Soldiers from the Royal Bermuda Regiment today (SUN) marked the holiday weekend with another round of duty on land and on sea.
Troops manned checkpoints across the island and worked from forward operating bases, including one at Warwick Academy, as well as the headquarters at Warwick Camp – and for some of the soldiers based at the private school, it was a trip down memory lane.
Private Matt Daniels, 18, who left Warwick Academy only last year and joined the RBR in February, said: “I never thought I would be back this soon.
Pte Daniels, from Smith’s, who works in landscaping at the new hotel development in St George, added: “It’s weird walking around the school and not having to go back to classes. Same school, different uniform.”
A total of 45 soldiers are based at the academy, accommodated in the sports hall, while the rest of the school is closed off.
Pte Derwin Adams, 29, an IT consultant from Devonshire in civilian life, who also joined the RBR in February, said: “I didn’t expect any of this, but it’s good experience.
“It’s brought my platoon a lot closer together. It’s put us in a real life situation earlier than we would normally get in our Regiment careers.
“To be out of Warwick Camp and manning a second base with so much pressure, we’ve grown a lot in a short time. I’m very glad I joined the Regiment.”
Pte Joshua Frey, a five year veteran and Motor Transport driver, said his job was to deliver troops from Warwick Academy to checkpoints around the island.
He added: “We get them there on time, pick them up and deliver their meals.”
Pte Frey, a mechanic from Southampton, said: “We’re sleeping in the gym – it’s really not that bad. It’s pretty comfortable, I must say.
“It would be nice to be with my family, especially as it’s a nice day, but in a time of need it’s good to be called and to do something useful. It’s good to be part of such an organisation and to help the community.”
Sergeant Philip Woolridge, 29, from Paget, added: “I’m the platoon commander – they’re all brand new, fresh soldiers. But they’re doing really well.
“They are working together and they have the same camaraderie they had at Recruit Camp. I can’t complain.”
Sgt Woolridge, who also attended Warwick Academy, said: “I’ve got some memories for sure, but a lot’s changed as well.”
RBR soldiers are also stationed at the bus terminals in Hamilton, Dockyard and St George and the Coast Guard, part of the RBR, is at Watford House in Sandys.
Lieutenant Samuel Hewitt, 27, in charge of the Warwick Academy detachment, explained soldiers had been spread among several temporary bases, partly to cut down on travel time to duty and also to increase social distancing between soldiers by housing large numbers of soldiers outside Warwick Camp to help minimise the risk of Covid-19 spread.
Lt Hewitt said the guard detachment at the school were all new troops.
He added: “For a lot of them, this is all new – longer hours than they’re used to, but they’re working hard and learning new things. They have hit the ground running.”
Lt Hewitt said he and his soldiers missed the Good Friday and Easter Sunday traditions.
But he added: “This is a sacrifice all the soldiers here are going through. They’re missing out on fishcakes, but they know they’re here to do their duty and how important that is.”
David Horan, the principal of Warwick Academy, said the school was happy to lend part of the school – and their near-new 18 seater minibus – to help the country’s battle against Covid-19.
Mr Horan added: “We’ve always looked to position ourselves as a private school with a public purpose and, in times like these, we should stand with Bermuda and help as best we can.
“Our minibus wasn’t getting used, so putting it to work to get front line troops to their jobs was useful.”
He said: “We’ve set the school up so it’s separated. The school part is closed off, but the sports hall works for them. It’s got bathrooms and other facilities.”
He added the school’s design and technology teachers were hard at work to create ear guards to prevent chafing from surgical-type masks worn by emergency services, as well as donating masks branded “Warwick Academy stands with Bermuda” to front line workers.
Mr Horan said: “We all have a part to play and if Warwick Academy can help, it’s important we do that.”