Woking in the 1960s

1960s, early: Policing at Woking: Richard Bond: After Initial Training (at Bridgend, South Wales) I was stationed at Woking Police Station, Heathside Road. I arrived there in September 1962 and was accommodated in a room in the Section House which had just been renovated and re-opened.

Already there were Jim Rankin, Jock Stark, Norman Henderson, John Bartlett, and three or four others who I cannot remember the names of. The sergeants in charge of my section were Ron Bryant and Harry Lee.

The first operation was to be taken to the local cycle dealer, to buy a bicycle, I cannot remember the price, but it was probably about a week's wages (about £10). My choice was a second hand orange and white 'Palm Beach' the colour was not approved of and I often wished I had bought a better one but the bike lasted me about six years; I did go through several sets of tyres and brake blocks.

Woking Town Section, geographically, was the town centre which was divided into two beats by Church Path: the Eastern beat (Beat 1) went way down Walton Road and over to the Basingstoke canal. This was the most popular beat to work because it was busier, the bigger shops and Woking Victoria Hospital, the Odeon and Ritz cinema, The Red House Pub and The Albion Hotel, opposite the railway station, derelict and about to be pulled down, were all there.

The Western beat went down as far as The Triangle, Goldsworth Road covering the infamous Atalanta Ballroom owned by Bob Potter, and the large central car park where I once saw a youth turn a bubble car over.

Historically, Woking owed its existence to the railway and was divided by it. To get into the commercial area, on foot from the Police Station you had to walk under Victoria Arch or go to the station and use the foot tunnel (or even the footbridge in the station if you felt like checking the platforms and waiting rooms). South of the town were Old Woking, Kingfield, Westfield and Mayford as 1 Beat, Maybury, The Hockering and part of Pyrford as the other.

Generally, on one shift a cycle patrol would cover 1 Beat before meal break and the other, on the same side of the railway line after meal break. It was the same with the Northern Beats, Horsell and Sheerwater, which went up the A320 as far as The Bleak. I once drove round a typical cycle beat in a car and noted the mileage, in an eight hour shift; it was about 35 miles.

During the day we had a list of unoccupied houses to visit and stolen cycles and cars to look out for. Shift system was 6-2, 2-10, 10-6 night and 10-6 day and 4-midnight and 6-2 late which were normally worked on Friday and Saturday.

There were, of course, no personal radios or mobile phones so that we walked or cycled between telephone kiosks and waited for a telephone call or a visit from the Sergeant. 'Book me five'. Sometimes he would just drive past and put five fingers (at least I think it was five!) up without stopping. I say he, because there were no female sergeants at Woking at that time. WPCs worked sociable hours, never nights and had their own office.

Occasionally while you stood at a kiosk somebody would come out of a nearby house with a cup of tea, I even used to get one regularly at 5 am in Woodham.

The only way of contacting the Police Station yourself was by dialling 999 (emergency only) or paying for your phone call, then explaining why you had spent sixpence or whatever it was afterwards. The easiest way was to go to a house or shop and cadge a phone call. Reversed charge phone calls were unacceptable.

During weekday, and even Saturday evenings, we were out serving summonses and executing warrants. If we were a few miles from the police station we had to call up for a car if we arrested somebody; sometimes we had to use the subject's own telephone or walk them to the nearest telephone kiosk.

There were also enquiries to be made for other forces, on one occasion I had a firearm enquiry for a Scottish force and, then nobody realised that the interview had to be made by two officers to be admissible. (Preventing a possible enjoyable visit to a court north of the border.)

When Woking Magistrates Court was in session there was a good chance that you might have to take a prisoner up the 'smoke' [London] in that case overtime was guaranteed if you were on an early shift. I remember taking the same prisoner to Brixton, then Pentonville, then Wandsworth, then back to Brixton because of a mix-up in the paperwork.

The different beats were all set out in a Beat Book, which you needed to carry all the time. I think there were about thirty different beats, and they were varied so that our routes were not predictable. Visits to kiosks which all had reference numbers (K1, K2, K3 etc.) had to be staggered and most of the meal breaks which were taken at the police station had to be staggered also.

There was one beat, at night, which I didn't like because you spent nearly four hours in Horsell, which was a very quiet residential area before meal break and then had to get down to Sheerwater and Woodham and back to the police station in the three and a quarter hours left. The last point was at the far end of Woodham Lane. On the way out through town after the break you just hoped that there might be a burglar alarm going off or some other good reason to rescue you.

Every night, on weekdays one of the town PCs had to go straight to Woking railway station, while the section were at briefing, at ten o'clock because the mail train came in on its way west. Again at three o'clock when it came back towards London; normally the sergeant was there for the second visit. We had to be there because there was a lot of money carried on board.

In the summer of 1963 we were instructed to put more security on because there was a rumour that it might be raided. In fact it was another mail train, from Glasgow to London, in Buckinghamshire on the 8th August 1963 that was stopped and involved in Britain's biggest (at the time) and best known robbery.

1962: First arrest: Richard Bond: On a Sunday afternoon in about November 1962 I was making a point at the telephone kiosk at the corner of Well Lane and St Mary's Road Horsell, a council estate when two men pulled up in a big car.

One was a man called Slocock who owned the whole of the land, Slocock's Nurseries, which extended to St. Johns, where Goldsworth Park would later be built. He said he and the other man had come across two poachers with a shotgun on his land. When Slocock had challenged them, one, later found to be Paul Rideout, had discharged the gun in their direction, the shot had gone into the ground at their side.

Mr. Slocock told me that he had given a postman permission to shoot on his land and that he lived in a house on the opposite side of St. Mary's Road from where I was standing. The postman was in and he said that he knew that the youth, who lived opposite him, went poaching on the land.

So I had been standing at the kiosk virtually outside Rideout's parents House without realising what had happened a few minutes before. He must have come home just before I arrived or gone through the back garden. I knocked on the door and when Rideout came to the door he was stripped to the waist as he was washing himself.

Slocock and the other man said "That's him". The shotgun was standing in the corner of the hall. So he was arrested. The other youth who lived further down the road was arrested later. Easy! Unfortunately they were charged with the wrong offences and eventually got away with it.

In the early 1960s Woking's most notorious burglar lived in Rydens Way, Old Woking. I cannot remember his name. I spent several dark evenings in plain clothes with a CID officer in unmarked beige Morris Minor parked on the wide grass central road divider, watching the front of his house; we stood out like a sore thumb. While we were parked there he was still carrying out burglaries and I could never understand why we didn't put someone to watch his back door.

Several years later (1967) I was temporary divisional mechanic. The garage was next to Woking Registry office; I used to see a lot of wedding parties coming in and out, including Sarah Miles and Robert Bolt. One day somebody popped their head over the wall and I was asked if I could be a witness to a wedding, as there was nobody else available.

When I went into the room, it was Woking's most notorious burglar, the same one I had been doing observation on, years earlier and, after the 'service', he had to give me the statutory witness's ten shilling fee.

1963, Winter: Richard Bond: This was the coldest winter since 1740. The winter of 1947 had seen more snow but the temperatures in 1963 were consistently below freezing through January and February.

During the coldest and snowiest week, our section was on nights. The station officer was alright, he was in the warm for eight hours, all the others, apart from J40 the crime car, had to work outside, on foot in the cold. We would discuss ways of keeping warm, especially the feet.

Somebody came up with the bright idea of putting aluminium foil inside the boots, this didn't work and I remember some of us sitting in the mess room at meal break stripping the foil off our damp socks. Some people wore ladies tights but I usually had pyjama trousers on under my uniform tucked into my socks. Some really cold nights I went out wearing my greatcoat and fleece lining and with my cape over the top, which was unconventional but nobody seemed to complain.

There was a garage in Church Street, behind the ABC or Ritz cinema as it was then called, which had a thermometer on the wall, one night it read nine degrees F.

One particular nightshift, I think it was a Saturday night, I was on the Beat which went Mayford - Kingfield - Old Woking before meal break. We could not use cycles because it was snowing so hard, so I was allowed to make a point at Egley Road, on the A320 instead of Mayford Green then walk through to Westfield and Kingfield Parade, which gave some shelter and Old Woking High Street.

After meal break I remember going to Old Woking, walking along the road at Hoe Bridge where the flat fields on one side go all the way to the village of Send and large snow flakes were blowing horizontally and there was no shelter from the wind. The snow was about a foot deep, drifting to three or four feet in places. I then walked up the hill into Maybury I don't remember seeing any traffic at all and anybody who had any sense stayed indoors.

I couldn't really see the point in sending foot patrols out in that weather.

Working in Woking Town Centre: Richard Bond: In the very early sixties there were no traffic wardens, so part of the time during the day was spent keeping traffic moving, dealing with vans and trucks delivering and giving directions. There was no real pressure to report people, no tickets on windscreens, no clamping. Process usually was given out for offence such as failing to stop at traffic lights, parking on pedestrian crossings, driving the wrong way in one way streets, that sort of thing.

Arrests during the day were quite infrequent, we occasionally went to cases of shoplifting but usually a car was sent straight to the shop. On Friday evenings there was a savings club called the Tontine in a little hall in Church Street, there was a lot of money being paid in and out and as a precaution, the officer on Beat 2 was instructed to go and sit in the hall.

At night, at weekends there would often be a minor disturbance near or around the Atalanta or Red House. Any person moving after 2 am was normally a burglar!

On any normal night, after the pubs had turned out we would go round all the shops and property in the town centre checking the doors and windows, front and rear. Part of the duty was spent standing in shop doorways watching out for anybody moving, the street lights went out at 1 am except on road junctions.

With this in mind, nobody could understand why the black helmet plates were replaced with chrome plated ones in about 1965. There were no CCTV cameras then.

At that time there was Jimmy O' Connor, nearly every Woking probationer's first arrest. He was a red headed cider drinking vagrant, normally with a bicycle, often to be found drunk and incapable in the bus shelters in Commercial Road. I once found him drunk during the day completely entangled in his bicycle in Chertsey Street with the traffic going both sides of him. He always tried to get arrested just before Christmas so that he could spend the festive season inside.

One year all the sections agreed not to arrest him unless absolutely necessary; we would walk past him in his usual bus shelter even if he was shouting and swearing at everybody and at us. Boy did he get mad.

In Chobham Road there was a large ironmonger's shop (Skeet & Jeffes) with several doorways, in one of them, there was a small triangular space or ledge where you could sit at night, observing the street in both directions in the reflection of the shop windows, therefore you could never get caught by the sergeant sitting down, unless you fell asleep!

In the alleyway behind the Red House there were two high window ledges, there often was a bottle of ale left there at night. Likewise, the Railwayman's Club in Goldsworth Road, next to the bus garage where the steward 'Mac.' would often make you welcome in his office, long after the bar closed.

I used to have two torches, one, a small chrome plated one I could carry in my trouser pocket on nights in summer and a larger Ever Ready rubber torch for winter and cycle patrols. Handcuffs were always carried, but they were not at that time always used to restrain people.

In July 1969 Inspector Jim Platt–Higgins brought a portable TV into the front office and those on meal break watched the first Moon Landing live. I was station officer that night and I remember that Fred Drakely the Sergeant was not amused.

This has been an attempt to give some sort of impression of some of my experiences of divisional policing at that time "in the good old days".

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