A Volunteer

In the closing months of 1939 3,000 reservists left the police forces to serve in their former military units. Over the course of the war another 16,500 policemen volunteered for the army, navy or air force; of these 1,275 were killed, or died while on active service.

The details of many of these men are difficult to come by; sometimes families kept letters and photographs, but these usually stay with the family and eventually get lost or thrown away. What follows provides some evidence about one volunteer for the RAF from the Metropolitan Police.

Ernest George Emsley was born in Battersea, South London, on 30th January 1917. He left school at 14 and became a clerk. He enjoyed sport and played both football and cricket for local teams. On 12th October 1936 he joined the Metropolitan Police. He served in ā€˜Pā€™ Division in South London, and played for their football and cricket teams. He married in June 1939. He left the police for the RAF in June 1943 and trained as an air-gunner for Bomber Command. His first operational raid was the night of 22nd-23rd April 1944 when his wife was six months pregnant with their first child.


  1. Restrictions on Volunteering:
    • Metropolitan Police Orders 13th September 1939.
    • Minutes of the 31st Conference of Chief Constables, 19th January 1940.
    • Minutes of the 32nd Conference of Chief Constables, 4th December 1941.
  2. A photograph of Metropolitan Police officers c.1941, Ernie Emsley seated extreme right.
  3. A group photograph of a bomber crew with Ernie Emsley in the centre.
  4. A Certificate of Service from the Metropolitan Police.
  5. A letter from Sir Philip Game, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.
  6. A letter from the King.


Work sheet questions

Group photograph of a bomber crew, Ernest Emsley in the centre.