British Regiments in British Guiana

British regiments in British Guiana

By David Granger

Radicals regarded it as their ritual duty to yell “Limey go home” on encountering British soldiers in British Guiana in October 1953, fifty-five years ago. Under the governorship of Sir Alfred Savage, the soldiers were reviled as invaders. But the regiments were replenished and replaced almost continuously up to and beyond independence in 1966. By that time, they came to be seen by some as saviours.

After the troops’ arrival, the premier Dr. Cheddi Jagan wrote a long letter to the governor Sir Ralph Grey in June 1963 asking for them to be deployed on the street.  “It is my definite impression that the very presence of the British Army is likely to have a sobering effect on those who are determined to act as hooligans and barbarians, injure and maim innocent people, start racial warfare, pose a serious threat to law and order and overthrow the constitutionally elected government,”  the premier pleaded. Perceptions had certainly changed from 1953 to 1963.

20081102_march

The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders on parade in Georgetown in 1954

The 1950s were dangerous times. Weakened by the Second World War, Great Britain had to cope with the huge loss of India and other parts of its eastern empire; the Cold War confrontation with the USSR in Central Europe; the waging of the Korean War in East Asia; and the eruption of riots, rebellions and terrorism in its Mediterranean, Middle East, African and Caribbean territories. Trying to avert impending imperial implosion, the British army was stretched to its limits. In this situation, the broadcast by British Guiana’s Governor Sir Alfred Savage on Radio Demerara on October 9, 1953 announcing, “At this moment the Navy and Army are here in sufficient force to cope with any emergency that may arise and the forces are widely distributed throughout the country” was the first that most Guianese heard about the arrival of British troops. At the time they landed, the situation was peaceful.      ….

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Comments

  • Uncle Francis  On 05/24/2010 at 2:45 am

    That wooden house in the background is the responsibility of the Guyana Police Force…an Assistant Commissioner resided there for many years…he vaccated in October 2008…the building was recently rehabilitated…can’t say if it is now being occupied. By-the-way, we soldiers could march better.

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