Chief Constable's report on policing the War

c1919: Report from Chief Constable on learning points from policing the First World War: The major points are: Surrey was an unrestricted area and being close to the Metropolis received an influx of refugees at times of anticipated air raids. These refugees were for the most part from the east of London and mainly consisted of aliens many of whom were undesirable characters. They arrived in train loads and got off where they liked causing considerable difficulties and annoyance in the districts where "they dumped themselves". Housing had to be found for them without warning "but the feeding capacities in view of rationing and the scarcity of food were much taxed and special arrangements had to be made with the rationing authorities". Occasionally all the schools and like buildings had to be used to house undesirable refugees an in any future war preparations should be made beforehand to deal with it. One suggestion was that railway companies should be prohibited from bringing refugees down without consultation with authorities of the districts to which they bring them. Locations outside London suitable for receiving refugees should be agreed beforehand and they should not be taken to any other place. It was accepted that this would not deal with those that arrived by motor car of which there were many.

Surrey was in the danger zone and on any invasion route and arrangements had to be made to deal with the receipt and passing on of inhabitants, cattle, implements etc from Sussex but also to arrange for the evacuation of the county itself. In order to carry out these duties a force of four thousand Special Constables was raised in addition to those on ordinary duty. These Special Constables were earmarked for defence of the realm duties only and did no other work of a police nature. --- The main requisite was to collect all persons, cattle, material etc., and move them by routes other than the main roads so as to leave the latter free for military use. --- In villages Special Constables were detailed for the various duties, some in connection with the removal of inhabitants, others for cattle, etc., everything required to be moved being dealt with by the requisite numbers of Special Constables. Others were detailed to keep order along the various routes selected and some were in place at every junction of the main roads to hold up refugees if necessary to keep the roads clear for the military. The rendezvous for all cattle, etc., was Richmond Park.

There was much guarding of key and vulnerable points which seem to have not been considered by the authorities in the move to war. Much of this was done by the Special Constabulary or unarmed policemen.

The providing of billets for military authorities was another great tax upon the police, fifteen thousand found in the first winter of the war. The troops arrived ignorant of everything and had to be "spoon fed". The spy and signalling mania with which the public became infected proved a source of continual trouble and the public was a perfect nuisance. Every Defence of the Realm Regulation added to already onerous duties of the police and the influx of aliens from restricted areas and their supervision also caused a great deal of work. The correspondence became colossal.

I was very hard pressed all over the county to allow notice to be given of air raids. This I refused to do with the result that instead of sitting up all night in fear the inhabitants slept comfortably in their beds and only learnt of the raids by reading the papers next morning. The police and special constables were given full instructions as to their duties should bombs be dropped in their vicinity and that I held was sufficient. Being an unrestricted area Surrey experienced an influx of Belgian refugees who came in large numbers without warning and were distributed across the county. The time of the police was much occupied in finding and registering them.

At the busiest time in the War a census of all agricultural implements was urgently called for. It can be imagined what the distribution and collection of two thousand two hundred and fifty forms meant in the way of work for the police. Then there was the requisitioning of horses of which many thousands were obtained in this county. Countless returns were called for from time to time and when considering the preparations to be made in the event of another war as many of these matters as possible should be foreseen and dealt with beforehand.32

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32 Surrey History Centre, Woking, item ref CC98/72, undated.

 

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