Keith Battersbee

Bermuda Day Grand Marshal 2014 – Bermuda’s Historical Treasures

Keith W. Battersbee is the youngest son of seven children born to Basil Winfield and Agnes Amelia Battersbee.  Grandparents Stanley and Ada Battersbee and William Francis and Agnes Wilson.  He was born on September 02, 1940.  He grew up in the Cox’s Hill, Pembroke West area and as a youngster attended Northlands Primary School and the St. George’s Secondary School.  He was a member of the St. Alban’s Sea Scouts under Robert (Bob) Kennedy and Teddy Brangman.  He is married to Merle (Nearon).

In 1957 he began his Maritime career by working at the Sherwood Manor Hotel Marina renting and servicing a fleet of power and sail boat rentals.  He always had a passion for the sea and during his day off, often accompanied Pilot Walter H. Darrell and other fisherman in the area during fishing trips on their boats.

His passion for the sea grew stronger and in 1960 at the age of 20, he began working at the Bermuda Government Board of Trade Department.  In May of 1963 he was selected by Mr. Stanley Gascoigne and the Hon. John Patton to travel to the United Kingdom in order to attend a special training course in Tugs and Towing Operations.  As a result of this selection, he became the first Black Bermudian to be chosen for overseas training by the Board of Trade Department.

The Training he received was aboard some of the oldest, as well as the most modern tugs being operated in Europe at that time.  His training was with, R & JH Rea Towing Co Ltd in Milford Haven in Wales, the Isle of Wright and South of England Steam Packet Co in Southampton England and Ship Towage London Ltd in Gravesend on the River Thames in London.  During this time he had the privilege of being involved in every conceivable aspect of towing and tug operations in the various ports of the UK.  This included offshore assignments as far away as the Hook of Holland.

At the completion of this training he returned to Bermuda and was given command of the tug HMS Justice, an old British Navy World War II Tug.  He was the youngest person to be Captain and have command of a vessel of this class. He was involved in many towing and tug assist assignments. He studied and became a Junior Branch Pilot in August 1965, then a Branch Pilot and in 1989 and after the retirement of Pilot John Kennedy, he was appointed Pilot Warden/Harbourmaster of the Bermuda Branch Pilots Service.  In 2004, he became the first Black Bermudian Pilot Warden to be appointed as the Acting Director of the Department of Marine and Ports Services.

Under his watch, the Department of Marine and Ports Services introduced the Cadet Training Module with a focus on Training at a UK based facility.  This made it possible for the trainees to receive a British Certificate.  The benefit of this Certificate is that it is accepted in all of Europe.  Pilots now receive their training at the “Warsash Maritime Centre” in Southampton England.  In 2005 Mr. Battersbee retired from the position as Pilot Warden/Harbourmaster after serving in that capacity for 16 years and a total of 45 years with the Department.

Today, Mr. Keith Battersbee takes pride in the fact that one of the first trainees under his watch is now pursuing his dream to become a Master Mariner.