A Review of Censorship and Bermuda’s Role in Winning World War II

A Book Review By Martin Buckley, Department Manager at The Bookmart at Brown & Co.

At 07.52hrs local time on Sunday September 3rd 1939 the Signals Duty Officer on the British Cruiser HMS York, then serving with the 8th Cruiser Squadron on the Royal Navy’s America and West Indies Station, received a coded message on the ship’s W/T set from HM Dockyard in Bermuda; ‘COMMENCE HOSTILITIES AT ONCE WITH GERMANY’. After an interlude of just 21 short years Great Britain, His Majesty’s possessions overseas and thus Bermuda were once again at war.

This new conflict would last almost six years and would see Britain brought to the very brink of defeat before she and her allies eventually triumphed over the fascist menace. It would bring enormous geo-political changes and, perhaps of more importance to the millions of ordinary people who would be called to arms, colossal socio-economic changes.

In Bermuda these changes were on the one hand awe inspiring and dramatic – for example the construction of two huge naval and military bases in St Georges and Southampton Parishes, which increased the Islands surface area by almost 850 acres.  But they were also subtler – such as the growth in the unionisation of elements of the Islands workforce, a result, in part, of the disparity in wages paid by established local and new American employers.

Even the language gently morphed from an age old essentially British English into the somehow brasher and harsher American English, which is today’s lingua franca.

Bermuda’s contribution to the war effort was out of all proportion to its geographical size.  As during the Great War, Bermuda sent many of her sons overseas, some of course never to return.  The Islands naval bases once again became a hub for convoy and anti-submarine operations.  Notwithstanding these military and naval activities, perhaps Bermuda’s most important contribution to the allied victory came from the work of the Imperial Censorship Department, which is described in detail in this book for the first time.

Horst Augustinovic has amassed a huge amount of material regarding this fascinating period of Bermuda’s history.  The authoritative yet accessible text is complemented by a huge number of photographs and illustrations, many of which are published here for the first time.

The story of Bermuda’s crucial role during the titanic struggle of 1939 – 45 makes fascinating reading and Mr Augustinovic is to be commended for presenting this wonderful book during the 75th anniversary year of the wars declaration.

Comments to the author of the book: Horst Augustinovic 


A letter sent from Germany to the still neutral USA, censored in Bermuda in January 1940. Both Germany and the USA were unhappy with British interference with their mail and PAA had to stop landing in Bermuda for several months.


Mailbags being unloaded from a Pan American Airways flying boat at Darrell’s Island, January 1940. Photo: Bermuda Archives.

Censorship is available at The Bookmart inside Brown & Co. and The Bermuda Bookstore both located in Hamilton, as well as the Bermuda Craft Market at Royal Naval Dockyard.

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