Dog Section 1957-1979

Fred Booker

1957: Dog Section: Fred Booker:12 I joined the force in 1952, at the age of twenty four and after the necessary wait of 5 years on the beat I was welcomed at the kennels by Police Sergeant Darbyshire as an applicant for the position of dog handler. It was February 4th, 1957 and quite cold as I remember.

Many friends had advised me not to do it. "Go for C.I.D", they said. Traffic was out, as I tended to be travelsick at times, especially in the back of a brown van with prisoners on the way to prison.

Why did I want to be a dog handler? Because I saw Len Truss appear on a dark night with his dog at the scene of an abandoned car. Where we could do nothing about the driver Len's dog picked up his track and some time a little later produced the absconder. I was hooked.

I had been posted to the kennels for assessment and stayed about two months, usually close to George Wraight who carried out the kennel duties of exercising dogs, hosing out runs, cleaning dog vans, chopping up dog meat and organising feeds. As a sideline he had a working dog, Vagus, and attended calls when needed.

When a Dog Course was running he assisted Darby with their training, often working as a padded criminal for man work or laying tracks for the course dogs to follow. I was quickly engaged helping George at his kennel tasks including re-building stonewalls! Or sweeping up leaves, above all I learnt to keep my eyes and ears open because I was told very little. Questions asked received the reply "I don't know pal, ask Darby".

At lunchtime I enjoyed a wander round the outside of the kennels. From the top of the steep slope down to the sports ground I had a wide field of view. To the south east was the river Wey meadows where I could see the old steam trains waiting for the semaphore signals to change and let them proceed into Guildford railway station from the Tonbridge line or from the Cranleigh line, further south. I could hear the little 'toot' they gave if the driver thought they had forgotten him at the signal box.

On the slope below me I noticed a tethered Billy goat. I thought, funny, nobody is going to get milk out of him for puppies.

Back in the kennel area were chickens and an ugly Muscovy duck wandering freely about. Darby had his pigeon loft erected just outside the small, fenced, training compound. It roosted about twelve or so black and white pigeons that were flying free. I soon realised that the various birds were there to acclimatise the training dogs to every day life in the countryside, which handlers may not get in towns and cities. The goat was not for chasing either.

The kennel area was well hidden from outside view and sheltered from the sun and prevailing winds by elm trees that stretched the full width of the property westwards. How terrible it looked in 1970 when Dutch elm disease beetles struck and most of the trees were felled, opening us up to full view all round. We did a lot of the sawing up. It made a change from sweeping leaves and digging out banks for a while.

The last part of my first day was most amusing. I was told, "Round up the birds and put them into the chicken shed, because of the foxes". It sounded simple. They were congregating at the time so I tried shooing them along towards the open door but they trotted past. I tried again, same result. George had disappeared.

Then Darby came on the scene with a stick. He whacked the side of the shed with it and said, "I give you five minutes, no more", and all the birds trouped inside. It made my day; he could even train chickens.

We lost a white cockerel and a hen to the fox while I was there. They both refused to go into their shed one night and roosted in some young trees fifteen feet above it. There were a lot of white feathers about next morning when I arrived.

In the following weeks I met and watched handlers and their dogs from all over this country as they trained on the scheduled Advanced Courses of four weeks duration. I realised that since their Elementary Course of four weeks they had, like us Surrey handlers, about five months at their home force to improve the dog's standard before returning here. They would have been helped by their comrades who were already trained. Sgt Darbyshire in the mean time was starting off or finishing the training of many more teams.

I was accepted as a potential dog handler and given my dog, Oro. We started an Elementary Course in April 1957. On the completion of it I returned to Godalming for beat duties with dog training periods until our Advanced Course scheduled for 25th November 1957.

I carried out town traffic duties on mornings and walked my socks off up and down those Godalming hills visiting unoccupied houses on afternoons or evenings with the dog. We were given some Burglary observation duties at night thrown in for good measure on Holloway Hill; the Superintendent's house was entered while he was asleep. Oro and I met a few hedgehogs I remember, scuffling through the dead leaves in a small park not far away from likely action.

The accommodation at Mount Browne for handlers attending the courses in those early days was at the top of the house in what might have been the maid's rooms as we used the back stairs to reach them and it was the quick way to the kitchen for breakfast. The kitchen staff and Miss Nash, the housekeeper, looked after us extremely well. All appreciated them.

I started the Advanced Course as planned; there were seven of us, two from Surrey, two from Salford City, one from Portsmouth and two from Notts County. The one from Notts County, Raymond Wood, later became the Chief Inspector of that Dog section. PC Band was the other Surrey handler; he was stationed at Dorking with his dog Arno. We all passed out on the 20th December 1957 and returned to our stations.

Work that was carried out in the kennel area by course members during the day varied considerably. Grooming the dogs and cleaning the kennel area and runs was a must immediately after breakfast every day. The leaf sweeping, wall building and sand or earth moving served two purposes for Darby: a) to get the handlers fit, (some were not), and, b) to give the dogs a break between lessons especially on Elementary Courses. The sandstone my course shifted improved car parking and gave room to erect the garage later.

The Advanced, and later, Initial Courses were different; there was so much varied training to be done at Headquarters and outside on training grounds that there should not have been time for such an occupation. The Refresher Courses were the ones that might have needed split shifts; if it was agreed between the course members that they would train after dark on building searches etc. If they were keen they would work through.

I had by then met up with the rest of Surrey's Handlers. We numbered twelve: They are from the East; Bob Twentyman, (Oxted), Len Truss, (Reigate), Alan Osment, (Buckland), Stan Band, (Dorking), Bill Redwood, (Guildford), Sgt. Darbyshire & George Wraight (HQ), Fred Booker, (Godalming), Robert Ling & Geoff. Bloomfield, (Woking), Arthur Atkinson & Gus Hearnden, (Weybridge).

This was during 1957. Most handlers used their own cars for transporting their dogs and worked in civvies. All our houses had phones and we were 'ON CALL' out of scheduled hours.

Our training periods were on a two week cycle. First week was two half days on Division. Second week was 1 half day on Division and Thursday all day at HQ kennels. Half days were mainly for tracking and search training. Man work was carried out on Thursdays at HQ under the watchful eye of Sgt Darbyshire only. It became a day to look forward too.

Over a cup of tea on arrival Darby went through what had taken place recently and handlers discussed incidents they had attended, how their dogs had worked and any problems they met up with. It was a big learning curve for me. Training that day would be adjusted to repair any fault that showed itself and then cover general training in obedience as Darby thought fit. In the afternoon it was man work on the sports field or tracking at Hankley common.

Once fully trained and working we found ourselves entered into Civilian Working Dog Trials that took place at various locations all over the country. One such three-day event usually took place at Easter and the final day was held on Mount Browne sports field at the invitation of the Chief Constable. Those of us not taking part in the trials were generally roped in to assist as tracklayers on the first two days or as criminals for the man work on the last day.

As a competitor new to trials it was not easy. Track and search tests were O.K. but working the obedience and agility exercises we found the smaller breeds that were taking part often distracted our dogs. Practice makes perfect they say and when entered on other occasions we enjoyed the tests and began to take prizes. We gained the confidence that we needed and it was good for public relations.

As I moved into the New Year of 1958 1 began attending incidents, sometimes with PC Wraight and others with Sgt Darbyshire if I was near the kennels. I had a problem: it was that I was a learner driver and at night had to be picked up in the Inspectors car with my dog and conveyed to crime scenes.

On 31st January 1958 information was received that a burglary was going to take place at Ewhurst. Darby was called at 2030 hrs and he replied, "Call your own handler you've got one". As a result I was phoned, picked up to be dropped off at the scene and taken inside the back door of a large house. Once inside I joined a lively crew Inspector Norman Lock, Det. Sgt. Cliff Aggar and DC Jackman.

They quickly told me the facts and we settled down to await developments. We were spread out from a central room in total darkness with Mr. Lock on my left near the back door. At about 2250 hrs things happened.

The doorbell rang and the knocker was banged several times then torches were shone into the windows and someone walked round the place then silence. Suddenly someone forced the back door and entered, and then according to Mr. Lock, "They turned and ran for it". He shouted out and we ran to the door and gave chase. I passed him down the garden path and in front of the dog I saw one man spread-eagled in a large bush.

I grabbed him and returned him to the house with Det. Sgt. Aggar. Then with harness on the dog we tracked on for the others. After about one quarter of a mile ending in a dog chase I arrested a man in brambles. Not bad for a new boy.

On 24th February 1958, Traffic Department put me on a three-week learner-driving course with two Advanced Driving Course members who were being refreshed to fill the car up. At the completion of the course I was tested and passed for my licence by Sgt. Ginger Thatcher who added afterwards, "and drive a lot slower in future". I never did get a refresher course in all my service. Was I that good?

At 1740hrs on 4th July 1958, while at HQ with Sgt. Darbyshire we were called to Aubury, the scene of an overturned stolen car. Darby's dog 'Shaun' was used, without success and at 1900 hrs we were at the top of High Street, Guildford, passing the Odeon Cinema when I noticed a man about to cross the road. He answered the description (clothing) of the man who abandoned the overturned car we had just left.

Darby couldn't believe what I was telling him. He said, "Follow him; I'll turn the van round". The man went into The Firs car park looking at cars. Darby drove in and we spoke to him. He admitted he was the driver. He was arrested and taken to Godalming Police Station. The man had walked to Guildford and been in the Cinema ever since. It made Darby's day and in Guildford town too.

About this time our Force had some very active patrol car crews. I remember three members who worked the A31 to Farnham and the A3 to Hindhead. They were PCs Attfield, Cooper and Kennison. They gave me some memorable jobs from abandoned scooters, cars and the like which boosted my night training.

I remember one night when in hot pursuit from one of their cars, through someone's garden, an up stairs window opened and a voice shouted, " Who's that?" to which I replied, breathlessly, "Police". I heard "OK" and the window shut. Five minutes later I had a prisoner in a nearby sand pit. Happy nights!

Fred Booker in tug-o-war

Fred Booker in tug-o-war

It was during these busy dog training years that I was also training hard at tug-o-war. I was competing for Godalming Division in the Force Championship and then as the force winners, for Surrey at the Police AA Championships. Fitting training in with other members of the team caused a few problems with duties as well as dog training but Darby did not quibble as long as I was improving my dog's standard.

I found out that Darby was a sprint man in the Met Athletics where he met Joseph Simpson who was a Met hurdler at the time and held a record for years. With Maurice Jackman, (Jacko), and an expert tug-o-war coach from Bramley, we trained at the Iron Foundry in Catteshall Road, Godalming, on pulleys and heavy weights while we sheltered under a Nissan hut from bad weather.

Fred Booker with winners of the AEU cup.

I was a tug-o-war man for several years before entering police service, competing for an Engineering Works team, all over the south east of England and winning an A.E.U cup, plus two winner's medals at Surrey AAA championships in successive years at one hundred stones.

In October, 1958 Bob Ling was promoted.

Presentation of BEM to Sargeant Darbyshire

Presentation of BEM to
Sargeant Darbyshire

On 15th March 1959, at 1400 hrs Police Sergeant Darbyshire was presented with the BEM at The Drill Hall, Reigate, followed by a photograph on the lawn at Reigate Police Station. He was in full uniform with his family, The Chief Constable, the Assistant Chief Constable, Divisional Superintendents and members of the dog section with their dogs and many other dignitaries were present including members of civilian Dog Societies. His retirement farewell party was held at HQ on 22nd May 1959.

On 20th April 1959 I was given a black Ford Popular van, TPC 565, for dog transport. I took off; I could be anywhere in no time as long as it was under 50 mph.

The next surprise was being attached to a Police Mobile Column at Warren Camp, Crowborough, in West Sussex for a week. PC Morley was also on the Column but on a different week in November 1960. We did not take our dogs so they had a holiday.

Following Darby's departure Sgt. Ling took charge of all training and he became our first member to take his place on the Training Sub Committee of the Home Office Standing Advisory Committee on Police Dogs when it was formed. He sat with similar chief training officers from other police forces that had training schools and methods used began to standardise and improve.

One of the many subjects that came up during his time on the committee was hard surface tracking. The Met representative had said that their dogs could do it but others had replied that it was only occasionally possible. Sgt. Ling's suggestion was "show us". They did and the dog failed to convince the spectators. I was told that the track was laid on a street scene and the dog seemed to be following wind born scent that was bouncing between buildings. His nose was not down.

Soon afterwards, one training day, we had a go. We needed a wide area of concrete or tarmac, away from grass: the tracklayer was to scuff with his feet a little and the dog was set to work almost immediately. Once the dog realised that there was something to follow and it led to a prize we began to succeed.

The handler who perfected it in Surrey was Sgt. Yeourt and his dog worked slowly and methodically. The distance that he could follow the trail, with the concentration necessary, before his nose lost the scent was the only problem, about fifty yards. Weather conditions could change everything and we concentrated on short distances up to thirty minutes old at that time. In this way we began to improve are training and methods.

In 1961, The Chief Constable, Mr. Rutherford, with the City of London Police film unit decided to make a police dog training film centred on our Surrey Training School and The Metropolitan Training School at Keston. It all started well until it was realised that it would be too long and well over budget so changes were made to the story line and basically it became a publicity film called Police Dog. Filming took place in the summer of 1962 and the completed film was first shown in London in 1963. It was a great success and was shown on screens in most village halls throughout the land by visiting dog handlers with their dogs.

From 17th December 1962 we were seriously bothered by a silver thief, 'The Silver Man' to us; he operated off golf courses mainly in the north of our force area at night. Nearly all our dogs were used to curtail his access to Surrey's large residences by static observation duties or mobile patrols under winter conditions. Systems changed but did not cease until 30th August 1963, when a breaker was disturbed at about daybreak.

I attended with Sgt. Redwood and we were requested to patrol in the Leatherhead area and roads bordering the Ashtead and Epsom commons. At 7 am we were on the Met border approaching Epsom town when a man, on foot, came off Epsom Common on to the road in front of us. He answered the description of the man we had been looking for all this time so being in civvies we stopped and offered him a lift. He accepted and we all arrived at Leatherhead Police Station. It was the 'Silver Man' but not the person CID were expecting. He took them to where he had left the night's takings and our rather monotonous duties changed.

The following year, on 27th September 1964, I was promoted sergeant and moved to Buckland near Dorking. I was responsible for the Eastern area Dog Section. My first dog Oro was now ailing and I commenced training a new dog Ace. He was working on 8th May 1965 and Oro was retired.

In 1965 our Police Dog Section hit a bad patch in the western area and people were dealt with but a well-liked Sergeant of ours was moved sideways to Guildford. It was some time before we could get him back, at our request, but come back he did and we were the better for it.

1966, 8 February: With hard surface tracking on the Police Dog Trials Schedule we obtained permission to use the perimeter runway of Dunsfold Airfield as a training ground for our working dogs provided it was not going to be used that day by aircraft, 'Harrier'. It was a great help to us because of its width and distance. Our training improved and we were reaching up to half an hour in age of track.

Dogs were working better at scenes of crime. In August 1966, George Wraight transferred to Thames Valley Police and PC Stan Wood was promoted to Sergeant for Dog Training. In mid-April 1967 a flight of Sioux Army helicopters were based on the sports field at Mount Browne with their backup teams to see what use a helicopter could be to our Force.

The aircraft had a Perspex bubble type cabin to seat three people and on 25th April 1967 when I was asked by a pilot if I would like a trip I had a mad moment and said "yes please" and went up with my dog on a flight along the south side of the Hog's Back. I wanted to see how much use they would be searching open countryside and woodland for persons.

I came back convinced that they would save a large number of dogs working for a morning with a flight lasting 45 minutes. Ace enjoyed the trip. He just sat still all the time and watched the world go by, as I knew he would.

Two days later we were called to Chobham where a prisoner had escaped from police. PC Benstead was on track across rough country when the man was arrested half a mile in front of us using a helicopter that we could hear.

The dog I was handling at that time, Ace, reminded me of Geoff Bloomfield and his dog, Unra, as both dogs were born hunters on wind born scent. It was not easy to train them to follow old tracks; they liked it fresh and something doing. I was told that when working Unra free on incidents in Woking area at night the first thing you heard was a scream, then Unra would bark, saying I am here master. The bark should have come first of course, but a triviality; heat of the moment.

I ran into the problem one night when working Ace on a tracking line at a scene of crime along a wooded road. He entered the wood for about thirty yards then speeded up pulling me in all directions. I thought he had located a person who was on the run, wrong. We ended up in the next field with lost interest. Fox I thought, Fred was not pleased.

When out late a few days later and things were quiet I laid myself a woodland track on Reigate Hill. I knew every inch and it was a fox paradise. I drove back some time later and put my trusty friend on line as if it was an incident and away we went for some distance, suddenly he swung off my track and away we went like the wind, five paces and I stopped him dead; I gave him a good shaking and telling off then put him back on track. He finished the track and I praised him for it, but had I won?

On the 20th September 1967 I was called out at daybreak to the home of Lady Beaverbrook, a housebreaking. Ace picked up a track from the point of entry and away we went across mixed country; after about 3/4 mile I could see a fox crossing the next field in front of me from left to right. Did I need that? No. But Ace could not see what I saw because of a hedgerow and I plotted the fox's track in my head as he went out of sight.

As my dog crossed the fox's trail I saw him hesitate, checking, then move on. I told him "Good boy" and he pulled forward. By one mile we had reached a main road and recovered two wine bottles thrown down an embankment and at two and a half miles we had two prisoners. I had another good dog, didn't I?

From 28th January 1968 until 9th February 1968 we were back on observation duties on the northern golf courses again; this time in greater numbers and static in very hard frosts but it was more worrying making our way homeward in the mornings. With a van heater warming us up sleeping at the wheel became a serious problem especially for those of us who had to travel some distance.

In April 1968 the new Chief Constable, Mr. Peter Matthews, arrived and Colonel Herman Rutherford retired. He had been with us since 1956 when he replaced Sir Joseph Simpson who moved on to become Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

1968, 18 April: When out on Hankley common following a training track, my dog deviated from the trail to indicate an object; it was an Army explosive charge that had not exploded. It makes a change. The army bomb disposal squad made a visit.

1968 saw me with the occasional pocket radio when I was working in a town area; it was company for once, you get used to being on your own working for fifteen years as a policeman. The early radios were not as good as we would have liked and reception was poor in some areas.

At 0100 hrs on 27th June 1968 PC Tyrrell and I were called to an abandoned, stolen car just northwest of Dorking town. At the scene I was given a local radio, which consisted of two separate parts, one in each pocket, (one to talk to, the other to listen to). Ace got away on track in steady rain on a long track, which seemed to be in an anticlockwise circle. About two miles from the start, when speeding down a chalky hillside I lost the listening part of the radio out of my pocket unknown to me.

In the next half mile I reached the Reigate to Dorking railway line where I found two men tight against the close-wired fence. I spoke on the radio, said who I was and where I was to be found with prisoners. I got no reply so I thought I was in an area of bad reception.

Realising my problem one man was away up over the strand fence and across the lines. I got the dog through and then through the second fence, free to chase. The man refused to stop. Left with the second man. I found out that I had lost part of the radio and that the missing man had been the driver.

The next messages that I sent took care of this and in no time a radio car crew and PC Tyrrell joined me. We continued to track with John's dog and 300 yards away in woodland we found Ace lying with the man's jacket; we continued but lost the track in Westcott village.

On retracing my steps with Ace he found the missing radio part. It was talking to 'Glow-worms' on Ranmore common. I think things were stacked against me that night.

On 15th April 1965 I qualified as an Instructor for Police Dog Training on the first Home Office Course. On 23rd May 1966 I replaced Sgt. Redwood on the H.O.S.A.C.O.P.D. Training Sub Committee.

Fred with his dog Ace

On 16th September 1968 I took over dog training courses at Headquarters kennels under rather difficult circumstances as the rivers Mole and Wey were in flood. It affected many parts of the county and included to a large extent Guildford lower town. To reach HQ I had to travel anticlockwise round Guildford via the by-pass and return home the same way once or twice.

The first course was a Refresher and the next was the last Advanced Course we ran in Surrey on the old Darby system. I followed it with the first Initial Course of thirteen weeks training which we had not attempted before but I reached a good working standard with all the dogs being trained.

The best help was the new BMC dog van, which could carry six dogs and their handlers (BPD 651 H). It got us out on the tracking and search areas. We were no longer tied to HQ and it eased the pressure on our very good friend the local farmer who had allowed us to use his fields for so many years. Our training areas were now extensive.

Towards the end of my training period the Dutch Elm Disease Beetle hit us. We could hear it working in the tree trunks and see the wood dust round the bases of the trees. It gave us a job to do helping to saw the trunks up when the trees had been felled in the kennels area. 1970 I believe. My Instructors period ended on 1st May 1970. I returned to Eastern Area Supervision.

On 11th July 1970 death claimed my second dog Ace. I found him very ill in the morning after working a late shift. We saw the vet but he did not survive the day. I found a new rookie and came on stream week ending 12th December 1970. He was Santa, another German shepherd.

On 19th August 1971 we started training some dogs to locate cannabis resin as the drug was being used everywhere and our drug squad needed help to find it. Santa's general-purpose training was well up to standard so I started training him to find the drug. The resin we were using was small in size and, as I did not want him to swallow any, I used a brass container with air holes to protect it.

All worked well and he could find it almost anywhere. However, on Hankley common once again, tracking, Santa stopped on track and indicated some old brass bullet cases that had been there some time. Brass has its own smell and he associated it with cannabis. I stopped using the brass container and switched to a small plastic bag, which worked perfectly.

We were being used by the drug squad to assist them when searching 'On Warrant' from November '71, mainly in the gardens and areas around the properties.

Inside houses I found the dogs were really too large although we still succeeded in finding the drug but being German Shepherds they were not exactly welcomed by the occupants with children. On one occasion I was asked to search a room, which I found to contain loose and boxed birds eggs. They were everywhere. Santa and I carried out the task and found no drug. That showed people just how gentle our dogs could be.

On 2nd September 1971 as a result of a person finding part of a human arm on Leatherhead golf course we turned out all available handlers to search the course and surrounding area for any signs of a human frame or where the part may have come from. It was thought that a fox might have carried it. The dogs had no trouble finding golf balls, as the DI was a player. They could even locate those that had been covered up for years with moss growing on them, they didn't need hand scent.

We found no trace of a body on the golf course side of the passing road so in the late afternoon we switched over the road to the edge of Ashtead common in woodland where at 1700 hrs Santa backed away from a hole in the ground that was marked round the edge with fox claw marks. It was the source we were looking for.

Fred Booker with his certificate presented by the High Sheriff of Surrey following commendation by Judge Abdela at the Old Bailey.

Fred Booker with his certificate presented by the High Sheriff of Surrey following commendation by Judge Abdela at the Old Bailey.

In 1972 we received an invitation to operate our cannabis search dogs in the Cargo Sheds at Gatwick Airport from Customs and Excise. If we were successful they were thinking of employing some dogs themselves. We carried out quite a number of searches between March and December of that year and also tried the luggage moving belt and carousel on slack occasions all without success although the dogs in any situation always located a planted container with resin inside.

On 7th June 1976 and 6th November 1977 we used housing at Godalming police station which we set up as living accommodation with all the old furniture and fillings in cupboards etc. and ran Drug Training Courses of two weeks duration which were very successful for general purpose police dogs. It included dogs from other forces.

On 4th April 1978 at 1650 hrs we were called on to search a chalk quarry at East Caves, Chapel Lane, Westhumble, where two boy's bicycles had been left since 1300 hrs. On arrival we met the youth who reported them. He suggested that the boys might be underground, as he could find no trace of them on the surface.

He indicated a vertical tube shaft leading to underground caverns. It was not a place for dogs so I entered with the youth who said he had been down in the past. With search lamps we found the boys with their lamps gone out. The surface was broken up with signs of recent chalk fall and it was dangerous. This is not unusual in Surrey as we have the Hearthstone mines at Merstham and Godstone that cause similar problems with young boys.

Here my clock runs out of battery as I have no further records to refer too. On 22nd June 1979 Santa was put to sleep due to age and I trained Juno to General-Purpose standard. Following that, when we ran an Explosive Course a little later we put him on it and I used him on several occasions when we needed to search buildings before Royal visits and similar instances. Juno was rehandled, by PC Geoff Craggs, on my retirement in April 1982 and his work records travelled with him of course.

Fred Booker with Juno


Sergeant Fred Booker of Surrey soon starts training with his new dog, Juno, but he won’t forget his last companion on the beat. Santa, Fred's last dog, was with him when he took on and arrested a man who was threatening other officers with a gun. His courage was rewarded at Kingston Crown Court when the High Sheriff of Surrey awarded him a framed certificate and a cheque for £50.00.

One last reminder of the past: 18th September 1972 in the morning we received a call to search a rough area of common land bordering the motorway at Avenue Road, Lightwater where the previous day two schoolgirls had been attacked. I was using 12 dogs and handlers working in line through long, coarse grass and we had just reached the middle of the area when we all realised there were snakes, adders, all round us.

To go back was tricky because the ones we had passed were on the move so without panic we continued forward, only more careful with the dogs as they had no protection but we had Wellingtons. We completed our task but without a result other than that no dogs were injured. I have never seen so many adders in one place before, all different shades and colour, they counted in tens not ones or twos. I wonder who remembers that search.

Finally, I must mention some of the best tracklayers anyone could wish for any time of the day or night, all weathers no problem. They jumped ditches, walked streams, crossed barbed wire, hid in reed beds, old buildings and up trees, then walked in circles and doubled back on their tracks. When new handlers could follow them they were as good as trained.

Who were they? They were approved school boys out on a runner, often in twos. One knocked on my door at Buckland one morning. I was out on duty. My wife answered the door and she faced a young lad, who said, "I want to give myself up". She had three sons and me to look after. He got a cooked breakfast before he was collected and returned to the school.

I had a very exciting time in the Surrey Constabulary and I would not have missed it for the entire world, especially the twenty years spent in the company of those hardy men working police dogs on the front line. Our Senior Officers did encourage us from the top with their red or green inks and it was appreciated in those early years.

two dogs modelling sheepskin and leather coats

Fred Booker with two models wearing sheepskin and leather coast, made for use at dog demonstrations given during the year at large shows.

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12 Fred Booker for Old and Bold 2009.


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