The Caribbean – 1960

On 3rd February 1960 1st Royal Hampshire sailed from Southampton on HMT Dunera for the West Indies.

The Battalion left Lemgo in West Germany in early November 1959 in order to spend 3 months in transit, stopping in England to pick up over 600 National Servicemen to build up its strength of approximately 1,000. This was necessary to garrison Jamaica and the three detached company outstations of British Guiana, British Honduras and the Bahamas. The tour was to last 2½ years culminating in Jamaica being granted independence on 6th August 1962. There had been a permanent British garrison there since 1655.

Jamaica, although a beautiful island, was not a ‘soldiers’ paradise; life was dominated by guards and duties. On the average day, the Duty Company had to find 85 men for the numerous guards and fatigues; very little training was done. The main event operationally occurred when on 21st June 1960 during a major ‘Cordon and Search’ operation, 2 soldiers of B Company were killed and 2 more wounded.

British Guiana (BG) provided many opportunities for expeditions into the impenetrable South American jungle; movement was dominated by massive rivers. A Company was based 28 miles out of town at a former WW2 USAF base.

The main operational test came in February 1962 when riots broke out between the Indian and native population resulting in the Police Commissioner requesting military assistance. A Company deployed into a burning Georgetown to regain control; by midnight this was achieved with 5 looters being killed.

British Honduras (BH) with Z Company were at Airport Camp – 10 miles from Belize City to discourage the Guatemalans from trying to seize the Colony. Their other main role was to give assistance during hurricane relief, which happened on 31st October 1961 when Hurricane Hattie struck BH with wind speeds of up to 180mph causing mass destruction and nearly 300 deaths.

1st Royal Hampshire were the last garrison battalion to have served in the Caribbean although forces remained in BG until 1964 and BH until the 1980s.