BY HON. PHILIP E DAVIS, KC, MP
COMMONWEALTH OF THE BAHAMAS
10 May 2023
Good evening ladies and gentlemen.
Forty-three years ago, on the 10th May, 1980, at approximately 5 p.m., marines onboard the deck of Her Majesty’s Bahamian Ship Flamingo were faced with a decision.
That decision was to stand firmly by the principle of service above self. On that fateful day, the entire crew came under siege as they were executing their duties.
Ultimately, four young men were lost at sea: Able Seaman Fenrick Sturrup, Marine Seaman Austin Smith, Marine Seaman David Tucker, and Marine Seaman Edward Williams.
In seeking to protect and defend the sovereignty of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, they made the ultimate sacrifice.
The tragedy of this day reinforced the importance of the Defence Force, illustrating why the late Sir Lynden Pindling was so adamant to establish such an agency to defend the territorial sovereignty of our country.
To all marines, this episode has become the sacred symbol of pride and duty. Each is keenly aware of the value of the ultimate sacrifice, and of the choice to place service to country above self.
Duty and sacrifice remain principal tenets in recruit training and each entry class since then understands the fundamental importance of the Defence Force and its key role in national development.
At the heart of this national tragedy are the mothers and fathers, wives, children and loved ones of the marines. The tragedy of the HMBS Flamingo cannot be discussed without acknowledging their sacrifice. I know that the unimaginable loss of the marines is as fresh today as it was 43 years ago.
While some of the parents have passed on, and many of the children now have families of their own, the loss of Able Seaman Fenrick Sturrup, Marine Seaman Austin Smith, Marine Seaman David Tucker, and Marine Seaman Edward Williams remains painful and immediate.
We may sometimes wonder what our valiant marines might have been doing with their lives today, had that horrible incident not occurred. This question has no answer, but as the leader of our country, I can assure you that we are deeply appreciative of the love and support you gave to these men, and the memories of them that you keep alive.
As we reflect on the four young marines whose lives were lost, let us also take the opportunity today to honour the survivors of the Flamingo Incident. Not long after the disaster, many of the survivors of the Flamingo ship’s company returned to patrol our waters.
Other members were appointed and drafted to different vessels or departments, where they continued their noble efforts in guarding our heritage with formidable success. Although the survivors have since resigned or retired from this prestigious organisation, they continue to uphold the standard of a true marine and provide invaluable service to our country within their given field of expertise.
As The Bahamas prepares to celebrate its 50th year of Independence, we must stand firm on our nation’s deck, and be prepared like those great men onboard HMBS Flamingo, for what is to come.
To you, the family members of the victims, and to those families whose loved ones have passed in the line of service, I extend my heartfelt thanks for your unwavering support for our nation’s first line of defence and the protectors of our national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
I assure you that their sacrifice will forever be cherished within the hearts of the Bahamian people.
On behalf of His Excellency, Cornelius A. Smith, Governor General of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas; the governing party of The Bahamas; the Leader of the Opposition; the grateful people of The Bahamas; and my wife, Ann-Marie, I salute the memory of our fallen four and applaud their heroic efforts. The memories of Fenrick, Austin, David and Edward will never fade.
May God continue to bless the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, and may He continually bless the
Commonwealth of The Bahamas.