Military of Barbados - History

Military of Barbados - History


British rule

An English expedition of 1625 assessed the potential of the island, and on Feb. 17, 1627, the ship William and John landed with 80 Englishmen and about 10 Africans. The early period of English settlement was marked by the insecurity resulting from infrequent provision of supplies from Europe and the difficulty in establishing a profitable export crop. This was complicated by bitter squabbles over the claims of rival lords proprietors and over the question of allegiance to either the British crown or Parliament during the constitutional conflicts of the 1640s that led to the English Civil Wars.

As in the earlier cases of Bermuda and Virginia, an assembly made up of owners of at least 10 acres (4 hectares) of freehold land was established in Barbados in 1639. Elections were held annually. There were also a council and a governor who was appointed first by the lord proprietor and, after the 1660s, by the king.

The economy of the early colonial era was marked by a pattern of family farms and by a diversity of products including aloes, fustic (a dye-producing wood), indigo, and, above all, cotton and tobacco. The search for a profitable export crop ended in the 1640s, when Dutch assistance enabled the colonists to convert to sugar production.

The Sugar Revolution, as it is called, had momentous social, economic, and political consequences. The elite in Barbados chose a form of sugar production that yielded the greatest level of profit—but at great social cost. They decided to establish large sugarcane plantations, cultivated by oppressed labourers from West Africa, who were brought to the island and enslaved in accordance with a series of slave laws enacted from 1636 onward. Society in Barbados was composed of three categories of persons: free, indentured, and enslaved. “Race” was a central determinant of status. There were three “racial,” or ethnic, groups—whites, coloureds (those of part-European and part-African parentage or ancestry), and Blacks. Some whites were free and some were indentured some coloureds were free and some were enslaved and some Blacks were free and some were enslaved. No whites were enslaved.

There was a twofold population movement between 1640 and 1700. Many small family farms were bought up and amalgamated into plantations. Consequently, there was a significant emigration of whites to Jamaica and to the North American colonies, notably the Carolinas. At the same time the Royal African Company (a British slaving company) and other slave traders were bringing increasing numbers of African men, women, and children to toil in the fields, mills, and houses. The ethnic mix of the population changed accordingly. In the early 1640s there were probably 37,000 whites and 6,000 Blacks by 1684 there were about 20,000 whites and 46,000 Blacks and in 1834, when slavery was abolished, there were some 15,000 whites and 88,000 Blacks and coloureds.

In European markets, sugar was a scarce and therefore valuable commodity, and Barbadian sugar planters, particularly in the 17th century, reaped huge profits out of the early lead that the island established in sugar production. Increasing wealth brought consolidation of political power for a planter elite, and Barbadian society became a plantocracy, with white planters controlling the economy and government institutions. Though enslaved people continually resisted their bondage, the effective authoritarian power of slave-owning planters ensured that, apart from a major slave rebellion in 1816 that was put down by the local militia and British troops, there was no effective threat to their control.

Sugar remained ascendant in Barbados even through the 19th-century crises caused by the emancipation of enslaved people, free trade, and competition from the European beet sugar industry. This was mainly because a dense population provided cheap labour and because the political power of the white planters and merchant elite ensured that government resources would be used to rescue the industry in any emergency. The workers therefore carried the burden in low wages and minimal social services. This situation encouraged emigration (often frustrated by the elite) and occasional, futile political protests.

By the 1930s the social and political pressures from below could no longer be contained. Population increase, the closing of emigration outlets, the economic effects of the worldwide Great Depression, and the spread of socialist ideology and the Black nationalist movement of the Jamaican leader Marcus Garvey had created conditions for a labour revolt. By then, middle-class reformers had begun to agitate against the restricted political franchise (the right to vote was limited to males and restricted by income and property qualifications) and the inadequate social services.

Out of a series of labour disturbances of 1937 emerged a clear challenge to the existing order. The British government’s response assisted this successful challenge. The West Indies Royal Commission (Moyne Commission), dispatched in 1938 to report on social and economic conditions in the British West Indies, endorsed some of the political and social reforms that were advocated by the leaders of the new mass organizations, particularly the full legalization of trade unions and the extension of the political franchise. The implementation of these reforms during the 1940s provided the essential base for the institutionalization of mass political organizations, which became the principal means through which the elite’s political power was curtailed. In Barbados Black political leaders gained ascendancy by 1944, universal adult suffrage was adopted in 1950, and full internal self-government was achieved in 1961.


Relief, drainage, and soils

Mount Hillaby, the highest point in Barbados, rises to 1,102 feet (336 metres) in the north-central part of the island. To the west the land drops down to the sea in a series of terraces. East from Mount Hillaby, the land declines sharply to the rugged upland of the Scotland District. Southward, the highlands descend steeply to the broad St. Georges Valley between the valley and the sea the land rises to 400 feet (120 metres) to form Christ Church Ridge. Coral reefs surround most of the island. Sewerage systems were installed in the late 20th century to address the threat to the reefs from runoff of fertilizers and untreated waste.

There are no significant rivers or lakes and only a few streams, springs, and ponds. Rainwater percolates quickly through the underlying coralline limestone cap, draining into underground streams, which are the main source of the domestic water supply. A desalination plant provides additional fresh water.

Barbados has mainly residual soils. They are clayey and rich in lime and phosphates. Soil type varies with elevation thin black soils occur on the coastal plains, and more-fertile yellow-brown or red soils are usually found in the highest parts of the coral limestone.


The Barbados Garrison

The Barbados Garrison, largest in the British Colonies during the 18th and 19th centuries, is of great historic interest and offers many features, other than military, for those so inclined. It was established in 1780 as the military headquarters for the Imperial Forces stationed here until 1905/6. However, it began with St. Ann&rsquos Fort, on its present site, in 1705.

Today it is the home of the Barbados Defence Force including the Barbados Coast Guard Force. Headquarters of the Barbados Cadet Corps is at Cherry Tree Cottage on Garrison Road, overlooking the Savannah.

The Barbados National Armoury was opened in 2004 inside the old naval magazine alongside the walls of St. Ann&rsquos Fort. It is there Barbados&rsquo impressive Gun Collection is housed, amongst which is an Elizabethan cannon of 1600, the only one known to exist anywhere in the world.

The imposing Drill Hall, first used as soldiers&rsquo barracks and later as a commissariat, was built on to the walls of St. Ann&rsquos Fort in 1790. Today, it is the Officers&rsquo Mess, the Sergeants&rsquo Mess and the Corporals&rsquo Mess.

Over the years the Garrison area has expanded and now includes the Savannah as well as some buildings in Bay Street and Hastings. This Savannah is one of Barbados&rsquo most popular recreational areas &ndash for toddlers to octogenarians. Starting before dawn, continuing to well after dusk one sees walkers, joggers, rugby and basketball players, skate board enthusiasts, people flying kites, gossipers, lovers and those who just want to relax and watch the world go by.

Importantly, the Savannah is the home of the Barbados Turf Club whose Grand Stand and surrounds are packed to capacity on Gold Cup day which occurs the first Saturday in March every year. Other race meetings, held during the year, afford pleasant and relaxing occasions to be enjoyed by fans as well as casual onlookers. It was first used as a race track by regimental officers whose horses competed against those of wealthy plantation owners.

There are no facilities for the game of cricket there any more, but it was the venue of the first inter-colonial cricket match in 1860 between Barbados and British Guiana &ndash as Guyana was then named. I don&rsquot have to tell you who won the game! And, it was on this Savannah, in front of thousands of cheering supporters, that young Gary Sobers, the world famous Barbadian cricketer, knelt before Queen Elizabeth II to become Sir Garfield Sobers.

The Main Guard, overlooking the Savannah, is one of the area&rsquos most outstanding buildings architecturally and has a unique George III Coat of Arms, in Coade stone, which was designed specially for this building.

In 1906, the Main Guard was bought locally and converted into the exclusive Savannah Club but is now owned by the Barbados Government and is the headquarters for organisations such as the Barbados Legion and Barbados Poppy League. It has a most imposing clock tower which chimes its way through the day helping those with no time-pieces of their own.

Behind the Drill Hall there is the seashore. During the period November to July it is very popular for wind-surfing, a sport that takes Barbadian competitors all over the world.

Moving north, down Garrison Hill, on to Bay Street, you will pass the Barbados Light & Power building on your left. That was the Commissariat Provision Store at the end of the 18th century but later became the Garrison Theatre. A hundred yards further on there is the Engineers&rsquo Pier which leads to Hilton Barbados built on the old Charles Fort site and bounding on the Barbados Military Cemetery. The latter is situated between the Charles and St. Ann&rsquos forts and came into existence c1780. Burials of ex-servicemen, women and their families have been taking place there ever since.

A few hundred yards on, again on your left, there is the Barbados Yacht Club, formerly Shot Hall, erected in 1810. This was the private residence of the Officer Commanding the Royal Engineers.

Of course there are other imposing Garrison buildings, often built of London brick brought here as ballast, dating back to early days. For example, there is the Stone Barracks, The West India Barracks, and Stafford House and also The Barbados Turf Club offices which were the Military Engineers Officers&rsquo Quarters originally.

Then there is George Washington House, formerly Bush Hill House of Georgian architecture at the top of Bush Hill. This is where its namesake stayed in 1751 &ndash the only place President Washington lived in, outside of the USA.

A visit to the Barbados Museum and Historical Society is a &lsquomust&rsquo. Situated in what was the Military Prison, the Museum showcases the island&rsquos cultural heritage and houses the Shilstone Memorial Library with its research material. There you will find a shop where local crafts, books, etc. are available.

There are some charming buildings, built around the time of the devastating 1831 hurricane, now residential, that were Garrison buildings up to 1905/6. These are on Garrison Road nestled amongst beautiful old trees overlooking the Savannah.

Pass these houses and turn left to travel east along Highway 7. Soon you will see the Pavilion and Pavilion Court, at one time the Surgeon General&rsquos quarters and the Garrison Hospital. Not much further along, turn into St. Matthias Gap and find the beautiful St. Matthias Church. This was the Garrison Church for the British Forces as it is now for the Barbados Defence Force and other military units. There is a very impressive tomb in the graveyard erected in memory of those who died of yellow fever on the H.M.S. Dauntless.

An exploratory visit through the Garrison area can be most rewarding and affords an interesting trip back into the heritage of Barbados.


English Settlers in Barbados

The first English ship to make landfall in Barbados was on May 14, 1625. Because England was the first European nation to make a permanent settlement there (unlike the Portuguese and Spanish, who merely visited and raided the island), the English were able to make a proprietary claim to it, which they did that year. It was not England’s first settlement in the Americas, as permanent settlements had been established at Jamestown in 1607, Bermuda in 1609, and Plymouth in 1620. Though it was not the first settlement, it quickly became the third largest English colony in the Americas.

Also, Barbados was originally owned by a single person, Sir William Courten, a merchant from London. It was he who made a claim to the island and acquired the title to it from the crown. Therefore, the first colonists to live on Barbados were actually Courten’s tenants, and a large portion of the profits of their labor there was given to him and his company.

William Courten maintained ownership of the island until 1639 when his title was transferred to James Hay, the 1st Earl of Carlisle. James Carlisle chose Henrey Hawley as governor of the island, a move made to appease the residents there who might otherwise have opposed his ownership of the island, as it was widely believed among English settlers on Barbados that Carlisle stole the title from Courten.

Between 1640 and 1660, Barbados attracted more than two-thirds of the number of people from England who emigrated to the Americas. There were around 44,000 settlers living there in 1650. This was compared to 12,000 settlers living in Virginia and 23,000 living in New England that same year. The vast majority of English settlers who came to Barbados during this time period were indentured servants who exchanged five years of labor for their ship’s transport fees. They were also given ten pounds in either money or goods upon being granted their freedom. Before the mid-1630s, they also received a few acres of land when they were freed. But, with so many people coming to the island, there was no more free land to grant after this period in Barbados’s history.

When the English Civil War was going on, rebels and criminals were transported to Barbados by the civilian Puritan government in charge of England at the time. When the monarchy was restored, a large number of these rebels were granted land on the North American continent as compensation for their exile to the island. Life on Barbados was hard at this time in history. Parish records from the mid-1600s on Barbados show four times as many deaths as marriages on the island. Residents were continually being replaced by new arrivals.

The main product on Barbados was initially tobacco. However, that was soon relegated to the domain of Virginia and replaced by sugar. Barbados eventually became famous for its sugar production. Its sugar production was so high that by 1660, Barbados was generating more money in trade than all the other English colonies combined, mostly just by trading in sugar. The island was producing 25,000 tons of sugar annually in 1700, as opposed to 20,000 annually for Brazil, 10,000 for the French colonial islands, and 4,000 for the Dutch colonial islands at this time.

Barbados remained much the same as it was during its beginnings during its time as an English colony. The only difference was the abolishment of slavery in the mid-1800’s in the colony, and the eventual phasing out of indentured servitude up into the early 20th century. It continued to produce sugar in large volumes and trade this sugar with the rest of the world. The island was dominated by a little over 100 large sugar plantations, owned by wealthy planters.

In 1966, Barbados negotiated its freedom from the British government and became an independent state that year. Its form of government is a constitutional monarchy, with the British monarch as its titular head of state. It has a prime minister who leads the government and a parliament that is democratically elected and makes government decisions on the island. It also maintains its historical connection to England by being a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. It also developed international connections and status through membership in the United Nations and the Organization of American States.

Barbados has a long history as an English colony, as long as or longer than any other. It still maintains close ties to England today, though it is now an independent nation. It has a rich and varied history going back thousands of years. However, its English associations all began in 1625 and are an important part of the island’s culture to this day.


Barbados , 1651-2

T he Caribbean island of Barbados was discovered by the Portuguese and taken over by Spain in 1492. The Spaniards enslaved and wiped out the native Carib indians but then abandoned Barbados in favour of the larger Caribbean islands. The island was claimed for King James I of England in May 1625 by Captain John Powell. On 17 February 1627, a party of eighty English settlers and ten slaves founded a colony at Holetown (formerly known as Jamestown). The colonists established the Barbadian House of Assembly in 1639. Land was allocated to speculators and within a few years, much of the island had been deforested to make way for tobacco and cotton plantations. During the 1630s, sugar cane was introduced. Sugar became the island's principal industry and Barbados dominated sugar production in the Caribbean until the 18th Century.

At first, labour on the plantations relied upon the indenture of servants, where civilians who wanted to emigrate could do so by signing an agreement to serve a planter in Barbados for a period of five or seven years. To meet further labour demands, convicted criminals and some prisoners from the civil wars were shipped to Barbados as slaves. The white slaves and indentured labourers were known as "redlegs". Their descendants still live on the island. During the 1640s and '50s, planters came to rely increasingly on slave labour from West Africa.

During the civil wars, the colony remained neutral and quietly continued trading with the Netherlands and New England. With the collapse of the King's cause in the British Isles, however, Royalist refugees fled to Barbados. In 1650, Charles II confirmed the appointment of Lord Willoughby of Parham as governor of the island. When Willoughby's appointment was eventually accepted by the Barbadian House of Assembly, the Westminster Parliament passed an act to stop all trade between Barbados and England. Furthermore, the Navigation Act of 1651 attempted to prevent the Dutch from trading with the island.

In 1651, a Commonwealth expeditionary force under the command of General-at-Sea Sir George Ayscue was sent to take control of the island. The squadron comprised seven ships: Ayscue's flagship the Rainbow, the frigate Amity and five armed merchant vessels carrying about 860 men in all. After a diversion to assist Robert Blake in recapturing the Scilly Isles and a fruitless search for Prince Rupert's squadron off the coast of Portugal, Ayscue's expedition arrived off Carlisle Bay in Barbados on 15 October 1651.

On the day after his arrival, Ayscue sent Captain Park in the Amity with three of the armed merchantmen into Carlisle Bay to seize a number of Dutch vessels that were trading with the colony in contravention of the Commonwealth embargo. On 17 October, Ayscue summoned Lord Willoughby to surrender the island. Having mustered a force of 1,000 foot and 400 horse from the island militia, however, Willoughby rejected the summons. Ayscue's forces were too small to attempt an armed landing so he set up a blockade in the hope that the loss of trade would eventually bring the Royalists to terms. The islanders believed a report that Charles II had won the battle of Worcester and held a day of thanksgiving on 7 November for the King's victory. However, Willoughby remained defiant even after Ayscue had sent him a printed account from London of the true outcome of the battle and a letter from Lady Willoughby urging him to surrender.

Ayscue mounted raids on Royalist positions in an attempt to increase the pressure on Willoughby. During the night of 22 November, 200 seamen under the command of Captain Morris, who had led the assault on Tresco during Blake's campaign against the Scilly Isles, came ashore in a surprise attack on the Royalist fort at Holetown. The fort was overrun, its guns spiked and thirty prisoners taken. The Commonwealth landing party got away with no loss to themselves. Ayscue was temporarily reinforced on 1 December when the annual Virginia fleet arrived at Barbados on its way from England. The fleet carried a number of Scottish prisoners taken at the battle of Worcester who were being transported to Virginia as indentured labourers. Ayscue hired 150 Scots to reinforce a party of 400 seamen under Captain Morris for an attack on the fort at Speight's Town. On 7 December, Morris's force landed under cover of darkness but the Royalists were aware of their approach. A force of 1,200 foot and four troops of horse under the command of Colonel Gibbs advanced to meet them. After a brief struggle on the beach, the Royalists fled, apparently believing the Commonwealth force to be stronger than it was. The abandoned fort was plundered of its arms, ammunition and gunpowder. Ayscue reported that 100 Royalists were killed and eighty prisoners taken, for the loss of seven or eight of Morris's men.

Despite the success of the raids, Ayscue lacked the resources for a full-scale invasion of the island, which was defended by around 6,000 militiamen. Ayscue tried to undermine Lord Willoughby's position by treating his Royalist prisoners well then releasing them after giving them an account of the true situation in England. Two were hanged on Willoughby's orders for spreading subversive opinions on the island. Ayscue also established contact with Colonel Thomas Modyford, a moderate among the Barbadian leaders, who realised that the Royalist cause was hopeless. In secret communications with Ayscue, Modyford agreed to contact other moderates and to attempt to put pressure on Willoughby to surrender. However, Modyford's negotiations were discovered. Willoughby and Modyford mobilised militia units loyal to them in preparation for an armed confrontation. Ayscue landed Commonwealth forces near Oistin on the south coast of the island to support Modyford but after some initial skirmishing, a week of heavy rain put a stop to military operations. During the hiatus, Lord Willoughby realised that he had no hope of winning against the Commonwealth in the long run. He surrendered to Ayscue on 11 January 1652 under generous terms. In exchange for surrendering Barbados and acknowledging the sovereignty of the Commonwealth, Willoughby's estates in England were restored to him and he was allowed to keep his property on Barbados. He returned to England in August 1652.

The surrender of Barbados was quickly followed by the submission of the remaining Royalist-held colonies in the Americas. Virginia submitted on 12 March 1652, Maryland and the Bermudas around the end of March.

When Cromwell launched the Western Design against Spanish possessions in the West Indies in 1654, Barbados was regarded as an important staging post for the expedition. It was expected that fresh supplies could be taken on and additional troops levied for the attack on Hispaniola. In the event, Barbadian employers were reluctant to allow their men to join the expedition. Although some 4,000 additional troops were levied, the planter Colonel Harris who was appointed their commander, refused to leave Barbados and the governor Daniel Searle, whom the Council of State had nominated as one of the leaders of the expedition, also refused to go.

After the Restoration, Lord WIlloughby was reappointed to the governorship of Barbados.


Barbados Military History Part 6 Buildings of the Garrison Savannah

Buildings of the Garrison Savannah

The Main Guard is the central point of the Garrisons and looks out on what was once the Parade Ground and now the race track. This structure was erected in 1804 and was used among other things as a court martial with the prisoners being housed in a guard house to the North.

Interesting features are the clock and the coat of arms.

The clock is dated 1803 and was made by Dwerri and Carter of London a noted cock maker. It is thought that the two dials were added later.

The coat of arms is the George the III Coat of Arms. It is unique and was designed especially for this building. It is made of Coad Stone, that is not a stone but a ceramic made to resemble stone. The Formula was invented by a Mrs Elanor Coade in 1779 and its foremost property is its durability. The Coat of arms is dated 1803 and faces directly into the prevailing weather and has withstood 3 major hurricanes. Both King George the III and IV about enthusiastic about Coade Stone and so it is said that perhaps this piece in Barbados may have been commissioned by one of them.

The Veranda and its cast Iron trimmings were added later by Mr Darnley Dacosta who purchased the building in 1906 for the use of a private club "The Savannah Club". The building was later purchased by the Government in 1989 and renamed the Main Guard

2 Ordnance or Royal Artillery, Barracks (Stanford House.

This building was built in 1812, when gunners were no longer required it was used to house the military band before being first turned into apartment and then commercial units


As one could imagine, early settlers to the island of Barbados needed to find a way to defend themselves should the need arise. Once you were in good shape, you were expected to serve even if you were a free coloured man.

The militia included three regiments of calvary and six of infantry as well as a troop of Horse Guards in attendance on the Governor in the mid 18th century. A system of militia tenants came into fruition where plantations gave plots of a few acres to men who paid no rent but were obliged to serve in the militia instead. In 1839, the system was abandoned and the militia tenants formed a considerable part of the poor white population. A few free coloureds also served as militia tenants.

Barbados had a huge advantage with regards to resistance from attack as they were shielded by the difficulty sailing ships encountered when going against the wind. Admiral de Rutyer commanded a Dutch force that entered Carlisle Bay in 1665 but subsequently pulled out when the flagship was exposed to some measure of damaged by fire from the shore batteries and an American privateer fired a few shots at Speightstown in the War of Independence. Up until a German submarine torpedoed a Canadian merchant ship in Carlisle Bay in 1942, these were the only two occasions that foreign attacks came about on Barbados' territorial waters. Nevertheless, the possibility of an attack was always prevalent in the minds of the authorities and so from the earliest days, Barbados had a military force in place. One of the functions of the military in Barbados was to man the chain of forts which extended from the south of the island along the West Coast to the northern tip. The militia also contributed to ensuring that the slave population was kept in repression. It assisted with actioning restrictive freedom measures following the discovery of escape plots by slaves in the 17th century and together with the other troops strategically based on the island, it was able to conquer the 1816 Slave Rebellion.

British men-of-war visited Barbados quite often as their troops were sent to the island from periodically in the war. However, it wasn't until 1780 that Britain maintained a garrison here and not until the Napoleonic war that Barbados had a naval establishment. Rodney and Nelson are two British naval commanders whose names are vividly remembered in the West Indies despite the fact that neither had any close connection with Barbados.

Barbados may have well been easily saved from the occupation of the French as a result of Rodney's victory over the French Admiral de Grasse at the battle of the Saints in 1782. Nelson was based for several years on English Harbour, Antigua and called at Barbados in 1805 in the course of his futile pursuit of the French Admiral Villenuve. Due to the fact that he was a frequent visitor to Barbados and because the fleet under his command seemed to be all that stood in the way of the French attack, Nelson's death riveted through Barbados and so the island erected a statue of him that still stands in Heroes Square in Bridgetown.

The British garrison in Barbados was quartered in buildings erected for it close to St. Ann's Fort on the outskirts of Bridgetown. Built mostly of brick that was bought from England and sited around a large open space that is now a race track, the buildings form an entity that is one of the finest architectural treasures of the island. The buildings were in full use until the British garrison was withdrawn in 1905. At Gun Hill in the parish of St. George, the army had a rest camp where soldiers could convalesce after the bouts of illness that were all too frequent in the early part of the nineteenth century.

After Emancipation

The sole purpose for the militia was lost by the end of the 1860s after the introduction of the Police to Barbados. The withdrawal of the imperial forces led to the formation of the Barbados Volunteer Force, which came into being in July 1902.

During World War I, the Barbados Volunteer Force was mainly concerned with the defence of the island but had to called out during the 1937 riots.

In 1942 the Volunteers became part of the Barbados Battalion South Caribbean Force. The First Battalion Caribbean Regiment was also formed and after training in the US, the Barbadians and other West Indians in the Caribbean saw service in the Mediterranean including Egypt and Italy.

The Barbados Battalion of the Caribbean Regiment was disbanded in 1947. In 1948, the Volunteer Force was resuscitated and renamed the Barbados Regiment. The Queen's Colour and the Regimental Colour were presented to the Regiment by Her Royal Highness The Prince Royal in 1953 and the Regimental Colour was trooped for the first time in 1957. Another Trooping of the Colour marked the 21st Anniversary of Independence in Barbados. Women were enlisted in the Regiment for the first time in 1974.

The Barbados Defence Force was formally established in 1978 as a full-time organisation. The Barbados Regiment continues to exist as the volunteer reserve fo the Defence Force. The Defence Force also includes the Coast Guard which was originally established as a separate body in 1974. A contingent of the Barbados Defence Force went to Grenada as part of the intervention in 1983 United Stated led intervention in Grenada.

Barbados is the Headquarters of the Regional Security System which was established in 1982 through a Memorandum of Understanding between Barbados and four OECS countries to provide for 'mutual assistance on request'.

The US Naval base was based near Harrison Point in St. Lucy but after the lease was due to expire after Barbados became independent, the Barbados Government declined to renew the agreement. The base was subsequently taken over in the late 1970s by the Barbados Defence Force and later used in the Barbados Youth Service programme.


Barbados Military History Part 7 World War 1 The Volunteer Force & The Wireless Station

The Barbados Volunteer Force

The Barbados Volunteer Force was formed on the 2nd of July 1902. It consisted of an infantry force of 50 members. The last British Regiment would have pulled out in 1905 and the BVF would have taken over the responsibilities of Defence.

During the World War many Barbadians Volunteered for service with the British and Canadian Military abroad. Many of these from the BVF. In 1925 a Cenotaph was erected in Heroes Square listing the names of the Barbadians who gave their lives in the war. Since then every year these men are remembered on Remembrance Day.

When I was born my Great Great Aunt Tantie was still alive and I have been told so many stories about her. One of which is about how many of her friend went to war and died in the War. She also worked with the Barbados Women's Auxiliary League aiding the War efforts.

The British West Indies Regiment

Also during the war a regiment called the British West Indies Regiment was raised from volunteers all over the Caribbean, including Barbados, and saw service in France, Italy and the Middle East. This regiment was disbanded at the end of the war.

The Barbados Wireless Station

In 1914 at the outbreak of the war Barbados had no wireless communication with the outside world but that was about to change. Members of the BVF came together and decided to erect one. The mast was erected and the station built in St Anns Fort. Initially the distances transmitted and received were short by by the end of WW1 the station transmitted up to 220 miles and received up to 400.

Between WW1 and WW2 the BVF continued with its training. In 199 at the start of WW2 it was embodied as the Barbados Battalion of the South Caribbean Forces.


The main purposes of the signal stations across Barbados was to warn of approaching ships, cane fires and also slave rebellions on the island. After the slave rebellion of 1816, plantation owners became somewhat paralysed by fear and this actioned greater emphasis for safety. As a result, by approximately 1818, a total of six (6) signal stations were erected all across Barbados.

They were Highgate in Wildey, St. Michael, Gun Hill in St. George, Moncrieffe in St. Philip, Cotton Tower in St. Joseph, Grenade Hall and Dover Fort in St. Peter. By 1870, the island of Barbados saw an additional five (5) erected around the Bridgetown area. They were Commercial Hall (current site of Carlisle Car Park), Queen's House, Government House, Central Police Stations and Needham's Point.

These strategically placed signal stations across Barbados were tall enough to command an extensive view of the island's relatively flat landscape and another full view of the ocean. By so doing, the plantation owners were able to physically scan the land between each signal station and communicate with each other via signal fires and semaphore.

The specific signals that might have been used in the instance of a slave rebellion are unknown. Other signals which could have been secret, have not been recorded.

The Flag Method

Based on the height of the signal stations across Barbados, messages were sent via flags of all shapes, colours and combinations. Of significant importance as well, was the height at which these flags were raised as each level carried a different signal meaning.

The main connection among these signal stations took place on the top floor as they usually had holes in the walls that were directed towards the other signal stations. This method made it easier for signalmen to find their exact position throughout the island. If lights were used at night, these holes came in quite handy.

The Semaphore Method

Semaphores are a system of conveying information by changing the position of a flag, light, etc.

With the emergence of the telephone in 1883, the presence of signal stations across Barbados dwindled as this method of communication was not as prevalent as before. The last signal station in Barbados was closed in 1887.

What was once used as vantage points for security and safety are now readily used as vantage points for Barbadians and locals to absorb the absolute beauty that the island of Barbados has to offer.


Watch the video: Top 10 Barbados Military Ranks and Insignia