Dog Section with Harry Darbyshire

1948: Stan Wood: The Darby Days: The Surrey Police Dog Section was first formed in 1948 when the chief constable, Mr Joseph Simpson imported Sergeant Harry Darbyshire into the force from the Metropolitan Police. In the early days he lived in the police house at Shackleford near to the A3. The house had a large garden suitable for keeping dogs.

At this time the chief constable lived in a house just off of Charterhouse called Foxhanger. Mrs Simpson was a serious supporter and breeder of Labradors and her kennel prefix was 'Foxhanger'. With the Metropolitan Police, Surrey was one of the first to start up a police dog section and its reputation was soon to be recognised.

Surrey started to train dogs not just for themselves but also for many city and county forces throughout the country. Among the forces that attended the Surrey school were Lancashire, Durham and Nottinghamshire who eventually started their own regional dog training schools.

Harry Darbyshire was convinced that dogs for police work should be bred for the purpose and not rely on the so called 'gift dogs'. He therefore started a breeding programme of both German Shepherds and Doberman's. Dogs bred at Surrey were used not only by Surrey but sold on to many forces throughout the country.

'Darby' started a unique training course, different from that which was to take on in the rest of the country. Instead of a thirteen week Initial Course from which the dog passed out as a trained police dog he introduced the 'Surrey method'. This consisted of two short courses. The dog started on the first course at about twelve months old and lasted for four weeks. This course was called the Elementary Course and dogs where mainly taught obedience, agility, tracking and property searching. They were also looked at to see of their potential to do man-work. After four weeks the dogs returned to division or to their respective force to continue to learn and improve on the lessons they had been taught.

After about four or five months handlers and dogs returned for the Advanced Course. This was to see their progress from the first course and to teach them man-work and building search. They then passed out as operational police dogs. This system was to continue up until 1968 when we switched to the thirteen weeks Initial Course on the direction of the chief constable, Sir Peter Matthews.

Courses in Darby's days were far different to what followed after he retired. For example most of the day would be spent building walls and footpaths at the new Dog School at Mount Browne, which was the main house rubbish tip. At the end of the day when handlers thought they had finished, Darby would then inform the course that dog training would commence and this went on well into the evening. This was not uncommon.

Should you have a dog that was not making the grade at its work then there was no standing on ceremony. Darby would wander off; the next you would hear was a gunshot. He would return, tell the handler that the dog was dead and give you another one. That was dog section life in the 1950's.

There was no doubt, he was a man apart and got away with things that no other officer would dare. He was awarded the BEM, which was presented at HQ. The only man who I knew that came anywhere near to him was Maurice Jackman. He was quite feared by many and others loved him.

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