The 48th anniversary of the 1969 British invasion of Anguilla passed several days ago on Sunday, March 19, without any recognition on the island whatsoever. Yet, it was the second big event that captured the attention of the world following the 1967 Anguilla Revolution. That latter event was when Anguilla, “the mouse that roared”, broke away from the Associated State of St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla, and set out on a daring, but bleak, course of self-determination.
The British invasion was the subject of much ridicule particularly by the world press, including British and American newspapers and magazines. A writer, in the Times of London, described the invasion as “A Comedy of Errors, Caribbean Style”. In one of its editorials, the Times of London commented: “What is so odd is that anyone should have thought that the right way to deal with the Anguilla situation was by a dramatic display of force”. Another publication, Time Magazine, called the invasion “Britain’s Bay of Piglets” – a reference to the 1961 failed assault on Cuba by counter-revolutionaries backed by the United States.
One school of thought is that the British invasion of Anguilla was influenced by claims by Robert Bradshaw, then Premier of St.Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla, that mafia and gangster elements had taken control of Anguilla. He made the claims to the British Government and called for an invasion of the island following Anguilla’s declaration as a Republic. No doubt he had also recalled the attack on St. Kitts on June 10, 1967, by a group of brave Anguillians (and others) bent on protecting the Anguilla Revolution.
The other school of thought is that the British invasion was ignited by the expulsion of William Whitlock from Anguilla on March 11, 1969. The British Parliamentary Under Secretary of State had been in Anguilla to discuss proposals which he thought might have led to a settlement of the St.Kitts-Anguilla crisis. He was reportedly expelled after he had allegedly slighted Ronald Webster, the President of the Republic of Anguilla, by refusing to travel in a motorcade organised for him and to attend a luncheon in his honour. Further, Webster and his supporters did not like the way the British Minister had distributed leaflets regarding his settlement proposals. Whitlock was accused of distributing the leaflets “as one would throw corn a fowl”.
Nine days after his expulsion, Anguilla was invaded by over 300 British marines, paratroopers and “Red Devils”. The pre-dawn invasion was staged from Antigua. Two frigates, HMS Minerva and HMS Rothesay, landed marines at Road Bay and Crocus Bay. A fleet of helicopters, Andover and Hercules C130 aircraft also landed men and equipment on the island.
Unlike the days of the Spanish, French and “Wild Irish” invasions, the people of Anguilla did not put up any resistance whatsoever. They, in fact, not only eventually won the hearts of the British elite militia men but perhaps their apologies as well. They had found a determined people only clamouring for self-determination, and to live in dignity rather than abject poverty and degradation under a repressive regime in St.Kitts and “under an Administration they did not want”.
In that regard, the people of Anguilla emerged not only as the winners of the British invasion, but the beneficiaries of various forms of much-needed infrastructure undertaken by Royal Engineers with British Government funds.
The distinguishing feature of the British invasion of Anguilla, from all other invasions in the 17th and 18th centuries, was that it was mounted by the island’s own Mother Country.
The 1969 invasion was in stark contrast to the recorded invasions of Anguilla in 1666 (sixteen years after it was colonised by the English) by French invaders from St.Martin; 1668 by Spanish invaders from Puerto Rico – accompanied by “Irish and other renegades; 1688 by a party of “Wild Irish” marauders; and two very notable French invasions. These were in 1745 and 1796 when Anguillian valour and victory (recorded in detail in the island’s turbulent history) were at the noblest, eventually putting the fierce invaders to flight.
The March 1969 British invasion of Anguilla was the last in the series of foreign invasions. Thankfully, it does not seem likely that there will be anymore invasions of our paradise island as time and history march on.
The original article can be found here: http://theanguillian.com/2017/03/the-last-invasion-of-anguilla/