Reigate in the early 1950s

1952: Ted Wild: I joined the Surrey Constabulary in 1952 and started off in Caterham on the beat cycling around the periphery. I had one button-up-to-the-neck tunic which we had to wear on nights and a lovely cape which when not worn could be folded and carried over the shoulder or across the handle bars of your bike.

My wife and I lived in a rented room in an old lady's house in Foxon Lane and my father-in-law PC Harry Maynard advised me to ask the old lady to give me written notice to quit. This I then submitted with 'I beg to report' report to my superintendant and very soon after I was allocated my first Police House in Meadvale, Reigate Division next door to PC Dougie Driver (a traffic man).

In Reigate we worked mainly the 6-2, 2-10 and 10-6 shifts and the town beat had to be covered 24/7. There was no going for a meal break unless you were relieved. The outer beats could be split times and something like 10 am to 2 pm followed by 10 pm to 2 am was not unusual.

Reigate town had a pillar system for communication and a police box in which you could sit in the Old Town Hall in the centre of town. Sunday evenings the traffic lights were switched off and police did traffic duty so as to promote the free flow of traffic returning from the coast into London.

On the outer beats we had to make points at intervals at selected places such as the Manor House or the Vicarage or any where there might be a telephone installed as that was how we were contacted. You might have the situation where the butler would come out and politely inform you were wanted on the phone; that was if you were not already in the kitchen having a cup of tea with the cook.

With regard to sport in those early days we had a Surrey Constabulary Life Saving Team of which I was a member. We trained rigorously under the eye of an inspector and competed in competitions against other forces. I well remember one competition involving Surrey, Sussex, Kent and others which took place in Dover Harbour and another in the Thames at Reading. Later when I was on Traffic at Burpham I played Cricket for HQ's with Ron Blason, Charlie Brunt, and Derek Tunn Clark etc.

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1953-1954: Ted Wild: I was stationed at Reigate and was in the same section with Reg (Nellie) Alway, (who gave him that nickname?). I remember the Sergeants Ken Atkinson, Tom Noon and Ja Ja Smith, then there was the infamous Inspector Thorpe and the much admired Chief Inspector Ernie Hall. There was just one vehicle for use by these officers, a Ford Popular and a motorcycle ridden by Freddie Gaze and the Brown Van. The rest of us were on foot or on our bikes which was why we received a boot and cycle allowance of a few pence a week.

I was in my first police house at Mead Vale next door to Dougie Driver who helped me in my efforts to learn to drive so that I could eventually join Traffic department at Burpham.

Memories of those days were visiting unoccupied houses and completing the station register before going off duty, then going home with a saddle bag full of apple or pears.

Then there was the speed trap which would appear hilarious by today's standards. It comprised of two officers in plain clothes complete with rolled up newspapers and stop watches and one uniformed man suitably hidden behind a bush. Of course we only operated in built up areas.

There are many more memories, that enormous switch board in the front office connected to all the police pillars throughout the old Borough of Redhill and Reigate, the old day books kept in the cupboard with the entries in beautiful copperplate writing, the closed neck tunics we wore at night and the whistles to summons assistance and the monthly divisional parades. Those were the days.

I may have used the wrong word in describing Inspector Thorp as infamous but it seemed to me at the time that he was out to give us 'County' probationers a tough time as more than once he threatened to have me on the train to Guildford on chief constable's report. Eventually he did report me for 'wearing socks other than black' when I turned up for duty in brown socks.

We still did point duty at Reigate cross roads on a Sunday evening when all the traffic was returning to London from Brighton during the early 50s until they made the Tunnel one way. It was Christmas Eve 1953 and I was on 2-10 town beat in Reigate. During the afternoon I had seen this luxury box of Christmas crackers in a shop window display, I had thought how nice they would look on my Christmas table and the shop owner told me that if they hadn't been sold by 5.30 when he closed I could have them a very reasonable price.

At just before 5.30 I was hovering outside the shop and collected my box of crackers. I was wearing my cape (a very useful garment) and was expecting to be relieved for a 'meal break' at 6 pm so with my crackers under my right arm and hidden by the cape I strode back to the centre of town but too late I saw coming towards me Inspector Thorpe.

Unable to salute him I had to endure a lengthy tirade about the saluting of senior officers whilst I desperately tried to shift the box round my back to the left arm so that my right arm would be free to salute him when he left. I'm happy to say I managed it, only God knows what would have happened if I had been found out. It was a fact that the Officers of the old Reigate Borough Force didn't think a great deal about us probationers from the County Constabulary.

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1955, 5 September: Bob Watford: I served in Surrey, starting as a cadet at HQ from Sept 5th 1955, (I was originally appointed by Sgt. 'Jock' Ball the recruiting sergeant and was on the first and only cadet course with Tony forward, Brian Hopkins, Peter Devereaux, Geoff Todd, Bob Sindon and several others from Reading Borough. and Berkshire) then into General Office with PCs Albert Tobin and Bob Cousins and Sergeant Chilmaid etc. I got to know Chief Constable Joe Simpson before he went to the Met as Commissioner, and was the first to meet the new chief, Herman Rutherford who arrived in his green Austin A 90, and showed him to his office.

Moved to Woodbridge Road (served with Fred Smith there as a cadet) and knew Bert Field quite well. When serving at Woodbridge Road police station with people like 'Tiny' Oliver - all 6' 6" plus of him, Sergeant Mick Fehan and many others.

Eventually starting as a PC in 1958 at Reigate old police station with many of the old borough men - legends such as Inspector Thorpe who greeted me on my first day with "It is my job to get you the sack"; and Fred Gaze (again not sure of the spelling) the 'strong man' who used to lift his triumph motorcycle around rather than turn it in the road! During the war the Canadian Military Police used to send him into the pubs to sort the fighting etc. and stand outside for Fred to throw them out.

Dennis Hughes was my first 'acting' sergeant. My second sergeant was Smith (can't recall his first name but think it was Bert.) He was 6' 6" tall and he put me out with Harry Cox the police shot put champion - all 6' 5" (across the shoulders too) and took delight in meeting us in the town and standing either side of me and talking over my head.

The Chief Inspector prosecuted all cases at the town hall court and we always gave evidence to get practice.

We still used the old borough pillars in the outer areas for communication and the light on top of the old town hall for town communication. Had to buy my first bike and take a bank loan to do so - cost about £30. No radios until a year or so later and then had two little grey things with small aerials, one set to receive and one to send.

I used to do traffic control for the people returning from Brighton on the old A217 going through Reigate Tunnel. Took my driving test with Ernie Oliver who's daughter (a WPC at Reigate) married Fred Gaze and produced him twins.

I was at Reigate when the first proforma process offence reports were introduced. I remember Thorpe sending me out to sort those parked without lights, etc. just before I was due to finish at 10 pm. I gave them all warnings to be then sent back by Thorpe to their houses in Reigate Heath etc. to report them at 11.30 pm (all journeys on my bike). I had to write the process books and hand them to Thorpe about midnight. He then ripped them up and binned them.

On my attachment to CID I had to undertake dusting for fingerprints at a 'housebreaking'. We had a list of unoccupied properties to visit during night duty. Went to my first post mortem at two weeks to find the scalp peeled back over the man's face on entry to the mortuary.

I frightened a drunk out of his skin at night time by walking out in front of him to check him. He sobered up quickly and ran off. I was in my cape and leggings, etc. The problem he had was it looked as if I had walked out of the undertakers shop which displayed tomb head stones and coffins.

Was 'told' to take time off by Sgt. 'Cracker' Atkinson (and owe the units for which I had none at the time) to go to the Redhill Hospital nurses dance to represent the Reigate Police and there met my wife to be - and still married!

Have many memories of my first eighteen months at Reigate and then posted to the Traffic Department at Burpham as a motor cyclist with 'Bomber' Brown. (It was unheard of in those days to still be a probationer and in traffic dept.) Moved to Godstone as car driver and motorcyclist and then onto CID as learner twice before going to Egham on CID (and under Jacko as the Chief Inspector) before being promoted to uniform sergeant at Oxted. Then for my sins into training at Sandgate, etc.

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