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By Shahein Fitzpatrick

National leaders participated in the 39th anniversary celebrations of the Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force.

The force dates back to 1897 when it was known as the ‘Antigua Defence Force’ but when the country gained independence in 1981, the name was changed to the ‘Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force’.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Gaston Browne and Governor General Sir Rodney Williams participated in the anniversary service at Camp Blizzard. 

Both leaders read lessons during the service in honour of the anniversary.

Prime Minister Browne stated that, “The ABDF has been playing a significant role in the country’s security and has contributed towards the preservation of peace and the advancement of volunteerism in Antigua and Barbuda. 

“The ABDF has been a source of development for our young men and women through training opportunities. 

“It has deployed a significant number of very well-trained soldiers who continue to play significant roles in civilian life.

“The discipline and the adherence to excellence have driven the ABDF soldiers to perform outstandingly. Congratulations on this your 39th anniversary,” the PM told those assembled.

Today, Browne will tour the force’s farm, an initiative said to have been inspired and encouraged by him.

When the Defence Force was first established in the late 19th century, it consisted of one company of infantry and one company of mounted cavalry. Most males between the ages of 18 and 45, who earned more than 50 British pounds annually, were required to serve. 

In 1914, the force was put on active service due to the breakout of the First World War. During the Second World War, the Antigua Defence Force became part of the Leeward Islands Battalion and, towards the end of 1943, ADF members were deployed to Europe as part of the First Battalion, the Caribbean Regiment, and returned in 1946. 

The force was disbanded in 1952 as it had no headquarters and was reactivated four year later under the command of Captain EM Blackman.

In 1983, command was handed over to Lt Col Clyde Walker who served until 1990 when the baton was passed to Col Trevor A Thomas who served as the Chief of Defence Staff until March 2020. 

Under Thomas’ command the force commissioned its first female officers in 1992. Colonel Telbert Benjamin assumed command on March 20 this year.

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