Personal Radios

1967: Personal radios: Graham Ingram: I believe that the force had a variety of radios in use before the two-piece Pye Pocketphone became standard issue in the late 1960s. As a cadet at Farnham I had the job of manning the base station, (a green telephone type instrument with a black push to talk button), when Chief Inspector Ron Bamford drove around the sub-division making check calls. There were many 'black spots' I recall.

In 1967 some town beat officers made 'phone box points, but by late 1967 all were issued with a personal radio. The funny thing is that whilst working on the Frensham Section 1980-1984 I had to make one 'point' per shift! The personal radio was fine too; progress for you.

Storno 500 personal radio

Colin Boyles: When I first went to Guildford in August 1966, the officers patrolling Beats 1 and 2 (High Street & North Street) were issued with a "Stornophone 500" radio with a telescopic aerial. As I recall, they didn't work in many locations.

Rose Murray: PR sets were being trialled when I was at Redhill in 1967. I think the first ones were called "Lancon" from the Lancashire Constabulary and then the Stornophone which I remember had a very long aerial which had to be pulled up before transmitting. I don't think every division was given them to start with.

Steve Buss: I joined in June 1967 and can remember the personal phone being issued. They were great big things that you carried in a holster slung over your shoulder. They had aerials that you pulled out and were about three feet long. I think it must have been 1968 because I cannot remember using them in the winter. We used to still make points when I first started out on my own.

I worked at Guildford then and Trevor Saunders was my first sergeant. Many times I had 10 beat. Pretty useless they were until the Pye two piece radios were issued which were a bit better. Looking through my pocket books for 1967 I found the first mention of radios on 21st December 1967 at midnight when I attended the station to collect a radio. I have all my points listed for that date on 9 beat at Guildford. If I remember correctly the radios were few and far between and were shared.

Robin Maddison: When I arrived at Guildford in April 1967, we were using the Storno 500 with a telescopic aerial. It went after a few months and was replaced by the two piece (Z-Cars) Pye Pocketfone PF1.

Pye pocket phone

Rose Murray: I went to Farnham in January 1969 when we had the Pye pocket phones (two piece sets).

Peter Bradley: I do not remember exactly when the personal radios came into use, but I recall they were a bit controversial. Up at Mount Browne on some sort of course, Johnny Plaice came to talk to us about them saying it was another thing for the station officer to worry about.

I protested, being by then a very experienced station officer. I always got put in there when someone was sick or on leave or something that it would be a dammed sight easier to pick up a mike and pass out work to men on the beat, than to try to remember to phone them on their points.

The early ones were the Pye in two parts, receiver and transmitter, so you had the receiver tucked into your tunic collar, and the transmitter in you back pocket, or at least, I did! The receiver used to give off a quiet 'Tick, tick' to let you know it was on, and I remember being sent to some young woman's house to check on a suspicious package she was not expecting.

At the time 'parcel bombs' were being sent around the countryside. She had put it in the middle of her empty double garage, and while we were both looking at it to decide whether to open it or not, she heard my radio, shrieked "It's ticking!" and before I could reassure her, she was gone, leaving me with the parcel still, on the floor of her garage!

I did open it after satisfying myself none of the signs of explosives etc were present and it turned out to be some horse brasses, sent to her by a boyfriend, as a surprise. Don't think he enjoyed her company much longer after that!

Dorking: Bob Bartlett: It was during my time at Dorking that the Pye Pocketphone personal radio was introduced. It was in two halves in a tasteful blue plastic. The transmitter had a discreet aerial that popped out when the transmit button was depressed. Care had to be taken when excited, not to shoot the aerial up your nostril! The other part was the receiver, and often had to be held to the ear to hear what was being said.

They had two rechargeable batteries in each part, yellow in one and red in the other. The range was limited to mostly the town areas, but although this was a limitation it was for the operational constables a magical innovation.

The first arrest in Dorking was by PC Clive Barham. Clive was in Mill Lane, Dorking, when a report was received of a shop window having been smashed in the High Street and a lad making off. The message was passed to Clive who immediately saw the suspect, and arrested him; the day before he would not have known of the damage until it was too late.

This development of technology was to have a considerable impact, probably more so on my generation than on any other. The leaps forward were giant ones, whereas now much is about refining existing technology. We were told that one day they would be able to send documents and photographs down the telephone line. Silly man - who would believe such a thing – as daft an idea as colour television!

types of personal radios

However things were to change over the years. The major problem with the first and second generation of hand held radios was that they were not designed and therefore did not have the range necessary for the purposes for which they were being used. The original twin set evolved into the 1970s Burndept, which was just one unit, again operated by rechargeable batteries and a press to talk button on the top.

No doubt at the time we felt they were the bees-knees but it was not until the 1980s and 1990s that the sturdy and almost policeman proof Motorola were developed and personal communications took a giant leap forward. These radios could easily be switched between a number of channels and with a range vastly superior to their predecessors. The channels were allocated to various sub-divisions and for emergency operations.

The development of radios, eventually to be given as a personal issue to all operational officers, was an enormous leap forward in the efficiency and effectiveness of the police and in officer safety. In the 1960s it was possible to stand on Box Hill and talk to people in other police forces many miles away and at time they could be heard on our frequency. Very disconcerting!

Return to main text

 

Surrey Constabulary badge