Sergeant 209 Philbert Gregory Chambers’ final farewell
by Katherine Renton
Barrouallie, which may have been relatively quiet on any other Sunday afternoon, came alive this Sunday, May 17, as hundreds of persons were determined to give a final farewell to one of their own, the late Sergeant 209 Philbert Gregory Chambers.
All the streets, as well as the main road of the central leeward town were lined bumper to bumper with the vehicles of those attending the full military funeral for the Sergeant, who was only 30 years old when his life was cut short in the line of duty on April 26.
The scorching sun made sure that attendees in their full formal wear were soaked in sweat, but the officers of the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force (RSVGPF), the family of Sergeant Chambers, dignitaries from the court system, members from the police youth clubs, and the inhabitants of Barrouallie, remained undaunted.
The members of the public, who formed groups around the recreational park in Barrouallie, where the funeral occurred, filed in continuously from 12 noon to view the body of the fallen officer.
When it was time for the funeral service to begin, the coffin, draped in the flag of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) , with a police hat and belt perched on top, was carried by a group of officers into the tent.
Chambers was the ninth of 13 siblings, and his family, identifiable by the fact that they were all dressed in bright blue, filled one half of the tent.
Former Prime Minister, Arhnim Eustace; candidate for the New Democratic Party (NDP) Benjamin Exeter; the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Sejilla McDowall; High Court Justice, Brian Cottle; as well as a number of high ranking police officers, led by the Commissioner of Police (COP), Colin John, were among those who filled the remaining seats.
Those inside the tent, from a very young girl in blue, to Chambers’ siblings and parents, to high ranking police officers all became emotional at different times during the ceremony. There were times when persons would become so overcome with grief that they would have to be supported by those around them.
Special tributes were paid by Edmond Bramble; Kishroy Chambers (Philbert’s brother, an army officer who had to remain in the United Kingdom because of Covid-19); Superintendent of Police, Kamecia Blake-Byam; COP John; and Shevern Williams, Sergeant 209’s girlfriend.
The Questelles Police Youth Club, for who Chambers was a co-ordinator at the time of his death, also gave the Sergeant a tearful goodbye. They were followed by the Barrouallie Police Youth Club.
The Eulogy was read by Superintendent of Police, Trevor Bailey. He indicated that Chambers was born on May 30, 1989 to parents Calbert and Coreen Bobb.
Philbert, also affectionately called, “Mushcaba” and “Sgt Chambers” over the course of his life, attended the Barrouallie Anglican and Barrouallie Secondary Schools. He was a part of the SVG Cadet Force, and the Barrouallie Police Youth Club.
“Philbert was a very jovial individual and one of the young men who probably watched too much of the TV series ‘MacGyver,’” the Superintendent commented about a younger Chambers, explaining, “He used to detach appliances just so he could have experimented in putting them back together.”
“He used to tease his four younger siblings by taking them for mangoes, then running leaving them behind, saying ‘Jah-bless would come for them’”, Bailey stated, and informed that “Mushcaba”, named after a professional cricketer, would run away frequently from his home in Keartons Hill, Barrouallie, to play football and cricket at Keartons Bay.
“In 2008, at the tender age of 21 years, he enlisted in the RSVGPF where his ‘Sherlock Holmes’ career began,” Bailey informed, and as the years went by “Philbert’s serious attitude toward life did not change – as a matter of fact he became a better person day by day.”
Chambers was described as having a very close relationship with his family,and was responsible for giving mischievous nicknames to all his sisters. He often joked about being the “favourite” child. His mother was special to him, and whenever he called her on mornings, or visited her, Chambers would call out “Sugar-mommy, Sugar-mommy,” the Superintendent noted.
“Make no mistake, sugar-mommy meant sugar-daddy too,” Bailey continued, “This was Philbert’s way of showing love and respect to his parents.”
Chambers was said to never be disrespectful to his family, and extremely supportive.
“When his niece Mary became ill in 2018, he was on the frontline and organized a fundraiser for her,” the Superintendent read, “He was the one who took her to the doctor for appointments and was the one to hold her hand when she could not walk on her own.”
The Sergeant was described as having the “biggest heart”, and being very determined and ambitious.
As a police officer he was “truly dedicated”, and committed, his superior assured, commenting “He was a ‘cut above’ many of his peers and colleagues in the RSVGPF.” “A detective in every sense of the word,” Chambers was said to be persistent in his investigations, using his off days to work on case files.
An “exemplary” officer, the Sergeant has left a legacy behind that will be remembered for years to come, Bailey continued, adding, “since he left us to be with the Lord, I believe that God is having sleepless nights because I believe that Sergeant Chambers is up there telling God ‘Boss let’s go on a patrol tonight, we have to keep the community safe’”.
The Superintendent, before ending the Eulogy, recalled the last visit Chambers made to his family, which was the day before his death, and how his parting words teased his sister about her being jealous that he (Chambers) was his mother’s favourite.
“Sergeant Chambers yes you were! You were all of us favourite! So long, so long, until we meet again,” the Superintendent ended.
After the service, conducted according to Seventh Day Adventist Rights, a final radio call was given for the Sergeant, which was pierced by crying.
The coffin was carried by officers to a hearse, which was escorted by the police band, other officers and family members to the cemetery at Glebe Hill.
While matters were kept ordered and disciplined inside the park, the sheer volume of the crowd that formed outside and marched behind the hearse was unmatched.
As the crowd moved towards the cemetery, more people joined the road from the side streets, adding to the hundreds.
At the cemetery, a gun salute was performed, and the police band played after the coffin was lowered into the grave. Tears fell from the close family, and colleagues of Chambers at the final moments when the grave was being covered.