London Connection Q&A: Calvert St Hill

LLB current student Calvert St Hill discusses disappointment, never giving up and life in the Royal Marines Commando Unit
LLB current student Calvert St Hill
Calvert St Hill: "I picked myself up, dusted myself off and decided to give it another shot"
My location and the nature of my job do make me work harder though, as I do not intend to let myself down again

What attracts a young boy growing up in the Caribbean to join the police force?
I would not say that there is any one particular event, or circumstance that motivated, or influenced me to join the police force. After finishing school, there was nothing else to do on a very tiny island, where opportunities for jobs are limited. So I decided to join the police force as a first job and get some experience. In the end it turned out better than I expected.

Calvert St Hill LLB

You worked as a Police Constable attached to the Immigration Department for six years? Tell us about that.
As mentioned it turned out a lot better than I expected it to, more so I think because I went to the Immigration department and never did any active police duties. My role was dual as an Immigration officer you had dual responsibilities unlike a normal constable would only have his police duties to contend with.

It’s interesting because when you fill out the application and go through a series of interviews, never once did I pick Immigration officer as an option. It was seen as a privilege unit and only the very best get to go there. However, during my first month of my training course, there was a two week drug eradication exercise and the training base was needed as a Forward Operating Base (FOB) in which to launch from, and so training had to be suspended.

We were all sent off to various police departments and stations for a month. I was sent to Immigration, and at the end of the month the Assistant Superintendent of Immigration called me in his office and congratulated me for my hard work and said all the staff said they really enjoyed working with me, and that if I go back to training and continue to work hard he will ensure that I will be back there at the end of my training.

I did, and after training when we reported back to the police headquarters for assignments I was one of the first to be called out and from that point I never left the department. I worked at the main headquarters in Kingstown and the main airport for about three months, then was sent to Canouan, a small Island to the south of St Vincent, mainly tourist oriented where I spent the next six years. I had small stints in Union Island and Mustique only as cover when colleagues took holidays. It was not until 2005 when I decided to come to the United Kingdom that I resigned from the police force and the Immigration department. It was some of the best treasured moments in my life.

"It was really intriguing the way they go about their arguments. I was always in awe of their presentation style and composure and I enjoyed it very much."

You left St Vincent to come to London and pursue a law degree; why law, and why London?
During my time at Immigration I had a lot of time and interaction with the police officers at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). I had the opportunity to see the way they prepare their cases, and also the way they prosecuted, as well as the way the lawyers would cross examine them. It was really intriguing the way they go about their arguments. I was always in awe of their presentation style and composure and I enjoyed it very much. I hope one day I will be as eloquent and there began my love and aspirations for the profession.The English legal system is the envy of the world, we hear about it all the time but it is indeed a true fact. My own country St Vincent’s legal system was developed from the English common law system and so it would have been easy for me to have had dual qualification.

How did you feel when things didn’t go to plan?
I was bitterly and extremely disappointed. A lot of things went through my mind, plus the unbearable heartache, the pain and disappointment of failure along with the rejection and regret of how I could have done better. They were very dark days. However, I endured it and after a while in the abyss, I heard a quote that said "someone’s opinion of you does not have to become your reality" (Les Browne, motivational speaker). So I picked myself up, dusted myself off and decided to give it another shot.

In 2010 you decided to join the Royal Marines - what drew you to the Commando Unit?
I was faced with the choice of going back home to St Vincent or staying in England to find a job and start over again. By staying here I had known a few friends from back home who had come here to join the armed forces. So I called them and asked their advice, after listening to them they recommended going to the nearest Armed Forces Career Office (AFCO) and get some first-hand information from them. There I spoke with a warrant officer 2nd class and he immediately suggested the marines.

You refer to your time training as “eight hard months”. Can you tell us anything about it?
It is a bit like what we will call in the legal profession: Oxbridge boys and Oxbridge educated. It is a very close-knit group of men who even Adolph Hitler feared. We go through the longest training of any NATO member, and are exposed to some of the most grueling and demanding training exercises. Our moto is Per Mare, Per Terram (By Sea, By Land). If you ever see a commercial with the Marines it ends with a state of mind. I figured if I can go and complete this training I will go back and give the legal profession a crack.

Due to your current posting and still being in active service you cannot tell us too much about what you do and where. But can you tell us what you enjoy about the job?
Not really, as it involves matters of national security. However, there was a programme shown on Channel 4 in 2014 about training at the Commando Training Centre Royal Marines (CTCRM) which attempted to give the public an insight of what happens in training. I enjoy the experience and the travel opportunities, not only at home here in the UK but the entire globe, from the deserts to the jungle and the Arctic. We are there crisscrossing the globe in our attempt to make it a safer, friendlier and more habitable place in which to live.

"The commando ethos speaks for itself. It’s a state of mind which only you can determine."

You have re-enrolled on the LLB. Has your time in the Royal Marines perhaps encouraged you not to quit?
Absolutely. The commando ethos speaks for itself. It’s a state of mind which only you can determine, if you have what it takes to be a commando. It is truly a lifelong experience which will forever be engaved in my mind.

How did it feel this summer to see that you had passed all your first year exams?
Calvert St Hill at Middle Temple in LondonTo be honest, it was the longest two months in my life, filled with anxiety and fear of not knowing what’s going to happen. However, I was quite relieved to have passed all four subjects. Not as well I as I would have liked but it gave me a lot of hope coming into the second year, considering how busy I was at work prior to and leading up to my exams.

You say you still have a lot of room for improvement, but now have what it takes to fully commit and succeed in the degree. How or what do you think has changed from the first time you started studying?
A belief that I understand more of what the syllabus is about. I followed it a lot more and stuck to the reading materials, rather than going out and buying a quantity of quick fix textbooks, that are in no way written to the standard expected of University of London students. Overall, a much better understanding of the demands and pressure that comes with a degree of this magnitude.

How hard is it to fit the degree around such a demanding career?
Extremely hard, as I can sometimes go for at least three weeks without touching my materials. My location and the nature of my job do make me work harder though, as I do not intend to let myself down again.

You travelled a long way to attend the London student and alumni event at the House of Commons last year. Why was it important for you to come?
I am not attending an institution, and I am not in London very often. So my only chance of networking is by trying my very best to attend events like these. It gives me the opportunity to put myself out there as a person and also establish links with persons with a similar interest, or those who have overcome the odds themselves already. I really appreciate that the university came up with such a brilliant idea, as it benefits people like myself tremendously, and for that I am very grateful.

Do you think you will ever go back to St Vincent?
Absolutely, it will always be home.

What is the one thing you really miss about back home?
The weather and the food as well as seeing family and friends.

  • The photos of Calvert were taken at an Undergraduate Laws student dinner in Middle Temple, located in the heart of London’s legal quarter. See photos from the event on on Flickr and Instagram.
  • Find out more about studying for a University of London LLB.