The British, and later American, military have played a large part in Bermuda’s evolution, security, and economic success over the centuries. The Royal Navy ran its business at Dockyard through the first half of the 20th century, pouring a welcome sum into the island’s coffers. British military forces manned island defenses during both the First and Second World Wars, though an attack on Bermuda never came. Bermuda’s own militia groups, divided by race, also took part in fighting overseas in both conflicts. In World War II, some 500 local men and women left the island to join British, American, and Canadian forces to fight around the world. Bermuda became a bastion of Allied defense in these years also, when the government signed a 1941 deal to provide America with 99-year leases for two baselands—one in the East End, the other in Southampton. A massive land reclamation project by the U.S. Army created a military airfield and naval base in these areas. Anti-aircraft artillery were installed, and anti-submarine patrols used the island as a base from which to scour the Western Atlantic. Bermuda also became a headquarters for the British Imperial Censor in the war years, as “Censorettes” intercepted Nazi contraband.
After the Royal Navy and British Army garrison pulled out of Bermuda in the 1950s, the American and Canadian military continued to operate from the island. During the Cold War, Bermuda became a refueling station for U.S. nuclear bombers, and U.S. forces carried out aircraft missions from the island. Americans remained on the island until budget restrictions forced the bases’ final closure in 1995.
© Rosemary Jones from Moon Bermuda, 2nd Edition