Charles “D.O.” Simons, Jean Vickers, Edward “Bosun” Swainson; such names might have one day been forgotten by everyone except their families were it not for Roger Sherratt.
Eight years ago he started a website, www.expobermuda.com, to help the Bermuda Ex-Police Officers’ Association keep in touch with its members.
It became something of an obsession for Mr Sherratt, a retired officer and “Bermie Ex-Po’s” president. He meticulously maintains the contact details of the hundreds of former officers listed on the site, has written dozens of stories about policemen who have died but whose contributions merited inclusion in its Hall of Fame, and he encourages others to share pictures and details of their lives before and after retirement.
According to Mr Sherratt, it’s a way of documenting lost history. “The records of Bermuda Police prior to the Sixties was appalling,” the 77-year-old said. “They were kept in a basement where they went rotten and were thrown away. So one of my aims was to try and record the history of the Bermuda Police through the words of our police officers.
“[The Hall of Fame stories] can only be done with the assistance of family. I have managed to capture some fascinating members. For the past eight years, I’ve tried to pick out people I thought were exceptional. I would approach the family and ask them to help me write, but I can’t keep up.
“I haven’t done everybody. It’s impossible. I’m getting older and I’ve got a list of people I want to speak with, people I admired as a policeman. I would like to think with the increased interest in our past history there would be families who would be willing to do the research and provide old photos and any information they can. I’m happy to help them access police records, edit stories and publish.”
It’s how Bermie Ex-Po was able to document the contributions of Charles Edward “Detective Officer” Simons.
The former head of the Criminal Investigation Unit got involved with the Bermuda Police Force in 1902 when he filled in for his travelling father. Three years later, he became a full-time constable and in 1919 was officially named the island’s first Detective Officer.
Mr Sherratt learnt of the story in 1979, at the Bermuda Police Service’s 100th anniversary reunion celebrations.
“He came along at a time when black policemen were not promoted. He was, for a while, the only detective and was a natural leader. He retired in ‘34 or ‘35. But that really set me off thinking that there’s got to be a lot of stories of police officers who excelled; we know little about them.”
The stories of Oliver “Chief” Trott, Maurice “Syke” Smith and Peter Stubbs are among the 36 who have made it into the Hall of Fame so far. Edward “Bosun” Swainson is one of the more recent entries.
“He scored the first century in Cup Match, in 1937, and he was the first black police officer to be promoted to Inspector, in 1959, and was the grandfather of Gina Swainson,” Mr Sherratt said. “Other than that, there was not much about him.”
He enlisted the efforts of George Rose, a retired detective superintendent, in hopes of learning more. It turned into a lengthy investigation.
“He used his detective skills and spent two years researching his life and has written a very comprehensive article for the Hall of Fame,” said Mr Sherratt, who served three years with Staffordshire County Police in his native England before joining the BPS in 1964. “We needed eyewitnesses, stories written about him. With Bosun, the vast majority of information was from archives — The Royal Gazette and the Bermuda Recorder. It was difficult to find people who knew him. George found out about his extensive cricket career, his cases as a detective.
“We were somewhat hampered by the fact that there are literally no police records dating back to the years when Bosun was a serving police officer. George took up the challenge and he has spent countless hours during the past two years in the Bermuda library and elsewhere, conducting meticulous research [and] in doing so he has unearthed a treasure-trove of valuable information about this remarkable man.”
Mr Rose’s efforts were sidetracked by the information he found on Bermuda’s “coloured” cricket teams whose members — one of whom was Mr Swainson — had huge success playing in the US against people from the Caribbean who had emigrated there.
As a result, the article is “the most extensive” published by Bermie Ex-Po.
As explained on the site by Mr Sherratt: “We felt that it would be of interest to cricket lovers and to future historians to provide some insights into the cricket scene throughout an era when Bermuda produced many legendary players such as Warren Simmons, Charles ‘War Baby’ Fox, the incomparable Alma ‘Champ’ Hunt, Arthur Simons, Edward ‘Bosun’ Swainson and many others.”
Finding photographs proved “one of the greatest problems”. The retiree remains hopeful that more will be unearthed.
“We believe there are photos out there somewhere,” Mr Sherratt said. “If anyone has any of Bosun Swainson up till he stopped playing, we’d be keen to obtain them.”
He said that Mr Swainson’s grandson, Brandon “Pickles” Robinson, had been a huge help, donating the bat and pads his grandfather used when he scored his century in 1937 as well as a cricket ball and trophy from one of his tours. The items are now on display at the Bermuda Police Service Museum, which opened last week in the Senior Officers’ Mess Hall in Prospect.
The Bermie Ex-Po site also includes articles on a range of BPS activities: the boxing team, tug o’ war team, the drama group, the former 40 Thieves Club and officers’ involvement in the Belco riots.
“The February 2 ‘65 Belco riots have always been viewed through the lens of the people striking — and quite rightly,” Mr Sherratt said. “But police were there and there are some misconceptions about what they did that morning. A former police officer, who went on to become a university history professor, Dave Mulhall, wrote quite an insightful article on his experience.
“There’s also a section called Keeping in Touch. [Through it former BPS members] all over the world let us know what they’re doing and where they are.”
Co-ordinating it all has kept him busy.
“I’m at it every week, sometimes every day, doing research or speaking to people. It is an obsession almost, but a great hobby. I get a lot out of it,” Mr Sherratt said.
The Bermuda Ex-Police Officers’ Association website, www.expobermuda.com, is open to the public. Members wanting to share information and families interested in having the stories of their loved ones published, should e-mail email@example.com