Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Barbados Military History Part 5: The Garrison Historic Area Part 3

By the end of the 18th century all the wars and talk of war in the Caribbean had ceased the British Government questioned the need for military forces in the West Indies and they contemplated removing them. In 1894 the Secretary of State for the colonies the Earl of Rippon contacted the colonial governments with proposals to dispose of Military property that was no longer required.

In 1905 Governor Gilbert Carter was notified of the British Governments plans to remove the British troops from the Island in the near future. The British government on the removal of the troops provided protection to the islands via a fast naval cruiser permanently stationed in the region and a naval squadron would visit every winter.

With the removal of the troops also came the end of the £80,000 that helped to support the local economy. The House of Assembly wrote King Edward the VII expressing their regret at the British Governments decision but the British government decision was irrevocable.

In November 1905 the last British troops remaining in the Garrison sailed away followed in January 1906 by the 1st West Indian regiment. Only a few staff officers remained to wind up departmental affairs.

During the coarse of the British Government disposing of the military properties they had once occupied they handed back over to the Barbados Government the military installations that belonged to them These included: Charles Fort, st Ann's Fort, Gun Hill &The Barracks at the North face of St Ann's Fort. The Barracks were then fixed up and partially used as a gymnasium for the Barbados Volunteer Force and rooms downstairs were allocated for the Police Force.

The Barbados Government bought Queens House and after leasing the Savannah they bought it outright in 1912 with the agreement that it be kept as an open space available for military exercises. They also bought the military prison  and the neighbouring married women's barracks but these were later demolished to build the Garrison secondary school. The Iron Barracks and Stone Barracks also belong to the Barbados Government.

All that is left of the Naval Dockyard is one small building on the Mobil oil compound. The site of the Naval Hospital is now the Navy Gardens residential area and the garrison Chapel. The Military Hospital was turned into residential apartments and is called Pavilion Court. The Main Guard was purchased privately in 1906 and was called the Savannah Club but was later purchased by the Barbados Government in 1989 and the name was reverted to the original title of the Main Guard.

The glory days of the Garrison may be long over but that does not mean that shadows of her past do not linger. One can almost imagine the troops practicing drills on the field and a your George Washington watching on with great interest. Today there is still life at the garrison especially on racing days as the old Savannah has been turned into the islands race horse track. With races being organized by the Barbados Turf Club

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