Control Room

1969: Ann Carter: I remember Peter Barbrooke from my days in the old control room at Mount Browne. In those days it was above the main entrance hall and I worked as the force telex operator on alternate shifts with Olive, whose surname I cannot remember. Peter was on my shift most of the time and my best recollection of him was when Princess Ann came to visit.

Mr Harding was our boss and affectionately known as Zebedee, this was taken from the Magic Roundabout that was all the rage at the time. Peter, who could always be relied on to 'wind-up' Zebedee, was on duty on the day it all happened. We all had to be very smart in appearance, uniforms pressed and not a speck of waste paper to be seen. This was in the days when incident logs were written by hand on the old message pads.

Peter turned up for his shift and much to the horror of Zebedee was sporting one red sock and one blue sock. Needless to say Peter was designated to hold the door open to the control room and stay behind it for the duration of the visit! Peter was well known to the bar stools in the Conservative Club at Woking and I saw him there on quite a few occasions. He was a real character and a total 'non conformist'.

It was from the Control Room that I joined the Surrey Constabulary. In those days the establishment for the Women Police Department was fifty five and I had to wait for someone to leave in order to get a place. I took the place that was vacated by Liz Coker. I had to wait for nearly a year and spent the time as one of the Force telex operators. I had had previous experience of telex machines when I had worked for the FMC Corporation of the US as a deputy export manager.

In those days it was our main source of communication. The telex room was situated off the control room and was a small office with a bank of incoming tape machines from the divisions and two outgoing machines to the outside world beyond Surrey and two machines linked to divisional ones. It was a very hot and noisy room when it was at its busiest.

We always knew when we had a novice telex operator as in those days as the keyboard was used so it punched out a paper taper at the HQ end and the slower the tape the more novice the instigator. I used to feel for some of those poor station officers who got lumbered.

Once the tape got to us we would route it to its destination by using a tape reader and boy did we swear if the tape broke half way through! The resultant "punchings" were used at many weddings as confetti and we used to get quite a demand for it. Telex died a death when fax machines came in which were more user friendly, but I have never forgotten those big old 'green giants' as they are museum pieces now.

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1970: Brian Taylor: It was police officers who accepted temporary postings in the Control Room. Initially it was to balance the full time staff working nights, late and early during sickness etc. We worked the cover shift of 10-6 pm or 6-2 am. Eventually after four weeks we were absorbed onto a rota.

In those days there was a mixture of full time staff of police officers and civilians. Supervisors were always police officers. The initial week was on receiving telephone 999 and routine calls, working into week two when you delegated and dispatched your own jobs. Weeks three and four was into the two radio positions where you dealt with the various incidents and assignments with requests from the vehicles and generally saw the job through to its conclusion.

In those days there were two radio positions M2HJ and M2HM; between the two sat either the shift inspector or sergeant. Strict radio procedure was sacrosanct in those days. My inspector was Bill Murray; any deviation from strict wireless procedure was painfully remembered. I shall always remember Bill with sincere kind feelings and appreciation; he me sufficient grounding to enjoy a future in Operations and Communications.


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