It was 38 years ago on May 10, 1980 when the Royal Bahamas Defence Force patrol craft HMBS Flamingo was attacked and sunk by Cuban MIG jet fighters near Ragged Island. Four Marines lost their lives in that ordeal. Fifteen Officers and Marines survived that tragedy.
On Friday past, 4 of those survivors, who have since retired from the Defence Force, were invited to HMBS Coral Harbour and spoke candidly with the Defence Force recruits about the events of that fateful day.
Senior Commander Amos Rolle, the former Commanding Officer of HMBS Flamingo, as well as Captain Anthony Allens, Force Chief Petty Officer Gregory Curry and Chief Petty Officer Anthony Russell shared some of the details of one the most historic day in the country and the Royal Bahamas Defence Force. Although they all shared different aspects of the event, these four brave men had one common message.
“If I had a chance to do it all again, I would”, said Senior Commander Rolle, the Commanding Officer of the craft. “As a young force, we were not equipped with the arsenals to fight the MIG jets, but it is my duty and honor to serve and defend my country”.
“Being a Defence Force Officer or Marine is not just a job, but we are here to guard our heritage”, said Captain Allens, who served as the Executive Officer on the ship.
Force Chief Petty Officer Curry, a technician aboard Flamingo at the time and now a lecturer at the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute, lamented that if he had not survived, his 3 sons would not be here today contributing to society in their various fields of law and medicine. He concluded his presentation by echoing the words “We will never forget”.
“Once you go through an ordeal, the best way to get through it is to stick with it – Determination and Perseverance”, said Chief Petty Officer Russell. “I wish to personally thank Senior Commander Amos for his bravery. He was the last to leave the ship before it sank”.
The 112 recruits from New Entry 55 Woman Entry 24 listened intently as the men told of their ordeal and the fight for survival, as the Cuban MIG jet fighters and helicopters continued the assault on the men and also the residents of Ragged Island.
Commander Defence Force, Commodore Tellis Bethel thanked the men for their indebted service to the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, and for sharing their wealth of knowledge to the Defence Force’s newest entrants. He also commended Senior Lieutenant Origin Deleveaux and the Training Department for hosting the event.
Two of the new recruits ended the session by singing a tribute song to the men of HMBS Flamingo, after which a token of appreciation was presented to the 4 survivors
The survivors reminded the recruits that their membership in the Defence Force is a voluntary one, and that their paths will include some inherent risks, but nevertheless, should take pride in guarding our heritage.
The words and knowledge shared also seemed to make a valuable impression as recruits were able to ask personal questions of the survivors and to say ‘thank you’ for their service and sacrifice.
This coming May 10, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force will officially observe its Annual Flamingo Ceremony at the Coral Harbour Base at 8:30 a.m. This tradition serves as a reminder of the sacrifices made by the crew of HMBS Flamingo.