During the late 1960's, revolution was in the air in Anguilla, with Mr. Ronald Webster leading the way. (For context, read Anguilla's history timeline here). The British response to that sense of independence? Send in the troops!
The story of what happened after the initial terror of being invaded by a major power subsided, and after the British had been embarassed on an international scale (!), hasn't been told. Most charming and interesting, this is something that could only happen in Anguilla.
Here is the story, as originally shared by one member of the British police unit, Taff Bowen (AKA "Dickiebo"), with members of his unit...
I expect most of you remember this, don't you? In 1969, some local erks in Anguilla, led by Rom Webster, decided that they no longer wanted to be Governed by the Brits and the legal Government in force, covering the islands of St.Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla.
So rather unwisely, they threw the High Commissioner off the island, at gunpoint. Well, you just can't do that, ol'boy. Just isn't cricket.
So, the might of the British Empire was dispatched. Well, some Paras and London Bobbies!
Landing in Anguilla
When we arrived, we took matters seriously, and 'orft we jolly well went to put down this 'insurrection'!
We're coming-golf clubs & all!
(That's my Dickiebo!)
En route, we stopped off at Antigua in this building
No doubt about it, we took this serious. Honest! (Note Dickiebo's moustache below!)
This lovely lady and her hubby Ron, kindly permitted us to take over their house as our base. They lived in the gear, ground-floor, and we had the front rooms - for living and working. (No Upstairs!)
This was taken from her house
About 100 yards away was this!...
Yea. Still using me golf clubs! Well, obviously we had to have some recreation. :-)
And, being as some sneak took, and dared to print, the above disgusting golfer, I too can be a sneak :-) Look closely - he is our inspector facing us, and Nigel from Twickers from the rear!
Xmas 1969, and we decided to forego our Xmas Dinner, to give the island kids a party.
I worked with a great bunch of lads, and we all got on famously with the local people.
God bless 'em.
And even big, bad, Ron Webster, was not so bad after all. Gave me a wave,anyway.
And so, home. Courtesy of the Royal Air Force.
British Police remained in Anguila for a few years, recruiting and training a Police Force.
The island has been totally transformed into a holiday haven. (Not, of course, suggesting that this was down to us! Far from it.) But, everything has to start somewhere. Don't it?
Timothy Hodge made an interesting comment about Dickiebo's story. Feel free to add your own comments below.
Hi there I am Theon Hodge's uncle, Timothy Hodge.
He just forwarded some pics from your sojourn in Anguilla in 1969.
I was aged seven in 1969, and Theon wasn't born until 1984, so he asked me to say a little bit more to you.
I vividly remember (of course) the British troops landing, the bobbies, etc,. and as Theon recounts, our family was at the heart of things - Ronald Webster is my uncle (82 now, see attached photos on his 80th birthday), and my father Walter Hodge (see attached) was in charge of the Treasury and you would have passed his (our) house on the way to Junks Hole beach where the pic was taken with the rock out in the bay.
There is even something closer to home, there was a house in Island Harbour across from the pond and Anglican church which was used by the Bobbies, built by my family for the Anglican priest, which today (totally rebuilt) is my house - my family home!
I can barely identify (today) the pic of the house (under construction) you used as your workstation with the lady you refer to as the lovely wife of Ron, however I do recognize her (she's still a lovely lady) as a family friend Dora, her husband Ron (Fresh Eggs) is now deceased.
I got into this by asking Theon to ask you if any colleagues of yours can be contacted who might have other pics, and also to invite you and them to Anguilla (Some of your colleagues have visited and have written about Anguilla), and his response was 'you do it!'
So here I am.
Many thanks indeed for your e-mail. The house opposite the church is where I stayed on my first night in Anguilla. I can remember being very surprised at the 'outdoor' nature of the church! The next day, however, I moved just along the road to the house where Dora and Ron lived. If you were aged 7 at the time, would you have been one of the children at the Xmas Party?
The vast majority of Anguillans were very nice to us and we very quickly dispensed with carrying arms and reverted to our more normal situation - that of being Bobbies, policing by consent. Most names I have now forgotten. I do remember a character called 'Carty', who had apparently been a local police officer beforehand. He was a tubby man, and arranged cricket games between us and the locals.
In the early days of our stay, we did a sort of census of the island. It was great meeting all the people - mainly ladies and elderly gents, and we would never get far before sitting down with a tot of what we called 'Monkey'= Rum!!'
I'm attaching some more photographs, which are probably not of much interest to you, but just so as you have them all.
All the very best to you and your family.
My Dad became particularly taken by this story. He and Dickiebox exchanged many emails, a few which give an interesting perspective to the story! You can read parts of their emails below...
Just out of curiosity... Were there any soldiers or was the entire force members of the London Metropolitan police? It sounds like a simply amazing, incredibly unique experience. I can hardly imagine what it was like!
All the best,
The original (landing) party were paras followed by police. All police were Metropolitan Police and the very first to arrive were from the Met's Special Patrol Group. They were quickly replaced by 'ordinary' street cops like myself, who were all volunteers, and the paras were quickly relieved by soldiers of the Royal Engineers. There was a Special Branch sergeant who was looking after incoming people at the airport, but he was also quickly replaced, and his duties taken over, by us.
All of the originals were 'quickly replaced' as it became extremely obvious that none of the residents had any intentions of violence, and the 'problems' were ones which could only be solved by diplomacy between the residents and the British Government - not by either soldiers or cops!
We very much saw our job as being to create (maintain!) a stable situation, for the politicians to resolve the problems and in this respect, we had a thoroughly enjoyable time and got on extremely well with 99% of the residents. (The 1% were, predictably perhaps, teenagers!) I must say, I find it totally amazing now to see the hotels, etc in Anguilla. During our time, there was not even any drinking water on the island, except what we brought in ourselves. We attempted to fill up Dora and Ron;s water tank with our water bowsers but the task proved impossible.
Some of the people who 'commented' on my blog included a civilian radio engineer who helped set up Radio Anguilla with Roy Dunlop, a sailor who was on the frigate (H.M.S.Minerva) that landed the 'assault party' and now lives in Alaska, and a couple of Royal Engineers who served there.
Just a quickie; The first time that I was on duty (nights) at the police station, I went to have a look around and found a local chap in one of the rooms, laying down. I, naturally, asked him what the dickens he was doing there, and he informed me that he had been arrested for the murder of his wife and was awaiting trial!!!!! No locks on the door or any security whatsoever. It seems that the only Judges/Justices were at St.Kitts and were not welcome on the island. We waited months until the brains in Britain decided to send out a Magistrate to deal with the poor chap. He just wandered around during the day and, as my Inspector said, "Well. Where the heck is he going to go?" I'm sure that people would not believe some of the incidents that occurred during my time on that lovely island.
Best regards, Ken
Fascinating. How quickly did it become "all volunteer police"? Thanks very much for setting that perspective on the story, Dickie.
All the best,
Even the SPG had to volunteer but others joined the operation almost immediately. When I volunteered, I had an interview at Scotland Yard. Trying to ensure that I was accepted, I had submitted a written application in which I listed any and all of my police qualifications. e.g. Advanced police driver, qualified marksman, kung fu black belt, fingerprint operator, etc.
When the interviewing officer read this at my interview, he said, "Good grief. How on earth have they managed without you."!!!!!!!!! I was on the next plane, although I nearly was not! I was at Crown Court giving evidence in a case of safe-blowing at the residence of Lionel Bart. The defence counsel requested that I remain in court for the duration of the case in case he needed to re-examine me. After 2 days, the Judge stopped the case and said to the counsel, "I see that PC Bowen is still here despite being urgently needed in Anguilla. Are you sure that you need him to remain?" And that is how I got on he next plane!