The first generation of the Surrey Constabulary were born into an era of silence, a world of hard physical work, of back bent to the ground, hands massaging crops, of waiting on weather and growth. Villages like ships in the empty landscape and the long distances between them linked by white narrow roads rutted by hooves and cartwheels, innocent of all oil and petrol, down which people passed rarely and almost never for pleasure. Man and horses were all the power they had though for some there was access to the train but no reason to use them.1
Tough men, hardened by physical labour; fit and lean through long hours of walking in all weathers and times of the day and night; strong men accepting untimely death of family and neighbours. There was low pay, fierce discipline, the temptation of drink; the need to supplement pay by growing vegetables, keeping chickens and the pig for slaughter. The life of a policeman could be harsh as were the lives of all working men the class from which they came. The compensation for the discipline and hardship was the regular but low pay, the prospects of a pension and the grudging respect and regard most were held within their community.
It was a harsh existence for this the first generation with little change for those who followed through into the 1880s. Their sons experienced the horrors of the First World War and the development of the car and motorcycle, the movement of people for pleasure and work. The Second World War period officers had experienced Depression and Slump, few resources and the continuing curse of low pay.
For those who survived the war, the Home Front was a dangerous place to be, just being alive led many to accept the aggravating difficulties associated with being a policeman. The recruits in the 1960s caught the end of Victorian policing, old buildings, few cars and radios, making points, firm though usually friendly discipline, long cycle beats with not too many pressures beyond some odd shift patterns and checking unoccupied houses. Yet the Force was still very much a family with plenty of social gatherings, where wives and children were involved and knew each other; plenty of sport and heavy use of the social clubs in all major police stations.
Change was coming fast with the development of personal radios, more cars, greater specialisation, the explosion in work and the inevitable withdrawal from beat duties. The professionalising of the police led to better educated recruits and the changing personality and temperament of senior officers.
The growth in motor vehicles, the movement of peoples the development of high speed roads made crime, always subject to the depredations of the London villain, more national and even international. Add drugs, terrorism and fraud to the mix of greater affluence it is obvious the Surrey Constabulary was not undertaking the work of its predecessors. Yet the same attributes of courage both physical and moral, hardiness, resilience, social skills and commitment to what was always a way of life and not a job, continued through these generations. How lucky we were to find this Job.
1 With respect to Laurie Lee's Cider with Roses.