October 29, 2020

Clifton Nevis Bodden remembers Part 1

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Clifton Nevis Bodden on the front porch of his home in George Town

As told to Christopher Tobutt

In this, the first in a series of articles, 88 year old World War II veteran Clifton Nevis Bodden remembers life in the Cayman Islands Home Guard.

“I was born in Cuba in 1923. You see, my parents, who came from Cayman, worked for the American companies down there on the Citrus farms on the Isle of Pines. The Caymanians went over there to work with the Americans because they had quite a number of farms over there but when the World War started, the fruit business was going down because we couldn’t get the fruits across to Florida because the submarines were sinking ships hand-over-fist. So everybody said: ‘Lets get out.’

“I came to Cayman in February, 1942 with my parents. When I came here to Cayman they were enlisting men for the service for the Home Guard. My parents were
from Cayman.

“The Commanding Officer at that time was Sergeant Highfield – he was from Canada, and he came here to train us. Then there was Captain Joseph Roddy Watler – he was a Captain and we worked under him.

“We had an American naval base over here and we would work with the navy. My instructor from the navy was a man by the name of Jack Cohen, an American because they started to train us with the Artillery.

“Right where the dock is now, the barracks were there and the headquarters were right where you see the West Wind building now, and the Navy had the base right behind the Library. Where the Assembly building is now, that was the parade ground for the Home Guard, and that’s where we used to take our training. We had two naval landing guns and we used to do the training there. One of those shells used to weigh 13 pounds.

“We had plenty of submarines back and forth, so the United States established a base here. They also had seaplanes that used to pitch in the North Sound, and then they were fuelled up and serviced. Around four or five o’clock in the morning they’d take off and they’d go way out to the south, and patrol all the Caribbean and Central American coast and go as far as Guantanamo Bay,” he said.

Mr. Bodden explained that although the Home Guard was British, the Home Guard soldiers trained in the use of artillery under the American navy.

“We had two big guns, one was right in front of where Norberg had his bakery there, and the other one was right on the edge, where they’ve got the new docks.

“In 1942 A German Submarine sunk a United Fruit ship just inside the George Town Harbour. Commissioner Jones ordered the Cimboco to go out there and pick up the survivors, and some of them were all burnt up and so on. They put them on the seaplanes and they took them to the States for treatment.

To be continued…

 

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