A Tribute to Old Soldiers – 50th Anniversary of the Guyana Defence Force – By Major General (retd) Joseph G Singh

A Tribute to Old Soldiers on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Guyana Defence Force

By Major General (retd) Joseph G Singh

(Former Chief of Staff 1990-2000)

On Sunday, November 1st, 2015 the Guyana Defence Force will be observing its 50th Anniversary. It will be a time for giving thanks, for reminiscing among old soldiers about their experiences in the bases, barracks, bashas, bunkers and bars. It will be a time of celebration and exhortation by the leadership of the Force and the Commander in Chief, himself an old soldier.

It will also be a suitable occasion to remember those comrades-in-arms who, if they have not already transitioned, are generally out of the limelight- either overseas or at home, unmindful of the glitz and military pomp and ceremony, when all focus of attention understandably, will be on the podium, the speeches, the saluting dais and the displays.   

The Comrades-in- Arms to whom I refer are the Other Ranks: the Warrant Officers, the Senior and Junior Non- Commissioned Officers and the Private Soldiers, who serve under the command of commissioned officers, and without whom the mission of the Force could not be executed.

For those of us who were recruited by the British Army-led selection process to be officers in the Guyana Defence Force in the formative years of the mid-1960s, it was a privilege and an honour to serve alongside the Other Ranks. In the formalities of military protocol, they were our functional subordinates but over time, became our comrades-in-arms, and after retirement, the relationships evolved into lifelong friendships and membership of our extended families, cemented by the Ex-GDF and Veteran’s Associations. Many of us are, who we are today,largely because our careers were enhanced by the dedication, commitment and loyalty we enjoyed from those whom we were duty bound to lead and who were prepared to lay down their lives for their country and their friends.

During this month of commemoration, when we also observe Remembrance Day and Veterans’ Day, I wish to pay tribute to those for whom the Guyana Defence Force was their home and their family – not that they loved their biological families any less but because their whole routine, their careers and their lives were unconditionally dedicated to the pursuit of the mission of the Guyana Defence Force. In such circumstances, camaraderie and  comradeship thrived and the elements of trust, of team spirit – esprit de corps, as reflected in  the mantras – “All for One and One for All”, “It’s not the Body but the Mind!”,  became ingrained in the mind set of all.

As young officers, we were completely dependent on the abilities, resourcefulness, creativity and resilience of our Other Ranks for the successful execution of operations, field tactical exercises, military sports and games and fitness for role inspections. Man management, Morale and Maintenance of the Aim were some of the aspects on which officers’ performances were assessed. Critical to the success of all of these, was the extent to which Other Ranks were responsive to the leadership we provided. A true test of such a relationship was when an officer made an error of judgement on the Parade Square or in the Field but the Other Ranks knew the correct drill or maneuver from their training and experience and compensated for the error, to the extent that it ‘saved the day’.

Many of those who served from the 1965 period have migrated or have transitioned to the great Parade Square in Eternity. We have a saying that “Old Soldiers neverdie, nor do they fade Away”, because the memories live on and become the folklore and legends that are kept alive during the reunions and the commemorative activities, and at the funeral services.

In my Foreword to the book ‘The Mataruki Trail’, which I edited and published in 2004 from the manuscript of Captain C. Arthur Hudson, MBE, Royal Engineers, based on his account of the British Guiana – Brazil Boundary Commission 1929-1939 (including the fixing of the Brazil, Suriname and Guyana Tri- Junction Point at Farogle’s Rock, the East Kutari source of the Corentyne River), I wrote:

“Arthur Hudson’s account is a fascinating record of the planning and extensive logistics that had to be undertaken in order to support the painstaking surveys executed under stressful conditions. It acknowledges the hardiness, courage, and sacrifice of these field teams comprising surveyors, foremen, droghers, labourers, boat captains, crews, wireless operators and the legendary Colonel Art Williams. And it describes the trailblazing, watermanship and aviation skills involved in these epic journeys through the mountains, rivers, forests and watersheds and captures memorable episodes of the history, culture and folklore of the 1930s in British Guiana.

Viewed from an aircraft, Guyana’s hinterland with its rich diversity in ecosystems, portrays hauntingly beautiful landscapes. But on the ground, these convert to mostly rugged terrain which, when combined with adverse weather conditions, can exact a heavy toll on those human beings who dare to experience physically and mentally its uniqueness and mostly pristine environment, or those others whose work as surveyors, geologists, foresters, explorers, scientists and soldiers, forces them to pit their skills in confronting harsh terrain, turbulent waters and poor weather conditions. The experiences recounted in this book of such 1930s pioneers as Trailblazer Baldwin, Boat Captain Pequeno and Aviator Colonel Art Williams, have given inspiration  to those of my generation , who from the late 1960s, in defence of Guyana’s borders, have had to contend with many of the challenges in the hinterland such as those related in Arthur Hudson’s account. My generation can also point to its heroes in Mountaineer Isaac Jerry, M.S., Boat Captain Levans M.S., and Aviator Captain Roland DaSilva C.C.V.”

I can highlight a few names randomly of Other Ranks from the 1960s and early 70swhom Old Soldiers will fondly recall  and in remembering, they will come up with names of other stalwarts: Caterers such as  James Hamer, Carew, Newton, Drakes, Warren and  Johnson, and  females – Rose and Parker;  Drivers – Benjie Newark, the Smiths, Dalgetty,  Rakeeb, Chand, Hart, Fernandes, Hoppie, Scipio and Mounter;  Expert hinterland Boatmen – Johnson and Naraine; Wireless Operators –  Martindale and Hector Stoute; Reconnaissance Platoon Trackers – Adrian and Simon, Schuman and Clenkian and  Joel Simmons; Paratroop Jumpmasters –  Cornel Millington and Joey Walcott; Military Bandsmen – Ron Bennett, David, Haynes and Johnny Douglas and female musician – Rose Wood; Military Policemen – Scantlebury and Rokko George; Pay Office Staff –  Chetram and Davis, Rodney  and Chattergoon; Stores Staff – Bharat and Kishun; Registry Staff – Eversley, Maggie Arthur and Lorraine Glasgow; Medical Personnel – ‘Two Shake’ Glasgow and Woolworth; Welfare’s Angie Duncan; Intelligence, Operations &Training staff –Baker and Bharat, Mc Kenzie and Primo, Nichols and Sutton, Richard Cummings and Hartley Liverpool, Khan and Khaleel, Stuart and Nedd,  Winter and Glasgow, Garth Angoy, Veerapen, Panday and Meloquina Williams; the ‘Q’ men –Deomangal and Davey,  Isaacs and Baldy King, Chetram and Washington, Coast Guard’s’ Palawalwa’ St Louis and Brown, our orderlies/runners – Rodney and Grenada, Frank and Freeman, and that ‘virtual’ name that lives on in our institutional memory and is revived at the reunion sing along –‘John A Raghu’.

So, as we observe and celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Guyana Defence Force with Operation Greenheart, Trooping of the Colours, Military Tattoo, and Military Command Competition, let us remember and honour the Other Ranks on whose shoulders the traditions of selfless service were purposefully carried, and encourage the modern day soldier and those of the future, to emulate those stalwarts of yesteryear.

In concluding this Tribute, I am reminded of the ODE of Remembrance taken from Lawrence Binyon’s poem: ‘For the Fallen’:

“Age shall not weary them.

At the going down of the sun

And in the morning

We shall remember them.”


Yours sincerely

Joseph G Singh

Major General (retd)

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  • Cliff Simon  On October 30, 2015 at 9:18 pm

    Well written Maj.Gen.,however ,at some point during the celebrations ,I would like u to give some recognition to the first two buglers who ‘transferred ‘ to the G.D.F.from the Volunteer force long before the formation of the G.D.F. military band,corporals Bamfield & Simon .As a matter of fact ,there’s a nickle-plated bugle which was won by corporal Simon at a bugler’s competition that’s on display in one of the messes ,it has his name engraved on it !

  • Eddie  On October 31, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    How about Rambali Hinds? Thought he should be mentioned as an Old Warrior.

    And TP John. Fighting all those fires in GT.

  • Desmond Compton Serrao  On May 17, 2019 at 10:44 am

    I have great respect for major General Joe Singh. He has always maintained his military bearing. I also would like to shout out to Cdr Atherley with whom I spent 3 months of rigorous training which in itself is responsible for my success in civilian life. I would personally like to thank him for the grueling training that I received on his cadet course. I should also take this opportunity to say hello to President Granger. In my time he was base commander of camp Ayangana. I knew that he had special qualities as not only a soldier but great communicative skills. Thank you.
    Desmond Compton Serräo

  • wally n  On May 17, 2019 at 2:38 pm

    Captain Rouchie Adams of the GDF Maritime Command my best friend for many years, an inspiration to young mariners at THD and the GDF, miss him. RIP

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