Police Dogs

police dog Anna

Police dog Anna

1946: Denis Turner: It was not until after the Second World War that there was renewed interest in the use of dogs. A housebreaking that Tom Roberts dealt with convinced him that dogs were necessary in a county force like Surrey.

The offender was eventually caught and it transpired that he had hidden in a ditch close by the house after breaking in and waited for the hue and cry to diminish before making good his escape. The offender even gave an accurate description of the police action at the scene! It seemed that this was the norm as the offender could hide up overnight and then mingle with the crowd the following morning on his way back to London.

Tom Roberts discovered later when dogs were developed that offenders were not so keen to hang about to be found by a dog and this gave patrols more chance of picking them up.

In 1946 the new chief constable, Mr Joseph Simpson, had a strong interest in dogs as he and his wife were members of the Kennel Club and Mrs Simpson was a breeder of Labradors. In fact, after the dog training school was set up, Mrs Simpson had some success in civilian dog trial with tracking and criminal work such was her interest and expertise.

Mr Simpson gave great thought to the setting up of a police dog section and sought permission from the Home Office and the Police Authority to undertake police dog training based on the continental method that existed at that time. This permission was granted subject to using dogs that had been well tried and proven in the field.

The most popular dogs being used in Germany at the time were Dobermans and Alsatians (German Shepherds), and it was recommended that these breeds be used. Mainly due to the aftermath of the Second World War no further significant progress was made until 1948.

The chief constable knew of a Metropolitan police officer, DC Harry Darbyshire who, in 1947, was working in the Criminal Records Office at Scotland Yard. He had been working in the Metropolitan Police for about eighteen years but he had gained significant experience of the training and breeding of dogs as a result of his interest and through attending police dog trials on the continent and in particular Germany. Harry also had his own German shepherd dog Anna of Avondale. Anna was an ex-German war dog number 1758x1. Corporal Ken Bailey of the Parachute Regiment captured her near Ashwerin, Germany in 1945.

Harry was not happy in his office role and was keen to develop the use of dogs for police work and willing to transfer to another force to enable him to do so. He had applied to the Metropolitan Dog Section but was only offered a role to train Labradors for protection work and that did not suit him at all. Having suggested to the 'Met' that they use Alsatians he was told that this was not at all acceptable as they had an unpredictable temperament. This was a popular view at the time and only changed after training establishments were set up and it was seen not to be true.

Sgt Darbyshire and his dog

Sgt Darbyshire

So it the Metropolitan Police loss was Surrey's gain as Harry Darbyshire was offered a transfer to the Surrey Constabulary in the rank of sergeant. He accepted and joined Surrey on 8th February 1948 bringing with him his Alsatian bitch, Anna.

The new sergeant and his dog were housed in a large police house at Shackleford where the surrounding countryside gave ample space for his training needs. Although there was still much scepticism divisions were informed of this new resource and how best to use it.

Only a few weeks later Sgt Darbyshire and Anna were called to their first job, a burglary at the Co-op in Hersham. Within minutes of arriving Anna had tracked from the scene and located the burglar hiding under a hedge in a garden. This was exactly what was needed and the credibility of the team was greatly enhanced and it also gave added impetus to the plans to develop the dog section. Anna continued in service until she died in August 1950.

As the word spread through the Home Office and the police inspectorate, (also backed by the many chief constables who visited Surrey to see how the dogs were trained) Mr Simpson agreed to set up a police dog training school and also to build up the pool of the right type of dogs for the work. This also entailed a breeding programme to provide working stock.

Thorough research and extensive enquires were carried out and it was decided that the German method of training dogs for police work was the right way forward and the Home Office supported Tom Roberts and Harry Darbyshire in a research trip to Germany to learn more about the methods of training. They left London on the evening train on the 10th October 1951 and arrived in Ulm, Germany the following day.

This visit is well documented in the 'Roberts Papers', held by his son retired Detective Sergeant Chris Roberts, and also detailed in Tom Roberts excellent autobiography, Friends & Villains. Many photographs also exist of the visit both in the papers and also kept in an album held at the Surrey Police HQ. They spent a week or so in Germany visiting both the German Police Dog Sections and also the American Army Dog Section. They also held talks with the British Army of the Rhine 'Public Safety Department'.

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