hotel (where the St. James Court condominiums are now located) in Flatts Village to check out the entertainment following a complaint about improper language of a sexual nature being used by one of the performers. So, we went with two girlfriends and enjoyed the evening. We laughed at the jokes, which at times were close to the mark, but saw no reason to take any action.
Shortly after my arrival here there was a disturbance in the Prison which was located on Parliament Street where the Post Office is now located. Three prisoners had escaped by removing the loose bars to their windows and their absence wasn’t noted until a taxi driver recognized one of them near the Bermuda Regimental camp in Warwick, and phoned the police. Later that night it was discovered that the 3 had made it back to their cells.
It is my understanding that, upon attempting to take one of them into custody, the prison officer lost control of the situation and the prisoner then unlocked all the cells and the released prisoners then congregated onto the roof. The police station (now the Government offices) was then next door to the prison and the police were called in and had to use tear gas to subdue the rioters and get them back in their cells.
EDITORS NOTE - The above photo appears in a 'Then and Now' article written by P.C. William "Bill" McCormack who described the prison riot which occurred during the early morning hours on the day after he arrived in Bermuda along with John Hobbs, John Bull and John Estwood. CLICK HERE for the McCormack article.
After an enquiry, the Warden, Wing Commander Ellis, resigned and Police Chief Superintendent Colonel Newing was asked to take over the prisons until a new Warden could be recruited from the U.K. Col. Newing agreed to do so but only if he could have the support of some police officers. This was agreed and the timing of the Notice coincided with my night shift just starting and I, along with Derek (George) Taylor, John Bull and Barry King promptly volunteered! There were to be two shifts covering the mornings and evenings (no night shifts) and a cash incentive of £10 a month.
So, after some 2 to 3 months I was on another career path! Derek and John went to the Prison Farm and Barry and I to the Hamilton Prison. Barry King didn’t stay long before returning to the police and I believe he then resigned and moved to Florida where he enrolled in a flying school.
There were some interesting incidents while there! One evening I was called into the Main Block where a prisoner, locked in his cell, appeared to be unwell. As I went into his cell he woke up, became very abusive and appeared to be under the influence of drugs so I left him there to sober up. The next morning we searched his cell only to find that he had been cultivating a marijuana plant; that was my first exposure to the drug!
We had another prisoner who could hardly speak without stammering yet, under the guidance of a Mr. Turner, who was then acting warden, it was discovered that he had a beautiful singing voice with no stammer. I heard subsequently that he was a popular member of the Notting Hill group in London.
The long awaited day came when it was decided to add chicken to the menu and the farmer arrived with the live chickens. Much to our surprise, the kitchen staff of prisoners refused to kill or eat the chickens and the farmer had to take them back. They were subsequently returned by the farmer, plucked and all, ready for the oven.
It’s worth mentioning that Lois Browne was then starting her legal career and she was much sought after by the prisoners. I must say that in those days she was an extremely attractive lady!
When Derek Taylor moved back to the police I moved to the prison farm and I attach a photo of me “relaxing” at the farm.
Tony relaxing at the Prison Farm, Ferry Reach
I would also help out at the Senior Training School located on Rose Hill, St. George’s across the road from the gas station so got to know Tubby Richardson, (the cup match cricketer) quite well. He was then in charge at the S.T.S . and the two of us got to be sent on a training course in the UK and visited several prisons while there. Between the S.T.S. and the main road was a drive-in cinema so the inmates were able to watch a film without the music!
Unfortunately, I had little or no social life while living and working at the Prison Farm and realized I was missing the companionship of my fellow police officers so decided it was time for me to return to the police. Much to my surprise I was told I wasn’t wanted, a decision I didn’t contest, so I handed in my resignation and, after close to 5 years with the police and prisons, I found myself out of uniform and back in civvy street.
As there was a vacancy advertised in the Immigration Department I decided to apply for the post. I wasn’t successful but I must have sufficiently impressed the committee because I was offered a position as office manager in the Colonial Secretariat which I promptly accepted. I started in January 1960 and remained there for 10 fabulous years.
During that period I was involved in so many events:-
I was Clerk to the Legislative Council and here you see me in wig and gown worn on official occasions.
I had a minor role to play with the visit of Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie in 1963 involved with accommodation at the Castle Harbour Hotel for the accompanying press etc.
In 1965 I was asked to represent the Bermuda Archives (the current archivist not being available) at a Caribbean Archival Conference being held at the University of the W.I. in Mona, Jamaica from September 20th – 27th. With limited time available I had to familiarize myself with the workings of the Archives and, at the conference attended by most if not all of the Caribbean Islands, be able to respond to any question asked of me.
I was Secretary to the Wooding Commission of Inquiry into the Civil Unrests in 1968 and I would drive the Commissioners around the Island in my yellow VW convertible with the hood down!
I acted as Aide-de-Camp to the Colonial Secretary at a Government House dinner party and helped with the annual garden party during H.E’S absence; and
I acted as a liaison officer working with Tourism and the several military units at the time of official functions.
One of my office functions was to deal with the classified mail to and from the Foreign Office. Such mail, in sealed pouches, came with, or was delivered to the BOAC pilot or an official courier by the assigned police duty officer. The Royal Gazette did a full page article on us which included a photograph, now attached, of Constable Bill Pratt picking up the mail for delivery to the airport.
All good things had to come to an end and after the new Constitution came into effect in June 1968 the Colonial Secretariat became the Cabinet Office where I continued as assistant secretary to the then Cabinet Secretary, Mr. Walter Wallace. It was made clear to me that I had no future there and should start looking. I did.
Butterfield’s Bank was advertising vacancies in their Trust Department and so in January 1970 I was off on another career. 1973 saw my bachelor days come to an end when I married Janice.
I had known Janice through the Bridge Club where we were both members and Janice had worked along with me in organizing bridge tournaments at the Bermudiana and Southampton Princess Hotels. We had a quiet registry ceremony and then went to the Lantana Cottage Colony in Sandys Parish for our honeymoon. Bridge continued to absorb me and in 1974 at the Bermuda Regional Tournament I attained the status of "Life Master". In 1975 Bermuda hosted the 25th anniversary of the Bermuda Bowl. This event attracted worldwide interest when one of the Italian team pairs was accused of cheating by making foot tapping signals under the table. It was not a pleasant experience for me because I was then the President of the local Unit!
In September 1987, I received an appointment as a Justice of the Peace, and in later years, while living in St. George's, I was surprised to be disturbed at dinner by two plain clothes officers who wanted me to sign a search warrant. They explained that they were holding a suspect at the airport and wanted to search his home for drugs before he could destroy any evidence. I found my bible, which I had been given at school in 1941 as a scripture prize, and I duly signed the warrant after they had sworn on the bible! I never heard what happened! Maybe they'll get to read this one day and say "wow, that was us (or me)"
It was around 1987 that I became involved with the Ex Police Association working on the committee until the mid 1990’s with the likes of Trevor Nicholls, Derek Brashier, Derek Fletcher, Gerry Lyons, Rex Osborne and David Cook. In those days we always organized a late summer bbq at Prospect and the New Year Cocktail party. By then, the Association was floundering; it had acquired a reputation amongst certain quarters as being an Association for Ex-Pats and not Ex- Police and it took the enthusiasm of John Barnett, upon returning to Bermuda from Canada in 1997, to reinvigorate the Association.
I had then reached retirement age after some 26 years with the Trust Company and the bank hosted a dinner party for me at the Harbourfront Restaurant (then on Front Street West).
However, Janice who was then secretary to the St, George’s Historical Society, decided I should become the Society’s Treasurer looking after the affairs of the museum on Duke of Kent Street, a position I still hold!
It’s now April 2021 and I continue to enjoy my retirement, along with Janice, looking forward to Covid free days and the freedom to travel.
Editors Note - Tony and Janice still attend our ExPo functions at Prospect and it is always a pleasure to have their company.