No 6 District Police Training Centre, Nutfield
1965: The First Course, No. 6 District Police Training Centre Nutfield: Ken Hewitt: I joined the Surrey Constabulary in late 1965. I had seen an advert in the Surrey Herald to join the police, which included that 'Free housing would be provided'. Although happily living with my in-laws at the time and on the council waiting list, this was a very attractive offer, along with the desire to change my career; so I applied.
Part of the recruiting process was an entrance exam that I took at Egham Police Station one evening, English, arithmetic and general knowledge. I must have passed as I moved onto the next stage. I then had to attend an interview at Mount Browne. I drove there one morning in my old Standard 8 and parked in front of the main building in a space that is now reserved for the Chief Constable.
I must have passed that also as the next stage was to speak to a recruiting sergeant, I believe he was called George Ball. He was mainly interested in which sports I played, not what other qualifications I had. In the afternoon the new recruits had to go into Guildford to a doctor's surgery for a physical examination.
We had been instructed to take a specimen with us. One of the recruits had forgotten his specimen and was panicking. I suggested he pop into a chemist and buy a bottle of aspirin and use that bottle. When he subsequently produced his specimen at the doctors he had not rinsed the bottle out and it had thick aspirin sediment in it. He was still accepted and served out his thirty years!
I was finally notified I had been accepted and told to attend the old police station in Woodbridge Road, Guildford where the clothing stores were located. We were the first intake that was being issued with the new tunics that had an integral belt. We had to provide a pair of boots. I obtained mine from an army surplus store. I was the only one in my class who had boots with toecaps, (no one specified no toe caps in the joining instructions), but mine polished up really well.
I was sent to Nutfield DPTC. We were the first intake at this converted country house. 'Holmesdale' had originally been the family home of the Maws family (chemists), it had also been a nurse's training school and during that time an accommodation block was built at the rear. I was lucky to be posted to one of those rooms, rather than the barracks rooms, where only two shared the room. Here I met my room mate and friend, Mick Brimblecombe who had to put up with me sharing the room for the thirteen week course we endured.
Many of the recruits had to live in the large rooms turned into dormitories with very few amenities; twelve to fifteen to a room. Luckily there were a large number of ex-service chaps who were used to barracks living but for the others it was quite a culture shock.
Surrey recruits were not allowed to use their own cars for the initial journey to the DPTC. We had to travel by train from Guildford, arriving on a dank Sunday winter evening at Redhill railway station. We were taken by coach to the centre and provided with an evening meal.
I was walking from the dining hall back along the corridor with Mick when he asked one of the sergeants what we should do next. "Do, Do, I don't care what you do. You can swing from the rafters if you like." I will never forget Mick's hurt expression to what was a genuine question.
This was our first introduction to Surrey's contribution to the school, Sergeant Owen Allard. It was all part of Owen's plan to toughen us all up to take on the role of PC. He came across as hard and horrible but actually his intention was always to help us all get through the training and make us ready for the job. He said if we could get through the tough training, the job itself was a doddle!
Owen would shout and rant in class but when he met you one-to-one he was great. He would ask if you were doing OK, how was the family? Have you got any worries? He was a real father figure. Next time you met him in the class he would be back to his act of shouting and threatening. I don't suppose this would be accepted these days but it certainly paid off for all of us in his class.
The food was excellent, (for the first few weeks), it was then discovered that the cook had spent all the food allocation in the first month, leaving next to nothing for the next two months. We then lived on very poor rations, mainly it seemed sausage, mash and tinned tomatoes. (We called it Train Smash.)
When we did get home at weekends we stocked up with additional food to see us through the following week without starving. We were allowed home each weekend if you were not on Duty Squad. The weekend started at 1300 on the Saturday afternoon as we were on a forty four hour week. You had to be back in the Centre by 2200 on the Sunday so it was only a very short time at home.
If things had gone badly in the class during the week, Owen would keep us right up to the deadline of 1300, and sometimes beyond. The other class sergeants seemed to let their classes leave about mid-day. We resented it at the time but again it was Owen's way of showing us how 'unfair' the real world could be.
The other two sergeant instructors were 'Knocker' White from Berkshire and Richard Ford from Hampshire who subsequently transferred to Surrey as an inspector. These three had virtually set up the centre from scratch; they moved in the equipment, assembled the beds, sorted the accommodation and generally made the place a reality.
The centre, being a new one and pressed into service quickly to accommodate a large intake nationally in the mid 1960s, had very few amenities and it did not have a parade ground. There was the main drive up to a small parking area in front of the main entrance and another drive going out to the A25.
We paraded on the parking area; seventy five new recruits in three classes (actually we ended up as seventy four as a chap from Gloucester was so home sick that on the second day he left, using as an excuse his child at home was unwell, he never returned). Surprisingly homesickness was very common in the first few days and had not Owen 'forced' us to stick it out, many others might have left and not continued with their new career.
The drill sergeant was a nice Irishman from Kent. He did not realise what was required for the passing out parade and his drill lessons consisted of a march up and down the drive with a few about turns and salutes and then into the bushes along the drive for a quick smoke.
Owen was horrified when he learned of this about a month from the end of the course. He tried to reclaim the situation but we ended up doing a minimum of marching on the passing out parade. He set up a drill squad of ex-service men to do a little drill on the small area. All the rest of us did was march on, be presented to the Chief Constable of Surrey who was the saluting officer, and march off.
During the time at the centre we had a fall of snow. This did not stop the drill lessons, but as the drill sergeant used to stand on the front entrance steps and shout drill instruction in his Irish accent things did not work well. We were marching down a snow-covered drive when he commanded 'About Turn'. Half heard him and half didn't which resulted in twenty four policemen crashing into each other and rolling about in the snow with helmets going all over the place.
The practical exercises also provided some light relief. A PC rode down the drive on a cycle and a nominated recruit had to step out, stop him and report him for an offence. A lovely chap, Joe Pannet an ex-railwayman from Sussex stepped out and raised his arm. Unfortunately the bike which had been lying about at the centre had no brakes and when the rider, Dave Hedges also from Sussex, pulled the brakes the cycle carried straight on with Joe on the handlebars, crashing into the bushes.
The Irish drill sergeant was a really impressive at acting as a drunk and gave all of us a lesson in how awkward drunks could be to deal with. The PE instructor was from Sussex. Over a third of our class could not swim and were ignored by the PE sergeant. He concentrated on getting the others through their life saving exam.
Chief Inspector Ken Mutch from Reading Borough joined halfway through the course and joined in with swimming. When he learned what was happening to the non-swimmers he took it on himself to teach all of us to swim except one chap who had an almost pathological fear of water but at least Ken got him in the water trying to swim.
The last week of the thirteen was concerned with Civil Defence and other matters, some light relief after the concentrated learning we had undergone in the previous weeks. We had a class leaving do in the Queens Arms just outside the main gate so those who overindulged could easily stagger back.
Owen was there again leading the drinking but was also there at the end to ensure we all got back safely. I look back on the time in training through rose coloured glasses, but Owen was right, we stuck it out and everything afterwards was a doddle, well almost.