Ex-chief of defence staff Ralph Brown dies

Ralph Brown -
Ralph Brown -

Retired major general and former chief of defence staff Ralph Brown has died. News of his death came to the public via social media on March 29.

Relatives who confirmed his death said he died at the Port of Spain General Hospital. They told Newsday he had complications with his health, and went to the hospital with an infection and issues with his knees.

Brown joined the regiment just before independence. He witnessed the raising of the newly independent Trinidad and Tobago's flag as an off-duty soldier in 1962, and was part of the investigations into the 1970 mutiny.

He was best known for his role as commanding officer of the regiment during the attempted coup on July 27, 1990.

In an earlier interview, Brown told reporters he was one of the off-duty officers who were watching a football match at the Hasely Crawford Stadium when he noticed smoke billowing from the capital.

When it was announced that the police headquarters in Port of Spain had been blown up, Brown used the stadium’s PA system to round up officers. He told Newsday they commandeered a Carib truck and made their way to Camp Ogden.

He was instrumental in negotiations with insurgents of the Jamaat al Muslimeen which led to their surrender on August 1.

Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds, in a conversation with Newsday on March 29, lauded Brown as a founding member of the regiment.

He said aside from his stellar career in the local armed forces, he went on to form the Strategic Intelligence Agency and assisted in the development of the  Defence Force football team, and the infrastructural development of the Civil Aviation Board.

He also lauded him as a devout Anglican who served as a warden to the Bishop of Trinidad and Tobago.

“His passing on the 43rd anniversary of the passing of the nation’s founding father (Dr Eric Williams) highlights the element and quality of statesmanship that the country’s institutions were founded on; and also marks the passing of a military era,” Hinds said.

His son Gary Skeene said Brown would tell him about independence and the role he played in the coup. But as humbling as that was, to him he was simply a good dad.

“He was a fun-loving, card-playing man,” Skeene said. “He was always focused on his grandkids. He always used to say if I don’t come down from Canada with his grandkids when I visited, that I might as well just go back.

“He always said he looked at the youth and tried to give them opportunity, and to guide them, so there are a lot of kids that know him that he would offer guidance to. Some of them would just sit with him and chat.”

Skeene said Brown had a competitive attitude and a commitment to people and service. But he always worried about crime.

“For my dad his greatest concern was around the murder rate. He would always say: ‘You know how many we had today? I don’t know what this country is coming to. These kids have no regard for each other.’

“For him, he would want the country to go back to the TT of yesterday, and for its people to commit to service.”


"Ex-chief of defence staff Ralph Brown dies"

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