Fred Booker's experiences of Policing Surrey in the late 50s

1950s: Policing Surrey in the late 1950s: Fred Booker: From October 1954 I was stationed at Godalming and worked the town area as a police constable. I lived in a police house just outside the town and I was recognised by local people as a police officer when I was off duty. I performed on cycle beats and town patrols on foot. We did not parade for duty at the police station; we started patrol from telephone kiosks or went directly to a point of duty. There was always a patrol sergeant on duty but not necessarily an Inspector, who could be called from his home.

As Godalming was a divisional headquarters, there were a number of civilian staff present; a typist and clerk to back up the DO sergeant and PC, and a typist for the CID DI and DS. Two cadets were on station, plus a civilian cleaner/ handyman and a police constable working as a divisional mechanic/van driver. The CID had a Morris Minor car; there was a brown van on station and the patrol inspector had a car. We had two motor cyclists (non-radio).

Town duty during 9 am to 5 pm was taken up almost entirely by traffic duties, with two PCs working with traffic sleeves in the High Street from the Post Office in the west to the car park in the east, mainly because of unloading goods vehicles parked outside shops that could quickly stop all traffic. Unauthorised parking by cars did not assist and needed to be dealt with by process or warnings by a superintendent's letter. From 2 pm one PC could be left to cover town duty at the discretion of the patrol sergeant.

At night the town PC, working the usual 10 pm to 6 am shift, was responsible for the security of all shop premises, front and back where possible, before midnight. Further checks were made during the night and suspicious car's numbers recorded and persons stopped, checked.

The way daily duties were carried out had not changed since I joined the Force in 1952. The same systems were being worked in all towns, Godalming was my third, and on the cycle beats.

As a probationer I well remember turning up for duty as town PC at the busy A25/A23. Redhill town cross roads at 2 pm one day. The traffic lights were out and I was thrown a pair of sleeves by the PC I was relieving with a "Good luck" as he grabbed his bike and made for home. It was lonely out there in the middle of turning buses and the many cyclists of those days.

Police constables on cycle beats during daylight hours were fully employed on their shifts, visiting recorded unoccupied houses, dealing with recent crimes or sudden deaths, delivering death messages, as Disease of Animals Inspector (after two years service) checking stockholders registers, visiting fairs and markets etc., making investigations for other forces, carrying out alien checks and enquiries for divisional office, dealing with road traffic accidents (RTA), taking statements; directing traffic at busy country road junctions on summer Sundays, escorting prisoners to prison from local courts in the brown van, making conference points at arranged buildings or telephone kiosks and assisting people with all manner of problems such as being locked out of their homes or cars.

At night you would be expected to record passing vehicles after 10pm, or earlier if required in house breaking areas, report vehicles parked without lights and trace drivers at the time where possible, check security of business properties when passing in outlying areas, record where traffic and main street lights are out (for local authority's information) and log where speed limit signs are being obstructed from view by shrubs and trees thus affecting Process; assist patrol sergeant with public house visits, dances, etc., and you may be given observation duties at static points for lead thieves, housebreakers or persons stealing from clotheslines (snow-dropping). All overtime was repaid by time off in lieu although attending a race day on a rest day was paid.

To become a dog handler in the force you needed to have completed five years service and be crime minded. I was walking and training a force police dog throughout 1957 in addition to normal patrol duties. I became a fully operational dog handler from 23 December 1957 working from Godalming and was responsible for the Godalming Division.

I was not a qualified driver at that time and, as there were no area cars on the division, it became necessary for the duty patrol sergeant at Godalming to use the inspectors car to transport me and my dog to scenes of crime at night and pick me up from home if I was off duty at the time.

I passed the driving test and qualified to drive police vehicles on 24 February 1958 and when area wireless cars appeared on the division about April 1958, (J46) Godalming and (J47) Haslemere, I often crewed J46 on late shifts, 6 pm to 2 am, with the patrol sergeant and the dog. I was allowed 1 hour each day for feeding, grooming and exercising the dog so performed an operational seven hours duty instead of eight.

Although covering the division for dog requirements I still operated on normal duties when the dog was not required to work, like traffic duties some mornings when needed or early turn station duty and normal enquiries etc. I worked split shifts on some days when a four hour dog training period was imposed i.e. 10 am to 1 pm town, 2 pm to 6 pm, training ; 6 am to 9 am Station Duty, 2 pm to 6 pm training ; 9 am to 1 pm training, 10 pm to 2 am Area car.

Observation duties in plain clothes with the dog for lead thieves, housebreakers and snow-dropping had become common place for me on foot at night and on 24 April 1959 with seven years service I was given a black Ford Popular van for transport (dog van). It was not fitted with a force radio but was garaged four hundred yards from my police house making me quite independent for transport although I still worked as crew on J46 from time to time at night to ensure radio contact with the control room.

On 24 July 1960 my van was replaced by a Commer van fitted with two dog compartments and an up-to-date force radio (J7). My operational duties changed, because HQ had control of my movements, I could be directed off division to where I was needed and of course we reached incidents quicker giving criminals less time to leave the area.

From 3 October 1960 to 10April 1961 I was attached to Godalming CID under DI Cornish and DS Aggar on something similar to a learner course plus dog work and on completion I was asked if I would like to transfer to CID but I decided to stay with dogs.

Overtime could never be repaid by Time Off in Lieu on the Dog Section because we were doing so much overtime on call outs after normal duties had been completed. We later agreed a Dog Handlers Allowance, similar to the CID allowance, to cover our problem and it worked. It was later scrapped when they decided to pay overtime.

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