William Edward Goodman – 1922-2002
I had thought of joining the police after leaving the RAF. In the meantime they had been given a pretty hefty salary increase, so went back to my earlier thoughts. I liked the thought of doing something in the interests of the public, and maintaining its safety. I applied, sat the exams and went for the interview by the Chief Constable of Manchester, which had been my choice, as we now had a house there in Chorlton-cum-Hardy. I was accepted and sworn in as a Constable. I had just made it in time (21 Apr 1952) as the upper age limit was 30, and I had my 30th birthday during my first week of training at the Police School for the whole of the forces of the North West, held at Bruche, just outside Warrington, and within easy reach of Manchester.
We were issued with uniforms – far more than we would actually need at Bruche. Our helmets were of that style with a cocks comb top with chrome fitting at its front and a large force badge. There was also one with blackened fittings for night wear. Until fairly recently tunics had been dog collared, that is closed up to the neck and with numbers on each side of the collars, Again, those for day wear had chrome buttons, with black Bakelite ones for nights. Fairly recently more modern tunics were introduced with open necks with lapels and with chrome buttons for day wear, while the closed neck tunics with black buttons were still used for nights. Blue shirts with separate collars (to be starched), and black ties were issued. Long, fitted greatcoats with black buttons were issued for wear in cold weather, but capes were also issued for rain. They were folded lengthwise and carried over a shoulder when not actually being worn. They, and the greatcoats were made of a very heavy material, so thick and closely woven that the bottoms did not need to be hemmed. We provided our own boots of recognised pattern, for which a weekly boot allowance was paid. Accoutrements were truncheons, snaps (a form of quick action handcuffs which really could be used to good effect to restrain an awkward or dangerous prisoner), whistle and chain, notebook covers and inserts and gloves. The thick Force Instruction Book and other such documents were also issued. Helmets were not used at Bruche, so caps were issued for wear there. We took with us those, plus open neck tunics and trousers, shirts and ties, plus sportswear and accoutrements with us together with essential stationary.
Five of us went from Manchester that day, but that weeks’ intake was of some fifty or sixty men and women. The women included some from the north east, as there was no accommodation for women at their District Training Centre. When we had our final Passing Out parade, guests and relatives came. We were surprised that the parents of one girl from Hull drove there in HRH 1. Apparently it was the a Hull registration, and he later relinquished the number to the Duke of Edinburgh
We were divided into classes of about twenty each, and we were with an Inspector Chisholme from the now extinct Bootle Police Force. I was not only the oldest man in the class, but also in the whole school. The youngest were just 19 years old, and we had one brilliant lad from Liverpool, with a first class education, in our class.
During our first week, on the weekly sports afternoon, the whole school was sent out on a cross country run. In all there would have been some 200 runners and I was more than satisfied when I was the eighth to arrive back. Students included some recently discharged from the Army, and they and I were all well up in the field, with a few youngsters amongst us. Not a bad result for one who had taken virtually no exercise since my service days, as I had come in eighth out of the whole field.
We were taught from the very start that a Constable was a citizen, locally appointed, but with authority under the Crown for the protection of life and property, the prevention and detection of crime, the maintenance of order and the prosecution of offenders against the Peace. That definition of a Constable’s duties and responsibilities echoed the first orders given by Sir Robert Peel when he formed the first Police Force more than a century previously, and had stood the test of time. Their importance is in that order. His responsibility was to the Crown, not to a politician of whatever persuasion. He was responsible for his own acts and, if he were to be acting within the law, only the Sovereign could over-ride that law and instruct him otherwise. To sum it up, the Constable was solely responsible for his actions, not the Chief Constable or anyone else.
I derived much enjoyment from most of the class work. Mr. Chisholme knew I had worked in a solicitors’ office, and had gained some knowledge of Air Force law and involved me with him in two sided discussions – I might say arguments – in the subtleties of legal interpretations. It stretched my mind enormously, and, as I was learning, so were the remainder of the class. I was not so interested in Road Traffic Law where so much is a matter of fact, but even then, my interest in the Laws of Evidence was brought into our discussions.. I found the oldest laws, dating from the early 19th century, and even back to the 14th, to be quite fascinating as they gave an insight into the social conditions of those days, as well as the skills, now lost, of those old drafters of the law.
One requirement worried me, and that was the requirement all students should gain a badge of the Royal Life Saving Institute, which involved rescuing a drowning man when both of us was dressed. We were also required to pass the First Aid course, and gain the first St. Johns’ certificate.
It is essential that a constable is physically able to quell trouble, and to protect himself from injury by a person armed with any type of weapon. Those classes were held in the gymnasium. The self defence aspect seemed to have been based on instruction given to members of the armed forces, and much time was spent on the mats used for Judo. Each of us got used to being thrown all over the place when the instructor ordered us to attack him and he defended himself, and we soon learnt the rudiments of self defence. In those days there was no radio or other means of communicating with the station, and only one car on the division for emergency use which the Inspector was loath to allow away from the station, even had it been possible to reach him. So – one had to be able to overcome a violent prisoner and once he had been subdued, to keep him in that state. The next step was to get him to the station, even though he struggled to get out of the hold. We were taught various ways of doing that. I shall never forget having to use what appeared to be little more than holding linked arms and hands. With just a little extra pressure the prisoner could be almost made to yelp with pain, and soon was ‘brought to heel’. On one occasion I had to use it while making an arrest in a house. The prisoner, who had not just served 10 years for a very brutal robbery, could only be restrained by a variation on that hold. Pain did not get to him and as he tried to fight me I used the hold to throw him over the back of a settee. He came meekly after that and later, when the Inspector asked him why was he holding his wrist, he told him it was broken. How had he done that? And was told I had done it! He was taken to hospital and appeared at Court the following morning in sling and plaster. But he made no complaint against me.
I was delighted with the results of the final exams, of which I was top of the intake, not just my class. We returned to Manchester to commence a two week course in the force training school to tell us about the beat system we would be working into the dim, distant future, the different departments of the force and the personalities we should be able to identify, but most of all was the introduction into the local statutes and by-laws, which applied only to the City of Manchester. The Manchester Police Act 1844 was particularly interesting and showed much about the lives of the citizens of the City and what they did or were supposed to do or not. The pavements outside the houses had to be swept before 8 am, women were not to stand on window ledges more than 6 feet from the ground (I wonder why, given they wore long voluminous skirts then). There were laws governing liquids, effluent, etc running across the pavement, obstructions of pavements by stalls outside shops, and shop front awnings above the pavements and even hedges and trees growing and leaning over the footpaths were within the province of the patrolling constable. Much is made of legislation, especially in London, of the powers of stop, search and seize. Manchester had those powers since the mid eighteen hundreds without any undue problems – and I believe any problems which have arisen today have been caused by other and ill founded legislation. Prostitution has always been with us ever since early biblical times, and that was also catered for in the old statute.
We had responsibilities now taken over by bureaucracy, and we were all authorised, with powers under the Shops Act, and of inspections under many statutes, now replaced, and the duties are now the responsibilities of an odd mixture of local government departments, and with little success – and police efforts over many years have been wasted.
How much control is now maintained over the employment of juveniles? How many stalls does one see creeping further and further over footways because no one cares to approach the keepers? How many times have you seen overhanging trees or awnings requiring one to duck beneath them? The patrolling constable on foot and seeing tilted flagstones or holes appearing in roadways will do nothing because council employees have not replaced their sightings and do nothing to bring them into disrepute with their employers – those who should be repairing the damage. The constable reporting same demanded immediate attention.
These are just a few of the many examples where those replacing the duties previously performed by police now fall far short of the ideal. However, the one which really upsets me relates to Children and Young Persons. More often than not it was the police who were first informed of possible physical abuse of children. It was they who decided upon a course of action, with the greater expertise of the N.S.P.C.C., but it is surprising how many never got to court. That action was immediate and accompanied by a couple of hard fists and a warning as to future consequences should the offender ever do it again. In most cases that was sufficient to ensure the child never suffered again, but in the more serious cases the child was taken away, as he is today, but the courts’ ideas of justice were tougher than today.
Yes, I know it was wrong to assault the offender, but it was swift justice and I cannot think of even one case in which abuse of the child went on week after week, month after month, under the very eyes of the so called Social Workers, many of whom have no knowledge of life – and I know of no child who died as a result of such neglect by authority.
After visiting the various specialised departments we were allocated to our new divisions and our divisional numbers fitted to our uniforms. During that period at the Force Training School, which was in South Street, just off Albert Square, we had to wear our uniforms travelling to and from duty. It felt strange to think that we were very much in the public’s eye, in our brand new uniforms, and hoping we would not have to answer questions, even for directions, we might not be able to answer. There was no need to worry as the patrolling policeman was as much a part, of the landscape, with his anonymity blending into the background.
I was attached to ‘D’ Division, on the south side of Manchester, and with headquarters in Platt Lane, and had the number D94. After three or four days being showed round the division and its section stations I was posted to the Didsbury Section, and given 19 beat. There were 6 beats on the section and two patrols on main roads, all under the charge of a sergeant, who spent most of his time during the 8 hour shift visiting constables on their beats, perhaps patrolling with them to a convenient place to meet the man on the next beat.
Each beat had four ‘points’ to be made at specified intervals, and one was allowed two hours to cover the beat during morning and afternoon shifts and three hours at night. Imagine a beat as being a square; one of the points might be in a corner, another half way along one of the sides and the other two somewhere in the centre. Beats were arranged so that men on adjoining beats would cross in opposite directions at the same time, so that they could pass on information (or a surreptitious smoke together). Radios were many years into the future and the only way of summoning assistance from other constables was by use of the whistle, but that alerted everyone, even those you did not want to. An alternative was to strike the pavement with the truncheon, which ‘rang’ and could be identified by a colleague. Patrolling sergeants seeking a constable would do the same with their walking sticks, a feature of sergeants in Manchester.
Being new to Manchester I had no intimate knowledge of the area, other than the main roads, and the first two days were spent in the company of an experienced constable who showed me the beat, points, vulnerable places, shops, back alleys, short cuts, etc, before I was put out on my self-conscious own. I had that beat for six weeks before moving on to another, and got a grounding in beat working, and meeting residents and shopkeepers, as well as finding where I could get a cup of tea.
Parading for duty was nothing like that in ‘The Bill’ etc. We were expected to be there well before parade time, which was 15 minutes before commencement of the shift, so that we could make notes in our pocket books of stolen vehicles, crossing out those recovered since the last duty. There was also a book for Special Attentions which might require attention, such as a large wedding at a church, and reception elsewhere when parking problems might arise, or that prowlers had been heard in certain streets, or indecent exposures in certain parks, and numerous other things. In those days residents would let us know the house would be unoccupied for a length of time, such as during summer holidays, and we were expected to visit each to ensure it had not been broken into, etc. (The only good thing was that we had to visit them when they returned to ensure all was in order – and there was often a half crown for our trouble.).
We stood in line and were called to attention by the sergeant, who ordered ‘Produce Appointments’. We then brought our truncheons from their deep pockets and held them together with the pocket book in one hand, with our ‘snap’ (handcuffs) in the other, all held out with forearms horizontal. When the sergeant was satisfied we were all properly equipped he ordered ‘Return Appointments.’ We were then detailed by number, not name, to cover a beat and given a time for us to come in for refreshments. Next he brought to notice any Force or Divisional orders and special notices and duties in addition to those already noted, before we were marched out onto the street. It was far more impressive than anything seen today.
On duty we were expected to find any abandoned stolen vehicles, failure to do so resulted in being charged with that failure. In the same way were expected to note any unusual lights in business premises and turn out the reference for that business. We were expected to find and report any insecurity of business premises and to turn out the reference to check and secure them. And, of course, the same went for ‘aways from home’. It did not take long to devise some means of marking property, after ensuring it was in order, thus cutting down the effort needed in the re-examination.
It certainly ensured that one became much more observant, and night duty soon enabled one to find all the places where it was possible to hide in wait for any wrongdoer. It also gave the opportunity to find all manner of quick ways of getting from A to B, even across gardens, and which hedges and fences were easily negotiated. It was essential to know all the back entries, and many shops had holes cut in their rear gates through which the backyard could be seen and, likewise, rear gates were marked in the same way as the fronts. Later, I was to get to know where one could find a cup of tea during the night. One such was a bakehouse, and the staff were always pleased to have a reassuring visit. I even knew of one householder who left a flask of tea inside his rear porch, complete with cup and saucer, a small jug of milk and bowl of sugar. It was very welcome on a cold, windy night to spend a few minutes smoking a cigarette or two, which he also left, complete with matches and an ash tray. New men on the beat were told that we must always take advantage of his generosity and never, ever leave the flask untouched, though the householder realised not everyone took milk and sugar, or smoked. Not to have done so might have stopped that valuable night time ‘perk’.
At first, when I was allowed out of the station on my own, unaccompanied by an experienced constable, I felt as though the whole population had its eyes on me, but soon came to realise that, in 1952, I had become almost a part of the street furniture, notable by absence rather than presence. Undoubtedly wrongdoers hesitated before indulging in any unlawful act, and even motorists would have a weather eye open for the dark navy blue uniform and the tall helmet. That resulted in more careful driving (and fewer motoring offence reports). Other road users exercised similar care, such as not to be caught riding a cycle on the footpath. Motorists would think twice before infringing parking regulations, but could always reckon the constable would exercise his judgement and discretion before reporting him. He always knew he would be helped if the legitimate need arose for him to park when it might otherwise be an offence. ‘Halt’ and ‘Stop’ signs were just that, and motorists who merely slowed down and crossed without the wheels having stopped revolving did so at his peril. Later, the law to enforce stopping within the limits of a pedestrian crossing invariably resulted in a court appearance. On the crime side the presence was usually enough to ensure minor, petty crimes were not committed, and, at night time the criminal intention would often be frustrated by the lack of knowledge of the police presence. Children soon learnt it was unlawful to play ball games, such as football, in the roadway, and, in those small ways began life with a much healthier regard for the law than today’s youth.
Residents on the beat soon came to recognise their ‘Bobby’ and treated him as a friend, while we were not discouraged from spending some time talking with them. That applied not only to the more affluent areas, but to the poorer ones, too. Even criminals taught their children to respect the ‘Master’ as we were known in those districts, and to go straight to them should they ever be in need of help. When I worked at a station in one of the poorest areas, children would often be found outside the station at times of morning breaks. We soon learnt to differentiate between the scroungers and those who really needed something to eat.
During the Great Depression days in the twenties and early thirties, when there was much unemployment and workers held marches against the government, and there was considerable unrest involving strikers etc, the police often had to engage in pitched battles, armed with no more than a pair of fists and a truncheon against whatever was used against them, the police still maintained a heavily used soup kitchen in the yard behind All Saints police station. Recipients included many who had battled with the police, together with their families. It was sometimes the only good meal they could get.
Police, then as now, were all too often called in to domestic disputes, but we were fortunate in that we did not have the inept interference of unworldly social workers. One must remember that the pre-war constables were drawn from a broad spectrum of working class society, although many were above the normal educational standards of the day. When I joined the police, many ex-servicemen had been attracted to the career, but almost without exception all were possessed of inbred common sense and a wide knowledge of humanity.
I had to smile on more than one occasion when I heard of poorer people asking the constable for help during war-time. They included women whose husbands were away fighting in some foreign parts and had not been home for two or more years and asked that the constable, usually on nights, should help her by satisfying her needs.
In Manchester the police administered what was known as the Lord Mayor’s Half Crown, distributed to the elderly just before Christmas. Every police station listed applicants who had come to the station to have their names put on the list. Obviously those lists were longest in the poor areas, with very few from the outlying districts. The lists were submitted to the Town Hall and returned about a week before Christmas with large bags of half crown coins. We went out on patrol weighted down by pockets full of bagged half crowns, together with the lists, with some erasures. Distribution was both emotive and satisfying. Our supervising sergeants and inspectors knew that we often had a job to get away from the grateful recipients, many of whom would brew up specially by way of thanks. The Town Hall kept track of recipients each year, and it was usually possible to accommodate all requests, but if the lists should become too large then those who had a good ‘success rate’ would be deleted. It was harrowing to leave a house and have to pass a neighbour who had been unsuccessful this time, and withstand their tears as you broke the bad news to them.
Half a crown does not seem much, but it made all the difference between a warmer house from an extra bag of coal, or dinner more in keeping with the season. If we bear in mind that many of those old folk were in their seventies and eighties, their education could have been in the eighteen seventies and eighties. It is unlikely that many of them would have been at school after their twelfth birthday and one would expect their education to have been little more than rudimentary. It came as a surprise to me when they started to leave letters of thanks at the station, and I read those letters. In almost every case the writing was beautifully formed, with an unexpected elegance. The grammar was correct, spelling without mistakes, and the whole tone of the letter wonderfully expressed.
I doubt that a university graduate with first class honours in English could have done half as well in these days when so much emphasis is placed on higher education.
A recruit is on probation during the first two years of his service, during which time he can be discharged if he is unlikely to make a good constable. In my day, during the second half of that period, we were rotated amongst the various specialist departments for four or five days in each. Force administration was known as the Chief Constable’s Office (CCO for short). The officer in charge of it was Chief Superintendent Robert Mark, who had not been a purely office man, having service in the CID and Special Branch. He lived in Chorlton cum Hardy in a street just behind our back garden. During those few days he asked me whether I would like to come to work in his department. My reply, though not in quite the same words, was that I had not joined the police to be a clerk. Fortunately he took it in good part.
I was still a probationer when, one day, the Divisional Superintendent sent for me. I knew it was not time for an assessment and was worried I had done something wrong. No. He told me I had been nominated for a course at RAF Shawbury in Shropshire. It was over a long weekend, and on my return, with three others, I was to deliver lectures to all ranks up to and including Chief Superintendent, and from all specialised branches. The subject was to be ‘Rescue from crashed aircraft’. I pointed out that I had not been a member of the RAF Fire and Rescue Services, that I had been a flier who had been shot down, as he already knew from my records. The other three were also ex-fliers, one of whom was a sergeant on a division on the other side of Manchester. There were four territorial divisions and each would take one of those divisions. I was to look after my own division, which would host some of the specialists, too.
Our accommodation was booked for us (and men from other forces) in Shrewsbury’s best hotel at the top of Wyle Cop called, I think, The Lion. Almost the first person I saw was Clunes Johnstone, our old neighbour from Purley, Surrey. I offer no prizes as to how we spent that first evening! It transpired he was in charge of the course. It had been arranged by the Home Office, who were concerned at the number of people who had attempted to rescue pilots trapped in crashed aircraft. An increasing number of jet fighters were coming into service. Because of their speed it was almost impossible to parachute out of one of them. An Englishman, Martin Baker, had invented a seat into which the pilot was strapped. The seat rose up what was, in effect a rail, and was fitted with an explosive charge. The last operation before the hood was closed down was that the charge should be activated by removal of a safety pin, which was then stowed in a special pocket just above and behind the pilot’s head, on the side of a head rest shaped fitting behind the pilot’s head. That fitting had a very inviting black and yellow banded handle just above his head. In emergency he would reach up, grasp the handle and pull it down over his face. It brought in action a number of explosive bolts around the fittings which held the canopy down, and threw it into space and away from being a danger to the pilot.
The next thing to happen was for the whole of the pilot’s seat to be blasted upwards along its guide rails and away from the doomed aircraft. The object of the blind which was pulled down over the face was to defend it from injury by flying debris. The pilot’s harness strapped him into ejector seat, instead of the actual frame of the aircraft, so that he went out still attached to the seat. When the seat reached the height of its trajectory he was released from the seat and the parachute was deployed. The seat itself fell away to earth while the pilot drifted downwards.
The main problem was that inviting handle. A would-be rescuer would smash away the canopy and see the pilot strapped in, maybe unconscious. To get to the parachute release gear he might use that handle as a means of supporting himself as he leaned into the cockpit, with disastrous results. The charge would go off, blasting the pilot to his death, as there was hardly enough height for the canopy to deploy, and also the death, or at the very least, the loss of the rescuer’s arm. What had to be done was to take the safety pin from its stowage and insert it in the hole near the handle, whereupon the rescue could go ahead in safety. Accidents had occurred involving ground crews doing servicing and forgetting the charge had not been disarmed.
The Home Office realised the police were often the first on the scene and considered it essential they should not go in without knowledge. We were also advised as to the safe ways to approach a crashed plane in view of potential spillage of fuel, and that vehicles approaching from the wrong direction had exploded fumes merely with the spark from the vehicle engine.
We were given several RAF posters such as are exhibited in crew rooms, etc on RAF stations, but they were mainly about the Martin Baker seats. The US Air Force made seats under licence, but with a different means of operation, and I obtained details of their seats, too. When preparing my lecture I relied on those posters, but as Ringway Airport (now Manchester International Airport) was within our boundaries, I extended it to include civilian aircraft and airliners, too. I was able to obtain large poster sized diagrams of most airliners using the airport, and some were forthcoming with models, which gave me a good cross section of visual aids.
I still stammered and the worst thing that had happened to me in the police was when I had to go into the witness box. I wondered how I was going to manage with the lectures. My first audience included two superintendents, a number of sergeants and many of my colleagues, including some of the hard nuts. I got through that lecture without a stammer, and the question time told me how successful it had been, and their demeanour throughout showed I had held their attention. I was particularly gratified when one of the ‘hard nuts’ came to me afterwards and told me a group of them had decided that if I had wavered in any way they would have really gone for me
I shall never forget my first arrest. I was on duty in the vicinity of Manchester City football club’s ground when I came upon a man who was completely paralytic with drink. He had to remain in Manchester for the weekend, after he had sobered up and been released later on the Saturday night. The man, a Welshman, had come with a coach party from their town, but he had become parted from his friends during a pre-match drinking session. He was one of the chapel elders, according to his friends who come to the station in search of him when he had not turned up at the coach to return home, and was unused to much drink. They were apprehensive of what this would do to his standing in the community.
That was nothing to the apprehension I felt for my own situation when I gave my evidence of the arrest. I stammered badly during that first public appearance before a court of law and feared the magistrates would think badly of me, even though they appeared sympathetic. I also wondered whether my performance would get back to my superiors, but nothing was ever said. My prisoner was fined the usual £2.0.0d. for the offence, and was given time to pay. He had no idea as to how he would get back to Wales.
Many forces used a sergeant or above to prosecute cases in Magistrates Courts, but in Manchester each constable was his own prosecutor. Evidence was vetted or advised on as a constable who had made an arrest attended a Court Parade in the office of the divisional superintendent and had to give his evidence in front of his peers. The superintendent would question the officer on all aspects of the case and criticise, commend or advise the officer on the presentation of his case, before we were allowed to proceed to the Magistrates’ Courts building in Minshull Street in the city.
Prisoners kept in custody were brought from the various divisional cells, and those on remand were brought from the prisons and paraded in the secure accommodation in the basement of the court building. They took part in the Line Up which was attended by most detectives and officers with arrest cases that day. Each prisoner was brought forward and the case against him was summarised by a senior detective, who would ask the arresting officer for further details if necessary. In this way we got to know by sight criminals arrested within Manchester, and it was possible that a detective might be able to identify a prisoner for other offences on the various divisions.
Offences reported for summons were dealt with differently. The report was initially checked by the Sergeants and Inspectors before being put before the Superintendent. Those for the more common offences such as parking without lights at night (motor vehicles had to be parked with side lights and tail lights switched on in those days), driving without lights (or cycling without lights), driving or parking on a footpath (still an offence, but when did you last hear of anyone being reported for it), setting fire to the chimney in a dwelling house, or allowing it to be on fire (to burn the soot away was cheaper than paying a chimney sweep) and many other minor matters passed the superintendent on the way for a final decision by the Deputy Chief Constable. It was only with a more complicated case, such as driving dangerously or without consideration for other road users, driving without insurance, etc. and other non-motoring offences of an unusual nature that the reporting officer would have to attend the superintendent’s office for a full discussion of the case, with, if necessary the assistance of a solicitor from the Town Clerk’s office to conduct the case at court.
To attend the Court Parade together with a number of other constables was, to me, more frightening than the witness box at court, but when one had ‘explain’ a summons application there was less formality, and one could learn a lot during the discussion of a case. They also demonstrated to me the need for a more detailed knowledge of the laws of evidence, and what needed to be proved as every part of every ingredient of an offence, and police powers and practice in the obtaining of that evidence. Armed with that knowledge few cases were lost by officers not knowing what could or should be proved. I often wonder how much damage has been done by the interference of lawyers of the CPS, when a Detective Superintendent in the Metropolitan Police did not know his powers of arrest, the bread and butter of our criminal investigations. I wondered whether the police were relying not so much on their own methods of investigation and the uncovering of sufficient evidence to justify their own decisions as whether to prosecute or not, as on advice or directions of the Prosecution Service and whether that had a knock-on result that they even forgot to really learn their powers of arrest. In the ‘fifties the decision by the charge office sergeant or inspector to bail a prisoner to return to the station on a particular date was seldom used. There was no need, as the policeman charging the prisoner made sure he had the necessary evidence for the charge to be accepted. Even a Sergeant performing the duties as officer in charge of the Charge Office was the only policeman who had to be certain on the evidence laid before him was sufficient for him to accept the charge. The High Court upheld one sergeant who refused to accept a charge, despite being ordered by a superintendent to do so, when he had not been convinced as to the sufficiency of evidence to justify his acceptance. To my mind, that alone demonstrated the policeman is an Officer of the Crown, and not just an employee when performing his duties.
To go back to my stammer… I had it for the whole of my life, and it had embarrassed me in so many different ways, but I had pointed out to the Aircrew Selection Board when I volunteered back in 1940 that I never stammered in emergencies – and, on operations, I never had any difficulties. Also, while a prisoner of war I had been rehearsing for a stage play. I never stammered on stage either and realised that I never stammered when I sang or shouted. I was taught to throw my voice so that it could be clearly heard throughout the theatre, even when a stage whisper was needed. It was when I tried to speak conversationally that I stammered. Even the frightening audiences for my lectures on crashed aircraft went off without a stammer as, unconsciously, I had been throwing my voice. I gradually began to give my evidence in the same way, and eventually lost my stammer in the witness box. I did so by mixing together a quiet ‘shout’ with a ‘song’ requiring different breathing and, in turn, I was able to converse properly.
I continued to work my way through the beats on the division, leading to the small station close to the University and close to All Saints, Chorlton on Medlock and Hulme. I was quite happy to be working in those areas, with its rows of terraced houses, bombed crofts still left from the bombing. Amongst the University buildings was one from which could be heard the sounds of electrical equipment throughout both day and night. It is alleged that within that building, a laboratory, the atom was first split, although Cambridge University might not agree. The sprawling University complex has now taken over most of the old area, and Manchester Royal Infirmary, including St. Mary’s women’s hospital have expanded over the rest of Chorlton on Medlock which was on our division. High Street (now Hathersage Road) was a boundary of 7 beat. It was a road much used by prostitutes offering their services.. They knew they were safe from arrest by one uniformed policeman patrolling on his own and we soon got to know many of them during passing conversations. Many of them back in those days were comparatively good women dedicated to their children’s welfare. Some lived in quite respectable areas, far removed from their ‘places of work’.
That they were basically women as well as prostitutes was brought home to me one night when I heard a woman screaming along Hathersage Road. I ran towards her and a man ran away. I was able to catch him, even though I did not really know what he had done, and took him back. The woman told me he had indecently exposed himself to her and made indecent suggestions. The man’s attitude was that she was a prostitute and seen it all before. The woman’s view was that in acting within her professional capacity she expected certain behaviour, but this was different and she was as open to that insulting behaviour as any other woman would be. I arrested him but had difficulty in getting over to the charge office inspector that she was as entitled to the protection of the law as any other woman. Next morning the court was incredulous, knowing the woman from previous court appearances as a prostitute, but the man pleaded guilty, and my outlining of the case from the witness box and under oath, convinced them of my assertions. He got fourteen days, and I gained respect from other prostitutes, and little tit bits of information which I was able to pass on to CID.
We were not paid for any overtime worked, but were credited with ‘time due’ based upon the over- time worked. To attend court from night shift one normally received five and a quarter hours. Many of us had a great number of hours due to us, which we were allowed to take off by retiring early within the exigencies of the service. One night I was being allowed to retire early from duty as I was taking the family to Blackpool for the day. One of the prostitutes told me that a man had staggered across the road onto a very large bombed site strewn with stone blocks and bricks, and heavily overgrown with several years’ wild undergrowth. She was not busy that night and had not seen him come onto the road again, even though he had been there for quite a while. I searched the site and found him out to the world and hopelessly drunk. I roused him and arrested him for being drunk and incapable.
Even in those days there was some illegal entry into the country, mainly from the West Indies and West Africa. Those who had come legitimately had written home to tell everyone what a paradise Britain was. You had no need to work, the Government paid you for doing nothing, and if you arrived there with few clothes in bad weather, they bought you clothes. If you were hungry they fed you. It was a lovely life. Many seeking the easy life came as stowaways on freighters. Ship captains knew that if they found a stowaway they had to feed him for the duration of the voyage, and he was arrested on arrival and charged with being a stowaway. The usual penalty was 2 weeks imprisonment, but upon release he was put in touch with the various Welfare offices who brought heaven to him. Many soon learnt that it was easy to get a white woman and after a short time to get her to working on the streets so that he could live quite well on her immoral earnings.
As I walked him back to the Station he told me he was a seaman and had just returned that same day from a trip from West Africa. The usual routine was to search the ship for stowaways and one or two were always found and put ashore. To put it mildly it is not easy to see a coal black face in the coal bunkers as long as he does not open his eyes or his mouth with brilliant white teeth, so many more popped up when they became hungry after a couple of days at sea, to become a liability on the ships’ stores.
This trip was unusual in that they were making another call to pick up more cargo some distance up the coast, and that pick up was to be three days later and from lighters as the draft was such the ship could not dock, but would anchor about three miles out to sea. True to form after two days of hunger the stowaways all popped out. When the ship anchored they were all lined up against the ship’s rail and the distant shore was pointed out to them. ‘There’s your home, now swim for it’. Those who refused to jump were kicked off!
We had just reached Oxford Road ,opposite High Street, and beside Whitworth Park which had lost its railings for the war effort furnaces. I steered him into the park and found a bench for him to sleep it off, while I went home early and to Blackpool that morning. He was the only prisoner I did not charge. I suppose I should be ashamed of myself, but I wasn’t.
Oxford Street area
Burlington Street was then a real thoroughfare, with a bus route towards Greenheys and beyond, but is now closed as part of the University. The old Students’ Union building was on the corner of Burlington Street and Oxford Road. It was an elegant brick building, holding dining rooms as well as a bar. When students graduated the area was swamped with proud parents and friends, and it was a sight to see them all in their gowns and caps. Balls were held in the old University building, and there was considerable movement between the ballroom and the union bar. A number of police were always on duty in the vicinity, not to prevent trouble as today, but to be helpful, and regulate traffic movements. Students looked upon the police as their friends in those days and were always sure of a good welcome in the union bar. On ball nights we were drawn into the jollifications, mingling with men in evening dress and women in gowns, of all ages, including being dragged onto the dance floor. The hardest job for the constable was to ensure that he still had his helmet when he left! It was all in good part.
Likewise the appearance of the students has changed. The decently dressed, well mannered and spoken student has been replaced by others which could only be described as of loutish appearance and conduct who, more often than not, look on the police as their enemies.
Also along Oxford Road was the Roman Catholic Church of the Holy Name. It is a lovely building with twin towers on either side of the central doorway, reached by several steps across the width of the church. A unique feature is that the towers appear half finished as though they had been designed to support twin steeples, such as Cologne Cathedral looks.
Right opposite and on the corner of Ducie Street (later Devas Street) was a large pub, the local of many local residents, mostly Irish. One of my greatest surprises came on the first New Years Eve I was on duty in that area. Just a few minutes before midnight the College pub almost emptied of customers, who all staggered across the road to the Holy Name for Midnight Mass.
We always had extra patrols for New Year and St.Patrick’s Days, and we were usually paired off in case of trouble. St.Pat’s night in particular was fraught with danger of large scale fights in the pubs, and often took some time to quell. Occasionally it was better to calm it all down without arrests, which might only have inflamed the situation, even though it went against the grain. That seldom happened and the cells were full to overflowing on such nights.
Another occasion which required additional policing on the section was the Student’ Rag Day procession and appeals for charities. The events included several stunts which went on for a good week in advance. They have included ‘kidnaps’ of well known persons, to be released on payment of ransom money for their charities. Often the prisoners were only too willing to cooperate for the publicity. There were some business men or local dignitaries, but more often than not they were film or theatrical stars. Most Universities had similar Rag Weeks and would poach onto ‘our’ territory and raid the materials earmarked for decorating the floats. Stunts would include pranks such as finding how many could squeeze into a phone booth or a Mini car. Students in fancy dress would roam through the city selling their Rag Magazine. It was a well written and funny publication and sales were good. Gymnastically inclined groups would put on exhibitions and their collection boxes soon filled during the business lunch hour in the city. It was necessary for us to be vigilant otherwise we might be the targets for practical jokes. If we were, we all took it in good part. On the day of the procession all manner of transport firms donated use of their vehicles, cooperating with the students by having their lorries in pristine condition (it was cheap advertising for them). The students erected the previously designed and prepared decorations. Both men and scantily clothed girl students rode the floats during the procession. The procession was accompanied by men and women students dressed in a variety of costumes, dancing along and singing as they collected from bystanders, and all were in good humour. We had to see them off from our division at All Saints and await their return, and sort out the ensuing traffic congestion. The parades caused so much traffic congestion in town that they were abandoned after a few more years. Thirty to fifty yards separated the junctions of Brunswick and Burlington Streets with Oxford Road, so that a constable was detailed to work both those junctions, using hand signals, of course. They worked together; covering both morning and evening rush hours, but Rag Week required much longer attention to those junctions. For my part I rather enjoyed my spells on such duty
There were shops along most of one side of Oxford Road, and along Wilmslow Road in Rusholme. They did not have the solid shutters so common today, and were the subject for many ‘smash and grab’ type thefts in the middle of the night, when the display windows were knocked in, often with a brick. Anyone with a brick shaped parcel during the night was a safe bet for a charge of having house or shop breaking instruments in his possession! To prevent such break-ins we patrolled the main shopping areas between one and three in the morning, the danger times for such crimes. One night, while patrolling Oxford Road, I heard the sound of breaking glass and ran towards that sound. It was a radio shop and the miscreant had smashed a window to one side of the recessed doorway. He was still there, with one portable radio alongside where he was crouching. It was almost impossible to move him. He had his head inside a hole in the window, and there was a small cut on the side of his neck. Apparently he was reaching further into the window for another radio when a large piece of glass had come free from above his head and just grazed the side of his neck. He had looked up and saw another piece ready to fall right onto his neck, which would almost certainly have nearly decapitated him. He was quite literally frozen in terror. I supported the loosened glass with my gloved hand and enabled him to extricate himself without further injury. As soon as I released my hold the glass crashed down. He was the easiest arrest for crime in my entire career!
Chorlton on Medlock, Hulme and Moss Side, too, had many bombed sites, many of which had been cleared of the war time debris. At the same time there were many Irish ‘Tinkers’ in the country, itinerant and moving around in large groups with their caravans. It was said, though I cannot substantiate it, that when a tinker appeared before a court in Eire (Southern Ireland), he had only got to ask ‘Please don’t send me to prison, we were going over to England tomorrow’, whereupon he would be given money from court funds just to get him out of the country.
Many of them had caravans pulled by old lorries, though there were still a few horse drawn caravans being used. They would move around in convoy and sneak on to vacant sites. Once there it was not easy to get them moved by local councils, who had to abide by laws, and the occupation might go on for several weeks. We would always be on the look-out for them as they entered upon the city boundaries. As motor vehicles, their users were subject to Road Traffic laws, and their drivers should obey the directions of uniformed constables. We soon discovered it was of little use to prosecute them by summons for the many vehicular offences which could be revealed. Even not having insurance for the vehicles was a waste of time from the prosecution point of view. Enquiries at their sites were met with denials that he was known, and the piles of unserved summonses grew ever larger. Immediate action or no action at all was the only answer, which could be accomplished by use of powers of arrest. To bail him would result in him absconding, with his families and vehicles immediately, which had the advantage that, as well as getting rid of some of them at least, there was also in existence a warrant for not surrendering to bail, to be used next time he came to notice.
The men would go out in their old lorries in search of scrap (or anything not bolted down) which they took back to the site to be sorted and sold if possible. The women went from door to door selling bunches of heather, clothes pegs or telling fortunes. Housewives would be overcharged or cursed if they did not buy anything. The tinker women’s attitudes could be quite frightening. The men and women would drink in local pubs, but their behaviour was such that many landlords had to ban them from their premises. We were often called upon to break up drunken brawls, but it was difficult to identify their characters without fingerprints, etc. and the use of false names was rife. Without such knowledge, even a night in the cells meant that at court the following day, a plea of guilty, and with ‘nothing known’, the result was a fine of £2.0.0. or so. Even then the court would allow time to pay at some ridiculous figure like half a crown a week.
Both sites and tinkers were unclean; the former strewn with unwanted rubbish, refuse and excrement. Dirty children would be ill dressed, defecating and urinating at will where ever they were. About the only possessions they valued were their caravans, and when the council was able to we worked with them to rid the district of the vermin, for such they were. We would wait until the men and their lorries had left for a day of searching for scrap or stealing and the council would arrive with lorries to tow the caravans away as best they could. Corporation lorries were not equipped with trailer tow-bars, so steel cables, chains etc were the only means of pulling them away, under heavy police escort. The sites were themselves dangerous to vehicles in view of remaining bricks and blocks, so some damage was almost impossible to avoid. It is amazing the speed at which news of the movements reached the men, who immediately drove back to take over the vans, now off the sites, and they would then be escorted under a motorised police escort over the city boundaries.
I have referred to them as vermin, they were that, certainly, but many were also more like wild animals. Very early in my time at ‘Number One’ as it was known the length and breadth of the North of England forces. It was, in fact No 1 Section Station in Higher Ormond Street and noted for its policing of some of the worst elements of society over the years. My beat took me close to the station when, one Sunday afternoon I made a visit and was told by the station officer there was a large scale fight in Ducie Street, outside an Irish club. He closed the station and came with me. He would not let us hurry. He was a wise old officer whose idea was that if we allowed them to fight themselves out, we would have an easier job to clear up any more trouble.
We found the street blocked. There was minor skirmishing at the edges, but the main trouble seemed to be in the centre. We managed to push our way forward, but could not get actually into the centre for the crush of people making a ‘ring’ for two men fighting there. They were stripped to the waist and their bodies and faces were both bloodied. They were in crouched positions, facing each other and circling to find an advantage. Their lips were drawn back and their teeth ready to use. One of them went in low, under the guard of the other, and straight to the throat, in the manner I had seen the Germans training their guard dogs, which went for the throat, not the forearm. I was horrified that men should fight like dogs. The fight continued until one of them collapsed from exhaustion and both were borne away by their supporters. That day I discovered that wherever there are numbers of tinkers they fight to determine who shall be leader until he has to fight a challenger. Had we managed to get into that circle to stop the fight we would have been almost lynched.
Fights were still going on amongst those on the fringe, so honours were met by the arrest of two of them who would not stop. I had met or come up against all sorts of humanity and human behaviour, but nothing which even came near that I had seen that day.
A little counselling!
One particular incident involving an Irish couple has remained with me over the years. One Sunday morning I called into the station and the station officer told me there had been a “999″ call from a phone box by a woman alleging her husband had tried to strangle her. I went to a terraced house in Chorlton on Medlock and was admitted by the woman, fully dressed and with some redness around her throat. She was in a moderately distressed state. I discovered she had been married for just eight days. Her husband had been taken out by some of his mates on the evening before the wedding and he was so gloriously drunk they had to put him to bed and had attended on the wedding morning, roused and dressed him and made him less drunk (rather than sober), and got him to church, where he had been held more or less upright by the Best Man. After the marriage they had gone to the local pub for the ‘reception’, where more beer and spirits had been poured into him. He had passed out and was put into the marriage bed by his friends. On the following day (a Monday), she had got up and gone to work, leaving him still in bed and still drunk. When she got home, he was up and preparing to go to work with a contract painting firm engaged on painting inside a factory. He returned next morning and immediately fell asleep as she was just about to get up. The same thing had happened every day for the whole week. When he woke up on the Saturday afternoon he dressed to go to the pub, where his friends celebrated with him the first week of married life, with the result he had to be put to bed again.
He was still ‘in his cups’ when his wife aroused him and demanded her marital rights, at which he had become angry, wishing to continue with his sleep, put his hands around her neck and shook her before dropping off again. She had dressed and gone to phone the police. The nub of her complaint was that as a good Catholic girl she had looked forward to losing her virginity on her wedding night. That she was frustrated in that desire upset her, but she was willing to accept it was his friends who were responsible for getting him into that drunken position. She was also willing to accept that there was some difficulty as she worked days and he worked nights, but was not willing to accept she was still a virgin after a week of marriage, and he showed no signs of depriving her of that virginal state.
I went upstairs, leaving her in the dining room, and roused him. He was bemused when I told him I had been sent for because he had tried to kill her. He denied any such intention, and had got hold of her roughly, so as he could get back to sleep. I asked him to see it from his wife’s point of view, and he did, promising to make amends. In no uncertain terms I told him to pack up his night time job and get a day time one, which, although it might pay less, would be sufficient with her wages for them to live well enough, secondly, not to allow himself to drink to excess with his so called mates, and thirdly, to stay in bed, to get his pyjamas off, and when his wife came up, to get her into bed and give her a damned good f*****g. I went back downstairs, told his wife what advice I had given him and told her to get back upstairs and into bed with him and be prepared to be well and truly f****d. She blushed like mad, as a good Catholic girl should after being given such an instruction, and I left. No doubt she was slightly amazed at my choice of language, but I could not think of any other way to get over to them the basic needs to put the marriage straight.
Some weeks later I met her out shopping. She was genuinely glad to see me and thanked me for the forthright advice given to them. He now had a better day time job as a painter, drank very little, and, blushingly, told me they now enjoyed a good life together.
One of the harrowing aspects of police work was the involvement with deaths. As part of the local training we had visited the local police mortuary and had seen the performance of post mortem examinations by pathologists. Dr Blench was one of them and a police surgeon from the pre-National Health Service days when policemen and their families were provided with free medical treatment, unlike the ordinary citizens who had to pay unless they were members of a fund. Whilst performing for our benefits, he kept up a continuous commentary on his actions and his findings as he reached or removed the various organs. Throughout he was never without a cigarette in his mouth, turning his head sideways to blow the ash away. When he reached the lungs, either to remove them or to take specimens from them he would describe them and point out, if present, the effects of heavy smoking! Naturally, attention would be brought to his own nicotine addiction, but the effects of tobacco to lung cancer had not yet been made, and his reply was that there was just as much cancer producing agents in a block of ice cream!
It is surprising that smells linger in the mind. One night at Lossiemouth Operational Training Unit when we were flying Wellington bombers and detailed for a night flying exercise and were making our way to the aircraft parked on the perimeter track, another Wellington was taxiing when it suddenly burst into flames no more than a few yards from where we were walking. The Wellington was of geodetic construction with a lattice-like fuselage covered with doped fabric to stretch it tightly over the framework. The fabric was highly inflammable and soon burnt away leaving the other parts of the aircraft to burn before then fuel tanks caught fire. The heat was such it drove us back, but we could see the crew, still alive, trying to get out at the same time they, themselves, were burning alive. The smell of that burning flesh was so intense it was greater than that of the burning aircraft. That smell still lingered in my memories. We were all shocked by what we had seen, and a particular friend, with whom I had trained for many months went LMF, (lacking moral fibre), was demoted and posted away with ignominy.
One morning I was sent to an address in Fallowfield where it was alleged the sole occupant, an elderly man, had not been seen for several days and it appeared likely he was still inside the house. I broke in and was immediately assailed by that same smell of burning flesh , remembered from 1941. The room was very warm, and the electric fire was still switched on, and the body was lying immediately over it. Some of the clothing had burnt away and the flesh blackened like an overcooked joint of meat. It transpired he had collapsed and fallen against the fire.
Almost as shocking was to see thousands of flies on a window during summer time when a person had died and not been seen for many days, even weeks, or, in flats, when neighbours had been sickened by putrefying flesh when an occupant had not been seen for quite a long while.
Apart from the tragic circumstances I have to smile when I recall my first fatal road accident. It was in Edge Lane, Chorlton cum Hardy and a car had skidded off the road on a slight bend and crashed, first hitting a lamp post before careering into a stone wall surrounding a park. One of the wheels had been torn off and become airborne and bouncing a good fifty yards along the road. I arrived on the scene by fast station push bike to find that two Lancashire Constabulary cars were already in attendance, together with their superintendent. The men were directing traffic past the scene, and an ambulance crew was trying to extricate the victim.
The superintendent pointed out to me that the wreckage was just on the Manchester City side of a sign to that effect and it was my accident. He offered to leave his constables to help me, in a condescending tone of voice, which rather upset me. I replied rather haughtily that I could manage, thank you (but feeling far from it), but, as an afterthought, that if he wished he could leave one of his men to direct traffic round the obstruction, which now included a fire engine, until one of my colleagues arrived.
The sole occupant, the driver, had been killed instantly. His widow was brought to the mortuary by a police car in order to identify her husband. She broke down completely when I told her just where it had occurred. She had taken him to collect a larger and more powerful car than their own, to accommodate their family and a large amount of camping gear for their holidays. He had set off at speed, leaving his wife to follow more slowly. That evening she had got home, but was not surprised that he had not arrived a few minutes later, having assumed he was driving to acclimatise himself to the strange car, and to try out its speed. I think that was the most tragic part of it all.
It was never easy to tell a widow of her husband’s death. It was often a good idea to go next door to see whether there was a friendly female neighbour to accompany you and offer comfort but that was not always possible. At such times it was always a good thing to have her sit down before breaking the news and to be prepared to comfort her (would that be counselling today?) and make tea for her. We would try to find out her relatives and arrange for their attendance. So often they had no idea what to do next, and we would give what help we could, even arranging for undertakers, if necessary and, in cases where death had occurred at home for the doctor to certify death. If the death had occurred on our division we would take over compilation of a report for the Coroner which, unless it could be certified as being by natural causes by the doctor, often entailed quite a lot of work, for which you were struck off the normal duty roster and work your own hours as dictated by the needs of the job. Coroners have duties next to the Crown, in whose service they occupy a unique position, in precedence ranking higher than judges and Lords, and, when acting as Coroner’s Officer a constable takes on many of those duties.
Matters became more complicated when no relatives could be found as a result of lengthy and detailed enquiries. In such cases burial was arranged in cooperation with a Welfare department in the Town Hall. The deceased’s property, no matter how large or small, became the property of the Duchy of Lancaster (the Duke is the reigning sovereign – in these times, the Queen), and a very detailed inventory had to be made of all property. Anything of value was listed and put into the Charge Office safe for custody, as also happened when valuables could not be immediately handed over to relatives. It was a time consuming chore which just might uncover hidden articles or correspondence from which relatives could be identified. The inventories were submitted to the Duchy, who arranged removals of all possessions and, if saleable, the proceeds used to offset the burial expenses.
That great care had to be exercised in the search for valuables was indicated when one of my colleagues had to report on the death of an elderly lady. There was plenty to indicate her next of kin, her son, but he lived in one of the offshore Scottish islands, and it would be a few days before he could reach Manchester by ferry and rail. The constable made a detailed search and was able to find various items of jewellery and large amounts of money hidden in different places. It was all listed and locked away. When the son arrived and took over the property he found that a very large amount of money was missing. The officer was viewed with suspicion and a sergeant accompanied the PC and son to the house. The PC was asked to indicate just where he had found the various amounts of money and jewellery. When the son added up all the cash amounts he said that a certain sum, in excess of £1000 (a small fortune in those days) was missing and went to a hiding place unfound by the PC, where the exact amount was found. It transpired the woman had told her son just where her wealth was hidden away as she had no trust in banks or savings accounts. He congratulated the PC upon his diligence in his search, and, more importantly, for his honesty.
Not all such cases were as congenial. That woman’s house had been well maintained and outwardly clean. I had one where the deceased’s room stank, so I had to work with windows and door wide open. I wore cycle clips round my ankles and gloves on my hands. There was hardly a clean item of clothing. The room had been rented furnished, so there was only personal property to be taken over by the Duchy. It was taken away and immediately incinerated and the landlord did the same with his furnishings.
In the ‘wee, small hours’ one morning I was on patrol just off Burton Road when a woman told me she was concerned about her neighbour, a woman who lived on her own and had a history of mental trouble. We went to the house, but repeated knocking failed to rouse anyone, other than neighbours who wondered what all the noise was about. When I looked through the letter box I smelled gas. In those days gas was produced from coal and was lethal, unlike today when it is piped from the ground and is not so lethal, so one had to be very careful going into a gas filled room because of that danger as well as explosion. The woman was in the kitchen, on the floor in front of the oven, and with her head resting on a pillow in the oven. After securing the house with a neighbour’s assistance I went to the Hospital, where the woman had been brought back to consciousness. I was cursed in the worst language I had ever heard a woman use. She had wanted to kill herself, and, in fact, was successful some weeks later.
Potential suicide averted
Before the days of School Crossing Patrols and ‘Lollipop men and ladies’ it was the duty of a PC to look after a nominated school crossing on his beat. One afternoon I was on duty in Great Western Street, Moss Side and escorting children over the road when, during a break in the flow of children a woman who had been standing there told me she had come to collect her niece so she would not go home. ‘Why?’, I asked. Because her mother was not able to come, she was at home waiting for an ambulance for her husband who had been trying to commit suicide, head in gas oven again. ‘When had that happened?’ – ‘Just now.’ I dashed into the school and got a teacher to take over looking after the children before dashing to the house. The woman and her husband had come to visit his brother and, receiving no reply had gone into the back yard and looked through the kitchen window. They saw the man and had broken in, dragged the would-be suicide from the house. The woman had rushed to the school, had overtaken the child’s mother, sent her back home and carried on to meet the child. I had arrived before the ambulance and found the man still breathing, but the man who had broken in was bleeding profusely from his arm. He had used a brick to smash the window, but had ‘followed through’ and the broken glass had bitten deeply into his arm.
The would be suicide had just lost his job after many years with the same firm and was worried how he was going to provide for his family. Worse was the rescuer, as the ligaments in one arm had been severed in such a way they could not be repaired. He was justifiably worried about his future, too, as linotype operators were amongst the highest paid workers in the industry.
The matter of an escaped horse
By far the greatest part of the time was taken up by ordinary, routine matters which had the advantage of keeping you in touch with residents who came to look on the constable as a friend – even as ‘our policeman.’ There was even a police pound where Withington Fire Station now stands and I am not sure how I managed it, but somehow I managed to lead a horse by its mane from Princess Road along which it had been wandering in the small hours. Part of the issued equipment in that station was a dog strap to walk a dog into the station, but nothing for a horse.
One particular inspector did not like me for some unknown reason. There was a field where the school now stands at the intersection of Barlow Moor and Mauldeth Road West when I was quite young in service. As I passed I saw a horse in an obviously distressed condition and called out a vet. He agreed it was in a bad state of neglect, so much so that he thought the only thing was to have it put down and called out the knackers to take away the corpse as he put the animal out of its misery. It was not nice to see. Afterwards I had to make an Occurrence Report, quoting the vet’s own words as he described the ‘front nearside leg.’ The field was owned by a local councillor and rented to the owner of the horse whose name he did not know. In view of the ownership of the field the report had to be passed on to the Deputy Chief Constable, which I did not know at that time. It was returned to me with a note AD94 – Should this not be ‘front left leg?’. Rewrite!’ in the margin. I returned it with my note beneath his – ‘Sir, This is a direct quotation from the Veterinary Surgeon, using his correct terminology.’ and returned it un-rewritten. And this was before he was given any excuse to dislike me! Eventually the owner of the horse attended to see it, and I was able to prosecute him. He was convicted of cruelty, and there was an order that he should not have an animal for so many years. I never did find out what happened between that inspector and the Deputy Chief Constable, but the inspector’s attitude to me was not improved.
All sorts of people came to stations, with all manner of delusions, but there was one known throughout the force area. The self-styled ‘Princess of All Russia’ believed she was the direct descendant of the Czar who, with his family, was slaughtered by the communists during the uprising. She was always well turned out in the latest fashionable clothes, carefully made up and lived in one of the most expensive blocks in South Manchester. She alleged her inheritance had been taken from her by the bank manager who was completely exonerated when her original allegations had been made. She always asked that the enquiries be continued, and for a report on the present state of the investigation. She was quite happy when assured that everything that could be done was being done, and left after a short chat. Some idiot who did not know all the circumstances directed her to Divisional Headquarters where another idiot who knew the story decided to have a bit of fun. He told her that the Chief Superintendent himself was now in charge of the investigation, but could not take her to see him, but that it was a matter of great secrecy. She should wait in the entrance hall until there was no one about and to sneak upstairs, turn right along the corridor and go straight into the first office on her right, all the while making sure she was not seen by anyone. She obeyed those instructions to the letter, whereupon a bellow of rage rang out from the boss. ‘Get out!’. He called upon a clerk to escort her away, then bellowed ‘Gobbet’, the cells officer and knowing he, above all others would be responsible. Gobbet’s reply was ‘Who, me sir?’ in an aggrieved tone! Although most of us had a good laugh at the boss’s reaction, very few thought it funny in any other way. I discovered she had turned out a little mental when a little niece had skipped ahead of her, right into the path of a bus and was killed.
It turned out to be a truism that the prisoners were often found when the constable was doing something regulations forbade, or was away from his beat without good cause. In those far off days we were turned out from the station properly dressed in the uniform of the day, initially with closed neck tunics, summer and winter, but with black buttons and helmet facings at night and silver on days. It was later we were issued with open neck jackets for day use only, with blue shirts and black ties. In effect it was summer and winter wear and the dates were published in General Orders which must be warn, irrespective of the temperature. Policemen were instantly recognised as such, and members of a disciplined and respected force. One night, whilst dressed in all black uniform, I was waiting quietly in a back entry behind a row of shops, and having a quiet smoke against all regulations whilst on duty, when I heard a noise further back down the entry. I thought it was a cat, having been rather frightened by one which had suddenly jumped from the top of a gate immediately over my head. In this case I froze as I realised the only feline was a cat burglar, and he was taken aback when the black figure suddenly arrested him. At court he asked for a whole lot of other offences to be considered.
Another offence was drinking on duty, and the first time I had one was when I was making a point behind the Hulme Hippodrome, which later became a BBC TV studio. It was right on the boundary of the section. All was quiet and dark and I was puzzled as to the source of a quiet call for an officer and even more surprised it came from the doorway of a public house just a few yards away on the other section. The licensee told me to come in as the sergeant wanted to see me. He was my own sergeant, helmet on the bar and a pint of beer in his hand. He invited me to have a pint before asking whether I had anything to report before ‘showing me a flier’ – a nearby place and time away. And that was my first drink on duty (but not the last!).
I became a more proficient constable as I dealt with an increasing number of occurrences of all kinds and gained that valuable experience of being able to write a really good report, but always tried to inject a small bit of humour. I believe it was that ability which saw me, with considerable service than was usual, to be shown as a regular ‘station beat man.’ In theory they were still working beats and making points, but, in fact seldom did so, and after ensuring the beat was in good and safe order, made frequent visits to station for any task anywhere on the section when that beat officer could not be contacted or had a degree of urgency. The original had been passed to the station officer, who passed on and kept the records of occurrences on the section. As most station officer were in the twilight of their careers, many would have it tough to answer an emergency by bicycle.
My favourite (?) inspector, whose job it was to make changes in the duty rosters, left me in no doubt that had the change had not been made at his instigation, from which I had to conclude the change had been ordered by a higher ranking officer.
I was posted to the Withington station, and my beat included my own home, but I never pushed my luck by making unrequired visits. I soon became known to all the shopkeepers in the village and an intimate knowledge of the whole section and its residents. From the sergeants’ viewpoints I was useful in that I was able to escort less able officers and ensure their actions were correct.
The only occasion when I was in danger of in danger of clashing with authority was when I arrived on the afternoon shift and discovered, after the men had paraded and left for their beats that an occurrence had been ‘overlooked’ by the morning men, so it was down to me. On the face of it a man had fallen into an excavation at the furthest corner of the section. The excavation turned out to be a hole in the footpath and against the front hedge of the houses. It was of the size of a coffin and about four feet deep and turned out to have been for a connection box for the new telephone system being installed in the Withington and Didsbury area. Some of the GPO Telephone workers were still present and assured they had pulled the man out without any injury, but further to enquiries I traced him to a nearby house which had taken him in until he was fit enough to continue. When I saw him I recognised him as a blind man often seen in the village moving confidentially with his white stick and realised why he had been there so long.
Under the now defunct Manchester Police Act there were two related offences which related to excavations. When not actually being worked they had to guarded by a rail or similar, but after dark it had to lighted, too. One the workers who had been drinking in a pub on the opposite side of the road had assisted in getting the blind man from the hole and told him he should have watched where he was going. The GPO man, a surveyor in charge of the whole installation arrived at that point and was surprised, firstly as no one had told him of the occurrence and secondly was angry the man had been told to watch where he was going and sacked him on the spot. He saw the blind man and prepared to drive him home and recompense for damage to his clothes or any injury which might manifest itself. Before he left he said that he, himself, had been at fault in not ensuring his men were using the equipment as they ought to have done and he, rather the man he had sacked, should accept the summons.
I reported him for the ‘day time’ offence and heard no more about it for a couple of weeks when he waited in agreement with my own thoughts, patiently until I had finished my school crossing duties. He was in civilian clothes and on his way home, but seemed to be slightly ill at ease when he told me the Deputy Chief had not approved the application and asked that I be personally informed of his decision. Quite obviously he had been unhappy that he was, in fact authorising action against a Crown employee (it was many years before GPO telephones became BT), and had the temerity to suggest it might have been different had it been at night time. I told the Chief Superintendent in no uncertain terms that for that man it was night time twenty four hours, seven days and twelve months for the rest of his life since he had been blinded after having been shipwrecked by torpedo in the Battle of the Atlantic. I think the Chief Superintendent was rather relieved and had reported my words accurately, because two days later he told me the application had been approved.
Back in those days members of the police were drawn from all walks of life and represented just about any trade you could think of. Some had been in the force before the war, which became a reserved occupation. Just as the Fire Brigades had the Auxiliary Fire Service, so the police recruited men to be retained on full time duties and known as ‘Special Constables.’ They had an abbreviated training, but most of it came from working with the regular constables. Those War Time Specials were not to be confused with members of the part-time Special Constabulary, a valuable service almost as old as the police service itself, and still operating on their voluntary, part-time service still operates today, accompanying regular police in performance of their duties.
When war became imminent the police started to mount guards on power stations, telephone exchanges and other vital installations. Those detailed for such duties were issued, when they paraded for duty, with a variety of old firearms, revolvers, rifles etc, some dating to World War 1 and beyond. One of the problems was that few of them knew how to use them, even to load them, but all went well until one man, trying to load a revolver and put on the safety catch, accidentally discharged it into his foot! What would have happened to the war effort should they ever met the enemy I hardly bear to think about.
Memories of a Christmas escapade and old friends
Many of those old coppers were characters in their own rights and got up to all manner of escapades. One hilarious (and with overtones of criminality) incident occurred in Fog Lane Park, which had a duck pond and the City’s Parks Superintendent occupied a large house backing onto the park. Two of our characters decided that duck would be a nice change for the fast approaching Christmas Dinner. One of them, Jack, knew exactly how to go about it. He managed to get into the army just before it was barred to police, and had learnt all manner of skills. The other, Gob, had no idea of how to go about. So far as he knew geese and ducks were as good as any burglar alarm, but Jack briefed him. They must approach the pond very quietly, an inch at a time in the final stages. At the water’s edge they set their sights on their prey, would grab it swiftly before it could make a noise and wring its neck to kill it. Gob did not know how to do that, but Jack told him to grab it hard by the neck. One way to kill it was to retain his grip and whirl it round his head, which would break its neck. Great – they had managed to grab them without the others making a din, until – Gob, not knowing the neck had been broken, continued to whirl it round at high speed and he was suddenly left with a duck’s head in his hand. The body landed with a thud not for from the resting ducks and all hell broke loose as they were disturbed. The Park’s Superintendent was awakened and went to the window, and still not knowing what had happened, made an emergency call that his ducks had been frightened and described how he had seen two large figures running into the depths of the park. They were all black and it looked as if their wings were flapping as they ran. Both Jack and Gob had been wearing overcoats with capes over them which must have been swinging outwards as they ran. A small occurrence report covered the incident, but we all wondered what a shock he would have had when he found the body next day.
Jack served in the Middle East as a member of what became known as ‘Popski’s Private Army,’ forerunners of the Long Range Desert Group. His exploits are well documented in a book on PPA which told of how he rose and fell through the ranks several times. He was commissioned in the field, but blotted his copy book when they returned to one of the Egyptian cities after a very long sortie behind enemy lines, not having had a cigarette for many days. It was in the middle of the night and Jack resolved the shortage by using his machine gun to blast open the door of a tobacconists. They were seen with the result Jack was reduced to the ranks. When they went out on a sortie it was almost their motto that no one should ever see them and live, especially behind enemy lines. There was only one man to live and he was a New Zealander who had crashed behind the lines. Unusually, because he was one of us and fit with some degree of military training, he was given the option whether to become a member of the group – or die. He chose the former. He told us of many adventures, including one when they were stalking the German Field Marshall Rommell, their desert commander. They eventually tracked him down, but missed capturing or killing him some hundreds of miles behind the lines when he flew out, back to the Front. All their exploits were not without cost, and a few of them were lost. No one was able to fathom how he had managed to get back into the police.
He was completely fearless. He was sent to a theatre in Hulme where, just before Bonfire night some men were creating a disturbance, shouting, swearing and setting off fireworks. He soon assessed the situation and told them to go quietly. They were all large, well built men, four of them. Jack instructed the Manager to clear patrons from the rows behind and in front of the men, and on either side. He again told them to get out or be arrested. They became even more obscene in telling Jack to go and what to do to himself. Jack was slim and of wiry appearance, but he waded in against massive odds against him. His service with PPA had suited him for such an uneven battle and he soon had all four of them subdued and awaiting reinforcements.
They were duly charged and appeared before the magistrates next morning. They pleaded not guilty and were seen in the dock with bandages, plasters, slings, black eyes, etc. Jack gave his evidence and the prisoners were invited to put any questions to Jack, who had admitted to the court that he was responsible for their condition. The first one asked ‘How come we are like this and you have not a mark on you?’ Jack obtained the magistrates’ permission to answer that question by asking one of each of the quite massive men a question. Quite simply he asked the occupations of each, Three were professional heavy weight all in wrestlers and the third a heavy weight boxer. The Bench was incredulous that all that damage had been inflicted by that one slim constable while arresting the men, and had no hesitation in sentencing them.
Having had three rows of seats destroyed, the manager resolved that never again was he going to call for police assistance!
Police were good at finding appropriate nick names, as well as playing jokes in all manner of circumstances. At one time there was a spate of thefts of brass or copper plates, caskets and other decorative items from the crematorium in Chorlton, and constables on the section were detailed to do an hour each during the night in the grounds of the crematorium to catch the thief. A young bobby, Ron, was detailed to cover and, of course, the whole section knew just when that would be, and one of the men brought with him an old white bed sheet. He installed himself in the grounds, well hidden. He started to moan for a few minutes, then moved away from the building. Next he moaned from the cover of a monument and shortly afterwards, draped in the old sheet and with arms outstretched came into the open. He advanced towards the shivering bobby, making a more horrifying noise, so much that the young bobby turned tail and ran all the way to the station with the story the crematorium was haunted and a ghost was showing itself. Every one present howled with laughter and he became known as ‘the Chorlton Ghost.’
Another young bobby was sent to deliver a message to a house in Burnage. Before he had chance to say a word the woman, sounding like a turkey, said ‘Gobble gobble’ and closed the door Dave, the young man, was in a state of high dudgeon and pondering upon his next action, when the woman, bursting with laughter at the sight of him, apologised, inviting him to have a cup of tea as she was given the message. He returned to the station, reporting he had delivered the message and what had occurred. The initial reaction was one incredulity that he had turned down the offer of tea, but he was henceforth known as ‘Gobble gobble.’
Dave’s report writing was poor to say the least, and he was both accident prone and with the ability to do the wrong thing. However, he did have an inbuilt instinct to know when something was not quite right. When he was working a beat in Chorlton on Medlock he checked a property comprising two old three or four storied houses built in Victorian days, and now standing, isolated, surrounded by bombed sites. It was occupied by a number of small businesses, mainly offices and store rooms used by various agents and small time traders. He could find nothing wrong, no unusual lights showed, the doors and windows properly secured, but his instinct told him otherwise. He went to the station and told the sergeant he thought intruders were in or had been in those offices. To turn out the keys references for all those occupiers would have kept the whole division, and others, too, for many hours, so the sergeant took a couple of other officers when they returned to make another check. The patrol Inspector visited the station and went to find out what it was all about. He and the sergeant were both of the opinion there had been no break-in, and, as Dave was considered to be a rather gormless individual, ignored his pleas for someone to be turned out from his home to open up the building.
Next night Dave was pleased to find his instincts had not let him down. Every business in that building had been ransacked. Luckily the Station Occurrence Book recorded everything which had transpired, so he was off the hook, but there is no record as to what was said to the Inspector and sergeant.
I got on well with that inspector. He was an ex-public school type, and had been capped for representing England at lacrosse. He lived in a house much superior to what one might expect. His initials were I.A.K. and he had the reputation of not suffering those who were slower to reach decisions and act on them. His nickname was ‘Immediate Action.’ In those days I was thought to be rather upper class, largely I think, because of my RAF service, and also that my years as a boy in Carlisle had done little to change the accents picked up from my parents before I was able to attend school.
When still a probationer I was sent to one of those large houses in Didsbury owned by one of the most affluent Manchester business men. After having had a good look round for clues and marks to help identify the burglar, and taken steps to preserve them for expert attention the following day, we went into the lounge and settled down in armchairs to record the missing property, which was considerable, and of great value. I declined a whisky and soda, but settled on a coffee. We chatted after I had finished, and got into deep conservation when he saw my medal ribbons. He had also been in the RAF, but with a commission in the administration branch. That continued to my time as acting-adjutant, which interested him greatly. I am not boasting when I say I was able to talk knowledgeably about some of the art treasures stolen, before going on to business matters, when there was a knock on the door to admit I.A.K.. I stood up and introduced him to the business man and his wife, who then asked us to join them in a drink. He spoke well of my far reaching knowledge of so many subjects which were outside the province of most policemen, shaking hands with me as he showed us out. I expected a roasting for having taken so long, but he said not a word and for ever after treated me as a little above almost every other man, even his fellow inspectors.
On yet another occasion I was at another large house where there had been a break-in. After having had ransacked the lower rooms they had gone into an attic, where the owner had installed an extensive model railway system, with a large number of engines and other rolling stock. The intruders had not stolen anything there, but had done a certain amount of damage to his workshop where he built his own engines. He proudly displayed his system for my benefit, and I was most interested in how he laid it out, keeping to timetables, stopping at different stations etc. We were so interested that we did not hear another arrival, and the lady of the house directed him to the attics. That arrival was I.A.K., and when he realised I was getting on so well with the wealthy complainant, he was happy enough to join in, without any adverse comment after we had left.
November could be expected to give us the pea-souper fogs, which are never seen these days. Until, probably, the sixties most houses were heated by coal or coke fired grates from which smoke issued from every chimney. That smoke was laden with soot and noxious fumes to blacken everything. Many nights I arrived home with a blackened face, and there were sales of smog masks in chemists, etc, which were ultimately issued to police. The fumes brought tears to the eyes, so that one soon looked as if the mascara had run down the face. Motorists could hardly see anything ahead of them and even windscreen wipers were not much use. Some of the cars of those days had windscreens which could be wound up and to look beneath them provided some degree of vision, although it was virtually impossible to drive above walking speed. Often, when going to stations other than Withington by cycle I would be aware of a line of cars following me until it was time for me to leave that road when I would wave the motorists on and received grateful hoots on their horns.
One such night, during the evening rush-hour (no rush this evening of course) a man was patrolling in Withington village, as was done every day, to prevent stopping and keep traffic unhindered on the way home, when the sergeant went to ‘visit’ him. The sergeant became more and more annoyed when he was unable to see the patrol through the fog. He banged his stick on the ground several times when he heard the plaintive call ‘Where the f*****g hell are you sarge?’ He shuddered as it was obvious a P.C. was calling his sergeant, who was greatly embarrassed, and at least some residents were able to see him through the fog. He beat a hasty retreat in the hope the public would not realise what the exchange had been about. He came into the station and described the voice as sounding as though it was coming from the bottom of a well. Thereafter the P.C. was known as ‘Charley down the well.’
When I was in bed after night duty I was roused when a sergeant had come to the house to tell us that our younger daughter, Julie, had been involved in an accident when she had turned in front of a car. There was no allegation against the driver. Julie had been riding her first proper cycle and was normally quite safe. Christmas was approaching and she had been to buy some stamps for cards she was sending. She was in Withington Hospital and the sergeant told me quietly her leg was in a terrible mess. She was still awaiting an operation on her leg and in pain, but we had brought with us one of her presents, her first wrist watch. I had seen the X Ray plates which showed both tibia and fibula to be shattered into heaven knows how many pieces and I even wondered what the future of that leg would be – shortening, deformity, even the need to amputate.
Several of the nurses knew me from duty visits, and ensured Eileen and I were not going short of refreshing cups of tea. Suddenly one of them said ‘Oh God! Not him.’ I looked out and saw Charley approaching. He was an inveterate scrounger. He was hobbling along wearing one old boot and a length of wood with a large nail sticking up through it. In his terrible whining Midlands accent I heard him say he had stood on the nail, which had gone through his foot. It seemed he had scrounged a load of timber from a demolition site to burn, and was pulling out nails before chopping them up. He lived not far away and we found out he owed fairly large sums to local small businesses for groceries, newspapers, etc supplied . They all knew he was a policeman and so was trustworthy, as to be in debt was against the regulations. (Eventually one of them wrote to the Chief Constable and Charley left!) The nurses tried to keep him away from us, without success, but I steered him well away so as not to upset either Eileen or Julie.
We had quite a long wait for anything to be done as there had been a major accident and many casualties had arrived. After they had operated on her she was brought back with her leg heavily covered in plastic. The surgeon had to work for quite a while to get all the small pieces back into place, and had hopes she would recover full and normal mobility, with little disfiguration. He had calculated the rate of growth which could be expected during the time she was in plaster and fitted it together to compensate. A degree of traction had been built into the plaster and the bone would grow to join up. She was in plaster for many months followed with physiotherapy. She was confined to a wheel chair and Gill (our older daughter) took her to and from school. Julie became quite agile at going up and down stairs on her backside- to much amusement. It says much for that surgeon’s skill that the legs are now the same length and it is almost impossible to detect where the breaks occurred. One of the disadvantages was that her school work suffered to a considerable extent, so that she missed out on the Eleven Plus examination. She was inordinately pleased with one of her Christmas presents – a gold plated wrist watch – her first watch – which we had taken with us when we first went to the hospital after the accident. She was in pain, of course, and in a state of dejection and badly traumatised, but her eyes lit up when we gave her that present in advance of Christmas.
Traffic accident and a court appearance
Station beat men were often called on to perform station officer duties wherever required, often on nights. All the section stations were manned for the whole twenty four hours, except on rare occasions, unlike today when most of the section stations have disappeared, and even those still standing have a telephone for the public to use when wishing to call the police. On one such occasion I was spending the night in the Chorlton-cum-Hardy station when I had a call from Headquarters that a car had been in a bad accident at a very large roundabout which then occupied the intersection of Barlow Moor Road and Princess Road and I should close down the station and see what it was all about. I cycled down Barlow Moor Road with some haste. The large roundabout had flower beds facing each road, with turfed lawns rising into a small shrubbery in the centre. The centre was about six feet above the road level. From the direction of Chorlton I saw wheel tracks which ended gradually in the flower bed, from which I presumed the car had been reversed off and continued on its way. I do not know just what caused me to ride round the roundabout, but I did and saw, facing towards Didsbury a large Rover Saloon car with front wheels embedded in the flower bed on that side. The only tracks were from the centre, and inspection showed the car had hit the roundabout at such speed it had leapt over the centre of the roundabout, demolishing a sapling as it did so. Quite obviously its speed must have been excessive. A taxi stopped and the driver told me he had been overtaken as he drove at a full thirty miles an hour from Chorlton to Didsbury. That car had been a Rover, being driven like a bat out of hell, but he was not able to get its number. He saw it on the island and stopped to speak to a man beside the Rover who asked him where he could go to have it taken away for repair. He took him to Henlys’ garage two or three hundred yards along Princess Road. The car owner /driver were still there and he was quite obstructive, although it transpired he had some knowledge of Road Traffic Law as he was a solicitor from Macclesfield and was making his way home from a function in Manchester. He had been drinking but, in those pre-breath test days, I did not believe he had had enough to justify his arrest. I contented myself by telling him in official terms that he would be reported for consideration of the question of prosecuting him for reckless, dangerous or careless driving.
I spent a long time measuring the site, road markings, height of kerb, to the summit of the island, length and depths of wheel tracks at various points. I made what I thought to be professional and large scale drawings and consulted a mathematician at the University. He agreed that the drawings indicated considerable speed, but the data was insufficient to make a true assessment of the actual speed. Ideally he should have the weight and tyre pressures to calculate with sufficient accuracy the lift given by impact with the kerb.
I was called by the Chief Superintendent to ‘explain’ the summons application. I was able to clear his desk top and lay out the drawings – plans and elevations, etc – for discussion. He had a rather fearsome reputation, but I found him amenable to discussion and very interested in what I hoped for. There was, as yet, no Prosecutions Department, but the more contentious prosecutions could be done by a solicitor from the Town Clerk’s department. I had little confidence in their ability to properly prosecute an involved case and declined the offer of one when the Boss decided to give it a go. He seemed rather pleased that I wanted to do it myself.
When we came to Court I found the solicitor was being represented by an eminent barrister, and I almost threw in the towel there and then. My only witness was the taxi driver but his ‘bat out of hell’ was now ‘faster than I was.’ I found out he had taken the solicitor home to Macclesfield, and had probably made a large tip. I had copied of the large scale maps and diagrams for the Court and the Defence. They were accepted without question, and all I could do was to go through the detail, item by item, and in such a way as to indicate the car had jumped over the centre of the island, leading the Court to the conclusion that there must have been a large element of speed. There was little the barrister could do by way of cross examination, as my only evidence had been evidence of fact of the signs, although I also include the approach warning sign quite a distance before the island was reached and brightly interior illuminated sign at the edge of the island.
The solicitor gave his evidence that he had not been speeding, so far as he was aware, but his was a powerful car, and his driving had been neither reckless, dangerous nor careless. As on another occasion the Magistrates’ clerk had tried to stop my cross-examination, after he had asked a few irrelevant questions, but, again, the barrister pointed I was within my right, so I went ahead to show he had used the road on numerous occasions, and his knowledge of markings and signs. He agreed that the markings showed his car had been in the air, which brought me to matters of speed. I challenged him he had been doing eighty miles an hour, then sixty, then fifty, then forty when he admitted he could have been driving that fast. Did he know the speed limit was thirty miles an hour? Yes. And I then sat down. He was found guilty of careless driving, but I found out later it was only the fact he was a solicitor with a barrister defending which made them baulk from a Reckless or Dangerous conviction and any possible appeal. He was heavily fined and his licence endorsed.
I had gone to Court with my civilian raincoat over my uniform, and the barrister buttonholed me and invited me to join him in the Cross Keys, next to the Courts building. He congratulated me upon my manner of cross-examining his client, telling me he had hoped I would continue down to 30 mph. I had stopped at just the right time and, at the last moment got the two most telling admissions. During the next few drinks he gave me many useful tips on cross-examination, for which I was eternally grateful. He later became a High Court Judge, and I next saw him when he was one the guests we hosted for dinner at the Police College, Bramshill. He remembered that case and congratulated me upon my advancement.
Some nice rewards
The British Legion Club in Chorlton was on the first floor above a garage and filling station, but its beer cellar was a basement beneath the garage with access down a flight of stairs. One night, when checking the security of lock-up premises I found the beer cellar door unlocked and asked that the keys reference be turned out. A couple of long serving men soon arrived with jugs and a clean bucket. They disconnected the pipe from one of the barrels and obtained more than the section could drink and still stand upright. When the reference arrived he was so grateful he pressed bottles of beer on each policeman.
I had made a very large, waterproof covered and lockable box securely bolted onto the rear carrier of my bicycle so that I could always have waterproof leggings and over-boots with me, in addition to having room for my refreshments, which we ate or cooked at the station (only Division H.Q. had a canteen open for breakfasts and lunches). It was not long before certain Inspectors and sergeants realised its other uses. Every Friday and Saturday evening a sergeant and constable were detailed to visit licensed premises on the division to ensure they were properly run and detect any offences. Very often, after having had a good look round and our presence had been noticed by customers, we would be invited into a back room and given a drink while we criticised the premises. It was not unusual to be given three or four bottles or a few packets of cigarettes at most of them, and this is where my box came into its own when we left our cycles outside the pubs in those days when property was safely left out.
At the end of licensing we made our way back to Div. H.Q. to report on all premises visited and anything worthy of note for the licensing department. At the same time we had a share out of our spoils, divided into three to include the Inspector who had detailed us for that much sought after duty.
A close call and unusual arrests!
It was diplomatic to keep out of the way until the very last minute before going into the station to be signed off, and we all hoped we would not become engaged in any occurrence at the last minute. We always made the final point and judged the walk back to the station almost to the minute.
Oxford Road was just a stone’s throw from Higher Ormond Street (No 1) Section Station, and the night men were being paraded as I took my last slow walk. I saw a very small man staggering towards me, obviously the worse for drink, but as he was no worse than many others, and was quiet so I decided he was not worth wasting my time on, but as he saw me he veered off into the roadway, right in the path of an oncoming car. The driver’s reaction was excellent as the man fell in front of the car, which stopped just inches away. I reassured the driver that no harm had been done and congratulated him on his good driving, but had to arrest the poor little chap.
I had to just about to carry the little fellow to the station, so thank goodness he was clean, but it was unfortunate that the night men had just ended their parade and having a cup of tea when I arrived with my prisoner. The nature of their ribald remarks cannot be repeated, but I was kidded about him for weeks after. I was at Court with him next morning where he was fined two pounds for being drunk and incapable. As I was taking him to the office to arrange payment we were joined by a truly massive woman who claimed to be his wife. Her size and forbidding demeanour led me to expect a battle royal there and then. Instead she was most profuse in her thanks for looking after the little chap so well. She was a street trader from a stall made from a barrow and trundled into the City centre each morning, which went a long way towards her build-up of muscle. It was all I could do to prevent her from pushing a few bank notes into my hand, but she remembered me when she saw me as the newly promoted sergeant in the City.
I could never forget another last minute arrest on the Moss Side Section. All was quiet as I was making that last stroll along Monton Street when all hell broke loose in the front garden of a house, just a few yards ahead. A domestic row had developed amongst the residents, caused mainly by a young Irish woman I was unable to get them to be quiet and the matter was resolved when the woman came out onto the street. It was high summer; the sort of weather when such troubles are likely to arise, and she would not desist from her conduct, so I arrested her, and was immediately sorry I had to do so. There were too many people about to complain about my vicious treatment of her if I were to use a proper arrest lock. We were issued with ‘snaps’ in lieu of the more usual handcuffs. They were almost scissor like, with one end gripping the wrist and the other held in the hand. It was possible to control a prisoner with a quick twist to bring him to his knees, but it was also possible to break a wrist. I have never used them yet, and had no option but to struggle with her through Darcy Street to the station. She wriggled like an eel to get away, but there was one occasion I had one arm round her waist as she was slightly ahead of me and slightly to the side when my other hand was trying to catch one of her hands or arms. She suddenly stopped her struggles and I realised my hand was in contact with one of her ample breasts. It was only momentary and I continued to fight until she was able to push one of her breasts into a hand. Obviously the only way to get her quietly to station was if I maintained that grip!
I got her into the station and she remained quiet until I removed my hand. Jokes soon abounded on the way I had dragged her into the station by her right tit! Her summer frock revealed her voluptuous shape and one of the night men suggested her breasts were not her own. Ripostes of ‘Oh no they’re not’ and ‘Oh yes they are’ caused amusement until she was asked to prove they were. It did not take long for her to lower her dress and remove her bra, emphasising they were real when an Inspector came into the station. He could not see any humour in the situation!!!
I was recently reminded of one arrest by a man who had been a very raw probationer and had been with me one Sunday morning on Denmark Road, Moss Side when I saw a black man for whose arrest I knew there was a warrant in existence. That part of Denmark Road was the haunt of many black men, especially those of the criminal persuasion, with all night cafes, gambling cellar, etc. When he saw approaching he ran into the all night café, slammed and bolted the door. He and the other habitués began insulting us from inside. I hammered on the door, of no avail. I am told I pulled out my staff and banged three times in measured fashion on the door. It had the effect of quietening them all, waiting for what was about to happen next. Loudly, and in commanding, heraldic tones I called out ‘In the name of Elizabeth the Second and our Sovereign Lady Queen of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, Queen of the British Empire and its Dominions, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, of South Africa and of the Indian Sub-Continent, and of all Her Colonies beyond the Seas, of whom I am acting as Her agent, and I require you to open this door and allow me admission, under pain of extreme punishment,’
We heard the bolts being shot back, the door opened and the man we sought stepped out to be arrested. We marched him to the station with no further trouble. No one was more astounded than I was. I had done it in a moment of devilment, not expecting the result it had, but I had never heard of it before nor since, and it is a ploy which cannot be used more than once.
Our Chief Superintendent brought something akin to fear to many. Whenever he visited a station he immediately went to the Booking In book. Whenever a constable visited the station he had to make an entry in the book, and woe betide the man who overstayed his 45 minutes for refreshments, spent too much time report writing, visited the station to use the toilet etc. One Saturday evening ‘Gobble,gobble’ was working a cycle beat in Whalley Range when the weather worsened. He came to the station to collect a pair of leggings kept for cycle beats, which I issued to him, and he went into the back room to put them on, and without having signed in. The boss arrived and, as was his wont, picked up the book and went to the back room. I heard the following conversation: ‘What are you doing in the station – you haven’t booked in.’ and in reply in plaintiff tones ‘Why does this always happen to me?’ The boss, gruffly ‘Get the leggings on and back onto your beat immediately.’
He came back into the front office, face red and barely able to control himself. He sat down at my desk; put his head in his hands and his shoulders shook. He eventually came up for air and laughingly asked ‘Why DOES it always happen to him. He’s always so conscientious, too.’ That incident taught me that even the boss needs to retain a sense of humour. I had learnt a lot from him when a station officer which stood me in good stead in the years to come even though he kept me out of the Plain Clothes Department
My initial period in uniform was coming to end. During that time I had made a good cross section of arrests and summonses, as well as having dealt with almost everything in the Force Instruction book I did not consider myself to be an outstanding ‘thief taker’ but consoled myself with the theory that you set a thief to catch a thief, in other words, one must have something of a criminal mind to know them. I guess I must have been an honest person.
A hairy moment!
I think my hairiest time when I was Station Officer at Moss Side was on nights. My station beat man had gone for a last look round before we took our refreshments. Peace was shattered by a rumpus some way along Moss Lane which turned out to be the beat man making an arrest outside a nearby shebeen. I went out to help him and discovered the prisoner was a heavily pregnant and very drunk woman, and we managed to get her as far as the steps to the station when the mob fell upon us. I was knocked to the ground and the prisoner taken to an interview room before the beat man was able to come to my assistance. While I was on the ground the mob was crying out for blood and I was punched and kicked as I lay there. It was quite frightening, especially as I saw one man’s boot coming into my face, and there was no means of escape. We managed to get away, up the station steps and were able to hold the door closed, but it was flimsy and without a stout lock. As it was at the top of the steps our combined weight was enough to prevent entry.
We were joined by a constable who had used the back yard to gain access, and, with his additional weight I was able to phone H.Q. for assistance. The only radio vehicle on the division was a patrol van, but Force control room made it a general broadcast to all vehicles. The first to arrive was a Lancashire Constabulary car which had heard the broadcast and was available in the Old Trafford area. The mob started to disperse, but that car was soon joined by a weird and wonderful mixture of vehicles crammed with Manchester men from different divisions. There were taxis which had gone around seeking officers to bring, but the one which excited most attention was a newspaper wagon full of a mixture of men and bundles of papers.
Amongst the last to leave was the inevitable crowd of bystanders, but I saw the man whose boot had crashed into my face. A man came into the station whom I recognised as one of my arrests for theft. He indicated the same man (proof it does help if you treat a prisoner properly), and I promptly arrested my assailant. He went for trial and got 21 months after pleading ‘guilty.’
Watching Coronation Street recently I was reminded of an old Council service, although I did not suffer its malodorous qualities. Do you remember the cat making its way from the roof of an outbuilding at the bottom of the yard, and with all houses in the row having similar outbuildings? Originally those were the only toilet facilities, which were emptied at nights by a wagon being driven through the back entries. The crews of those ‘Night Soil Wagons’ emptied the contents into their tanks to be dumped somewhere. In time mains sewage was laid and the toilets connected to them, with mains water for flushing purposes. When I joined those wagons were still being used on parts of some divisions, but, fortunately, I never came up against them. I understand that even in 2001 some are still in use in this country.
Our new Chief Superintendent was an old-time detective, Arnold Yates, a man respected at all levels of the Force. The first time he visited a station where I was Station Officer and having had a good talk with him, I broached the question of a spell in Plain Clothes. His predecessor must have been as good as his word in that he had left a good report about me, because I was posted to fill the next vacancy.
In our Force, the Plain Clothes Department was the ‘vice squad’ – uniformed men who worked in plain clothes, for which an allowance was paid, but allocated to specific tasks. We always worked in pairs and my first partner, an experienced plain clothes man, was Bernard. He was more interested in prostitution and what came out of it, than looking for men importuning for immoral purposes in those days when it was illegal, no matter what the age. Homosexuality itself was a severe crime whether males consented or not to a sexual act, but if it went beyond that stage and there was penetration it became the ‘abominable crime of buggery’ and subject to trial at the Assizes as only a ‘Red’ Judge could try it and administer the highest sentence short of the death sentence. Men caught performing the lesser sexual acts one with the other could be tried at Quarter Sessions, and there is one lovely story of two men brought before the judge, Barry Goldie. They were business and professional men of previously pristine character and pleaded guilty. In view of that Barry Goldie Bound them over, and sent them on their way with the most bizarre homily – ending with the advice ‘Now leave these Courts. Go and pull yourselves together!’
Men importuning were most usually found in public toilets, and officers would hide themselves in cubicles, lying in wait for offenders. It was a soul destroying task, with very limited returns for the time involved.
We concentrated more on prostitutes loitering in the streets, and arrested many of them. There were far more than you could manage in a day, or a week, but we tried to arrest as many different ones as possible, and I gradually got to know and recognise many and their characters, some good, some bad. Most who had children took pains to hide from them their profession, living well away and giving them really first class educations. Others were just plain bad and thought nothing of robbing their clients, either alone or with their pimps. When I was Station Officer at Moss Side a man came in one night with his penis wrapped in a handkerchief. A prostitute had cut it off. We had sent him to hospital, but those were the days before micro surgery, although the doctor said it had been done in a most professional manner. One of the girls was known to have been a nurse, and an immediate suspect, and was soon found and arrested. She was sent to prison for several years
It was strange how some of the girls kept tally on their own arrests and compared them with their colleagues – ‘Why have I been arrested three times and her only once.’ They accepted their arrests as part of the job (some thought of it as a form of taxation as they did not pay income tax), but appreciated it if they could ‘turn a trick or two’ and have money in their purses if they were arrested early in the evening. They were then free to get back onto their ‘beats’ and make some more money. Those arrested on Friday or a Saturday nights did not like it. There were many other prisoners on those nights and they could be held for a long time before their case was charged. They invariably pleaded guilty and fined £2.00.00d – paid immediately.
Concentration on the girls without arresting them enabled you to discover the premises she was using, whether a brothel or not, and save much wasted time. Whether they worked during the afternoons only gave an indication of their other lifestyle.
We had a complaint that a certain house in Raby Street was a brothel and often did business during the afternoons. Observations often indicated which rooms would be used and by whom. We saw the same van come to the house several times, but as it was owned by a well known electrical manufacture we assumed he making a social visit in view of the time spent there.
Eventually we had enough to allege the premises were visited by more than one prostitute and swore an affidavit to a magistrate to obtain a warrant. The van was there, then a girl came to the house with a man we took to be a client. After a few minutes to give them time to perform their trade we went to the door. The woman, the keeper, who lived there admitted us and we immediately told her we had a warrant and were going to search the house. In one of the bedrooms we found the client on the bed playing with himself and the girl wearing nothing but a shortie nightdress dancing before him. In the keeper’s presence and hearing he told us she was a regular and had paid her and the keeper, too. After sending the girl and client on their way we went to the living room to continue the search. The van driver was there and told us ‘I’m not a client, she is my girl friend’, indicating the keeper. We recorded all his particulars and took the keeper to the station to be charged, after seizing a large number of forms requiring production of his driving documents issued up and down the country showing the driver’s journeys. We had seen the driver putting a mattress into his van and assumed it was to save his allowance for overnight trips, plus, on a couple of occasions, taking the keeper along for company.
Replies from various forces made it obvious that she was using the van for prostitution, with the driver visiting the nearest pub while he waited for her to be free again.
It is an offence for a man to live wholly or in part on the earnings of prostitution. We were now in a position to prove knowledge on his part, having been present when the woman had engaged in prostitution, plus, of course, the assertion she was his girl friend. He was in court when she appeared charged with keeping a brothel, found guilty by the Magistrates Court and fined as she had no similar offences against her.
The legal system having been changed since the woman’s appearance, with the new Crown Court replacing the Quarter Sessions and Assizes it had a permanent judge in Manchester, Basil Nield Q.C. whose stated ambition was to clean up Manchester. He heard the case against the driver and sentenced him to 2 years imprisonment.
Bernard and I had a man who, having been given bail to appear at the Crown Court, had absconded to the Channel Isles. To save costs and render it impossible to escape, it was decided to fly just one officer to the islands and fly back with the prisoner. I was heavily engaged in another investigation, so Bernard flew out to bring the prisoner back all in one day. When he arrived he was told the prisoner was on one of the smaller islands and the weather having deteriorated it was not possible to collect him until the weather moderated. He duly brought the prisoner to the plane, which he refused to board, having a fear of flying, and could not be refused in view of his rights as a prisoner. And so another officer was sent out to accompany them back, but it was not me. Bernard was able to boast of five free days when he was able enjoy himself on the hospitality of the Island police.
I had now acquired good knowledge of vice in all its forms and always appeared smartly dressed. I was pressed into service, smartly dressed as any business man, fully equipped with black Homburg hat, brief case of samples of paint and order books and carrying a rolled umbrella. I was able get into almost any club in the city centre with the object of getting open the door from the inside at just the right time to admit raiding officers and prevent the doorman from raising the alarm.
The favourite nights for such raids were Friday and Saturday nights after the cessation of licensing hours, but shebeens could be raided anytime. I think we had the largest number of shebeens. Observations having been taken and a warrant obtained entry had often to be gained by using a sledge hammer. One particular one was at the top of a flight of stairs and it was not possible to open it using bodily pressure alone. Others had their doors reinforced with sheets of steel. I remembered one well fortified house where we went along with a ladder to get to an upstairs window, which was broken to let us in. On another old house with a nice portico that had steel encased double doors we were able to fasten a rope round the doors and framework and connect it up to an old borrowed lorry. Not only did the doors and frames come adrift, but the whole portico collapsed. In many cases we were able to have really good laughs when we saw what was happening inside. The shebeen keepers knew that many glasses of half consumed beers were used as evidence and patrons were ordered to throw the contents away, so that on busy nights we had to paddle through pools of it on the floor. They kept as few bottles as possible behind the bar and they emptied those too. Additionally, they pocketed any cash takings behind the bar to prevent that being used too. One of the last things we had to do was to seek out the reserves of beer, which we confiscated. After the store room was full, we went on to fill a cell pending a court appearance, after which we complied (with reservations) with an instruction it should all be poured away. Perhaps our premier shebeen keeper was a coloured man, thin and with a straggly beard. We him called ‘Nitty Whiskers’, real name Barry Fredericks. So well was he known to the court that he was always sent to prison, but always came back smiling ready for the next venture. One day he told me he had not enjoyed it that time as he had put himself as Hindu, missing bacon, beef etc. He knew better next time.
Observations in order to obtain a warrant meant that an officer had to be put in to note what went on, often spending a number of hours in there. As most of our people were known it was not unusual to seek the assistance of other divisions. The company of a young lady, suitably dressed, was also a good means of allaying suspicion, whether it be a club or shebeen. I recall one case when a young policewoman had accompanied a man for obervations in a case which was hotly defended. The male officer gave evidence first and the amount he had bought was disputed. Her intake was also disputed, and in answer to questions, told the court she had been drinking whisky. She was extremely youthful appearance and the defence queried how such a young lady had managed to remember so much. She retorted ‘It’s our national drink, don’t forget.’ At which the court went into gales of laughter and the defending solicitor quickly sat down, vanquished.
Taking observations for a brothel warrant could be soul destroying. It was not too bad if there was a comfortable place from which to take observations, such as we had in Raby Street, but there were occasions when we had to loiter for long periods in the darkness of a deep recess, even a derelict building. Sometimes we had the use of the small van issued to the office, but this involved crouching down looking out from the window of the back door. Such contortions left one with sore knees and legs and the observations revealed who was using the premises, the timings of their arrival with clients and the times of leaving. It was also necessary to have an observation, such as opening the door for them, etc.
I had now got a good knowledge of the work of the department, and of the evidence which could be used in court, and was given a fellow new to the department. Jack Oliver was then a quiet-ish young man who had worked at some of my stations, and who also lived in Withington. By this time I had bought a second-hand Austin car, HND 528. It was a slightly modernised version of the pre-war model, and quite reliable. However, very soon it became known to the vice fraternity.
One day Mr Yates sent for me and asked me to sit down. For a considerable time a man and wife flower-sellers had set up a stall on the footpaths outside Southern Cemetery in opposition to an established shop nearby. At least once every weekend they had been reported for summons for setting up a stall, obstruction, etc and fined. Eventually the Magistrates Court and corporation had become fed up with their disdain of the law and had taken them before the High Court and obtained an injunction ordering them to comply with the law. They had not done so and there was even now the regular weekly applications for summons and court appearances. It was considered that their continued commission of offences was Contempt of the High Court injunction, and evidence should be obtained for presentation at the High Court. Mr Yates told me that very few policemen knew anything about this offence and the way to go about it. It would require many hours of learning about it, which I could obtain from the Legal Department at the Town Hall, followed by working at weekends also. He considered it was a job which had to be done correctly and had chosen me for the job. If willing I could have as my witness any officer, no matter what rank, on the division. I told him I would be quite happy to use my own colleague.
I set about learning and the first thing that was impressed on me was the need to phrase the statement in a particular way, and that they should never be capable of misinterpretation, even though it might seem unnecessarily long winded. I was warned of the need for this because it was improbable I would be called before the court. Most High Court cases rely upon the statements, so that they must be incapable of doubt or cross examination.
We spent three weekends taking observations and making copious notes. I had taken my family to Blackpool for a weekend with their grandparents, and it was three weeks before I was able to bring them back again as we still had an amount of our normal vice work in hand. I drew up my statements and went to the Town Hall for any corrections in my draft. There were very few, so I was able to have them typed, following which I went to see a Commissioner for Oaths and swore the statements which now became affidavits, and they were sent to London. It was quite thrilling to think that information for my case was being laid before the High Court by H.M. Solicitor General, a government official.
I had told the couple on the final day of observations that I was reporting them to the High Court for contempt of the High Court, which had rocked them to their foundations. They were summoned to attend Court and committed to prison until they were willing to attend and purge their contempt. They were not going to be dictated to by anyone and went to prison. The wife stood it for six months, when she applied to see the Judge. He saw her when he was free to do so and accepted her apologies and a promise not to commit any further like offences. I am not sure how long the husband remained in prison, but so far as I am aware, he was still there when I left that department. Naturally I was highly delighted at having been given such an important and unusual case, and know of no other Manchester officer of whatever rank to have been given such a responsibility.
Jack and I continued the normal work of the Vice department, most of which we had developed into a set routine until the end of my time in that department, when I was posted to C.I.D. as an aide. The divisional C.I.D. all worked from Div H.Q. AT Platt Lane, going out to investigate crime on the section to which we had been assigned, in my case, Didsbury.
Most cases were relatively minor, involving small thefts, but there are others which stick in my mind. Two unknown youths had visited a corner shop and, when the shopkeeper’s attention, they took the new cash register from the counter and ran out. The elderly lady shopkeeper was understandably upset. There had not been much money in the till which had only just been bought for what was a large sum for a small shop. A couple of days later the till was brought into the station, having been pulled from the river and damaged when it had been forced. After enquiries I was able to identify two grammar school boys, both from very good class families. I had them in with their parents, who would not believe the allegations until the boys had admitted the crime. In those days there was no such thing as cautioning anyone, even youths, for crime and they ended up in court, and fined. I was very surprised that boys from such wealthy families should commit this crime and they offered no explanation either. One thing was certain, their parents were also astounded, as both lads could have virtually anything they asked for. Could it be that lie was too easy for them and this was a sense of adventure, criminal though it might have been?
I attended a burglary at one of the largest houses in Didsbury, and from which, it was said, a high value of jewellery had been stolen. There were no clues and we got nowhere with our enquiries. One day I went to interview a man in the Hulme area and noticed a ring in his girl friend’s hand. I complimented her on her choice and she told me it was just costume jewellery given to her by the boy friend. I had been able to identify it from a photograph at the burgled house and arrested both of them. He had disposed of most of the spoils in pubs, etc. He was charged with the burglary, she with receiving. It transpired the insurance claim had already been met, so the ring was now theirs. That rather upset the house owner and I heard from the insurance agent she had bought the ring back from them at the price they had paid her, and had been accepted as a legitimate claim. She had put a large overvaluation, so that she was the one who had missed out. They might have taken her to court for false pretences, but policy dictated the insurance company did not want that kind of publicity.
There was a crime circulation waiting when I arrived one Sunday for duty. It was to the effect a sports shop in Moss Side had been broken into and a number of high powered air rifles and other weapons had been stolen. The patrol van in Wythenshawe had arrested two youths in possession of air weapons which they claimed were bought on the proceeds of a break-in at a greengrocers in West Didsbury some evenings previously. The weapons they had were not amongst those listed as coming from Moss Side, nor was there a report of crime at the greengrocers’ shop covering more than the contents of a charity Xmas stocking and an old, well used knife kept for opening packages, etc. Following questioning I arrested three other youths. It transpired that during the break-in one of the group had gone into the living accommodation above the shop and found, at the bottom of a wardrobe, a shirt box stuffed full of currency notes. That had not been included in the original report. The shopkeeper confessed it was money being saved for a new van, and had been withheld from his tax and VAT returns. He claimed it was little more than a hundred pounds or so.
The sum total of disposal of the theft was that two of them went down to the Midlands and paid cash for two new motorcycles. They were both under age, had no licenses, insurance and the cycles were untaxed. They knew little about their machines other than the need to fill up with petrol. One of them ran his machine until the engine seized up because of lack of lubrication and it was dumped in a deep part of the River Mersey. The other machine was pushed onto a dump. All the boys had gone away on expensive trips and three of them were still wearing expensive leather jackets, and all had high quality watches. At this stage it was impossible to calculate how much they had spent, especially as they had treated other boys in minor ways. I asked how much was left and where it was and was taken into the woods in Styal where I was shown a black polythene bag, hidden beneath a tree. It contained the shirt box which still contained a large amount of money. It contained more than £2,000 which the Station Inspector had checked and re-checked a couple of times before he locked it away in the safe. The parents had been present during my interviews but all of them claimed their suspicions had never been aroused when the boys told stories of friends giving them unwanted articles and other unlikely tales.
The boys were all charged with appropriate offences and pleaded guilty. The shopkeeper was present in the court, as was a stranger who made many notes and took the shopkeeper aside later. It transpired he was an investigator from the Treasury and it a reasonable assumption that tax and VAT demands would more than exceed what had been recovered.
My first occasion when a woman had taken a fancy to building a friendship with a detective was when I attended a burglary at a house in a private road in Didsbury. Not a great deal in value had been taken, but the woman’s husband was a businessman in the oil industry and was on a contract and working in the Middle East. She had been on her own for about a month and she was at pains to tell me she did not expect to see him for at least six months. She was a good looking and well made and turned out woman, and would have had me into her bed if I had wished. In those days we were expected to keep in touch with complainants who had reported crime, with emphasis on break-ins, and woe betides you if you did not do so. On one visit she had been wearing, it appeared, no more than a dressing gown, and I admit to having been close to giving her the attention she wanted. She started to phone me in the office asking that I call to see her on various pretexts, giving rise to many ribald remarks and advice what I should do to her. The matter was resolved when one day the Detective Chief Inspector, Arthur Rose, also ex RAF, who asked me whether I would be a detective constable at the bottom of the department or a sergeant in uniform. Naturally I said ‘Uniform Sergeant,’ upon which he told me to be at the Town Hall at 11 am the following day, which was the day of each month upon which the Watch Committee made promotions. It gave me a feeling of relief to phone the woman and tell her that the matter would be taken over by another detective.
Police Service – Promotion
In 1961, before reorganisation of police services, promotions were made by Watch Committees in cities and boroughs, and by the police authorities in county areas. In Manchester the third Thursday in each month was Watch Committee day when, amongst other business connected with the police and fire brigade, which was an off shoot very many years previously of the police service (in fact the Chief Constable was then also the chief fire officer).
Those officers recommended for promotion attended at the Town Hall at the appointed time wearing best uniform, well shaved and polished. They were marched in, greeted by the Chairman with a short homily before being sworn-in in the new rank. We were given our postings and new warrant cards and seeing the tailor for the new badges of rank to be put on the uniform, together with your new divisional number.
In my case the posting was to ‘A’ Division in the city centre, territory new to me, to commence there on 1 st April on the Newton Street Section on nights! It was a busy section which included the markets, which were worked by regular officers under an Inspector. It contained many pubs, most of which were sources of trouble both at day and night as many troublesome drunks came over from the adjoining division. We also had Yates Wine Bar which sold all sorts of highly alcoholic ‘plonk.’ There were a good proportion of long service constables on the section who did not like the thought that a man with less than nine years service had been promoted in days when a man with fifteen years had reached stage for promotion.
The area of land on each division was much smaller than I had been used to, in fact some were no more than a couple of streets square and there were as many beats and patrols on the division as there were on my old division which stretched from All Saints to Ringway and out to the county boundary. It took me several weeks to learn all the beats and patrols and how they related to one another. There were many patrols, both days and evenings, so that to walk down Market Street visiting the men to supervise their activities it was possible to meet four beat men and four patrols. From this you will realise the extent of uniformed coverage and the sight to the public to reassure them of their safety, and also to inhibit the criminal activities.
The division covered the main shopping areas of the city and the entertainment places, theatres, cinemas and the like and such clubs as existed. It was also the main banking and business district, including the only Bank of England outside London. There were regular deliveries of bullion and money from the Mint, with returns of worn currency going back. Such consignments arrived under armed escort and we augmented those with our own armed patrols. It is obvious that ‘A’ Division was one of the busiest divisions round the clock anywhere in the provinces.
With (then) four main line railway stations it was not unusual for hordes of opposing football fans to be crossing each other’s paths. The Railway Police looked after the trains and their customers, also their stations, but their liabilities ended when the fans had moved off their domain, and they became ours. There were a few scuffles, but in the main, they were interested in catching their next train or bus to see their match. Afterwards there was always the danger that disappointed fans would have to withstand the insults of others. I think we could draw pride from the minimum amount of damage done after confrontations, and we always had enough men out to quell trouble and make any arrests necessary.
We still had men ‘working’ traffic on the division at such junctions or groups of intersections which still made it almost impossible to devise and install the most complicated lights in the days before transmitters were invented. It was the practice that some lights were switched off during certain hours and the traffic worked by a constable wearing white sleeves over their tunics. It was wonderful to see the various styles of signals based upon those taught at the Training School, but requiring the minimum of energy whilst showing the driver exactly what was required – sometimes it was not much more than a finger that was used. The advantage of traffic work was that it was possible to keep an eye on all routes, and keeping them moving with very little hold up anywhere.
There was no by-pass to take through traffic away from the heart of the city. The trunk system of roads from London to Glasgow, the A6 came through the city centre from Stockport via Ardwick, London Road, Piccadilly, Market Street and through into Salford and beyond. Princess Street was one way out of the city to take traffic from the city to the dormitory areas I was walking down Market Street one morning when I glanced along a lane between the side of a Market Street building and the back of the Corporation Street building which was the building of the Manchester Guardian (which later became the Guardian and produced in London). I was horrified to see that the side was leaning outwards to an alarming degree. Fortunately there were several officers on Market Street and I signalled them to join me. I sent one to each end of Market Street to prevent access and went into the building to evacuate the three floors of offices, allowing the workers, mainly girls, to leave the building quietly and with no more than their essential property. There was no time for them to bundle everything. I insisted the evacuation went on without causing any vibration which could bring the building down. There were enough men to keep pedestrians away from that side of Market Street and empty the nearer shops and offices.
I had stopped the main trunk route in Britain, so had to do something about that, too, I had the officers at the northern end of Market Street divert traffic to Princess Street, via Corporation Street to keep it in a southerly direction along London Road with the assistance of traffic policemen. We used Oldham Street to bring traffic parallel with Market Street to Corporation Street. It may not have been the best route to bypass the main shopping street, but it did, at least, keep traffic moving.
I had already contacted the City Surveyors department and was awaiting the attendance of their top brass at the request of the men who had originally attended, when the Deputy Chief Constable arrived breathing fire. What was I up to, stopping a main route without authority? Apparently a member of the council had been inconvenienced and had complained without knowing what it was all about. I took the DCC to a point from which he could look down the lane, and pointed out I had done all I could in a short time, ensuring there should be no loss of life and at the same time taken steps to prevent a complete hold-up. He beat a hasty retreat, saying that it would do for now and the traffic departments of police and City Councils would discuss the matter, and devise a properly signed route.
When the building’s top brass arrived and saw the state of the building they considered demolishing the building, but were hesitant in case it should weaken adjoining buildings which were all fairly old and had withstood the blitz. If that had happened there would have been a huge back-lash and probable claims for damages. In the end they came to terms with Manchester Guardian and agreed their building could be used to prop up the dangerous building across the lane. They used huge baulks of long timbers which they placed upright against the Guardian building and the dangerous end, with other, near horizontal timbers braced to hold them apart. Installation was quite a performance, involving used of two huge cranes and the whole width of Market Street.
Although my efforts brought no official approbation, I was never the less greatly satisfied with my work and formed the basis of the final traffic system, and this was the first occasion on which I had need to operate entirely on my own. No divisional officers, including inspectors, ever came to see or advise me, despite the fact the diversion remained for many months, but with one lane of Market Street being opened in one way for safety whilst work was progressing.
Bill stopped writing here… no doubt at this point his illness was progressing (about 2001) and he felt unable to continue with his writing any more.