Emergency deployment to Stonehenge 1988

1988, June: PSU emergency deployment to assist Wiltshire at Stonehenge: There was serious trouble in Wiltshire on Salisbury Plain where the Druids were trying to celebrate midsummer, and thousands of hippies and travellers had turned up. The local police had lost control and were calling for urgent assistance from every Force south of the Wash. It was the 21 June 1988, and the Assistant Chief Constable had authorised the deployment of five PSUs.

Operations Department's job was to mobilise the officers, the vehicles and equipment, along with food and drink to leave at the given time. Operations had developed a means of managing emergency call out. This would entail using any member of staff who was available and giving specific responsibilities. Fred might be responsible for gathering the people; George the vehicles; Alan the catering; Simon the radios and other specialist kit. Each would go of and do their thing and I would stay in the centre to resolve queries. We would as a team, gather about every thirty minutes or an hour for a few minutes to ensure co-ordination of effort. It worked well and was an efficient and effective means of quickly putting together an emergency operation.

Surrey PSU on its way to Stonehenge

Surrey PSU on its way
to Stonehenge

The units from across the county were to gather in Cedar Bar on the first floor at Mount Browne for a briefing, and then they were to make all haste towards the setting sun and the ancient stones on the edge of the Salisbury Plain. The deployment would consist of sixteen vehicles, motorcycle outriders to keep the convoy together, and at the front would be the commander's carrier, with spare equipment, food, extra radios, etc.

One of Operation's recent initiative had been this spare carrier loaded with additional equipment, food and drink. So often it is not possible to ensure that operational feeding is effective. The men were always happy to know that no matter how long we worked and how far we went there was always food and drink available; and under our control.

Wiltshire Police were in real trouble. Mobilised assistance from a large number of Forces was beginning to pour into the scene. There had been no designated rendezvous points or marshalling areas, just straight to the scene off the A303. It was that bad. Local Traffic motorcycles had met Surrey on the Countess Roundabout about two miles from the action and led them straight to the scene, where they were to be deployed in the line immediately.

It was a warm and dry evening and this ancient landscape was covered in police vehicles and demonstrators. Surrey was not the first of the reinforcements to arrive, but many more were to follow. They arrived to the west of the Stones to be met by a very harassed chief inspector, given a quick brief, and then deployed. Firstly the instruction was to stand with our backs to a wire fence with the unruly hippies to the front of us.

On arriving at our allocated sector Surrey refused to do as bid, the superintendent insisting that officers be stationed with the fence between them and the crowd. Seems a bit obvious! There was so much going on that no one had the inclination to argue. Things deteriorated quickly without Surrey doing anything. There was a great deal of abuse from the crowd and movement in the area of the Heel Stone about one hundred yards to their left.

Barriers being hurled at police

Barriers being hurled at police

The Heel Stone is a large isolated standing stone alongside the road and a short distance away from the main monument although a part of ancient site. Here there were crowd control barriers but they had not been secured properly, and they were soon torn apart and being used to drive the police back. The barriers were being held by the crowd and used to strike at the police, as stones and other debris were flying. None of the officers had protective clothing on. Very soon someone was going to get hurt.

It was going very wrong, and it was obvious that there was eventually to be a major thrust by the crowd to get at the Stones. Superintendent Bartlett found someone who seemed to be in charge and sought permission to let Surrey officers get their protective kit on, (riot helmets, overalls and leg and arm guards, with the short and long shields) but no one would make a decision. He therefore took the initiative and instructed the Surrey units to kit up two PSUs at a time, ensuring that their part of the line continued to be covered.

Officers deployed at Stonehenge

Officers deployed at Stonehenge

In addition to pushing and shoving, stones and bottles were being thrown at the police who were trying to stop an invasion of the area and on into the Stones. The Metropolitan Police were there with Wiltshire. The Chief Constable was in the thick of it in civilian clothes, and Surrey asked permission to form a wedge and break through the crowd and disperse them. This was reluctantly accepted, but not until after the helicopter had given warnings for the crowd to disperse.

The helicopter came over using sky-shout but the warning was unintelligible because of the roar of its engine and the noise from the crowd. The Chief Constable Donald Smith therefore wanted it to go around again.

Surrey Officers in the centre with West Mercia on the right for briefing before a baton charge

Surrey Officers in the centre
with West Mercia on the right
for briefing before a baton charge

Meanwhile Superintendent Bartlett had met up with an inspector from West Mercia who he knew through regional police support unit training in the Midlands and they began to pull a plan together. A V-wedge was formed. Surrey were on the right and West Mercia on the left with an infilling of five MOD police PSUs. Whilst waiting for the helicopter to do its bit, the superintendent walked up and down the Surrey officers warning them that if they used their truncheons they should aim at arms and legs and not heads. They would smile back with a most unreassuringly "Of course Guv. Don't worry Guv". He was reminded of the Duke of Wellington who said of his soldiers "I do not know what they do to the enemy but by God they frighten me".

Batton charge led by Surrey and West Mercia by the Heel Stone

Batton charge led by Surrey
and West Mercia by the
Heel Stone

The remainder of the fencing keeping back the crowd was removed by a number of police officers and the instruction was given and out the PSUs went cutting through the hippies like a hot knife through butter. Very disciplined and with Surrey turning right and West Mercia left. Superintendent Bartlett gained a four to six inch blade sheaf knife that came at him from the crowd.

Senior officers did not have protective clothing or helmet on. In those days it would not do for the boss to be kitted up as it was thought to show a lack of confidence i.e. if the boss believes he could get hurt, the thing has really gone to the rats.

Having made the initial dash encouraging the demonstrators to break and run, with the assistance of units from other Forces the crowd were pushed back for several miles to the east. Surrey worked with the Metropolitan Police and Dorset. (The Metropolitan Police inspector was a woman, which was quite revolutionary in those days.) Surrey went as far as the Countess Roundabout on the A303.

There they stopped and waited for instructions and vehicles driven by Traffic officers to catch up. Some of the crowd went into Amesbury but many continued on up the A303 towards a major campsite. After sunrise, police mounted their vehicles and went to the campsite in a wood at Cholderton where about two thousand of the hippies had been living in their vehicles. This was about five miles from the Stones.

Local officers entered the site and told the "campers" they would have to move within the hour or they would be moved. There was a history of the "Battle of the Beanfield" a few years before where local police had moved travellers from a site when it all got out of hand. (Later to be investigated by Chief Superintendent Peter Stevens of Surrey Constabulary.) That event however sent the message that if the police said they would be moved they would be and the demonstrators were well aware of the numbers of police now deployed.

They packed up and were allowed to leave the site in small packets of vehicles. Surrey supervised the departure. Or at least some did as others caught up with lost sleep. The Surrey units drove tired but pleased with the outcome to Devizes where they had breakfast at the Wiltshire Police HQ before travelling home, arriving about noon.

The Independent on the 22 June reported that there were over one thousand police from twelve Forces involved. The confrontation at Stonehenge began when some of the five thousand hippies present attacked the policemen who had surrounded the monument. There were eighty five arrests, twenty later released without charge. Nine people were injured seven police and two hippies. It all cost £800,000 for the one thousand three hundred officers who were finally involved.

Return to main text


1989, June 21: PSU deployed to Stonehenge Wiltshire on a pre planned operation: On the 21st June 1989, Surrey was back in Wiltshire. This year eight hundred officers from eleven Forces were involved. Superintendent Robert Bartlett with Chief Inspector Robbie Chapman, along with representatives of the other Forces involved, attended Devizes for planning meetings and a briefing.

Surrey support units on their way to Wiltshire

Surrey support units on their
way to Wiltshire

On the night the five Surrey PSUs met at Mount Browne where a detailed briefing was given before travelling in convoy to Wiltshire. This year it would be well planned and there would be no confusion. On arrival Surrey were fed and briefed both badly, at an army camp Larkhill on Salisbury Plain. Operations Department insisted that PSUs carry a supply of food and drink including hot water for just this possibility.

Immediately after the briefing officers mounted up and Surrey booked on with Control they were immediately despatched to the Countess Roundabout on the A303, following a report of trouble in Amesbury. This was a completely different deployment to that for which we had just been briefed. "Are you sure this is what you want us to do"? "Yes, go to the Countess Roundabout". It was all beginning to go wrong.

Members of the Surrey PSU


Rear: Phil Taylor, Chris Baker, Kevin Simpkins, Johnny Johncox, Mark Griffiths, Lucy Lees, Chris Shead. Front Row L to R: Ian Rees, Spick Galiano, Mick Selcon, Me (Tom Burrell), Stewart Wilcox.

Surrey moved off in convoy of sixteen vehicles, which included the superintendent's command post Mercedes. This large carrier was used to carry the reserve equipment and extra food supplies, additional to all the kit and food carried in the third vehicle of every PSU. On arrival at the roundabout Surrey stopped in line and in accordance with practice the superintendent was the only one to dismount and a Wiltshire officer, a Superintendent gave some tasks, which immediately began to fall apart.

The Wiltshire Superintendent was invited into the command post carrier to work out a cunning plan. He was somewhat bemused at the luxury of Surrey's arrangements. The Mercedes was a most unusual PSU carrier at this time. It was large, spacious, had tables and airline style seats.

Sergeant Jock Stanyard offering him a drink reinforced the superintendent's bemusement; "What do you have?" he asked "Tea, coffee, chocolate, coke, orange, lemonade?" "I'll have an orange". "Would you like a sandwich"? The superintendent had another difficult decision to make when offered a range of sandwiches, settling for prawn and salad. That is the problem about being a superintendent. It is all decisions.

Superintendent Bartlett at the Stones

Superintendent Bartlett at
the Stones

Surrey and Wiltshire sat at a table in the carrier with the map and worked out how we would clear the troublemakers out from Amesbury. The plan was to push them on through the village and cordon behind. Not rocket science. Having put the plan into effect, the lads moved gently and purposely on foot with their vehicles following on behind.

Surrey passed the crossroads in the centre of the village to be met by a Wiltshire Superintendent in a Range Rover, pushing them back the other way. That summed up the night. With a year to get organised it was worse than when they had made it up as they went the year before.

Again we ended up near the Stones and during the night over two hundred and sixty one people were arrested. The only real highlight was to watch the Gwent Police deal with the press in a very forceful manner, and one of our lads going down to the river for a pee and falling in. He did not get much sympathy. All in all it was an enjoyable interlude with plenty of overtime for the lads.

a contemporary cartoon from one of the national newspapers


A contemporary cartoon from one of the national newspapers.


Return to main text


1990, June: One hundred and thirty Police Support Unit officers were deployed to Wiltshire for two days to assist in the policing of the Summer Solstice.310

Stonehenge: Surrey was to return to Stonehenge again in 1990 with six PSU. By now the exclusion zones had been established, ensuring that the potential troublemakers were kept well back from the Stones. This was an uneventful deployment, and was to prove the last although the trouble was to continue on a lesser scale for some years.

Barry Gray (Police Support Unit Inspector): 311

The Druids had been famously holding a ceremony at Stonehenge at sunrise on the morning of the Summer Solstice. From the 70s onwards, (I am guessing) they were joined by a growing crowd of hippies, new-age travellers, the great unwashed, - or whatever they were currently called. Unfortunately, some of these were less respectful of this ancient site than the Druids, and their celebrations began to regularly include graffiti and other damage to the Stones.

There came a time when the authorities decided it would be better to preserve the site, by fencing it off to all visitors, and keeping them at viewing distance only. By this time, the annual revellers had apparently collectively decided that it was their right to do as they pleased.

This was the first year that I had attended but, during the previous year's event, Surrey colleagues had described how the missiles had rained down on them, as the protesters had attempted to force their way through. We were luckier on this occasion.

The authorities had successfully applied for a two-mile exclusion order against anyone having no good reason to go near the site, lasting for 24hrs. Sadly for them, this exclusion also applied to the Druids – a benign group who suffered for the actions of those others, who had tried to get on a bandwagon and take over the reins.

This particular year, the operation was a resounding success, although it took a huge amount of resources to police such a vast area. I remember thinking what a privilege it was to be beside Stonehenge as the sun rose mistily that morning, and what an irony it was that we were there to prevent others from witnessing the event.

Of course, it didn't fail to cross my mind that the privilege had the added benefit of overtime and allowances thrown in – I think Inspectors still qualified for overtime in those days. What a mercenary lot the Federated ranks were in those days!

Police Support Unit from Reigate

Reigate Police Support Unit:

Left to right: Barry Scholefield, Nick Boorman, Martin Ward, John Thompson, Tony Richardson, Mick May, John Merry, Barry Gray, Steve Scholey, Eric Thomas, Gary Eiffert, Iain Campbell, Nick Paneth.

Return to main text

310 Annual Report 1990.

311 Email March 2010.


Surrey Constabulary badge