Dorking Traffic Centre in the 1960s

Dorking Traffic Centre: Dave Vigar: Surrey Constabulary had five Traffic Centres, of which Dorking (designated E4) at Spital Heath was the first to close. The buildings stood at the top of a slope opposite the collection of police houses and were reached by a sharp left turn from the road, behind a long retaining wall. Here there was a single-storey office block and garage large enough for three cars. After being used as a base for the Underwater Search Unit an early base for the armed response vehicles and local Scenes of Crime Officer, the buildings were sold and demolished the site now used for housing.

Access into the centre was normally via one of the garage doors, across the front of the workshop area (taking care not to fall into the inspection pit, which was lethally placed just by the office entrance) and into a short corridor leading to three offices – a general parade room, then offices for the sergeants and inspector. At the other end of the garage was a kitchen and mess room. Perhaps there was another entrance, but I don't remember it ever being used. At the far side of the little yard outside was a hand-operated petrol pump.

Dorking Traffic Centre was my first posting when I joined the Force as a Cadet in 1964. At this time, I think that Keith Worger was the only other Cadet working at a Traffic Centre, the normal posting being to a police station. I cycled back and forth from my home in Woodhatch, Reigate (and thought nothing of it at the time!).

As the first Cadet ever to be posted there, I was very well-treated and was often taken out on patrol by the officers in their Austin Westminster or Ford Zephyr patrol cars. Very occasionally (let it now be whispered) my bike was squeezed into the boot and I was driven home!

The Inspector at Dorking was 'Ginger' Thatcher (I never learnt his first name) who seemed to come and go at irregular intervals from his office at the end of the corridor and was also responsible for the E5 Traffic Centre at Godstone, run on a day-to-day basis by Sergeant Arthur 'Herbie' Trimmer, who also put in an occasional appearance.

Inspector Thatcher gave the impression of being a rather dour and unsmiling character, but in reality was a very nice man and always fair in his dealings. His boss, 'Tiger' Lake, also appeared from Headquarters once in a while – a cue to bring out the cups and saucers kept for important visitors, instead of the mugs habitually used for tea at all other times.

I was privileged to work for two very kindly Sergeants, both quite young in service at the time, but who went on to do well - Ken Tyrell and Charlie Brunt. My duties included recording all correspondence, maintaining a register of HORT/1 issues and other clerical tasks, as well as the inevitable tea-making and sweeping up.

I soon got the hang of winding the petrol pump and was entrusted with filling the cars as they arrived back from patrol, recording petrol and oil issues on a special sheet. There were always complaints about the quality of petrol used by the Force, which arrived in an unmarked tanker lorry every so often and had to be metered into the underground tank. I was also taken on occasional trips to Headquarters Garage, which in those days was a small establishment in Ladymead, presided over by Sergeant Doug Buckman.

Once in a while, a Driving School car would arrive from Headquarters (cue more tea-making) – a gorgeous black Sunbeam Rapier – I wonder what happened to that. The white Austin Westminster cars were also fast and comfortable cars, with red velour upholstery.

Other cars used at Dorking were blue Ford Zephyrs, some with a column gear change and others converted to a floor mounted gear lever – these often gave trouble, and it was not unknown for the car to jam in gear and have to be trailed away for repair.

There were also two motorcycles based here – a 500cc Triumph and a 350cc Matchless, which lived at the rear of the little garage, between the patrol cars, when not in use. The Triumph was ridden by Trevor Saunders and the Matchless by Bob Heaton, two more fine officers.

Others I remember were Clive Cutts, Doug Rowlands, Mike Blencowe, Roy Simmonds and, of course, all the 'lifers' at Godstone, many of whom had been at E5 for years and who were still there when I joined them in 1971.

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