NASSAU, The Bahamas — Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis said, on May 10, 2023, that the tragedy of May 10, 1980, reinforced the importance of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF), illustrating why the late Sir Lynden Pindling was so adamant to establish such an agency to defend the territorial sovereignty of The Bahamas.
“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,” Prime Minister Davis recounted, during the RBDF Memorial Service, held on Parliament Square.
“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,” he continued. “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.”
Among those present included Governor-General His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir Cornelius A. Smith; Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investments and Aviation the Hon. Chester Cooper, and other Cabinet Members; Leader of the Opposition the Hon. Michael Pintard; Chief Justice the Hon. Sir Ian Winder; former Governor-General, the Most Hon. Dame Marguerite Pindling; senior members of Unformed Branches; international guests; clergy; family members and well-wishers.
Prime Minister Davis pointed out that to all RBDF marines, that episode had become “the sacred symbol of pride and duty”. Each marine, he added, was 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,” Prime Minister Davis stated.
At the heart of that “national tragedy “, Prime Minister noted, were 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,” he said. “I know that the unimaginable loss of the marines is as fresh today as it was 43 years ago.”
Prime Minister Davis added that, while some of the parents have passed on, and many of the children now have families of their own, the loss of the four marines remained “painful and immediate”.
He added: “We may even 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 head 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.”
Prime Minister Davis noted that, as they all reflected upon the four young marines whose lives were lost, they should also take the opportunity today to honour the survivors of the Flamingo Incident. Not long after the disaster, he said, many of the survivors of the Flamingo ship’s company returned to patrol Bahamian 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,” he said. “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.”
Prime Minister Davis stated that, as The Bahamas prepared to celebrate its 50th year of Independence, all 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 of our nation’s first line of defence — for the protectors of our national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said. “I assure you that their sacrifice will forever be cherished within the hearts of the Bahamian people.”
He added: “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 and his party; 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.”