Traffic Department in the 1950s and 1960s

Gerry Atfield: I first went to Traffic on an attachment in 1950/51 and joined the department properly in 1953 when RA Davies was the superintendent – known as RAD! It is a point worth making early, how hard people like Davies worked, often long into the night typing reports and paper work. There was no administrative support. It has to be said that there was what today would be termed micro-management, for example when a car aerial was bent a great screed about taking care came out of HQ.

Before Burpham Traffic Centre the first Traffic HQ was up the metal staircase in the Leapale Road entrance yard to the Guildford police station. The traffic centres came about the same time (1953) and were of a similar design: Burpham, Chertsey, Godstone in Ivy Mill Close, Farnham and Dorking on Spital Heath.

Farnham was the first to go in the mid 1960s from the new police station. A Traffic man stopped a motorist who made a vociferous complaint and within about half an hour Chief Constable Rutherford was on the phone – close Farnham down. That was it, no discussion, it happened. (There were possibly supervision issues). At Burpham, and probably at the other centres, there were three cars and a number of motor bikes. A sergeant and an inspector were on the strength; covering the west and another on the east.

In my early days we had the Humber Snipe and one Super Snipe, a Sunbeam Talbot Tourer, soft top (open top) usually driven by the sergeant. We used the same car and worked 7-3, 3-11, 11-7 and when on meal break the crew mate was on patrol until he in turn had his break. The real killer was court off nights which was frequent, no paid overtime, and exacerbated when caught up in the quick change over from nights to late.

The next police vehicles were the Austin, A70, A90, A95, A105 – Westminster – the bigger the number the better the car, the faster it went. The next generation were the Sunbeam Rapier and Zephyr 6, before we moved into Ford vehicles.

To get on Traffic I applied, tested by Inspector Ingrams and was accepted. Some time later I went on an advanced driving course and then every two years refresher courses. I also did a traffic patrol course concentrating on traffic law.

In the boot we carried a dustpan and brush – essential as we had running board on the cars and this was crucial equipment for keeping the inside clean. Stop boards for use with the organised road checks we frequently undertook, a tow rope and a red and a green flag.

The early motor cycles had no radios but my generation of cars did. Before that and Alf Hay told me that the vehicles had to make hourly points just as men on the beat did. Control was in Mount Browne in the glass area later used by the switchboard, off the new control room in the old building. There was just one consul. One of the early Traffic sergeants was Cyril Dumbleton who recently died just short of his 101st birthday in 2008.

Some of the modern Traffic Chief Superintendents: Basil West, Eldred Boothby, Bill Sutherland, Gerry Atfield 1974-1984. The job was then extended to include Operations and Traffic, Eric Hughes, Peter Wickens, Bob Bartlett who ceased having responsibility for Traffic and retained Operations.

Some Traffic superintendents were Gerry Atfield, Mark Hutchings, Jim Kirk, Vic Drummond, Danny McNulty and finally Shane Burrows who was in charge when it became Mobile Support Division. Bob Heaton worked with Danny McNulty as chief inspector.


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