UPTON UPON SEVERN
A Riverview of Upton taken from the cover of a Girl Guide Association
Cookery book Sponsored by me as Chairman
We arrived at Upton full of excitement and concern. I was apprehensive about my future in the Police. I knew that being a Country Bobby was not a bit like policing in the 'Met'. We were allowed a few days to settle in to our Police House, having sold our home in Twickenham I was a little apprehensive about living in Married Quarters. Louise was not at all happy at being separated from her friend Julie and I was taken to task quite severely by her about that. I felt rotten, but a little five year old girl doesn't really appreciate what grown ups are all about sometimes. Simon was pretty well laid back about the whole thing, and just set about finding himself a new group of friends.
Once I had done the round of meeting all the Officers both at Upton, the sectional Station and Senior Officers at Malvern the sub-Divisional Station. I was depressed by the attitude of the Senior Officers who seemed to regard themselves as some sort of Demi-God who regarded any Officer of junior rank to themselves as lesser mortals. They seemed to think that I was being sent to them for some sort of disciplining even though there didn't seem to be any record of any offence I may have committed. I became depressed and a bit sorry I had left London. There certainly was not the same rapport between the ranks as there was in London.
I was sent to Droitwich, which was the force training school for a local procedure course and fitted out with my Uniform. I was told that I would have to do a driving test, and that if I didn't come up to scratch I couldn't drive any Police vehicles until I had done a five week course. I returned to Upton and while I was waiting for this driving test I was being sent all over the section in the Police mini van dealing with incidents, but was not allowed to say that I had been driving a Police Vehicle. This was so ridiculous as to be a complete farce. I was taken to the local Ironmongers to see the manager who was the chief Magistrate to take the Oath to Protect the Queen and uphold the Queens Peace. Afterwards this silly man was telling me they didn't know how to deal with the problem of Gypsies, which he deemed was not a problem we ever saw in London. He was amazed when I told him it was a constant problem but the Magistrates cleared it quite easily by fining the heavily, then they soon went. He said they did the same here, but they never had any money to pay and he rolled out all the usual excuses offered by them. I told him the fines were imposed and had to be paid forthwith or the defendant would be gaoled in lieu. They had until the prison van arrived to pay the fine. The fine was invariably paid on the spot and the gypsies were gone by nightfall. I explained there was no such thing as a poor gypsy, because they never paid taxes or rents, and they always had a hoard of money somewhere in their vans. The Sergeant cautioned me for being so free with the Magistrate as they were to be treated with great respect. When I told him I thought respect should be earned not demanded, the Sergeant told me that I had a lot to learn about discipline.
I thought I had made a really big mistake coming here. Within three months there was a tribe of Gypsies settled in a road by the village green, one man was arrested and taken before the court for an offence related to drink. He pleaded poverty and apologised for what he had done but he had no memory of it. The magistrate fined him quite heavily, insisted on payment of the other outstanding fines to be made immediately or go to Gloucester Gaol that afternoon. The fines were fully paid up by 12 noon and the gypsies were gone from Upton by 4.p.m. Several weeks later I was in the ironmongers in plain clothes and off duty to buy some small item. The shop was quite full and as I was going to pay, the manager shouted across the shop to the counter hand "Oh that Gentleman is the new Policeman, you can take a penny off his bill." I said "I thank you, but I will pay what every other person is expected to pay and if I get insulted like that every time I come in here I will pay my fare to Tewkesbury to do my shopping." I slammed my money on the counter and told the attendant to keep the change, and walked out very angry. Some time later the Magistrate apologised to me and told me he hadn't meant to insult me. I said the matter was forgotten, but I did not go in for doing my shopping in half blues for precisely the reason that I did not want any favours. My reputation spread and I was becoming respected for my integrity. There had been a lot of silly pettiness and nastiness generated through the rest of the Bobbies at the Station, but I ignored it all and became a loner again preferring my own company and quite enjoying it. I had my driving test in time and I was asked to drive from Upton Police Station over the bridge and up toward Worcester, from there onto the Motorway and down toward the M50 and back to the Police Station. I was amazed to see the examiner was fast asleep when I got onto the motorway. I got back to the Police Station and quietly parked the car, went into the station kitchen and made two cups of tea. I drank mine and his was nearly cold when he came rushing in looking for me. I pointed to his tea and said I was sorry it was nearly cold, but had I passed? It would spoil the whole nature of this story if I told you what he said in reply, and my Tut, tut, didn't help at all. I never did get my five-week driving course.
I went about my duty in the town, and treated everybody equally whether they were ordinary people or what passed for the so called aristocracy, or people whom the Police Authority felt I should pay particular marks of respect. There was a lot of indignant complaints when certain dealers were reported for parking illegally when they told me that no Police Officer had ever reported them before. I said I could not be answerable for what any Policeman had done in the past, but in my book the law applied to everyone whatever his or her calling in life. Certain Police Officers suddenly found that some of their freebies were costing a lot more than before, But I would not budge. One or two of the more rowdy elements coming out of the Pub's at night were more than a little surprised when I told them the rest of the community did not want to hear what they had to say a 12 o'clock at night; so would they please go home quietly, or spend the rest of the night in Malvern Police Station. I never had to arrest anyone, because no one was prepared to call my bluff, but local people began to appreciate what I was doing. The local layabouts tended to move off if they saw me patrolling, and so in a very short while Upton became a very quiet place when I was on night duty and I had a mixed reception from the public.
I learned quite quickly that there is a vast difference between the City Policeman and the Country Policeman. I take my hat off to the Country Police, because they were the more all round Officers. When called to an incident, no matter what it was, they had to be the complete man/woman. When dealing with a fatal road traffic accident, they not only had to report the accident and deal with any offences which were disclosed as a result of the accident, but they were also the Coroners Officer, and expected to deal with the deceased, attend Post Mortems and act as the Coroners Officer at the subsequent Inquest. So to deal with a multiple vehicle accident at two o'clock in the morning, where there was a Fatality, Serious Injury which at first glance and subsequently proved to be a Section One, - Causing Death by Dangerous Driving, - Which would mean a prosecution that would end up in the Crown Court. It doesn't need much imagination to see that the Police Officer was going to be busy for a little while. As sympathetic as the authorities might be, there would be helpful supervision by a Sergeant or Inspector, but the Police Officer was still expected to get on with his routine work after the first few days of total commitment to the serious incident. I was to experience being in a similar situation within a year of being at Upton, as within one Month, I had to deal with a Fatal Accident with a serious injury and a Section one; within a fortnight, I had a Fatal Accident to deal with involving a 12 year old boy who slipped down a Cliff top at Gullet Quarry in the Malvern Hills; two weeks later on I had another Fatal Accident involving just the one vehicle, where the driver was killed, the passenger was injured, and the drivers parents were on holiday somewhere in America. All of which tended to make life very hectic and stressful at that time.
Slowly the friction within the Police Station eased off and finally disappeared altogether. Except for being encumbered with a Sergeant who nobody really trusted and was at complete odds with me the whole time, we just had opposing personalities. I settled down into a contented life. But my peace of mind concerning the First Aid was not to last. One day I was called up to the Training School at Droitwich for a First Aid Course. I suspected that it was a routine course and thought no more of it until I got there, then the surprise hit me full in the face. They were training for an inter Force First Aid Competition. I was totally numbed to suddenly find myself in among all the self acknowledged experts, and told that as I knew a little bit about it I was to join the Force team. In all there were three male teams and two female teams in training together. They were training for a type of competition I had never heard of before, which was the Casualty Union International Competition. This particular competition did not rely on single sex teams, but accepted mixed teams. The individual tests were a diagnostic test and the team was then split in two. One member was sent off to do an Individual First Aid Test while the remaining three members would do a team test whereby one of the three was kept out of the test for the first five minutes or so, and then join in with what passed for an Ambulance crew. Mostly an Ambulance and crew was provided. I was sunk, but after a short while I became engrossed with the team and found a whole group of new friends from all over the Force Area. In fact the Force First Aid Section to which I had now become attached was a very friendly group of Officers, and as we did all our training at the Force training School we were constantly in the eye of the Senior Officers and those who really mattered within the Force, and my Sergeant became very small fry. But nonetheless It seemed my reputation had preceded me and I was not going to get out of it as was forcibly brought home to me years later.
Back at Upton this new revelation was not accepted too gracefully by the Sergeant, in fact he was more than a little obstructive and he tried very hard to get me removed. He thought he had found his opportunity when in my innocence while I was cruising around on Night Duty I came across a new building site at Holly Green 1/4 of a mile from Upton on the other side of the River. It was to be an extension to what seemed to be a pleasant housing estate. I talked about it with Elisabeth and we made enquiries as to prices. The long and short of it was that we agreed that it would be a nice place to live and went to the Agents to show a positive interest in purchasing a house. My ignorance was that there was a Force Regulation which stated that no Officer transferring from another Force could live in his own house for a year after transfer, and then only with the Chief Constables permission. I went ahead with the offer and the Sergeant became aware of what I was doing. He didn't mention it to me but instead went to the Superintendent at Malvern and lodged a complaint falsely claiming that he had told me the rules and I had chosen to ignore them. The result was that a Superintendent turned up at Court one morning and after the Court was over called me up to the Sergeants Office, sent the Sergeant out and questioned me about the purchase of the house. I openly admitted that I was in the act of buying a house. He asked me why I was doing that when the Sergeant had told me that the Force Regulations forbade me to do that within a year of my transfer. The look of complete surprise must have shown him my blank amazement and ignorance of the charge. I told him that I had no recollection of such mention directly or indirectly in any conversation, and that I would make application immediately. He told me not to bother but to leave things as they were for the time being, and left the matter at that. The smug look on the Sergeants face made me feel sick but told me to be very wary of him. A week later I was told by the Sergeant that I was to go to Droitwich to see the notorious Mr Rennie, the Deputy Chief Constable, and that I might have to reconsider my position when I returned. I treated the remark with the contempt it deserved. I turned up at Droitwich at the appointed hour and was shown into the office to see Mr Rennie. He openly asked me about my buying the House and where it was situated. I explained it to him. He asked me if I was aware of the Force Regulation re Officers on Transfer not being able to live in their own home for 12 months after joining this Force. I replied that I did not know until the Superintendent told me when he interviewed me at Upton. However I was quite prepared not to live in it if that was the Force regulation, but I was concerned that I had recently sold my house in London to transfer, and it seemed to be wrong to allow my money to lie fallow in the Bank while house prises rose, my money would become less and I didn't think that a good idea as I had my family to think of. Further I thought he would prefer an Officer to be responsible with his money and not waste it. Mr Rennie told me I was not to argue with him and tell him his job. I apologised but I was sure I saw a twinkle in his eye. He asked me when the completion day would be on the house. I said it should be at the end of March but knowing builders it would probably be much later. He told me that I had to move into the house on the last Friday in March, I could not claim removal expenses, if I had not moved by then I would have to re-apply to move and dismissed me.
When I returned to Upton the Sergeant was waiting for me all smiles. He stopped smiling when I told him I had permission to move in to my new home in March. A fortnight later an order came out changing the time allowed for an Officer to move into his own house was to be 6 months after transfer not twelve as before. I knew that from now on I had to watch my back very carefully.
I was soon asked by the head First Aid Instructor to do a couple of First Aid Lectures at St John House in Worcester for a group of Senior People within the St John and the Magistracy. I agreed and was almost dumbfounded to find one of the students was Sir John Willison Bart. The Chief Constable, Lady Huntingdon-Whiteley the Chief Magistrate and a whole host of other worthies. I was to instruct them on Artificial Respiration and its allied subjects. I was recalled the next week to talk about Shock, a favourite subject of mine, as I do not believe it is ever taut properly, certainly not within the St John organisation in my experience. Once I got over the initial shock of seeing the class I was to instruct I relaxed and swung into the job I enjoyed doing most, namely teaching. I was a bit taken aback when after my lecture on shock the whole class applauded, and even the Chief Constable said it was the best First Aid lesson he had ever attended. A short while afterwards I was put up to receive the medal of Serving Brother of the Order by the Chief Constable himself and sent off to St John's Gate in London to receive it. I realised I was not pleasing my Sergeant at all, but so what.
I had in the meanwhile badgered the Foreman on the Beeches site to get a wriggle on to have my house finished by the allotted time and explained to him why. He co-operated to the hilt and on the appointed day we moved in to our new detached home, which was really one of two neighbouring houses in the middle of a building site. Our immediate neighbours Chick and Cynthia Peck had moved in the week before and were to become firm friends. They had two daughters and a son newly born. Their eldest girl Kay was older than Louise; their second girl Sandra was the same age as Louise and so became friends at once. Simon was alone in between Sandra and Roy. Immediately there sprang up between us a friendly argument because we had acquired the corner and larger plot of land, which they had wanted, so we became the landowners. What a superb happy relationship we have enjoyed over the years.
A year or so later I was approached by Lady Huntingdon-Whiteley and asked to form an St John Ambulance Cadet Division in Upton. I protested on several grounds, not least that I was in my opinion not the right person to run a Division which would comprise mainly of girls between the ages of 11 years and 16. But she persisted so I agreed on condition that I could get the Church room free for one night a week for an indefinite period, that I should have at least two adult female Officers to volunteer to become fully involved, and that I should be the Superintendent with absolute control of the Division. She agreed in principle provided I could start the ball rolling, but how to get started? I had to give it a lot of thought.
I began by going to the Rectory door one mid morning; the Rev Anthony King answered the door. We had never spoken before, so firstly I apologised for disturbing him and told him I wanted to ask a favour of him and his Parish Council which I expected him to refuse. He smiled and said "Now that is the kind of request I can't ignore, if I don't know what the request is, I'll never sleep tonight not knowing what it was that I was going to refuse. You had better come in and I cannot guarantee a refusal just like that I need to know." I was in the front door so where to now? Seated with the statutory mug of coffee, I introduced myself to him and said blandly, "I would like the use of the Parish Room for one night a week for an indefinite period of time free of charge. My reason for asking is that I have been approached by Lady Huntingdon-Whiteley to organise and run an St John Ambulance cadet Division in Upton. I have agreed on several conditions, the first being that I must have free use of the Church hall, please forgive my arrogance, the second that as I expect if there is any response at all, it would be predominantly girls between the ages of 11 and 16 years I would want at least two adult females who would be prepared to give their time voluntarily and unconditionally, how am I doing so far?" he said "Don't let your coffee get cold, I'm still listening." I continued, "to start I would need to advertise to hold a meeting on a given evening and invite someone from St John Headquarters in Worcester to address those assembled. Given the right response I would proceed from there. But there is no money up front, it would have to be self supporting and there could not possibly be any money for rent for some time initially, that is my proposal and request, I am now completely in your hands as to whether I take the next step." Tony -he had asked me to call him by his first name - said, "We are a very democratic organisation, and as you rightly say I have to put it to my Committee who will decide yea or nay, so the answer is yes go ahead and we'll arrange a date. The Parish Council will agree because I have just made the decision for them, as this is an emergency. I'm sorry but I cannot let you get away so easy with a refusal." I said "Thank you, I do not know yet whether I am pleased or sorry, I'll let you know in time." We shook hands and became very firm friends thereafter, with a lot of leg pulling and teasing. To those who did not know, it must have seemed to be very irreverent on my part to talk to the Anglican vicar in that way and me being a Roman Catholic.
I approached the St John Headquarters in Worcester and put forward my proposal as suggested by Lady H', the County Commissioner and top of their hierarchy who had heard me speak before were enthusiastic, but the lower and middle ranks were sceptical because in fairness I was an unknown quantity to them. They wanted to promote one of their junior Officers to take and run the Division with me helping. I told them that would not work, because I would not let it work. It was my way or nothing at all; my forthrightness was not over welcome. We had a meeting in the Hall with one of the area staff Officers from the Brigade. The meeting was very well attended; in fact the hall was packed much to my surprise. After the staff Officer put forward his views and cautioned us that Area would be keeping a very watchful eye on us. At that point I noticed the Sergeant in uniform at the very back of the hall, and I was amused to note he would be watching from a distance as well. I addressed the meeting and told them of my plan. I said quite forcefully that in a very short time, if the Division was formed we could have the best Division in the County, but before that could happen there was no way I intended to run it as a one man band. I needed help, in particular help of at least two adult females. Experience was not necessary, as the volunteers would learn as we went along. The whole object was to have a disciplined efficient Division that the children would be proud to belong to, and that turned heads to admire when they went on Parade. But before any of that could begin to happen I must have the volunteers and that within two weeks, because if it dragged on any longer, enthusiasm would wane and the effort so far would be wasted. One or two other people got up to speak platitudes, and then the meeting closed. I sat down at a desk at the top end of the room and started making a list of children who wanted to belong and in a very short time I had a full complement of 30 names. Some of these I guessed (Wrongly as it happened) that some would soon drop out. Two ladies completely unknown to me started to marshal the children into some sort of order, when the children had been sorted and we promised to let them know if and when we would start, both the ladies introduced themselves to me and volunteered to be my helpers. They were Mrs Christine Simmons and Mrs Jean Alcock; both were born and bred Uptonians. Then a dapper little man came forward and introduced himself as Ray Rowlands, he said I probably wouldn't recognise him, but he was an S.B.A. in R.N.H. Haslar at the same time as me in 1954, and he would like to be involved as well. It seemed that fate was either conspiring for me or against me, I knew not which.
Life became very hectic for both Elisabeth and myself, by now Louise and Simon were at the junior school opposite the Police Station in School Lane, and Elisabeth was occupied full time with my irregular shifts and looking after the home and children. My off duty hours became fully taken up. I was either lecturing at various venues around the County or with the St John Division. On the first evening meeting with the Cadets, I really had no idea how a meeting should be conducted and what it should comprise; but I realised that neither did anyone else in the room, so I decided to invent my own programme. In the back of my mind the old adage that a child will only pay attention as long as its bottom will let it, I worked on that thesis and had three reasonably short sessions, the middle one of which should entail some sort of physical element, and the final enabling them to relax and be ready for home. Further there was quite a wide range of age differential, a girl of 15 years is not really willing to compete with a 10 year old, and the learning curve was very different, so I had to consider this as well. I therefore split them into groups of age as well as ability. It was quite a headache where Christine, Jean and Ray came into their own, and were brilliant in the duties they seemed to have just moulded into. Jean took over the secretarial and monetary side, Christine was more involved in teaching and organising, particular with the younger girls, Ray became more the activities leader and kept the whole involved in the second session. I was just there doing everything that was required. I knew my forte was teaching, and so this is what I concentrated on. The children thoroughly enjoyed this, particularly when we joined the learning with the games. It was a delight to hear the screams of laughter at times. Some of the mothers became involved on the sidelines and helped with uniforms, in particular Mrs Glenys Peoples.
On the very first evening I paraded them, I lined them all up and informed them that in future this would be the way they started their meetings. I gave them a short talk on cleanliness and told them of the penguin parades I used to have to suffer when I worked in a Naval Hospital. I then walked up and down the ranks and inspected all the hands and shoes. I afterwards explained that I had just seen ink stained hands and fingernails that had been chewed back, and shoes that would cry if they saw a duster
let alone a tin of shoe polish. Two or three days later I was getting surprised comments from parents, what had I done to their darling children; they were using all the shoe polish up. The Chemist John Cooper told me he had sold out of nail bite and had to get a new order in because the girls were going frantic for it. My ratings with the parents went soaring skywards, how had I done it, it was Mr Dempsey said this, or Mr Dempsey said that, and Brigade nights the meal had to be ready because they were not allowed to be late. Late for school was all right, but late for cadets was not. I found the whole thing hilarious. But the truth was that they responded to discipline, they liked to be treated with respect and gave respect in return, and they were becoming a very efficient group of children and ready to be put in for First Aid Competitions. We had got them into uniform and they were always as smart as paint and other children were queuing to join. We were a Combined Division, which meant that we had boys as well as girl members, although at first there was a reluctance of boys to get involved, this was soon overcome and some of the boys were the most enthusiastic members. It was only after a few nights that to my surprise and pleasure I found that one of our keenest members was the Sergeants daughter.
What also became an interesting side issue was that my name was being bandied around the town whenever people spoke of Police Public relations, and people were coming in to the Police Station to talk to me specifically over a whole host of mundane matters which really they should just have been talking to whoever was on duty at that particular time. Mostly because my name had become known and I was known to be approachable, which is not to say that other officers were not approachable, because that just would not be true or fair. They really were a grand bunch of experienced Country Bobbies and approachable to a man. I was beginning to enjoy my tour in Upton and despite my way of doing my job, people accepted me for what I was and I was known by all the school children up to the school leavers.
The St John Cadet Division grew into a Quadrilateral Division, that is to say that Adult men and women came along to join and I therefore had to extend the meeting night time. We were now deficient of one Officer - A Nursing Officer - This matter was rectified in the quickest and most satisfactory manner in my opinion. Elisabeth pretended to be a little reluctant at first then joined us and soon became the backbone of the Division. We were now complete in all parts, Elisabeth becoming second in Command to me in all but the Nursing, then she was very much in charge. By now I had purchased all the training equipment we needed, all the children were kitted out and I only charged parents for one uniform because what becomes apparent young girls of ten go through a metamorphosis up to the age of sixteen when they change from gangly school girls into very attractive young ladies, they go through a change of three or four uniforms during those few years. We had a system whereby once they grew out of the first uniform we simply took it into stock and gave them the next size they required. This was done discreetly through Jean Alcock, both she and Christine Simmons were truly Agony Aunts for these girls who were going through a difficult transition in their lives. It still remained my resolve to keep the Division as a training Division and did not offer to go out on public duties except in the Upton upon Severn area. My reason for this was that I had few enough weekends anyway because of Police Duties and I felt that one could flog a willing horse too much. There was a limit of how much good will one could extract from people. So initially we kept to training nights and competitions and nothing else.
Upton Chamber of Commerce and the Town Council decided that it might be a good idea to have its own Charity Club for the Gentlemen of the town, and somewhere along the line it was decided along these lines to start a branch of the International Rotary Club. The idea was bandied around as suitable persons were invited to join and to my surprise I was so invited. I was delighted and accepted, so that in the Course of time the new club were enrolled as members in a rather grand dinner at the Abbey Hotel in Malvern. Our own Rotary Club dinner evenings were held in the Star Hotel on Thursday. This was a busy year for me, I was really enjoying life and for the time being everything was going so well. Regrettably the Sergeant as the senior Police Officer in the Town was not invited, his doubts about me were increasing by the day. He seemed to think I had more power than I had and in his mind he was building a mountain out of a molehill, I was even beginning to enjoy out little differences when they occurred.
Back within the St John we became pretty invincible in local competitions sweeping the boards. The only Divisions that were anywhere near our Cadets were Malvern, which was a very long standing, and efficient Division and Kington in Herefordshire. The Divisional Superintendent of Kington Division was the town Police Sergeant who was a very good friend of mine, and who competed with me in Police National Competition. In the Adult world of Competition we held almost every trophy that could be held in the County, Competing against the Fire Brigade, County Ambulance Service and Various Factory teams including Coal Mine Teams. We were effectively Professional Competitors Outside the St John Organisation.
In 1978 I entered the whole Division into the Keith Joseph Competition. This was a National Event, which took place over a period of Three Months. It entailed submitting a topic of Social Welfare in which each section of the Division could become involved. If the Division were selected from the County to compete the top three teams judged at National Level would be visited by a Select Committee from London to see and hear for themselves what work and research had gone into the project. I chose as a subject "The Affects of Blindness in a Rural Community."
That same year in the June, the Commissioner in Chief of the St John had put an advertisement in the St John Magazine asking for a Divisional Superintendent of a Cadet Division who would go to Sabah, which used to be North Borneo, to do a tour of the Country lecturing and promoting St John Cadet Divisions and also to advise where necessary on existing St John Divisions. The application had to be submitted before the end of June. I noted it and thought it a superb opportunity but didn't apply myself because I believed the Chief Constable would not allow it (Neither would the Sergeant!) The first working day of July I had a telephone call from County Headquarters asking me why I had not applied, did I not want to go? I said that nothing would please me more, I had been to the Far East before and I liked the people very much, but I very much doubted whether the Chief Constable would allow it, 7 weeks was a long time. I was asked to submit a C.V. then apply to the Chief Constable. I did that the very same day and submitted my report. I was aware that should my application be successful it would coincide with the Keith Joseph Competition, but I decided I would concentrate on the Keith Joseph and forget the Application until I knew one way or the other what would happen.
Several days later the Sergeant called me to his office and showed me the application I had made out and asked me if it was some kind of a joke, when I said not, he told me quite forcibly that there was no way he was going to submit the report to the Chief Superintendent. I suggested he ought really to think about that because I had been directed to submit the request. He thought about that for a minute and told me to re submit it. I said no I wouldn't, I had done as I was told on the day I was told to do it. He wrote across the bottom of the request that I could not be spared and if I was going to continually be taken away for other duties I ought to be transferred away from Upton as I was too familiar with the people there. A month later I had a directive from the Chief Constable that I was to preserve any annual leave I had not already taken and the request would be kept in abeyance. The Sergeant insisted also that I could not take off any overtime incurred so that it could be used in the unlikely event of my going. Incurring overtime was unavoidable, the chance of getting off duty at the correct time was a rare event, an hour or more was usual and taken for granted.
I let matters stand and thought no more of it but got involved in the Division and running the search for the Blind in the Upton upon Severn area. It was really appalling how little the Social Services knew, and it was really a matter of asking around which I did while moving around the country on duty. I found 12 Blind or Partially Blind and six who were on the list and had died some time previously. So we got to work with those we had. Our entry was selected to compete for the County and everybody entered into the task with a will and the results were stunning. The study proper was to operate for three months through January, February and March. I was beginning to feel very sure of myself with regard to the Blind research because with Elisabeth as our Nursing Officer she was more than a match in the enquiry and I need have no worry about her keeping the work rolling while I was away. Meanwhile in late October I was invited to the St John Headquarters in London for an interview concerning the trip to Sabah. I had to be there I think at 11.a.m. to meet the Commissioner in Chief of the St John. Major General Peter Leuchers C.B.E. and the Deputy Health Officer for Sabah, Dr Richard Dingley. I was not too optimistic of my chances. I had been given no instruction as to what to wear or what if anything to produce, so I wore a plain smart suit with a St John tie, I thought it appropriate to at least look the part, and took my newspaper to read and help me to overcome my qualms. While I was waiting in the anteroom two other Superintendents arrived in uniform with an armful of documents all in a tizzy about the interview, was I here for the interview? Why wasn't I in uniform? How many interviews had I already been to? Etc. I hated to tell them I hadn't been to any other interviews and I hadn't been asked to appear in uniform. Fortunately the secretary soon rescued me when she came into the anteroom and asked me to come with her, and took me into a plush executive office where the Commissioner in Chief was waiting. He made me feel relaxed and started asking me a whole catalogue of searching questions both about my teaching experience and my home life. He told me he had excellent reports of my teaching skills and a flattering report about my Division and did I mind having to fly in small aircraft. I left the interview after about 45 minutes. The two men waiting were anxious to know what I'd been asked and what did they need to know (A bit late to ask questions like that I thought) one chap said "Well I am reasonably confident because I can speak Bahasa Malay." I said nothing except "You will have to relax and just try to be natural." It was like water on a ducks back to the little arrogant one. He strutted in next and came out again after about 15 minutes, and then the third chap went in for about the same time. I was beginning to suspect I had been pre-selected and I didn't know how to feel about that. They said they didn't know there was a third candidate and were both as nervous as you can get. I was feeling a bit subdued which must have shown because the arrogant little one actually tried to reassure me. When the Commissioner came into the ante room, he thanked us for making the journey to the interview and said how difficult it was to choose between the three of us, then put his hand on my shoulder and said "I would like you to go for me in January please Mr Dempsey" I could only murmur a little thank you sir, I really didn't know how to feel, the little arrogant man looked as if he would cry and the other chap just looked relieved. It was all so strange, I really didn't know what to say or think. I didn't even have a passport, so the next job to do was get one quickly. I was taken back to the Interview room where I met a Dr Dingley who was the Deputy Health minister for the State and found I got on with him very well. After a briefing and being told I would receive more information in time, I made my way up to the West End to meet Elisabeth and the Children and give them the news. I think we were both flattered and not quite sure what to do next.
The next few weeks went by in a whirl of activity. I returned to Upton and sat down to submit a report to the Chief Constable that I had been selected to go to Sabah for the St John and requested time to go. The Sergeant was disgusted and told me I had not incurred nearly enough overtime, so I was given various other duties to build up the time. I had to prepare various Charts and gather together various visual aids to take with me. Elisabeth was a tremendous support at this time; both Louise and Simon were getting excited because I think they thought that they might be going to. I researched as much as I could about the State, as I knew nothing at all about the place. Elisabeth and I were invited to an St John dinner to celebrate the fact that I had been chosen, and there I met an awful lot of dignitaries whom I had never met before. One gentleman in particular quizzed me on what allowances and support I had been given by the Police. I had drunk a couple of glasses of wine and had the courage to explain how I was making up the overtime to allow me sufficient time to go. He seemed a little surprised at this, but made no comment, I was being spoken to by a whole host of worthies whom I had no notion of who they were, and began to lay off the drinks realising I was on trial, but for what I didn't know. The evening ended and I was wished Bon Voyage by the Chairman as we left for home.
A week later I received a memoranda signed by Mr Rennie himself to inform me that I was going to be granted paid leave to go, and that all overtime incurred must be paid up and any outstanding Annual Leave must be taken before my departure. My sergeant was not in the least impressed and was curious to know where I got such a powerful backing from; this was obviously totally out of character for Mr Rennie. It transpired that the Gentleman, who had been so inquisitive at the Dinner, was one of the Inspectors of Constabulary, which explained an awful lot of where the wheeling and dealing came from. I was happy in the knowledge that my own Division would be well looked after by Elisabeth, Christine and Jean. I was interviewed on the B.B.C. Midlands Radio at Birmingham. I was interviewed in private by Mr Rennie who gave me his wholehearted encouragement and a Force Shield to present to the Commissioner of Police in Sabah. After the Christmas Celebrations I was all keyed up and ready to go. First to keep my work tray empty at the Police Station and then heaving a giant sigh of relief I was on my holidays and ready to go.
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