A new association designed to reunite old comrades from the Royal Bermuda Regiment and promote service in the military has been launched.
Major Preston Gill, the president of the Royal Bermuda Regiment Association, said the organisation was designed to promote, foster and maintain the traditions and well-being of the Regiment and its predecessors through the perpetuation of the comradeship of members and former members.
Major Gill, a serving soldier, added: “A total of 11,900 people have served in the Regiment and we weren’t capturing all that post-Regiment experience.”
But he said: “We also want to focus on the Junior Leaders, the future, the currently serving, as well as veterans.
“The purpose is to enhance the camaraderie among serving members and develop that for the future.”
Major Gill was speaking as members of the RBRA executive visited the military side-chapel at the Anglican Cathedral in Hamilton to help publicise the new organisation.
Gavin Rayner, a former Regimental Sergeant Major, who retired in 2015 and who is treasurer and RSM of the association, said: “An organisation like this has been in a lot of people’s minds for a long time and for someone like Mr Gill to put something on paper.”
Mr Rayner, who works for drinks suppliers Burrows Lightbourn, added: “I jumped at the chance to be involved. It just gives back to the battalion.
“It brings together a lot of the former members on a bigger scale than what is currently available. Additionally, it’s an opportunity to incorporate junior ranks for networking and to be of assistance to soldiers still serving.”
The organisers said the RBRA was not an official part of the RBR, but had its approval and expected to work closely with it in the future.
Major Gill said: “We want people to continue to experience that feeling of camaraderie, help with recruitment and encourage former members to rejoin the RBR.”
He added honorary membership was open to residents who were veterans of other services and Bermudians who had served in overseas units.
Major Gill said: “The key thing is to promote the welfare of private soldiers in the RBR and offer assistance if and when they leave the Regiment.
Former Sergeant Peter Aldrich, a business consultant, added: “Like many others, despite my feelings of being conscripted at the time, I thoroughly enjoyed my service.
Mr Aldrich, who served from 1985-91, said: “I still deeply appreciate and value the friendships that I made and the experiences that I had in the Regiment; all of which helped shape the person I am today for which I am extremely grateful.
“The Regiment continues to be a common thread that brings together all walks of life for the common goal of military service for one’s country, which Bermuda should be proud of.”
Roderick Spencer, an ex-Colour Sergeant who served from 1985 to 2002, added: “I’m still friends with a lot of ex-Senior Non Commissioned Officers, mess members and soldiers who served under me.
Mr Spencer, an entrepreneur as well as chief information officer at wholesalers Butterfield & Vallis, said: “A lot of them miss the friendships that were created and the opportunities that were created and we want to reward them for their years of service.”
Former Sergeant Bill Davidson, the compliance manager at a professional services firm, added: “I learned a lot from the Regiment and owe them a lot and this is an opportunity to give back.
“I’ve always been impressed by the shared experience of the RBR and this is a way to formalise that common experience. We can help each other, the community and soldiers who are still serving. We’re not the RBR, we’re an organisation that supports the RBR.”
Major William Madeiros, the chairman of the Defence Board, said the board backed the association to the hilt.
He added: “It’s an excellent idea as we continue looking for reasons and benefits of association with the Regiment – the association is one of those benefits.
“It’s a fantastic idea and, on behalf of the board, we wish Major Gill and the rest of the team every success. Major Gill has done an excellent job liaising with myself and the Honorary Colonel David Gibbons and we are happy to endorse the association.”