Being a Policeman in training school is one thing, but actually being in uniform alone on the street is something completely different. There was a short period of breaking in and getting used to doing the real job and not just the theory. The first week on Division was spent sitting in the Magistrates Court listening and watching the progress. I was told that it was a good way to get to know all of the local villains, but I must confess everything was so new and slightly overwhelming, I really didn't get much local knowledge at that time. I was reassured by an old time Policeman though who told me that it didn't matter whether I had learnt who the local villains were, because they had learned who I was, so that was reassuring!
The next six weeks, according to the training schedule; I was to be learning beats. This meant that I was to patrol with an experienced Policeman and shown the proper way to do the job. I walked around with him and watched, and slowly began to take the initiative while he stood back and let me, only stepping in if he thought I needed a hand. The reality of the job was vastly different to the impression given in the training school. Policemen generally at that time preferred to be on their own, and it wasn't a very popular thing to be saddled with a new recruit, so the next few weeks were not the most pleasant. In fact after four weeks, the training sergeant said he couldn't spare the manpower to have me being 'chaperoned' all the time and so I was put on a beat on my own and told to get on with it.
The Divisional Superintendent lived in a flat over the Police Station in West India Dock Road, and he would appear at all hours day or night unexpectedly. He was never frightened of getting involved himself and I well remember on my first week of Night Duty, there was a call from "The Phoenix" Public House just a few hundred yards away in East India Dock Road, closer to Poplar. A gang of Irish itinerants, men and women, had stayed on after closing time and were terrorising the staff by trying to wreck the place. The lights at the front of the Police Station were put out, a signal to all Officers that they were to get back quickly. The van came out of the yard with its blue light and bell going with the back doors open. As it went by every Officer available ran and jumped in the back, I was amused to see the Superintendent clinging on to the back still in his civvies. We were told what the trouble was by the driver and the Superintendent shouting to tell us he wanted every man and woman in the 'Nick'. We got to the pub' and went in fast, it was like a battlefield, but the boss was there as well throwing punches. Tables and chairs in splinters, broken glass all over the place and all the drinks display at the back of the bar shattered. As we went in the bar was full of men and women throwing furniture and chairs about they immediately turned on us and started to throw punches and hit us with chair legs and anything at hand. It didn't occur to me to take prisoners, I just got stuck in and started to fight back. Finally I had hold of a man who obviously didn't want to be got hold of. I got him out to the van and with the help of another Officer got him inside and sat on him. The van was filling up fast. The doors slammed shut and we were quickly whisked away to the Station. There they were unceremoniously thrown into a cell and we were sent back to the pub. The fight was dying down and when we returned the last few people gave up because we now outnumbered them and they were tired. Officers had arrived from Poplar and Bow Stations, and a general tidy up was under way. Several women were being dragged screaming and swearing from the ladies toilets where they had gone to hide. They too were unceremoniously thrown into the van with their men. This was my first taste of real violence and vitriolic abuse hurled at me by total strangers. The Station staff processed them all during the night and when I went off duty at six o'clock I was told I had arrested two prisoners and I was at Court at nine o'clock to give evidence. I had been in the thick of the melee and had one or two bruises around the face and eyes to show, plus a couple of tears to my uniform, I hadn't made the slightest complaint but just accepted it and found to my surprise that the rest of the Officers suddenly accepted me as an equal. A funny way to get recognition, but it worked.
There was a very busy crossroad within a few hundred yards of the Police station, which was manned by a Policeman from 6.a.m until 10.p.m six days a week. This was a three-week posting for an 8-hour shift. Every Officer carried his own pair of traffic gauntlets in his pocket, so that when the traffic man needed a break to go to the toilet or simply to have a short rest, the nearest beat man would give him a break. Traffic gauntlets were simply two sleeves of white material, which we fitted over our jacket from the cuff to the elbow. We had a button sewn to the inside of the jacket arm to hold the white sleeves up. I had been obliged to take over the point at some time for ten or fifteen minutes at least once a day while I was in my first month, so I was expected to take my turn and do the relief when it was needed. This was understandably not a very popular chore, as it could be very busy indeed at times, and if there was a breakdown for instance in the Blackwall tunnel, traffic would completely back up, then there would be break-downs in the Rotherhithe tunnel, leaving you with a complete standstill in traffic, sometimes for an hour or more. Drivers always blamed the man on point duty of course, because he was exactly half way between the two tunnels. Lorry drivers were always a great help and if a vehicle broke down on the crossing, they would frequently stop and get out chains they carried in their cabs, and pull the broken down vehicles off the junction for us. At that time M.O.T examinations were not in use, so some vehicles were in a very dangerous state. At that time there was only the single tunnel under the river at Blackwall. It had been built at least a hundred years before and was built for Horse traffic. There were a couple of bends in the tunnel which were not a problem to horse drawn traffic, but with the ever larger lorries travelling in opposite directions they frequently got jammed in the tunnels at the bends because there was just simply not enough room for them. A second tunnel was being built but that was to take another year or two to complete. Vehicles behind overheating and breaking down always compounded the situation because of the poor ventilation.
Being a new man, I was given the furthest beat from the station. We were required to parade 15 minutes before we went on duty, where we were inspected and updated on everything that had happened since we went off duty last. We were told when we were to take our refreshment and marched out of the station precisely on the hour. We then had to go straight to our beats. Because of the distance from my beat to the Police Station I had to take my refreshment with me, always sandwiches which I carried up to the Police Box on my beat, where I left them until it was my break. I was not allowed to walk off my beat unless it was absolutely necessary, and anything that happened on my beat while I was on duty was my responsibility. We did not have personal radios; in fact no one in the National Police had personal radios. There was only one car out on patrol, which was the Area car. This was a Wolsely Saloon manned by two uniform Officers (The Driver and Radio Operator) and one Officer in plain clothes, the observer. The radio received messages from Scotland Yard, and covered the whole of the sub Division, not just Limehouse, but also Poplar and the Isle of Dogs. There was a Black Maria kept at Limehouse. (The term Black Maria comes from a big Negro woman called Maria who lived in Jamaica and kept a notorious drinking den. She was famous for keeping all the drunks in order and was always called on by the local Police to deal with any difficult people who the Police couldn't handle and take them to the local Gaol. If there was ever a serious fight the cry was always call Black Maria). The Black Maria we had, was an Austin van, which we used to carry prisoners or use as a general-purpose van. It was very adaptable and could be converted to carry stretchers very quickly to be used as an ambulance. It had a bell on the front and one blue light on the roof. Two tone horns and sirens weren't going to come into use for a few years yet. If I needed help, I had to get to the nearest Police Box or Post and phone into the Police Station for it. If I was wanted on my beat, I had to keep my eye on the Box or Post as there was a blue light on top which would start flashing then I had to go to it, pick up the phone and ask what was needed. Heaven help me if I took too long to answer. My only weapon was a truncheon, which I carried at all times in a special pocket on the right side of my trousers or in a special pocket in my greatcoat if I wore it, and a whistle on a chain. With the whistle I carried a key to open the Police Boxes and posts.
After a few days on the beat I began to find places where I could get a drink of tea or coffee, or go to the toilet. We were never told where to go and our watering holes were jealously guarded. It wouldn't do for another officer to try to take advantage and spoil it for you. They were strictly unofficial and in Police terms illegal, but everyone had them and you were considered not doing your job properly if you didn't, because this is where you got your local knowledge, and information. There was another difficulty in Limehouse unfortunately, and that was that the Kray Gang dominated the area. The Kray family led a gang of criminals who dealt with every known form of crime from Burglary to Theft, robbery, Prostitution, Drugs and Murder. They ran protection rackets and claimed to own the area; so if anybody was seen talking to Police they might be visited and asked why. The local population were in fear of them and therefore very careful of their dealings with Police. If we ever got any information, it was invariably about someone from outside the area, never a local. Our best source of information was usually from the men used to look after the road repairs. They always had a tent by the side of road repairs and were there to protect the tools from being stolen and to keep lights burning at night around the road works. They sat up all night usually with a huge fire to keep them warm. This comprised an empty oil drum with holes punched in the side, they would burn coke and the fumes were breathtaking but sent out a tremendous heat. They would keep the local Policeman provided with what they described as either tea or coffee, but often tasted more like hot sugary diesel, or sump oil. It was always worth keeping in with them however particularly at night, because if it was wet or cold they always had somewhere to get warm or dry. They also liked to look after the local 'Bobby' because everyone knew they did it and it kept away the local troublemakers, so they felt safer. It sometimes meant however that one had to turn a deaf ear to what might be going on in the back of the shelter; he might be renting it out to a local prostitute as a sideline, which the station Sergeant did not want to know about. They were never really busy and had plenty of time to watch everything going on around them, except of course in the tent, but it did mean that I also had to listen to an awful lot of rubbish as well.
The biggest problems I normally had to deal with were drunkenness, fighting and general rowdiness. Fighting between Scandinavian seamen was a constant source of trouble usually caused by the prostitutes who were all aged and aggressive. The dockyard stevedores used to start collecting at about four in the morning to be hired by the gangers, so the pubs started to open at 3.30a.m Lorries would start queuing to get into the gates of the dock and life became very busy. One night however it was decided by the Station Sergeant that I should have a proper crime to deal with and he called me out of the canteen in the middle of my lunch break to deal with two West Indians who had been arrested and brought into the Police Station for fighting. Each was accusing the other of causing 'Actual Bodily Harm'. It transpired that they had been playing a game of Dominoes for pennies. One accused the other of cheating, they both started slanging the others origins. Apparently they both came from different Caribbean Islands, and it seems the people from one island never trusted the people from another. I guessed this was the closest they could get to tribalism, because as a result of slavery, their tribal backgrounds had been so diluted that they didn't have their true ethnic roots any more. In the fight, one had bitten off the end of the others finger and the second had bitten a lump out of the face of the first and swallowed it. I am quite sure by accident. I did the enquiries and paper work and they were taken before the Magistrate the next morning at Thames Court. The Magistrate was a Stipendiary Magistrate; that is to say he was a professional judge (Mr Lowden), and sat on the bench alone. He listened patiently to the evidence and I think with a little glint of humour in his eye. He eventually summed up and gave them both a telling off, binding them both over to keep the peace [piece?] it was the first time I had heard real justice being done with humour. Both men left fully satisfied with the result and pleased that the other now had a criminal record. I was bemused to see that there were not very many smiles in the court; apparently not many people there saw the funny side.
One of my earliest experiences when I became solo on the beat came one Sunday morning. I was patrolling a beat quite close to the Station, the streets were deserted when I saw a boy aged about 10/11. he came up to me and with a cultivated accent (definitely not East End) he asked me if I would go with him to help his Mummy sic; he took me to a basement flat in a Georgian type house, and letting me in took me through to the front room. There lying on a double bed was a woman in her early twenties looking as pale as a sheet and obviously very week. The sheets of the bed were almost crimson with blood and it was as much as the girl could do to speak. I forgot for a second I was a Policeman and was mentally back in a Sick Bay. I quickly realised that she had suffered an illegal abortion, which had gone completely wrong and was now literally bleeding to death. I wrote out a note for the boy to run to the Police Station to say I wanted an Ambulance at this address urgently, and if there was a Police Woman available would she attend here. The Landlord had cut off the electric supply and water to the flat, and refused point blank to be of any assistance and gave me some lie about not knowing anything about the woman or wanting to know, she just wanted her out. I strongly suspect she might well have been the abortionist, but pursuing that argument at that time was nonsense. The girl needed help before anything else; she desperately needed a Blood Transfusion and the attention of a qualified Midwife and Doctor. An ambulance arrived and started to refuse to take the woman to Hospital because she didn't have a local Doctor. I started to get very angry and explained to the crew that if they refused and the woman died, which was not out of the question at the moment, they were going to have to explain in detail to a Coroner why they let the woman die. I suggested they might be guilty of manslaughter through sheer idleness and neglect. I didn't know if this was a possibility, but it seemed to stimulate a little more enthusiasm. I was obviously not going to be popular at the Ambulance Station in the future. I took their names and number of the vehicle and for the first time became an Officious Policeman. They removed her reluctantly to Poplar Hospital. The woman Police Officer finally attended and took care of the boy, relatives were found who came to collect him. I was desperately anxious for the girl and furious at the callous attitude of the Ambulance crew and the desk sergeant who told me I should not have interfered. I forgot rank and told him what I thought of him. As he was also my reporting sergeant I could have upset my career. What was really annoying him was that he had to do some work, so he was not amused when the next day the Chief Inspector thanked me publicly in front of the rest of the shift for what I had done, and that it was probably the best thing that could have happened for the woman that her boy had found me and not some other less medically skilled officer. I was secretly thrilled later when I was told that the woman was out of hospital and had written a not to thank the Police for all we had done for her. No enquiries were pursued concerning the abortion, she had suffered enough and any more enquiries would have reached a dead end, the Kray's protecting arm spread to every known crime.
Pad and Muff lived above the Fire Station in Brunswick Road, Poplar. Not very far away from Limehouse Section House, so on one or two rare occasions when I was sent to work the beat in Poplar that covered the Fire Station I sneaked in for a cup of tea.
On my first Christmas at Limehouse I was working Night Duty. I was bemused to see that as we paraded for duty at 1/4 to 10 there was a Chinese waiter at the end of the line. As soon as we were told off for our beats and were ready to go out, the Chinese waiter came along the line to take our orders for our Christmas Dinner. We had been told that we would all be in the station at the same time at 2.a.m. I was a bit concerned about cost, because money was still a real concern for me, but the officer next to me told me to say nothing. It was the usual practice on Night Duty that for the first two hours we stayed near the station and patrolled in pairs until midnight, as there was never a night went by without trouble of some sort and fighting was always expected. We all had at least one prisoner every night and sometimes we would give the reserve driver a break so he could go out onto the street to get an arrest if he wanted to go to Court to get some overtime on his card. This night we didn't wander far from the Station, drunks were taken to the Salvation Army doss house, no one was arrested and the streets were cleaned up in quick time. At Midnight we all went into the station for a coffee and a glass of whisky, an unknown treat, then rushed around our beats to make sure everything was in order and we had put an entry in the logbook in the Police Posts. At 2.a.m when we went into the canteen, all the tables were laid for a Christmas feast to make your eyes water. Bottles of wine on every table and Chinese waiters all over the place. The Van had been around to the Chinese Restaurants and all of them had chipped in to provide the feast. They waited on us and I cannot remember ever having had such a happy time. The Chinese looked after us magnificently, and when we had to go back out onto our beats, they cleared away and just disappeared. It was their treat for all the trouble we had sorted out for them over the last year. (The restaurants were forever a cause of trouble with people trying to get out without paying for their meals, or causing trouble in the restaurants.) I whistled around my beat in the second half of the shift in very good spirits and happy in the knowledge that I wouldn't have to get up early that day to go to Court.
It was only a few months after that I was again on Night Duty when we had paraded as usual. We were paired up and I was the odd one out, so I was told to stay close to the Station in West India Dock road, after an hour I was passing a Chinese restaurant on the other side of the road when I saw two men throwing plates around in the restaurant. I went over and as both men were bigger than me, I decided that whatever the problem was I would have to try to separate them. The Chinese told me that they had refused to pay for the meal, they completely ignored me and in fact started to be aloof and telling me that the Germans were a superior race. I told them I didn't go in for racing and told them to leave the restaurant and started to urge them toward the door hoping desperately that one of the patrols would come by. One man left and disappeared, the other decided to have a go at me, but I had quickly got him in an arm lock and explained that this inferior policeman was arresting him and taking him to the inferior Police Station. He tried to struggle but I had hold of him well enough. I got him across the road and almost to the Police Station when his friend appeared for nowhere and started to hit me about the head. I released the arm lock and grabbed hold of his shirt instead, then I grasped the second mans shirt and just gripped hard. I think these men had been in brawls before because they worked as a team, as one mans fist came off me the other one struck and they worked in a rhythm. A couple of taxi's swung toward me and stopped with their headlights full on me. I saw the lights go out at the front of the Police Station and within moments at least eight Policemen were around and the two men; who turned out to be German Seamen from a ship in West India Dock, were being carried horizontally face down to the police station. All I could do was pick up the assortment of Police Helmets, which were lying on the ground. I was dazed and bruised but when I got to the Charge room at the station, the two men were looking a bit dazed and embarrassed as well. They were charged with Theft and Criminal Damage at the Chinese Restaurant and Assault on Police. I was made to go off duty on sick leave, but I had to appear in Court that morning in plain clothes. The Duty Inspector congratulated me on arresting both men who were bigger than myself; but told me I was too much of a gentleman and that the Marquis of Queensbury Rules didn't count outside a boxing ring. The Magistrate let the two Germans know in no uncertain terms that he was thinking of sending them to the High Court for a long Gaol sentence, but after an appeal from the Ships Captain gave them a heavy fine, which the Captain paid and said it would come out of their pay and that they would have their Seamen's passes handed to the Police on their return to Hamburg. I went home the next day after Court for a week, my mother went crazy to see the state of me and told me I shouldn't get into fights. I laughed and told her I would try not to again, (what a fat chance I had).
At that time I was still seeing Doreen from time to time, but I think the relationship was dying on its feet, but we had arranged a blind date meeting for Daphne with my brother Michael. Now Mick was very suspicious of me and threatened me if I was going to lumber him with some ugly bird. But I reassured him, I told him he was to ignore the hump on the back and the spots, she was getting treatment for it also the insane giggle was just a nervous habit she was going to grow out of, and anyway the limp was just a way of getting attention, if he paid attention to her she wouldn't limp in his company again. Mick came along not at all confident of my judgement, I was under threat of death if all I had said was true, but he really didn't know if I meant it. Daphne of course is none of these things and she and Mick got on very well, in fact she soon started spending some of her off duty at home taking over my bedroom confining me to my room at Limehouse. This situation continued on until eventually they were married. My relationship with Doreen however was doomed to failure and we parted company. I understand she is now married to a Dentist and has a family.
One day when I was my beat on early turn, I saw the light flashing at my post, when I answered the phone I was told that I was to return to the Station immediately and see the Chief Inspector. The operator didn't know why, he only assumed that as I was new, I was in some sort of bother. I had no idea what on earth I could have done or what the problem was. I went in to the front office and the Station Sergeant was curious to know what on earth I was wanted for, but sent me up to the Chief Inspectors Office. I waited anxiously to hear what the problem was when he came out of his office. When he saw me he said "Oh thank goodness you have come, come with me and show this lot downstairs how to do their job." I couldn't imagine what possible thing I could teach anyone at the Police Station. In the basement Gymnasium of the Section House there were three Sergeants and a couple of older P.C's sitting around. The Chief Inspector introduced me to them and told them I was going to help train them. I still couldn't understand what on earth I could teach this lot who had at least 15 years service each. The Chief Inspector left and they all looked at me with a certain amount of scepticism. I said, "What are you supposed to be doing? " they said they were training for a First Aid competition. I looked a bit stunned and said to them "I've never heard of a First Aid competition and I really don't think much of the First Aid book, could you please explain to me what happens and perhaps I can help." They looked a bit sceptically at me, but explained what it was all about, and then they showed me what they were trying to do. When they had finished I said, "Right now I know what you want, but I wouldn't do it that way. Do you mind if I show you how I would treat these injuries. " They let me go ahead. After that they thought I was magic, their first aid treatments had been diabolical, but they had to stick to the commentaries as per the First Aid manual. They were amused that I didn't have a book but soon found me one. I spent a couple of happy weeks teaching the men for a competition I didn't know anything about. The big day dawned and off we went to Arbour Square Police Station our Divisional Headquarters. There was a lot of cross banter and leg pulling about Limehouse having a new boy in the team, but it would be a good experience for me. (Hadn't I heard that expression when I went into a dancing competition in Singapore?) The competitions comprised a Team test, a Pair test, an Individual Test and an Oral test for the fourth man. When the results were read out at the end, the results were read out in reverse order. I was amazed to learn we had won the competition by a clear victory of nearly twenty marks. My team were exultant, it was the first time they had won the competition in many years, and when the examining doctors commented on the professionalism of the team, I got a lot of sidelong glances from some of the older men there. The Chief Inspector was almost floating and had a grin from ear to ear. He even bought me a pint of beer; you don't want to know some of the comments from one or two of the men who really expected to win, because they always won. I was in serious danger of getting the giggles and so had to get well away from them. But I was doomed, from now on getting away from First Aid was going to be difficult, so I thought I had better get used to the First Aid manual, even though I thought it was rubbish. It was only a matter of weeks before I found I had to start training with the Divisional Team at Arbour Square, but I couldn't really take it seriously. To me it was only a game.
One morning when I was on early turn, I was asked to go down to the cells at six o'clock to check on the prisoners. All the cells were full with at least 6/8 prisoners to each 2-man cell. The women's cells were just the same. One of the young men came to the cell door and asked me when he could go home for his injection, I asked him how much he had drunk the night before and he told me only a couple of pints. I asked him if he was diabetic to which he replied yes. I went to the Sergeant and told him I thought the man should be taken home promptly and maybe refuse charge, as he was diabetic. It could be embarrassing. He looked at me then contacted the Duty Inspector who asked me why? I explained to him, he immediately brought the man out of the cell gave him his property back and a lecture about drinking and had him taken home in the boss's car. I saw the man weeks later in the street when he stopped me and thanked me for what I had done, I had restored his faith in the Police Force. He had made me feel quite proud and pleased that there were plenty of nice people out there really.
Things were looking up all round, the relief was a happy one, we all worked well together. Our weekends were taken up with demonstrations in the city centre usually around Hyde Park or Westminster with regular Civil demonstrations, at first for 'Ban the Bomb' demonstrations against Nuclear Research and Armament. Then there was the occasional State Visit when we had to wear our dress uniforms and line the streets with the Brigade of Guards. Our dress uniform was made of doeskin material a single fronted tunic buttoned up to the chin with our number on the collar. We wore a polished black belt with a rolled cape hooked on the back. There were no pockets on the front of the tunic but two fitted into the tails of the tunic. We wore white gloves and our normal day helmets. (We had two helmets, one with a bright badge was worn during the day and the other with a black badge was worn at night.)
The first riotous demonstration I attended was in Victoria Square Gardens in Stepney. It was as a result of what turned out to be the last public meeting of Sir Oswald Moseley the fascist. He was anti Semitic and anti Black. The Yellow Star movement which is Jewish turned up to object to him and the Black Power organisation turned up to protest against everyone who wasn't black. They all set up their various stands at different parts of the square and hurled abuse at each other until the Police Commander had had enough and told us to clear the square. Then the fun started, we were told to be Ghurkhas, which is to take no prisoners. Fights flared up all over the place and despite the request, prisoners were taken and thrown into vans regardless of whose side anyone was on, so there were some very interesting mixtures in some of the vans. Eventually the square and surrounding streets were cleared of everyone who didn't live there and we all went home.
Later on I was to experience a combination of the state visit and serious demonstration all at once, and that was the State Visit of Queen Fredericka of the Hellenes. There was at that time a serious threat to the Greek throne and allegations of all sorts of atrocities made in the name of the Greek Royalty. A lot of anti royalists, anarchists, rent-a-mob and thugs who had nothing better to do joined in the violent disturbances. We went on parade to go into London for the State visit in our dress uniforms and had to take our duty uniforms with us. Usually 'A' 'B' and 'C' Divisions lined the route near the Palace and The Mall, but on this occasion 'H' 'G' and 'J' Divisions had that dubious honour. These three Divisions were reputed to have the toughest experience in the East End areas and so were thought best to protect the area around the Palace where most of the events would be held. After the State ride there was to be a Banquet at the Palace for the Royal visitors in the evening. As soon as the Procession had ended we were stood down while other Divisions took our place. We changed into our duty clothes (The modern protective clothing had not even been designed then) and had refreshments; we were then placed around the Palace and across the end of the Mall. Our particular posting was at the bottom of Constitution Hill facing across Green Park and in the distance Hyde Park and Piccadilly where trouble makers were most likely to congregate. We did receive several reports during the afternoon and early evening of disturbances all over the place and people collecting at the Piccadilly end of Green Park. We were interested but not unduly perturbed. Magistrates were going to be sitting all night at Bow Street we were told and our nearest reception station for prisoners was in Wellington Barracks on the other side of Bird Cage Walk, not far away. As the evening wore on messages were becoming more alarming and it seemed we were soon going to be earning our wages. A line of army lorries appeared behind us with Police Officers on the back waiting to accept our prisoners. We were told they wouldn't be getting off the Lorries. Then we saw the horde's moving down toward us from the Piccadilly direction. It was just one huge mass of people all screaming abuse and apparently determined to walk over us. I glanced along our line and it was just a single file of Officers, it really did look like a very thin blue line. My mouth went very dry and I don't think I was alone then they were on us. Women in the front were throwing pepper and dirt into our eyes and men were throwing punches at us over the shoulders of the women. At first we just linked arms but that was just not going to work, then our bosses told us to clear them out. I almost burst out laughing, it sounded so ridiculous because we were so outnumbered. However the mob heard it as well, and almost instantly a couple of the women in the front were grabbed by the throat or hair and dragged bodily through the Police cordon and literally thrown onto the lorries. Now we were getting at the men and youths some were going down fast and there was a scrabble to get to the back of the mob. People were being grabbed and hurt by Police, a cameraman went down and his camera disappeared, it was found later damaged, minus film. Then the motorcycle traffic police came in behind us barging into anyone throwing punches. We apparently were at the centre of a big push as we were nearest the Palace, Mounted Branch started to arrive behind us and other Divisions in reserve were beginning to arrive. They didn't seem to do much because we were holding, but they were helping to pass prisoners back to the lorries. The riot turned into a rout, people were running back the way they had come and Inspectors and Superintendents were trying to call back angry Policemen giving chase. My jacket was in ribbons and my face covered in mud. My knuckles were raw, but I don't recall hitting anyone. The whole incident seemed to have lasted just minutes, but it had taken a good half to three quarters of an hour, and when I think of how many men had been pulled in to back us up, it couldn't have happened in just a few minutes. I think every single Policeman had damage to his uniform or minor injury of some sort. Many had lost their helmets and epaulets had been ripped without number. But every man was still there and we had apparently taken thirty or forty prisoners that had been whisked away never to be seen by us again. They were all taken before the Magistrates at some stage during the night in batches of ten. Those that admitted the charges were dealt with on the spot. Those that pleaded not guilty were locked up until the Arresting Officer could be found to come before the Court to give evidence, which might take a few days. As soon as this news percolated through the cells, there were very few not guilty pleas. The fines were derisory, but that didn't really matter. What did matter was that the hard-core troublemakers had been pulled out of the reckoning and they had lost the initiative. A few less guilty perhaps had got a little over excited and were caught in the sweep, but they shouldn't have been there, and only the ones at the front making the noise could be got hold of. As the area thinned out, our group were marched off to an enormous marquee at the bottom of the Mall, where we were each allowed two pints of beer as we entered the tent. The first pint didn't touch the sides as it went down; the second was savoured deliciously for quite a little while. We were kept on standby until everything had died down. The trouble radiated outwards and away from us, they didn't like us we were not like the usual Bobbies in the centre of London. We did look a sorry lot in our tattered uniforms, the comments that were being bantered around were hilarious and one poor chap who had been struggling furiously, rolling on the ground trying to arrest some manic woman, was accused of trying to seduce her. She had eventually been thrown onto the back of one of the prison lorries still fighting like a wildcat. It is truly amazing how that kind of difficulty binds men together, everyone was in the thick of it and relying on everyone about them including the senior Officers, a strong camaraderie seemed to spring up, and those men who were not there but still back on Division seemed to resent the fact that they missed it. We were returned to Limehouse in the early hours of the morning tired out, but still expected to be up for early turn the next day, shaved smartly turned out and having had a bite to eat and a hot drink.
The long-term affect of this particular riot was that fresh rules were made concerning Officers arresting prisoners in this kind of situation. They had in future to be photographed beside the prisoner they had arrested, because when Officers were traced who had allegedly arrested people in London on that day it was found that they had not even been on duty in London at all at the time, so prisoners had to be released without charge. This was to have far reaching effects in the years to come.
Life was not all gloom and doom however, if nothing else, no two days were the same. Some days were deadly boring one moment and hyperactivity the next. Others could not end quickly enough. But all together I enjoyed it. Each group of men on a shift were known as a relief, and each relief seemed to develop its own identity and comradeship. There was a close-knit friendship on my own relief and we tended to go drinking together often. One particular evening, on 4th May 1962, we were on the 2 - 10pm shift when a notice was pinned on the notice board to the effect that there was a party of girls in an address at West Ham and there were no men available. Could the late shift attend? Five or six of us met up after duty and having quickly got ready, went for a quick pint then piled into one chaps car and went off to the party. The girls were all Nurses from the London Hospital in Whitechapel. During the round of introductions I was introduced to a very attractive young brunette called 'Liz'. I told her I didn't really approve of abbreviated names and that I was sure her real name was 'Elizabeth' she smiled and said I was right, so I said, "Well I am going to call you Elizabeth, not 'Liz'" and a friendship was struck. We stayed together for the rest of the evening and as the party died down we were all stranded in the flat, our driver had gone off somewhere with one of the girls, we all found somewhere to sleep. I settled in an armchair with Elizabeth on my lap. My coat and waistcoat had disappeared somewhere, but I would find it in the morning. The next morning we all parted and went our several ways, my coat and waistcoat were on top of a wardrobe in a bedroom, I have no idea who threw them up there. I had Elisabeth's proper name and address, and we promised to meet again. In view of my previous experiences, I lived in hope but not in any great expectancy. Shortly after this party I went on Night Duty for three weeks and that really was three weeks total anti social time. We wrote to each other and arranged to meet outside the underground station at Whitechapel at 4 o'clock one day. To my shame, I had almost forgotten what she looked like, I decided to be a few moments late, so that if she remembered me she would recognise me first. She was there when I arrived not too late, and I am delighted to say I recognised her. I didn't really know where we could go and decided that we would go to the Cinema in Leicester Square where we would see the film 'Der Rosenkavalier' by Richard Strauss.
We got on extremely well, so much so that it wasn't long before I had taken her home, and soon Elisabeth was using my room for her off duty time and I was even more confined to my room at Limehouse. We went out or met as often as we were able, but she was a staff nurse at the London Hospital and had to fulfil her duties, so our off duty times did not always coincide. On one occasion we were going to the theatre to see Bob Monkhouse in a stage production 'Come Blow Your Horn', we were early and were strolling in St James Park by the lake, when Elisabeth suddenly dashed off to talk to a lady who had just passed us in the opposite direction. It turned out that this was her Aunt Joan. No one in her family knew of my existence, the friendship was very new. Joan was single and in her fifties at the time I think, she was a lovable bubbly lady and relished a harmless gossip. I think the telephone lines back to Elisabeth's home were buzzing within an hour, "Who was the man with Elisabeth, was he a patient?" I must have looked a pathetic sight. The cat was out of the bag. A short time later a deputation arrived at her flat to inspect the new man. I was on Parade in front of Father, Mother and young sister Barbara who was certainly the most inquisitive.
On one of our trips to the West End to a Theatre or the Cinema, we were strolling past a Travel Bureau, which had a very large detailed model of a trans - Atlantic liner in the window. There were also large posters depicting America as a place to go on holiday. I was interested in the model of the ship when Elisabeth said she had intended to go to America to work. I thought 'Here we go again!' so I told her it was not my intention to carry on a long distance relationship. I didn't want to stop her ambition, but I wasn't going to carry on the relationship if she went. Nothing more was said and the subject was never raised again. Our friendship was still very new and I thought it best to be straight from the beginning. Later on that year Elisabeth took her sister Barbara and another girl friend of Barbara's to Normandy for a Holiday, she wrote to me while she was there and I was beginning to feel more comfortable about our relationship.
We continued meeting as often as we could and that Christmas Eve I walked up to The London Hospital to see her in her new digs, a room in the Nurses quarters. A big improvement from her digs in Forest Gate, which was quite a distance away. That year it snowed over Christmas and I had to trudge the mile or so back to Limehouse. I had worked Late turn on Christmas Eve and was working Early Turn on Christmas Day to allow any Married men time with their families. There was not a lot of work done on the Eve because we spent the time making sure that people got home. We didn't want anyone in the cells that night if it could be possibly avoided. I got to bed at 1.a.m and was instantly asleep only to be shaken awake at 4.a.m by Pad. He was working at the Fire station at Clerkenwell, in the City at the time. He had gone off duty early to be home for the Children, but passing Limehouse he had come into the Section House and woken me up to wish me a Happy Christmas. He had obviously had a drink or two and was in a very happy mood. He wouldn't let me get back to sleep and started to tell me a series of jokes. His sense of mischief and fun was so infectious I gave up trying to get back to sleep and so I got up and had to make him a cup of coffee. I was well in time for early turn; it was still snowing that morning.
There were only three Officers on duty on the street that morning, and so we were told to get around and check our property then come back into the station to be available if we were needed. It took about an hour to check everything out. The streets were deserted and cold. It was a pleasure to get back into the station for a slice of buttered toast and a cup of hot coffee. We took turns to relieve the front desk Officer and Telephonist. I even took it upon myself to sweep out the cells and cell passage. The station cleaners were not going to be about that day for sure. Later on in the morning I went out again to check my beat, there were quite a few people about and the pubs' were beginning to fill up. Everything was as it should be, there was a lot of good will and even men whom I had arrested at some time over the last year for some nonsense or other would call out to wish me a happy Christmas. I was pleased to get off duty at 2.o'clock. I had Boxing Day off so I could go home.
The New Year proved to be particularly cold with plenty of snow. Night duties were bitter and I was always glad to get into the warm. During the freezing weather when the snow was on the ground, one of the hardest jobs was to do the traffic point on the Eastern. I was surprised when I first relieved the Point man when a lorry driver called to me as he drove past and threw me a sack. I didn't realise at first what it was for then realised there was a growing pile in the centre of the road, all sodden. When I put this one on top of the others and stood on it I could feel the warmth coming up through the soles of my boots. This happened a couple of times while I was on the point, and it made me feel so happy that the lorry drivers could be so thoughtful at such a time.
At the end of the winter we had what was the last of the Pea Soup Fogs to hit London. The air was full of a thick yellowish cloud that smelt of soot and sulphur. Visibility was barely three feet. Car and lorry drivers couldn't see the pavement from their seats and traffic moved at a snails pace, the London Transport put gas flares every few yards along the bus routes to guide the buses, they appeared like little beacons out of a thick cloud every so often. We were very busy indeed dealing with thousands of incidents all over the area. Our vehicles were all confined to the Police Station and ambulances had to be escorted by a Police Officer on foot in front of the Ambulance to show the driver the way. The traffic point was manned by Five Policemen, one at each road junction waving torches and one in the middle of the road shouting to each of the others to let each one in turn know which line of traffic to let go. Neither one Officer could see another through the fog. People wore masks over their faces, and clothing became absolutely filthy and smelly. It really was a living nightmare, but the only way to deal with it was to be cheerful and as helpful as we could be, and to make it as light hearted for people as possible. The miracle was that no really serious incidents occurred and everyone was so kind and helpful to everybody else, even though everyone was really miserable with the weather.
Elisabeth and I were seeing each other as often as we could and I had visited her home at Ross on Wye several times. She was a regular visitor to my home on her off duty to get away from work. We decided that we would get married and we became Officially engaged on 1st March 1963. I was due to finish my probation in the Police in September and so we further decided that we would become married on 7th September. There was a slight wrinkle in that as I was a Catholic and Elisabeth's family were staunch Anglican we would have to be married in the Catholic Church. The only Catholic in her family was Joan who had met us on our very first date, which was a rather amusing coincidence I thought. This didn't prove to be a real problem, but I know that they would really have preferred that we married in the Parish Church. I am extremely grateful that it was never raised as an issue and it has never ever been the cause of any acrimony.
We hoped that we would be able to move to the Richmond area of London after we were married as I had an Uncle (a brother of my father) and Aunt who were the Licensees of The Coach and Horses public House on Kew Green, at that time. My aunt (Margaret) had found a small one bed roomed flat near there, which was £6 per week rent. There were no Police married quarters available and so this seemed perfect to us. I applied for a transfer, and Elisabeth managed to get a Ward Sisters position in Richmond Royal Hospital, which was literally at the end of the road. But this was all yet to come. There was still another seven months to go. We bought each other a ring; I bought her a small solitaire diamond. It was a very small diamond and I always wished I could have afforded something more impressive. She bought me a signet ring with my initial engraved on it; it was my first and only piece of jewellery. I was and am very proud of it although it has worn to half the thickness when it was new and the initials are barely recognisable now.
I had to finish my training, and pass my exams before I was confirmed as a Police Officer. There were the continual classes to attend in between duties. Demonstrations hotted up as the weather improved and the ban the bombers' launched into yet another jamboree. I was put into a team in plain-clothes rowdyism patrol with a Pc. Champion. We both wore our washed out ex-service working clothes with badges removed and had the free run of bars and rough areas to pin point trouble makers before they got out of control. We made quite a few very interesting arrests, both for drugs, stolen and smuggled property. While this was going on we were able to travel across to Richmond, as September got close and do some decorating in the flat before returning to Limehouse. We travelled by tube and bus, getting off the bus at the edge of the patch to visit a few dives to be able to make entries of a few visits in our pocket books before going into the Station for our refreshments. We had to go into the station through the rear of the Section House so the usual hangers on who might recognise us for what we were, wouldn't see us, although it is very hard to disguise the fact that you are a policeman. The paint on our clothes from decorating the flat did help a little. At long last I had my final interview with the Chief Superintendent to tell me I was now confirmed as a Police Constable. I wont pretend that I was at the top of the class. I didn't think I would ever make a top crime buster, but I was hoping I would be a good solid member of the force. My transfer to Richmond was to happen simultaneously with my confirmation and I went on leave on the same day. My time at Limehouse was over.
In the meanwhile Elisabeth and I had arranged a blind date with an old school friend of hers who worked in London (Anne) to meet one of my Policeman colleagues (Eddie) they had become very firm friends and were dating regularly, which was very nice for both of them. I had arranged for our Honeymoon on a boat on the Norfolk Broads, which I was looking forward to for obvious reasons but also because it would be the very first proper holiday I had ever had. All of which made everything very exciting and special.
There was to be one other big event before then however, and this was that Michael was to marry Daphne, I was to be best man and Elisabeth was to be a bridesmaid. This seemed like a fitting rehearsal for our own Nuptials. They were married on 22nd June at The Holy Apostles Catholic Church, Winchester Street in Pimlico, our own parish church. This was a splendid opportunity also for the rest of the family to meet Elisabeth, and to let her see what she was letting herself in for. Daphne's Father was recently retired as an Inspector in the City of London Force, her elder brother was also a Policeman in Traffic Division, and her younger brother was finishing school and waiting to join the Metropolitan Police as a Cadet. He was later to rise through the ranks and become the Chief Constable of the West Midlands Police, (Birmingham). Michael became a Chartered Civil Engineer, and specialised in Bridge Building. He worked on projects in several countries abroad, in Hong Kong and the Middle East. His masterpiece however is the flyover bridge from the end of the M2 down onto the sea front at Dover Harbour. He competed for the design contract and was engineer on site during the construction, which at the time involved building some of the piers in the harbour itself. He was rightly very proud of his achievement. This area of sea has been reclaimed so that those piers are now well inside the landmass.
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