Guildford Town

1967, September: Guildford Town: Steve Buss: My very first night out on patrol as a probationer after a two week parent constable attachment to Jim Goddard, I remember walking along Stoke Road towards Nightingale Road junction and seeing a huddled shape on the ground at the junction. I had never seen a dead body before but had a horrible premonition as I approached that it was going to be one.

Sure enough it was and I very gingerly reached out and felt for a pulse on the neck only to find there was none. I then went to the telephone kiosk the other side of the bridge and phoned in my find. I was told to guard the body until the duty sergeant turned up with CID.

On their arrival it was ascertained that he had not been murdered in any obvious way so I was directed to go with the body to the mortuary. Thank God Sergeant Saunders came with me as I had no idea what to do when I got there. Once there we had to search the body to find identification. It subsequently turned out that it was a tramp that lived in a shelter in Stoke Park and died of natural causes.

My very first post-mortem was a shock as I walked in to the dissecting room to see two bodies lying on the tables with their chests cut open and all the insides revealed. Keith Mant was the man who did the autopsies and he made the visit very interesting albeit that we stood there with Vick up our noses and smoking cigarettes.

One particular winter it was very cold and I can remember going down to the old mortuary to find it so full that some of the bodies had to be kept in the entrance hall as all the fridges and dissecting tables were full.

This is a tale that shows what a good boss Superintendent Maurice Jackman was. I was at Guildford and lived at 126 Epsom Road (a police house) when one of the neighbours whose garden backed on to the side of my garden complained that my dog had ripped a hole in his fence. Superintendent Jackman called me into his office and showed me the letter. He told me that I had to get some wood to repair the fence.

When I told him that I had no idea where to get any he went ballistic and shouted at me: "When I was constable in this town I knew where to get everything now f**k off and find some". So I went and shortly after I was called back to the station and as I walked up to the front door there were four long lengths of larch lap wood leaning against the wall.

Jacko came out of his office and said to me: "The chief inspector will take you up to the house and tell him to stop moaning about my men. He can also repair his fence with that." pointing to the wood.

When my son managed to badly scold his arm with some boiling water my wife turned up at the police station with my son very badly upset and distressed. Jacko got me back to the station and gave me a car to take my son and wife to the Royal Surrey and told me not to come back to work until he was sorted. I never had anything but utter respect for the man even though he used to terrify some of the officers.

I remember the roof top trail and spent many a night up on the roofs of the buildings in the High Street in Guildford and many a doughnut eaten at Fred's the bakers. We used to spike some of them to play tricks on each other by over filling the doughnuts we had with jam so that it went everywhere when they bit into it.

We used to play practical jokes on each other. I can remember on nights Drobny Oliver could never stay awake during meal breaks and we used to either bang the table or shout DROBNY at the top of our voices to wake him up or tie his shoe laces to the table leg when he was asleep. He was a brilliant tennis player hence the nickname.

Shortly after passing my probation period I was lucky enough to pass my sergeants exam. Shortly after the results were published I was made an acting sergeant on my own section at Guildford. This was a daunting experience for me as most of my crew had forgotten more about police work than I had learnt.

To give orders to and supervise constables of twenty odd years of experience as a three year PC and knowing that I had to go back to be one of them taught me to tread very carefully in what and how I dealt with them. But I can also remember walking up the High Street and glancing at the stripes on my arm and feeling very proud of myself.

It took me another four years to get made substantive sergeant. Most of this time was spent in the old control room above the main entrance in the old house Mount Browne. I was there during the Guildford bombings and on nights the day it happened. Talk about chaos. All the top brass were there standing around behind us giving out orders left right and centre and generally making our jobs a lot more difficult to do.

I was on duty in a panda car on the day of the floods in 1968 in Guildford and went round Fanum House roundabout to see a manhole cover bouncing on the top of a small column of water pouring out of the manhole.

This was the start of what turned out to be a long day pushing motorists out of the flood at the roundabout. I can remember we somehow got hold of and army DUCK vehicle and Jacko riding around in it supervising all the chaos at the bottom of the High Street.

Debenhams basement was badly flooded and ended up having a flood sale after it was all over. As a result they fitted the big flood doors that are still there to this day at their entrance in the under pass.

The old Friary brewery was there but I remember watching as they blew up the big chimney that was a feature of the place when making way for the Friary shopping centre.

I think one of the most distressing things I had to deal with was when I was on Golf 1 with Ken Hewitt and we were sent up to the Hogs Back to do a "priority one" dash with and ambulance. Once we had completed that run and resumed we were subsequently sent back to the hospital to deal with the sudden death of the boy who had drowned in Frensham ponds.

On arrival as the observer I had to take the father in to the resuscitation room to formerly identify the body to me. The boy was the same age and looked very much like my young son. The father collapsed over the dead child stricken with grief. I then had to take his formal statement. I was so cut up about it, as I could imagine how I would have been in his place if it had been my son, that I could not speak and Ken had to take the statement for me.

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