Compton Hartley Liverpool is a ‘Special Person’
Colonel Liverpool’s climb up the military ladder was phenomenal, starting with his appointment to the rank of Corporal in November 1965 right up to the rank of Lt Colonel before his retirement.
By Michael Benjamin
Soldiers are special citizens that pledge allegiance to country. Their every action is laden with nationalistic fervor. To this effect, the life of a soldier is oft times fraught with danger. Though a rifle– often referred to as their wives; an ever present source of comfort– is a very important inclusion to their kits, diplomacy oft times eliminates the need for such firepower.
Notwithstanding this, diplomatic efforts have been ineffective in the past and many countries have resorted to war as the final alternative to address territorial and other concerns.
In the USA, military personnel have been involved in global confrontations that have precipitated vicious jungle warfare with high-powered weapons and other military prerequisites, a distinct variance to their Guyanese counterparts who are seldom required to venture onto the battlefield to solve territorial issues or even to protect this country’s sovereignty.
The Venezuela/Guyana imbroglio is a classical example. Even so, the old idiom ‘failing to prepare is virtually preparing to fail’ cannot be more stringently underlined as, despite sparse war activities, Guyanese soldiers continue to engage in tough jungle exercises, participating in overseas courses and virtually coaxing a little more effort and energy from their tired bodies to attain top physical fitness in preparation for any eventuality that requires jungle warfare in defence of Guyana’s sovereignty.
It was with such nationalistic fervor nestling in his breast that now retired Lt. Colonel Compton Hartley Liverpool decided to don military garb many moons ago in service of this country.
A fanatic for neatness, he earned the sobriquet ‘Black Prince,’ a tab that suited his immaculate mode of dress and darkly handsome features. The neat appearance remained a prominent feature of his fatigues throughout his illustrious military career.
They say that a professional soldier’s life does not fit easily into a biography unless the soldier is a senior commander. Even so, the biography centres on grand strategy and not necessarily the coarse details of the battlefield and/or the combat infantryman in the field. The ‘Black Prince’ would be the first to support this view as he did when Kaieteur News spoke with him recently at his East 31st Street, Brooklyn NY home.
During the conversation, the military stalwart relived his years in what he referred to as a noble profession.
Lt. Col Compton Hartley Liverpool was born on January 1, 1936 in Lacytown, Georgetown, Guyana (then British Guiana). He attended the Brickdam St. Mary’s R.C. and subsequently the Bedford Primary School before culminating his lower education at the Central High School.
In 1955, he responded to a nationalistic calling and joined the then British Guiana Volunteer Force (BGVF) and was assigned to Company C as a Private under the command of Captain, Cecil ‘Pluto’ Martindale.
“Those were great days when soldiers wore their ambitions on their lapels with pride,” mused Mr. Liverpool as he relived the nostalgia.
Noted for his application to his tasks, Colonel Liverpool’s climb up the military ladder was phenomenal, starting with his appointment to the rank of Corporal in November 1965 right up to the rank of Lt Colonel before his retirement.
Hardly had he donned the former decoration on his lapels than he attended the Conversion Course and won the Top Student award. Naturally, his performance earned him another promotion, this time to Sergeant.
The experts believe that perseverance produces success, and when supported by application and commitment, it further produces mind boggling results. This theory could not have been more strongly underlined than with Colonel Liverpool’s constant progression to the top of the heap.
During his illustrious years in the disciplined services he notched up many meritorious accolades. He became the first Platoon Sergeant of the First Recruit Platoon trained by personnel from the British Army with Second Lieutenant Carl Morgan as Platoon Commander.
Then in 1966 he was assigned to B (2nd) Company as a Platoon Sergeant with Lt. Oscar Pollard as Platoon Commander and Major Peter Hiscock of the UK as Company Commander.
Thereafter, the accolades started to pour in, not by partiality on the part of his superiors, but more for The ‘Black Prince’s’ application to his work. “You have to possess a genuine love for the profession, to really appreciate the joys of the trade,” Mr. Liverpool emphatically pronounced.
It was this type of commitment that resulted in his selection, in October 1966, to participate in the first Senior Non Commissioned Officers (NCO) course held at Atkinson Field and at the Tacama Battle School. Upon completion, he was decorated with the rank of a second Lieutenant and further, was assigned to the Training Wing, Atkinson Field, as an instructor.
Some of his contemporaries were the late retired Colonel Godwyn McPherson; Col Winston Moore; Col Herbie Moe; Col Anthony Cozier and Col John Calder.
In 1968, Liverpool was the first Guyanese to win the ‘Best Student Cup’ at the All Arms Drill Course at The Grenadier Guards Barracks in Caterham, Surrey, UK.
Over the next few years, he was promoted, progressively, becoming a Lieutenant Colonel in 1977, when he served as the General Staff Officer (GSO1 Coord).
He also held the appointments of officer commanding No 4 Company; commanding officer Training Corps and Air Corps; Commander of the Infantry Brigade; and Adjutant General.
‘Black Prince’ was a stickler for details and believed that the employment of hard work and application is the surest route to success. It is said that he is intolerant of ‘skivers’ and malingerers, terms used in the military to describe lazy soldiers.
“Soldiers are important to any country and the preservation of their lives hinges on their staunch application,” he says. As such, during his illustrious military career, the colonel lived by the maxim, ‘The more sweat on the training field, the less blood on the battle field.’
But what is so special about a soldier?
It is apposite to restate that Guyanese soldiers are seldom required to venture onto the battlefield, be it to solve territorial issues or even to protect this country’s sovereignty. The exception to this rule occurred under Colonel Liverpool’s watch when early in the morning of August 19, 1969, while aboard a DHC, a 6 De Havilland (Twin Otter) aircraft flown by Capt Roland DeSilva, Colonel Hartley assumed a sitting position in the nose of the aircraft armed with a powerful General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG), en route to the area of operation from Apoteri, Rupununi River area.
His bold action and heroic disregard for his own safety coupled with his brave actions while in the air as he provided aerial support was indeed laudable. For his valiant effort, he was awarded the Military Service Medal (MSM) for valour in May 1970.
After 25 years of active service to the country he loves and in the profession he adores, Colonel Liverpool retired under the mandatory retirement age of 55 and in 1989 migrated to the USA where he currently resides with his wife, Gem.
He was head of the Papaya Training Centre of the Guyana National Service in 1976. There he had to exercise rigid control over the academics on their way to pursue studies at universities overseas.
Such students often walk with their noses in the air. Col Liverpool had the task to make them recognize that they were ordinary people. He controlled them with a firm hand. There was an occasion when two student pioneers kept walking while the flag was being lowered to the accompaniment of the Last Post. Col Liverpool had them locked up.
The others protested on the grounds that they were not soldiers. Col Liverpool informed them that they were once they were on the National Centre, wore the clothes of pioneers and ate the meals provided by the soldiers.
A team headed by the then Permanent Secretary Joyce Sinclair, traveled from the city to resolve the problems. The pioneers had refused to leave their billet and Col Liverpool refused to budge.
In the end the two detained pioneers made a public apology to the entire National Service Centre. All’s well that ends well. No other pioneer ever breached the rules of the centre.
Colonel Liverpool remarks that he has no regrets making that all-important decision to serve his country. He is currently blind after undergoing three operations for glaucoma. Amidst it all, his wife Gem remains staunchly by his side, rendering unswerving support to the man she has known for almost six decades. The couple bore several children with the eldest, Colin passing to the Great Beyond in 2007 after suffering a heart attack. Clive, Carl, Compton and Clairmonte are alive and well, all residing in the USA.
It has been an illustrious career; one laden with challenges and sacrifice; one denoted by discipline in service to Guyana.
Given a chance Colonel Liverpool would do it all over in service to country. After all, he is not only an officer, he is also a gentleman.
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