Neal Dempsey, My Life Story



It was not true to say that I was returning to Civilisation. The people of Sabah were among the most Civilised people I have ever had the privilege to meet. Their behaviour and good manners were exquisite, and I felt saddened on the plane coming home to think that I would probably never see them again.

Elisabeth was in the reception lounge at Heathrow to meet me, and my sadness at leaving all those lovely people behind, was more than compensated by with the delight of being back with her again. I was looking for Louise and Simon too, but I was told that they couldn't get a day off school, but I would be home waiting for them when they arrived. The journey home was a slow and tedious one that seemed to drag on forever. I was anxious to get home and Elisabeth was spending all her time trying to delay me. Eventually we arrived home to find a bed sheet draped across the front of the house from the upstairs bedroom windows by Louise and Simon, with the slogan "Welcome Home Daddy". I had a large lump in my throat when they both ran into my arms; the reason for the delay was now more than obvious.

The next big excitement for them of course was searching through the bags of presents and gifts that had been presented to me during the tour. Both Louise and Simon stayed very close by my side for the rest of the evening in case I should disappear again, but the next day the serious business of writing a report for the St John and also for the Chief Constable, together with a copy of the letter I had written to Major General Sir Peter Leuchers, The Commissioner in Chief of the St John Ambulance Brigade. I was interviewed by the local press and had a meeting with the Chief Constable at Hindlip Hall, the Police Headquarters to present him with the plaque I had been presented with, for him, by the Commissioner in Chief of the Malaysian Police in Sabah. I was secretly more than a little flattered when the Chief Constable told me that he had no doubts at all about how I would carry out the mission, as he thought I would be the perfect diplomat. It was time to rub some cold cream on my head to prevent the swelling. However on top of all the fuss and duties within the Police, one very important issue could not be overlooked. I still had the responsibilities of the St John Ambulance Division in Upton. In particular our projected National competition (Page 176. The affects of Blindness in the Rural Community,) My Officers under the leadership of Elisabeth as the Divisional Nursing Officer, together with the Divisional Officers Jean and Christine, had worked like Trojans. Sufficient praise could not be given to them. They had organised the cadets into a team, which we were able to identify with the Blind or Semi Blind within the Community. The ever-changing list had been updated in as far as it was possible to do. Now that I was back in the fold, I was well able to get involved in the project. Driving around the Police Beat was approximately the size of the St John Division area, it gave me a golden opportunity therefore to talk to the ladies and gentlemen, Boy Cadets helped with smaller errands or small gardening jobs, but more importantly giving company where there was very little, by listening to the story they had heard a dozen times and still pretending to be impressed or amazed. One girl in particular found she had several hobbies in common with her appointment. Both she and the lady she was appointed to were very keen cooks, and both of them loved to play on the Piano. So Anne (The Cadet) enjoyed helping with measuring of ingredients while cooking, they both had fun playing the piano Anne particularly enjoyed it, because The lady possessed a three-quarter grand piano, The lady had at some time been a concert pianist and so enjoyed helping Anne to play to a more advanced standard. And so it went on. I took great delight in collating the report of their efforts, which eventually was sent to St John Headquarters.

All of this had however put more responsibility onto the adults, because they and I had to ensure that there was a complete trust between the adult and Cadet. I had to acquire the parents' permission, and I also had to be satisfied in my own mind that I was not putting that cadet into a dangerous situation by allowing them to be alone with an undesirable adult. I was also at a distinct advantage in this regard in that being at the Police Station, I could check up on each person.

The evening came when I went along to our weekly meeting, and tells them all that they had been selected to be in the final four Divisions to be examined for the trophy. For the best part of five minutes I had completely lost control of the Division, they all went wild, cheering and clapping. I don't know what any passer by would have thought. When they had all simmered down I explained to them that we had the hardest bridge to cross. We were going to have the very top people from the St John Headquarters in London, to come to Upton and spend the day with us and talk to every one to let the girls and boys show what they had done. It wasn't going to be easy, because I was going to be put through the mill as well.

The big day was to be the 16th June. There were three other Divisions who were competing as well. I explained that we had a worry in that we had to beat the other three teams, but they had an even bigger worry because they had to beat us. This brought delighted cheers from the children.

The day before the visit by the National Headquarters Staff arrived. The 15th June was my birthday, and we had decided to have a party in the Skittle Alley in the 'Talbot Hotel', right in the middle of the town and by coincidence two doors away from 'The White Lion Hotel' where I suspected the examiners would be staying. I had seen the examiners arrive at the Hotel earlier in the afternoon, so after they had enjoyed their evening meal, and the skittles were well under way, I popped into the White Lion, introduced myself to the Examiners and invited them to join us in the skittle alley next door to let them see how the Division let its hair down. Sure enough 3/4 hour later they came in, the women Officers being of the more upper class, had never played skittles and so were delighted to try their skills against the children. The only man among them had of course played. I realised while they were playing what a brilliant idea it was fetching them in to meet the division in such a simple social atmosphere, both became relaxed in the others presence, which would pay dividends tomorrow. The highlight however was when towards the end of the evening Christine, one of the Divisional Officers brought in a Sponge Birthday cake, and everybody sang Happy Birthday to me, some of the cadets then started to speculate wildly on my age some of the guesses verging on the injurious. It really was a very Happy time altogether.

The next morning we were all on parade. The Headquarters staff ran the show, each Officer from H.Q electing to go with one of my Divisional Officers and Nursing Officer, plus a Cadet who had been involved with any particular project. The Senior Cadets laid up a table in the hall for a meal having previously prepared place tickets. One of the ladies from the town who normally did private catering prepared with the help of the older girls, a meal fit for a king. One of the fruit farms gave enough strawberries to feed an army, far too much for their needs. As the various inspecting Officers returned to the hall, they were staggered to see that the lunch had been prepared for them. They sat down to a very enjoyable meal, discussing he various strong or weak points, they were impressed with the written report and said they would be going back now to their offices now to make their own comments and inspect three other Divisions.

I was congratulated personally by each of the inspecting Officers who also said how impressed they were that so much of the groundwork had been continued whilst I had been away in SABAH. And I had compiled my report within a very short space of time since my return. I felt very confident of our success, but we had to wait a few months to get the official result. Until then just hope and pray, that our effort had not been wasted,

The last but not least of my Official duties was to report to the County Officers of my own Division, at their headquarters. Eventually my feet had to come down to earth and I was back on duty as a beat Officer in Upton. In some ways it was a bit of a relief, and in others something about which I was a bit apprehensive. I had hardly got back on duty when I was called back to start First Aid training again at the Force training school at Droitwich, and to be perfectly fair, it did not go down at all well with the Sergeant. He complained that I was effectively a wasted man as far as he was concerned because I was never available when he wanted me and it was putting unfair pressure on the other men, which some of them were not too shy to let me know about.

There was not a lot I could say or do about it and eventually a Woman Inspector came across from Malvern and interviewed me privately to put to me several complaints the Sergeant had made against me. The look on my face left her in no doubt that I did not have a clue as to what she was talking about. When the Inspector went through my pocket diary she found that two of the incidents referred to were dated and timed for a period when I was actually at training school, and could not have been involved anywhere else at that same time. The rest therefore could not be relied upon as being true either. It was patently obvious that there was a very strong feeling of acrimony between the Sergeant and myself. I would have thought the Sergeant could have made a much more watertight allegation than that. It became obvious one of us would have to go, and that one was inevitably going to be me.

I saw the Deputy Commissioner of Police Mr Florentine, who contrary to everyone's belief that I would be dealt with severely was very kind and sympathetic. Normally under these conditions an Officer would be required to move completely to another part of the Force, but he moved me to Worcester. He was very interested in the St John Division in Upton and was most keen I should keep it going. He seemed to be very well informed about what was happening within it.

My transfer to Worcester was painless and to be honest I was very happy to be there. I was put on to a relief and found that with my nineteen years service I was the Senior PC on it. By age I was by some years the oldest and as such became a bit of the odd man out, this suited me down to the ground as it gave me the opportunity to work out who was who in my own good time. There was just one Officer in the Station whom I already knew, and that was a Police Woman Sergeant of my own age who was a part of the Women's First Aid Team, namely a Jean Williams. We had trained for and had competed together in a mixed team in Casualty Union Competitions; she was also an experienced Instructor. We worked for a time on the same relief, and I found when she was on duty, if there was ever a difficult or contentious case to be dealt with, I always seemed to get called off my beat to deal with it. I must say I felt rather flattered and pleased because it made the work so much more interesting. When I was called up to training school, Jean would always be there as well. It was a bonus therefore to find a friendly face in the Station.

On my first day at the station, a qualified Officer accompanied me from the Station whose main job was to show me around the city. In the morning, we did the trouble spots in the city centre and its surrounds. In the afternoon I was taken to the opposite side of the river and shown the beat boundaries and trouble spots there.

Since I started to write this chapter I have made numerous attempts to dig myself back into the story without much success. I seem to have almost lost the sequence of letters on this keyboard. Simon has very kindly bought a remote keyboard and mouse, so that I don't have to glue myself to the desk, but can sit in my armchair and write it all down. The result is not all that we would have hoped for. One problem is the matter of concentration; in the short paragraph above for instance, there were 9 obvious spelling mistakes, numerous grammatical errors with the paragraph itself ending with 4 1/2 lines of the letter 'M' where I have obviously fallen asleep. Some of the words I have used, I have never heard of before, if indeed they were words at all, so I can only put this down to an excess of Morphine, and to any person who becomes as confused as I am over word usage, I apologise in advance. I must press on and only hope that my memory has not become too befuddled. This mouse seems to be even more remote than I am and to have a will of its own also, which doesn't seem to help overmuch. There has also been the most stressful incident of all. My Mother died on the 5th March, just five days after her 94th Birthday, with all its attendant stresses and fuss that involved, trying to arrange the funeral, informing relatives and so on; this story again became a very low priority. None the less, the neighbours came up trumps, but all this will create another paragraph later on.

Walking through the High Street in Worcester was an absolute pleasure, talking to the people in the street and in the shops, learning all their problems and beginning to see the pattern of usage of the streets when different people and age groups gathering around the Coffee/Tea shops in the City was fascinating. I was able on a number of occasions to make arrests by simply knowing the pattern of movements of a particular individual or his friends, and so knowing where he would be at any particular time. I used to get a thrill of amusement when the individual always wanted to know how I knew where he was at any given time. I always got protests and a struggle, which was just to show off to his or her mates that they weren't going to go quietly, but the cold steel of the handcuffs on the wrist soon put an end to that sort of nonsense.

Being a Policeman does not mean that one has to deal with troublemakers and arrest people all the time. One particular incident comes to mind when one night duty in the early hours of the morning I was sent to a house over in the St Johns area, where an elderly gentleman hadfallen on the floor beside his bed. His elderly and frail wife had struggled for some time, unsuccessfully to put him back into his bed. I was asked to go to the house to put the gentleman to bed, and told to pick up a Special Woman Constable on the way to help me. We arrived at the house to find the lady in tears, and obviously at the end of her tether, not knowing what else to do. The Ambulance Service had refused to help her, as it was against their rules. If they went to the house they would pick the gentleman up and take him to hospital on a Doctors instruction. Being a peace-loving woman, who had never had occasion to talk to a Policeman in her life. She was horrified to find a Policeman and woman there. I reassured her and asked her to show me where the Gentleman was. She took us to the bedroom, when I saw him, I knelt down beside him and told him whom we were and explained to him and his wife what we were going to do, but first of all we had to pull him out from under the bed.

I asked the lady if she could provide a blanket, which with the help of herself and the Policewoman, we soon got the blanket underneath the gentleman. Within moments we had rolled him onto the blanket and pulled it from beneath the bed with the gentleman on it, a few moments later we had lifted him and tucked up nicely in bed. The ladies gratitude was more than enough payment; she was amazed that I refused to accept any payment. Here was a situation where St John Training combined with Police knowledge and authority was such a terrific advantage. This was definitely a side of the job I enjoyed most. A bonus was that years later the policewoman reminded me of the incident and said how thrilled she was to see that the Police duty was more than just patrolling streets and reporting or arresting people.

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