Intake 01 looking back at 1963
Private Tradeen Foster
It has been over 50 years since the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) was formed from what used to be the old West India Regiment. On February 25, 1963, 114 recruits departed from the Cotton Tree Gate at Up Park Camp, to traverse the rough and winding terrains leading to the cool and densely vegetated hills of the Federal Defence Force Training Depot in Newcastle. These recruits would commence the 13 weeks of military training that would produce the very first batch of JDF soldiers.
Governor General His Excellency Sir Patrick Allen greets Ex-Warrant Officer Class One,
Cyrill Issacs during the group's visit to Kings House on May 31, 2013.
Fifty years later, 14 of the original 114 members of Intake 01, visited Up Park Camp on May 30, 2013 to relive those experiences, all the while, priding themselves on the honor of being part of such a historic milestone in the JDF's illustrious past.
Kingsley Sadler found his experience to be frightening, having been told that he no longer belonged to his parents and he was now the property of the Government of Jamaica. He vividly remembers the freshly dug graves in the old cemetery, which the recruits visited on their first night in the hills.
"Creeper Clarke, a Corporal at that time (and now Colonel Clarke), was the intake's most feared member of the training team. "He used to wear a Sub-Machine Gun slung over his shoulder," Kingsley explained, "and for us, that was almost as scary as the cemetery".
Fourteen members of Intake One, the first set of soldiers to be trained by the Jamaica Defence Force in 1963,
were hosted by Governor General His Excellency Sir Patrick Allen at Kings House on May 31, 2013.
The 14 members of Intake 01 met briefly with Chief of Defence Staff, Major General Antony Anderson during their visit to Up Park Camp. They were also greeted by Acting Force Sergeant Major, WO1 Calvin Dryden, who sat with the CDS and the men for a group photo in front of Headquarters, JDF. As part of the reunion, the group also visited the Governor General at King House on May 31, before taking a trip to Salisbury Plains, St Andrew for a fun day the following day. They also attended a Church Service and Brunch in Up Park Camp on June 2.
"Training was vigorous," said Errol Richardson, who was seventeen and a half years old when he joined". The commands and the name calling, I couldn't get used to it and I was always getting dirty boots," he laughed. "I was sent to count graves on a regular basis as I was frustrated and always getting into trouble," he reflected, with a faint glint in his eye.
Cyril Isaacs, who served in the JDF for almost 40 years, shared that "only 97 of the 114 recruits managed to complete training and marched off the parade square and down to Up Park Camp, where they were placed into various companies." Isaacs would go on to become one of the longest serving Regimental Sergeant Majors, before retiring in 2001.
Kingsly Saddler, a member of Intake One, recounts the first day he set foot in the Newcastle Training Depot,
during a Church Service held at the Garrison Church Up Park Camp on June 2, 2013.
After their many years of service within the Jamaica Defence Force, Manley Hibbert kept a function at Curphey Place in 1969, to mark the departure of some members of Intake 01. "I wanted to do something to honor the members and along with Evor Martin in New York, we started 'Old Soldiers', an organization that looks after the welfare of Ex-JDF servicemen. "Old Soldiers is still around and has been operating from my home at 16 Moreton Park Avenue since 1991."
For the 14 former members of the Jamaica Defence Force, their years of service to Jamaica are a source of pride and inspiration. They are however mindful of the welfare and well being of other Ex-Soldiers and so, the group will round out their visit with a trip to the Curphey Home, Manchester on Saturday June 8, 2013.