A motorcyclist's difficulties

1968, about: Bob Bartlett: Another arrest is worth a tale because it sets out the difficulties motor cyclists' had being solo and needing to use the radio on the move.

On Traffic in about 1968 in the early afternoon I tried to stop a mini-van travelling north on the A24 by the railway station in Dorking. There were three men in the van, one of whom was sat in the back, which was unusual as there was no seat. It was to be no more than a routine check of three lads in a van in the afternoon when they should have been at work.

Life was simpler then. No rules about stopping people beyond the power to stop any motor vehicle to ask for the licence of the driver. I was riding my motorcycle and I pulled alongside and indicated to the driver to pull over and stop. I did this by sounding the horn and pointing to the driver that he should pull over. This was a standard practice and was very clear to the driver what was required. There were of course no sirens or blue lights on bikes at this time.

The driver just stared at me and kept on driving. He then accelerated and I followed. He was not going to lose me as a mini-van's top speed was probably a great deal less than mine and the acceleration of the police bike was in another league.

"Hello HJ N November 9; chasing northbound A24 Friend Provident; failed to stop; blue mini van (index whatever it was) with three on board."

All this has to be done with one hand on the handlebars, with wind whistling into the handset, making it difficult for the Control Room to understand. It was also nearly impossible to hear what was being transmitted to me from HJ over the speaker on the handlebars, because of the noise of the engine, the wind and the speed.

It was my job to give a commentary and for others to close in and help out where they could.

"A24 Burford Bridge; A24 Mickleham speed 65-70; straight across the roundabout towards Leatherhead; turning right; past the blind school; out on to the A24 without stopping; Knoll Roundabou t- wrong way; A24 towards Ashtead."

Towards me came a crime car. The crew gave a friendly wave and continued driving on towards Dorking! (They could have been on the other radio channel?)

Into Ashtead; the van slowed and turned left the wrong side of the bollards. I went on the correct side. The driver swung round and hit me. I fell off and the three men jumped from the van and ran away. I ran after them up Ashtead High Street and immediately caught one.

I gave him to one of a number of bus inspectors who were by a bus stop with a car, and they put him in the back and stood guard. I then went after another one and with indications from the public as to where he was hiding I grabbed him and took him into a shop.

"Dial 999 and call me some assistance."

"Sorry mate this is the only shop in Ashtead without a phone."

Pick him up, take him next door.

"Dial 999 and call me some assistance."

This time it worked. Out of the shop with a second prisoner to the bus inspectors! There were now two secured and one still missing and no assistance had yet arrived.

Now to search for the third who was found with information from local residents and handed to the inspectors. By the time the first police vehicle came to back me up all three were safely locked up in the back of a London Transport car and I was grinning. The men were in a stolen van and had been out breaking into houses. It is clear that in 1968 support was thin on the ground, and radios were not very good. Three arrests and no violence – that must be a difference.

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