Urgent Messages

1960s: Urgent messages: When on patrol, in those cars or on motor-cycles fitted with radio, or even when working in the Station Office, attention was attracted to the radio operator when the call "All Stations, All Stations, standby for a message" came across the air.

The station officer would record the message for briefing or telling staff at their next telephone point; the observer if there was one on the car would write the message in the wireless log; and the motor-cyclist, often too wet or cold to write anything did his best to remember.

More immediate for the mobile officers were Attention Drawn messages. "HJ, HJ Attention Drawn. Attention is drawn to a black Ford Popular last seen A24 south. Made off without paying for petrol at Givons Grove - anyone for my last: J35, J35 your location?"

Really serious stuff from anywhere in the country came via an Express Message sent originally over the radio but the teleprinter was used where possible and mobile patrols were instructed to go to their nearest police station to read the message.

A further transmission of serious information mostly for wanted people was an All Ports warning that went not just to ports but to every station.

The station officer in most police stations had a problem with the teleprinter. The offices were often small and the teleprinter very noisy and the Holy Grail was some form of box on the top to suppress the noise but allow access. The station officer was normally an officer of great experience able to resolve many problems from the public at the front counter or on the phone sending a patrol if necessary.

The sending of a patrol was not always immediate as before the personal radio it could be an hour before any contact could be made with a beat officer, and the distance in many parts of the county was too great. The message was therefore sent to the area car/ crime car by using the main scheme on talk through. So, Dorking would call Delta Yankee talk through with J35. Control would call J35 and the message was passed directly from the station officer to the crew.

This process could be used in reverse but be careful - the Control Room inspector was listening and woe betide you if the message was inappropriate. The Control Room was not supposed to tout for a car or motor bike by calling until they found one free close to the incident. Theoretically all vehicles were available unless control was informed they were committed.

The right system was for the Control Room to receive 999 call and then "J35, J35, High Street Dorking, Road Traffic Accident, ambulance attending J35." The response, more in theory than practice: "J35 A24 Dorking. Roger. J35".

By this time the old cable and plug switchboard nightmare for cadets had been replaced with one that showed a light when a call came in and was fairly straight forward to operate. It was not unusual in the smaller stations for the station officer to man the office, answer the phone, deal with callers, main scheme and then local radio and act a gaoler. These were not jobs for the feint hearted.

There was of course the way to send an urgent radio message – "Priority, Priority J35" in one infamous case to be answered by Control: "Vehicle with priority wait; go ahead J97!"

Return to main text


Surrey Constabulary badge