Features — 11 July 2018 — by Rowland A. Parks
Allan Wade, an ex-policeman, was at the border during the 1977 Guatemalan invasion scare

BELIZE CITY, Fri. July 6, 2018– In the decade of the 1970s, before Belize attained independence from Britain on September 21, 1981, there were three serious invasion scares that the British Ministry of Defense took so seriously that it beefed up its security forces inside the country with a massive show of force that discouraged the Guatemalan invasion plans. On the last occasion of a serious Guatemalan invasion plan, in 1977, Britain sent a squadron of its vertical takeoff and landing Harrier jet fighters screaming into Belize airspace, and the British governor assured Belizeans that they could sleep easy and rest well.

There were, however, Belizeans who were at the forefront of these national security emergencies, before the birth of the Belize Defence Force with its own intelligence-gathering capabilities. One such Belizean was Allan Wade, who was a police constable stationed at the border at the time of the last Guatemalan invasion plans.

Wade insists, however, that the year was 1976, but our research differs with his assertion. Our research of the Guatemalan invasion plans has revealed that during the 1970s there were two invasion plans that got the attention of the British. Britain reacted to information that Guatemala was massing its troops along the country’s border with Belize in 1975 and in 1977. Britain, in response, dispatched a squadron of six Harrier jet fighters to Belize in late November, 1975.

On July 8, 1977, the Washington Post reported in a story captioned: “Britain Reinforces Belize in Dispute With Guatemala:”

“British army public relations officer Paul Randrup said a contingent of 15 Hercules transport planes and four VC-10 jetliners had been sent to Belize. Each Hercules can carry 250 soldiers, but the planes were believed to have military equipment on board as well,” the story reported.

In July 1973, Wade, who is now 62-years-old, finished his training at the Police Training School, but as he recalled, there was no formal passing-out parade. Wade said that he had heard that there was a shortage of some of the necessary equipment, so, he said, instead of a passing-out parade, “our squad was just posted around the country.”

For the next six to eight months, Wade worked in Punta Gorda Town, where he was first posted as a patrolman, until he was transferred to the Finance Department in Punta Gorda Town.

Wade said he was one of the policemen who did not have the opportunity to go to work in villages. So almost at the end of his tenure Wade was sent to the border point of Cadenas to relieve another policeman. The duration of the post was to have been three days, Wade said, but he actually spent an entire month during one of the very tense times, when the Guatemalans were massing their troops on the Belize/Guatemala border.

Wade recalled that the Guatemalans on the other side of the Cadenas border point were on friendly terms with the Belizeans, with whom they used to have an active trade of certain items.

“About two days after I got to Cadenas, we got an order from the officer commanding Punta Gorda, Inspector Roy Gardiner. The order was simple: we are not to go back across to the Guatemalan side,” said Wade. Wade explained that Cadenas was an outpost and there were about four Guatemalan families living on the Belize side of the border. “They were very friendly with us and they used to supply us with quite a bit of information,” Wade said.

“The police booth is located right beside the river”, Wade explained. “Surrounding the eastern side of Cadenas is all mountains and the border marker is a huge monument, a huge stone,” Wade recalled.

“When we first got there, there was this huge military buildup, lots of army tanks, and army carriers and so on. We would go on top of a hill that was overlooking the Guatemalan base with our binoculars, and relay the information to the officer controlling Punta Gorda,” said Wade.

Wade said that there were no British soldiers in the area. There were only two policemen stationed there. “One day we saw a US Army helicopter circling the Guatemalan base, because a little further down there was a Guatemalan police checkpoint.” he said.

“The helicopter went and circled the base and the checkpoint and when they got back to the police post, we saw when they dropped something”, said Wade.

“Our Guatemalan informant also saw it and he went over to find out what it was that the US Army helicopter had dropped. About ¾ of an hour later, when he came back, he said, ‘boy, you guys have problems,’” Wade stated.

He then explained that what the helicopter had dropped, according to the Guatemalan informant, was “an order to capture you guys and destroy the police station, because they know that you were the guys sending information.”

Wade said he suspected that the order came from all the way at the top of the Guatemalan military hierarchy, but he did not know and never found out who signed the order.

“So when he came, we normally would only start the light plant in the morning to send messages and shut it back down. We started the light plant again to send a message to Punta Gorda, and they would relay it to Belmopan, to let them know what was the situation,” Wade recalled.

Wade explained that by this time the British choppers were already here, and the ships were here too.

“They told us to go back up the hill and clear a path, because they would have to send some British helicopters. So we got three of the Guatemalans to go along with us. We cleared an area and fixed it up and let them know, but then they called us back and said they don’t think it was a good idea for the helicopters to go there, because the Guatemalans would take it for provocation. We were given machine guns and told to shoot on sight,” Wade said.

“We were there and it was scary as hell, because I didn’t know how to use a machine gun,” said Wade.

Wade said he didn’t know what kind of machine gun was given to them, but the guns were fully loaded and ready to go.

Luckily for us, nothing happened. “The British were there until they left the country. It was scary,” Wade said.

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