Prospect Camp, Bermuda

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Prospect Camp
Devonshire Parish, Bermuda
Presentation of Colours at Prospect Camp in Bermuda.jpg
Presentation of colours at Prospect Camp
Type Military base
Site information
Controlled by British Army
Site history
Built circa 1850
In use 1850s-1957
Garrison information
Garrison Bermuda Garrison

Prospect Camp, also referred to as Prospect Garrison, was the main infantry camp of the Bermuda Garrison. It also contained a fort, Prospect Fort, manned by the Royal Garrison Artillery. It passed to the local government when the garrison was withdrawn in 1957.

History[edit]

Military in Bermuda prior to the development of Prospect Camp[edit]

The Bermuda Garrison was built up from the 1790s onwards, paralleling the development of the Royal Navy facilities in Bermuda. Following US independence, which cost the Royal Navy all of its continental bases between the Maritimes and Florida (which would also pass to the USA), Bermuda, located 640 miles off of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, became very important to the Royal Navy, which began buying up tracts of land around the colony. Although the West End had been identified immediately as the ideal location for a dockyard and naval base, no passage through the encircling reefs large enogh to allow ships-of-the-line to access the West end, the Great Sound, and Hamilton Harbour was then known. The navy spent a dozen years charting the reefs around Bermuda in search of a passage. Meanwhile, it concentrated its establishment in St. George's Harbour, buying land in and around St. George's Town.

With most of the military fortifications built previously by the militia already clustered around the East End, as well, the British Army built up a large garrison, with headquarters and barracks, to the North of the town. Many forts, batteries and other smaller sites were scattered about Bermuda, but most of the army's manpower was in St. George's Garrison.

Development of Prospect Camp[edit]

By 1812, the navy was developing its new Dockyard at the West End, on Ireland Island, and the new town of Hamilton, located in the central parishes, and to which the colony's capital moved from St. George's in 1815, was achieving increasing prominence thanks to the same channel which allowed development of the Dockyard. It became necessary to redeploy much of the military force in Bermuda westward, nearer to the new capital and the Dockyard. Consequently, in the middle of the 19th Century, the army purchased land on White Hill in Devonshire, and began the development of a large camp, with barracks to house the bulk of the infantry soldiers in Bermuda. Called Prospect Camp, it contained the headquarters of Bermuda's military garrison, barracks, parade grounds, training areas, and a fort, Prospect Fort, manned by the Royal Garrison Artillery (this was one of three forts whose coastal artillery was intended complement each other's with to overlapping fire, the others being Fort Hamilton and Fort Langton).

Although Prospect Camp had extensive areas for training, it was surrounded by public roads and residential areas, and had no safe area for a rifle range. Consequently, a second camp, Warwick Camp, was added primarily to provide rifle ranges to the soldiers of the Garrison, and the Dockyard's own Royal Marine detachment (and those of the ships stationed there). Warwick Camp had no units permanently assigned to it, however, with the different units deploying there specifically for periods of training. Various other smaller sites were used by the Army over the history of the garrison. These included the Watford Island and the southern half of Boaz Island, both part of the Admiralty land holdings attached to the HM Dockyard, where Clarence Barracks housed a considerable number of soldiers.

Use of Prospect Camp[edit]

3rd Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment on parade at Prospect Camp, circa 1902.

Through much of the 19th Century, a full battalion of infantry soldiers was based in Bermuda, along with various artillery, engineer, and other support units. By the 1860s, financial constraints, and the intention to redeploy more of the British Army in Britain to guard against invasion, and to compose what would come to be known as the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), meant the garrison in Bermuda was scheduled for reduction. With Bermuda remaining an important naval base, however, the regular soldiers were obliged to remain in full strength for many years, 'til the Government of Bermuda could be induced to raise part-time units, the Bermuda Militia Artillery and the Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps, to take on part of the responsibilities of the garrison. From then on, the regular soldiers in Bermuda were slowly whittled away. Between the two world wars, the regular Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers were withdrawn completely, handing their responsibilities entirely to the BMA and the Bermuda Volunteer Engineers. Although regular infantry soldiers remained, Bermuda no longer had a full garrison, and only a detached company was posted to Prospect Camp. As a new battalion deployed to Jamaica, it detached a company in Bermuda along the way.

During the Second World War, in addition to housing the headquarters and the regular infantry,the camp was also used for training overseas contingents from the part-time units (which had been embodied on a full-time basis for the duration of the war). The First Contingent of the BVRC, which left Bermuda to join the Lincolnshire Regiment in England, trained at Prospect Camp, along with several volunteers from the BMA and BVE who travelled with them to England, before detaching to join their larger corps. In 1943 Prospect Camp housed the Training Battalion, a temporary force composed of volunteers from the BVRC, the BMA and the Bermuda Militia Infantry, to train for deployment overseas. The battalion then split into two contingents; the Second Contingent of the BVRC which joined the Lincolnshire Regiment in Britain, and the Bermuda Militia contribution to the new Caribbean Regiment, for which it provided the Training Cadre, which was raised in North Carolina.

Withdrawal of Garrison and Closure of Prospect Camp[edit]

The Guard House at Prospect Camp, Devonshire, Bermuda in 2011

In 1951 it was announced that the Royal Navy's dockyard would be closed, a process that stretched throughout the 1950s, and left only a reduced resupply base, HMS Malabar, which operated 'til 1995. Without the dockyard, and with large naval and air bases of NATO ally, the USA, located in Bermuda, the military garrison became excess to need. The last Imperial Defence Plan was issued in 1953. After that, the local part-time units ceased to have any role assigned by the War Office (or its successor, the Ministry of Defence). The last regular detachment, a company of the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry (DCLI) was withdrawn in 1957, following which Prospect Camp, along with most of the military and admiralty properties in Bermuda were transferred to the local government for £750,000.

Post-Military Usage[edit]

Following its transfer to the local government, Prospect Camp has been split between a number of government departments and private owners. The Bermuda Police Service has been the primary occupant, housing its headquarters, barracks, and various sub-units, there. The Department of Education has also made considerable use of former camp grounds, having housed Prospect Secondary School in former barracks buildings, and having originally sited the campus of the Bermuda College there. In the 1990s, several barracks and other buildings were levelled, and the new Cedarbridge Academy was built in their place. The National Stadium also occupies part of the former military camp.