Burpham Traffic Department 1968

1968: Burpham Traffic Department: Andy Hasted PC 422: In 1968 I was a happy divisional motorcyclist at Redhill riding the Triumph 500cc speed twin. Unit Beat policing and Panda cars were invented and all of a sudden I found myself driving a mini minor, and worse, I had to do night duty again. The flexibility and independence beloved by divisional motorcyclists was gone.

Traffic Department beckoned. At this time there were traffic centres at Godstone, Dorking, Burpham and Chertsey. It is not an exaggeration to say that Surrey Traffic Department were feared by travelling villains. At Redhill I had admired the actions of Pat Buss, Harry Watt, Vince McFadden, and Roy Simmons from Godstone Traffic centre. These icons seemed to take prisoners and get red ink in the day book with regularity.

On my first day on traffic I was summoned to HQ to the superintendent's office. He uttered the never to be forgotten words. 'Welcome to Traffic. You are here to catch thieves. Do not forget it or you are out'. This was music to my ears. As a young keen officer my raison d'ĂȘtre was to have an exciting time and lock up evil doers.

Off I went to Spital Heath Dorking. The sergeant was Pip Kerridge. I recall PCs John D. Walter (524) Clive Cutts (706), Keith Joyce and Bob Bartlett. Traffic was equipped with the Mk2 GT Cortina and the Triumph Saint 650cc motorcycle. There was also one Norton 750cc Atlas which was hopelessly unreliable.

On a Triumph Saint you were king of the road, there was nothing that could really get away. The vibrations from the engine were awful and mirrors and panels regularly fell off. There was no motorcycle rider training before being let loose on the Saint. I had passed Bomber Browns' check test after all!

The downside of being a Traffic motorcyclist was radar. I detested radar. This came round every other week so it was a good idea if you could be at court on those days and take your time getting back to the radar site, hopefully getting another job on the way. It was also good if it rained and it had to be cancelled. The radar meter was often roughly handled and became defective.

We used the PETA (portable electronic traffic analyser). This was a black box mounted on a stand and moved in the back of a minivan to different locations preselected by a supervisor. The motorcyclist had to watch the offender's vehicle break the beam, and note the speed recorded. The 'stopper' one hundred yards or so further down the road pulled the offender to the roadside. The motorcyclist then had to ride down and report him or her.

We had to deal with people for speeds as low as forty two miles per hour, which no self respecting traffic officer would entertain as a process from a normal 'following' speed offence. This was very boring activity for a young keen constable.

The upside was the freedom of movement and large area to patrol. We also got to play with the Box Hill bikers on a Sunday. After a short time at HTD I was given a police house at HTB, 27 Coltsfoot Drive, in Burpham. I never lived so close to the office again.

The Chief Inspector was Gerry Atfield, the Inspector was Artie Watkin. I recall the sergeants as Eric Spurgeon, a real gent; Doug (twiggy) Buckman and another John Nicholas as he looked like a character in the advert for Birds Eye products with a bushy beard.

The management had a propensity for issuing written memos at frequent intervals. I found this most irritating and one early morning I was feeling particularly rebellious and threw the file containing the lot into the blazing coke boiler. I was suspected but I denied all knowledge. Some time around this era 'Toots' McGarrigle gave me some motorcycle training which I found terrifying.

Burpham was a jolly place to be and we had the A3 as a playground. This was a great road for scooping up villains travelling to and from London and Portsmouth, and the radar became particularly unreliable.

My fellow motorcyclists were all youngsters - Brendan Hewson, Roger Young, Dick Lawrence and Dave Bristow. We were sometimes assigned to team patrols on certain roads. The duties were displayed in pencil on a board. If I didn't fancy the assigned patrol I would simply write in what I did fancy. It seemed to work!

On cars I remember Bob Curd; Peter Older, John Ewens, Mike Binkes, Paul Cooper. Sadly it came to an end in June 1970. I wanted to buy a house of my own and the chief would only give me permission to buy in the most expensive areas of Surrey Guildford and Weybridge. Apparently Farnham was too far to travel to Burpham.

I made a decision which was right for me financially and right for my wife and family. I transferred to the Metropolitan Police along with several other young traffic officers in the same year. I often regretted that move.

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