|BACK The Bermuda Militia Artillery,
-able and overwhelming fire.
Fortunately, the Central Powers lacked the naval strength to project a threat to the colony, and, after the Battle of Jutland, the German High Seas Fleet never attempted to challenge the Royal Navy's command of the Atlantic ( although the German Navy's submarines were somewhat more succesful in their attacks on Britain's oceanic commerce).
Mobilized at the start of the Great War, the colony's volunteers found themselves in the trying position of having to maintain their civil employment, so as to maintain the Colony's economy and infrastructure, while also fulfiling their war-time roles within the Garrison.
Conscription was mooted towards the War's end, but never introduced, the local forces continuing to rely solely on volunteers throughout. This was perhaps less trying for the BMA than for the BVRC. The BMA having remained consistently nearer its manpower since inception. This may have been due to the steady reduction of the Coastal Artillery from their inception, lowering the numbers needed to stay efficient. The 22 pieces in service in 1910 were already reduced to 13 by the start of the War.
The BMA must have had some excess manpower, as they were utilized, not only within the battery, but in construction work on the defences, and working on the wharfs in Saint George's.
When it was decided to raise a first contingent to be detached for service at the Front, the number of volunteers raised was larger than the BVRC's two contingents together. This was to be the first of two contingents the BMA would also send to the Front, and wass composed of three officers and 196 other ranks (although the BMA recruited among the Colony's Black population, commissions were restricted to Whites).. Many men had enlisted specifically for the Front when a recruitment drive had begun before Christmas, 1915. The contingent was embodied on the 10th. January, 1916, and began training at Saint David's.
The commanding officer of the BMA at the time was Major Thomas Melvile Dill. A Member of the Colonial Parliament from 1904 to 1938, he had begun his military service in 1895, in the ranks of the BVRC, achieving a commission before transferring to the BMA in 1900.
Handing his command over to Captain F.S.H. Outerbridge, Major Dill left with the Contingent on 31 May, 1916, arriving in France in June. The Contingent was immediately posted to the Front as part a draft sent by the larger Royal Garrison Artillery.
At that time, the Royal Regiment of Artillery broke down into several major divisions: Those wearing the RA ('Royal Artillery') titles were primarily clerks and involved in ammunition supply. The Royal Field Artillery (RFA), and the Royal Horse Artillery (RHA,) both operated field gun batteries. The Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA) encompassed the Coastal Artillery troops, and was responsible for the railway guns used at the Front.Unlike the other divisions, the RGA was underused during the War, with most never having the opportunity to fire a shot in anger. Consequently, like other under-utilized units, they raised detachments to be used where they were needed (likewise, many who had joined the Royal Navy, thinking to avoid the trenches, found themselves armed with rifles and, as the Royal Naval Division,fighting on the Front lines of France and Turkey).
At the Front, the RGA took on considerable responsibility for ammunition supply to the guns in the field.
From June to December, 1916, the Contingent found itself at the Somme, working in the ammunition dumps, upplying the field guns and howitzers. They were joined, the following year, by a Second Contingent of 2 officers and 56 men.
They would serve at Vimy Ridge, subsequently working closely with the Canadian Corps. On the 23rd. May, 1917, they were moved to Messines. On the 24th. June, they went to the Ypres Salient, remaining there 'til the 22nd. October, 1917. In January, 1918, they were sent to Normandy for a rest, but were soon back at the Front.
During most of their time in France, the Islanders were split up in detachments, serving at different locations. The largest number ever to serve together at one place and time was at the Ypres Salient, where Major Dill had 240 men.
There, they found themselves under German balloon observation, and, frequently, under fire, losing two Gunners, Swan and Place, there.
The Bermudians were popular with the supply officers for their fitness and industriousness. It was said that they were able, by lifting ammunition into lorries by hand, rather than with devices as was the norm, to greatly speed the supply of ammunition to the guns.
Although serving behind the trenches, the Artillery troops would not infrequently come under enemy small arms and artillery fire, and aerial bombardment. Together with the diseases that ravaged both sides, this was to cost them ten men, killed or died.
Members of the contingents would earn one Military Cross, one MSM, and two Military Medals.
In 1917, Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig, the Commander-in-Chief in France, wrote his own commendation of the Contingents' , praising their gallantry and devotion to duty.
On tha Armistice, the Bermudians were stationed near to the Belgian border. Major Dill had left the field on leave on 6th. October, 1918, returning to Bermuda. Arriving in December, he was greeted at the dock by dignitaries and well-wishers. He was given an apology for the failure of a Guard of Honour to meet him, owing to 'the breaking-up of the BMA'.This must have meant a return to the peacetime schedule of soldiering on the odd week-night, rather than de-mobilization, as the unit was to continue in existence for another 46 years.
BETWEEN THE WARS
Between the wars the coastal artillery defences continued to be reduced. The regular artillery troops were finally withdrawn, and all of the 9" guns were inactive by 1935. So to were most of the 6"guns, leaving only the two at Saint Davidd's Battery operational, though four at the HM Dockyard remained in a somewhat servicible condition, despite their lack of crews.
The BVRC was reorganized along the lines of the Territorial Army, and this presumably was the case for the BMA, also. A new unit was created: the Bermuda Volunteer Engineers (some accounts say this was reorganized from the volunteer Sappers and Miners who had been created to tend to the Colony's submarine defence mines. These were defunct by then, and it was decidedd to create an electric light unit to operate spotlamps. The BVEs would provide spot-lamps and crews to work with the BMA at Saint David's Battery, illuminating targets for night-time firing.
With the rapid build-up towards the Second World War, it was decided to add a second, two-piece battery, located on a hill top, overlooking the South Shore beaches, within Warwick Camp. There was always some fear that an enemy might be landed here by crossing the reefline in small boats, but the main concern was to keep enemy vessels from coming near enough to the South Shore to bombard the HM Dockyard.
The realization that a new war was inevitable was late blooming, and the construction of this new battery only begun in early 1939.
THE SECOND WORLD WAR