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Regiment’s War Babes celebrate golden jubilee
Members of the first intake of the T&T Regiment will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of their recruitment next week. The week of activities takes place March 3-7. The organising committee includes retired soldiers Capt Randy McCollin, Sgt Major Mervyn De Souza and Rommel Blackman.
All three reported to the then US Naval Base in Chaguaramas on March 4, 1963, after being recruited to the first battalion of the T&T Regiment nearly six months after Independence. During an interview at the T&T Guardian offices on Wednesday, Blackman said he was proud to have been a soldier in such a historic regiment. “We all felt that we could make a great contribution to T&T. We were all patriotic and our first priority was serving the country.”
Blackman shared some of his experiences in the regiment which included four platoons named after local icons such as Sir Ellis Clarke, Sir Learie Constantine, Capt Cipriani and Andrew Rose. “We were green when we joined the regiment. What we remember most is that a couple of days after we received our kit they woke us up at about three o’clock in the morning. None of us knew what it was about and we were kind of scared.”
“They hustled us onto trucks with no money, no nothing and dropped us in the middle of the Savannah and told us to reach Mayaro however we could. We had nothing at all but we all reached Mayaro at the appointed time.”
At the time, there were only two local officers training the recruits, Lt Ralph Brown and Lt Eddy Halfide, according to Blackman. Other officials were British.
Blackman said one of the battalion’s first assignment was a clean-up after Hurricane Flora hit Tobago in September 1963. He said the young soldiers were proud to assist in repairing the affected areas. According to Blackman, several of the recruits went on to become sergeants and majors.
Carlton Alfred Alfonso also went on to become a brigadier. Washington-DC radio host and cultural activist Von Martin was also a member of the first battalion. The members of the regiment were referred to as the War Babies since most were born during the period of World War II (1939-1945).
“We were the pioneers of what is known as the Defence Force today and I must highlight the invaluable contribution that we made in that many members were trained by us and they went on to train others,” said Blackman.
This is the third reunion the first regiment is hosting. Minister of National Security Jack Warner, chief of defence staff Kenrick Maharaj and vice-chief of defence staff Anthony Phillips-Spencer are expected to attend.
Family and friends of the War Babies are invited to the events as well as members of the current Defence Force.
If you would like to attend, please e-mail Randy McCollin at [email protected] or call Rommel Blackman at 712-2363.
War Babies Golden Anniversary Commemoration activities:
Sunday, March 3
10 am church service at All Saints Cathedral, Queen’s Park West, Port-of-Spain
After service, brunch at the Royal Air Force Association headquarters, Queen’s Park East, Port-of-Spain
Tuesday, March 5
5 pm Dinner and dance at the Teteron Barracks. Transport provided from Camp Ogden
Thursday, March 7
9.30 am Tour of two military camps (Starting point TBA)
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