I often describe myself as slightly paranoid, which then seems to make others think I have some sort of philological issues. I don’t believe I am being “watched” for example. That would, in my opinion, suggest that I hold some degree of celebrity in my mind; this would also, if it were the case, indicate that I think that I am somehow a fellow of above average interest to others. I must admit that if I were any less interesting people would fall asleep during a hand shake with me. Perhaps what I should say is that I strive to be more careful than average when it comes to making purchases and in believing everything I am told. Purchases such as left-handed baseball bats and non-flammable candles may be easy enough to avoid. However I have lost count of all of the collectables I have purchased and then a few days later wondered how I could have made such unwise choices. A few examples of what I allude to are, prices being far too high or items that really didn’t fit into my collecting themes.
The problem of knowing when you are being told something other than the truth can at times be difficult. There are some physical signs which must not be taken on individual basis, such as someone rubbing their nose or excessive blinking of the eyes. These so-called signs, on their own, can be explained away as having nothing to do with attempted deceit. Collectively such signs, along with other indications may be used, in law enforcement as an example, to accept the statement or doubt what you are being told.
The most difficult “stories” to determine their truthfulness is when the person telling the story actually believes it to be the truth. This and the manner in which the story is delivered and the interpretation of what has been said may end in one doubting the story as being the truth. Two examples come to mind. If you hear someone say that smoking can be bad for you and you need to take measures to avoid smoking, you may think of someone inhaling smoke from a cigarette, which fits the caution; or something else. If you are standing too close to your BBQ and your clothing is starting to smoke then surely you need to take measures (stepping back) to avoid bursting into flames. My second, and last example, comes from the television comedy, Saturday Night Live (SNL) that first appeared in 1975 which is famous for their rather juvenile humour appealing to the adolescent mind. I became rather old and stuffy about 40 years ago and therefore stopped watching SNL. One of the sketches involved a group of people telling an individual on a beach that “You can’t look at the sun too long”. Most of us would take this as a warning and realize staring at the sun could be detrimental to your vision and not misinterpret this as you can’t get over the majesty of the sun, for example. Of course the poor fellow being advised took the first interpretation with disastrous results.
No, my retelling of this story is not very funny however, as has been said, “You had to be there to see it”.
One of the stories that has floated around guns shows and places where people interested in military history gather, at least here in Canada, is the topic of this blog. Yes, I know it has taken me a long time to get to the point...as usual. Why say something in a couple of dozen words when a plethora of paragraphs can achieve the same results? That’s a rhetorical question of course.
The story is that one can turn an FN FAL C1,or C1A1, rifle from a semi-automatic to a full automatic weapon by inserting a piece of match book in the correct place in the internal workings. This I have always held as being complete garbage. Any of those reading this who have served in the Canadian Armed Forces in the past and used the FN FAL C1 and the FN C2 please hold off on your hate mail until the end of this blog.
The Canadians used the FN FAL C1, a semi-automatic battle rife with the 7.62X51mm NATO round from 1953, being the first to officially adopt the FN FAL, until 1984 when it was replaced by the 5.56x45mm NATO C7 rifle and the C8 carbine both based on the American US AR-15. The British and Commonwealth Nations used the same rifle as Canada but called it the L1A1. I have read that the rifle was commonly known as the FAL however in my area of Ontario at least, we refer to it as simply the “FN”.
Here’s where the claim of using the FN C1, inserting a piece of match book to turn it into an automatic weapon, becomes argument. In each case where this has come up in the past I have tried to delve more deeply into this claim by asking if the service person is saying that with the insertion of a matchbook into the FN C1 they have changed it from a battle rifle (semi-automatic) into an assault rifle (full auto). Without exception the answer is “yes”. The problem in my mind, I have just recently discovered, is not whether you can modify an FN C1 with a foreign object to malfunction and discharge the weapon in rapid succession but have you actually “changed” this battle rifle into an assault rifle. A basic definition of an assault rifle is that it is a carbine sized firearm using a large capacity magazine capable of sustained full automatic fire. The FN FAL, even fitted with a large capacity magazine, falls short of being an assault rifle on two of the most important requirements that I have stated, even with the matchbook modification.
To all of the servicemen in my past who have engaged me in this argument, and there have been quite a few, I apologize. You are correct in that you can make an FN FAL C1 malfunction to fire several rounds in rapid, automatic-like, succession. On the other hand I would offer the suggestion that this could be done with almost any semi-automatic rifle.
On the other hand (you knew there would be an “on the other hand”) to all servicemen in my past who have engaged me in argument you failed miserably in qualifying your claim fully. You did not, I must repeat, did not, change this battle rifle into an assault rifle, and especially to one fellow who claimed to have changed the FN FAL C1 into the C2A1, the squad automatic weapon (SAW), as the C2 has a much more robust barrel to withstand the heat generated by sustained rapid fire. Some of our members might note that they have seen an FN FAL C1 with a selective fire option and you would be correct. There were some FN FAL C1 rifles fitted with the selective fire option and used only by the Royal Canadian Navy to give boarding parties the option of a full automatic weapon without the weight of the C2A1.
In past blogs I have managed to attempt to prove and at times disprove some claims. I’ve disproved some claims about the Battle of Crecy and the crossbow. We then proved the capabilities of the crossbow in experiments that were undertaken with minor casualties. These experiments also brought to light that during an apology for a range mishap the suggestion that, “It is only a cat”, is best left unsaid.
I think we successively supported claims regarding the possibility of an accidental discharge of the STEN gun. Now we have supported the claim that the FN FAL C1 can be made to fire with the insertion of a foreign object; yet without actually fully admitting that I was wrong.
It’s a win, win situation!
I will continue with my version of paranoia and look for myths that I can prove or disprove, while being on guard against my own poor purchase decisions.
The post has just arrived and I need to close now and open the shipment of prefabricated postholes I purchased on eBay.
“This coming year I resolve to eat healthier, exercise and take better care of myself in general”, was the mantra of those “grazing” on all sorts of delicacies at the buffet table. It always amazes me how people are able to balance a plate in one hand all the while holding their Long Island Tea or Bloody Mary in the other and still manage to fill their plate to overflowing without allowing even one shrimp escape its fate. I especially like the lady who says that she never eats like this the rest of the year but cannot resist at year-end parties. She never leaves it at that, for some reason, and has to qualify her statement with the ever popular utterance that she only eats healthy foods and especially salads. This leaves me pondering the question; just how much salad must one eat to reach such an impressive girth. Any larger and she would be living in the ocean and dining on krill (also not a member of the plant family).
Since almost all resolutions are broken before the end of January I’m surprised that anyone makes them at all. Is it an overwhelming residual symptom of the Christmas season to want to be a better person? Or a matter of recognizing that there is room for improvement yet knowing there is no chance of achieving this goal one simply attempts to fool oneself, at least for a brief period of time, into believe this is attainable. I have taken some comfort in one thing I’ve read about making resolutions in that you should take small steps in reaching any self-improvement goals.
With this in mind I figure the smaller the steps the better and that being the case then it is only logical that the smallest step possible would be no step at all. Since I can’t argue with logic, albeit flawed, I am quite happy to take those measures to self-improvement; that being none. The way I see it is that if I were to be in top shape (pear is a shape but not what I am alluding to) and in excellent heath then I would have been born as someone else. Since I can’t, or couldn’t, have been born as someone else then I am content to remain as I am and save all of the hypocrisy of making resolutions concerning my person health or body shape. My goal in life is to not confuse people; if I were to exercise and be in top shape, and then died, my corpse would look great. People would say, “Look at him, he’s the picture of health, how could this have happened to someone who looks like that?” You can see how confused people might be. On the other hand when I go people will say, “Good God how did he live as long as he did? It’s no wonder he’s dead!” See? No one is confused and the world would be once again a logical and sane place in which to live; all because of me. Here’s a tip: as to a “six pack”, they are still available for purchase at the beer store.
So this brings me to the really important areas to consider making improvements. This coming year I intend to continue with improvements to the study (aka The Home Office) and the collections themselves. I’ve discussed eliminating my communications collection, which you would think would make my dear wife ecstatic at the prospect of me letting some items go. By now she has come to realize that not only does nature abhor a vacuum but so does a collector and any space left unfilled will only remain so until new collectables can be obtained. And that, my friend, is simply a matter of physics; I can’t be held to task for simply yielding to the laws of nature. I’m only human after all.
The other area for attention is concerning the GMIC and this may involve you as well. My intention for the coming year is to complete, or at least continue, some of the past posts I’ve started. As well, I would like to research and post much more in depth article-style submissions; some of these are already in the process, though far from compete. I would like to see more members at least going back through their past posts and reviving some of the better submissions. There has to be past posts that really interest you so add a small submission, a substantial addition would be even better, and breath life back into them. This will allow new members a chance to read some excellent posts from our past and perhaps encourage them to stay with us and even become a contributing member.
There is no hope for my own personal improvement, it’s a lost cause, but perhaps together we can make a great forum even better.
Here’s wishing you a happy, resolution free, New Year.
To all our members on behalf of all the GMIC Moderators and Staff I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Peaceful New Year. Our thoughts as always are with those that are serving overseas, away from their loved one and families. 2014 is due to be an exciting year for GMIC as it is our Ten Year Anniversary. It is also the 100 year commemoration of the outbreak of WWI. So we will be closely following this theme at GMIC with the addition of a special section to mark this important aniversary.
Well, here we are almost Christmas and I still haven’t gotten out to purchase any gifts and to be honest it may not happen this year at all. Ok, you’re probably thinking that my wife is correct in calling me “her cold hearted bastard”. But wait, don’t light the torches, gather up the pitchforks and lead the pheasants on a march to the castle quite yet. Yes, I know I said pheasants; it was just my way of messing with the images of a Frankenstein movie dancing in your heads. I have been making use of the internet and ordering gifts this year.
Even though I must admit that I like the Mr. Scrooge of the first half of the movie better than the reformed miser of later on. Don’t even get me started on the earlier Mr. Grinch. Both had a greater depth of character at the start of the movies. You might think that I could use a visitation by those three ghosts on Christmas Eve. However, given their unwelcomed and abrupt appearance in the middle of the night they would most likely have the “Dickens” beaten out of them before any good would come of their visit.
Now dear reader, I am sure you are thinking that I have forgotten the collection and the Home Office in my attempts to remain rational during this maudlin, “Most Wonderful Time of the Year”. But take heart my friends as I have mixed in a few purchases for both of these areas along with the gifts for friends and family. The musket collection is getting new custom made slings that will need to be whitened as they are unfinished. All of the Christmas orders are finished in the shop and now I am building a display cabinet/desk for the Home Office.
Speaking of gifts and family; over the years my family has been very understanding of my manias, mostly regarding my collecting. To be clear that incident involving the catapult and the neighbour’s cat last year was a one off. In my own defence, if you are meant to launch rocks from one of these things wouldn’t you think they would be called a “rockapolt”? Really, it was an understandable misunderstanding.
A couple of years ago one of my daughters gave me a 1914 EK II as a gift which was a real surprise. This year my dear wife has charged me with the task of purchasing a gift for myself at the next gun show, which is being held tomorrow. We all know how much I hate buying something for the collection at one of the gun shows I attend. I’ll be honest; I couldn’t even type this last sentence with a straight face! Being a dutiful husband I shall acquiesce to my wife’s wishes and force myself to find a suitable gift. Sometimes you just have to be strong and tough it out.
The weather report for this evening has snow in the forecast so I anticipate that after a long, sleepless and “silent night” the snow will “lay all about, deep and crisp and even”. No fears there as my friend Brian, who attends these local gun shows with me, is driving and he has a monster 4X4 truck so even if “the weather outside is frightful” nothing short of a blizzard will keep us from our destination.
Now that I shamelessly used other people’s lines and lyrics I will close with these two thoughts.
This Holiday Season please don’t drink and drive, however, if you are going to drink and drive please leave my name and contact information with your loved ones. I will be happy to give them a generous twenty-five cents on the dollar for your collection. The spirit of Scrooge is smiling down on me at this moment, I can feel it in my heart.
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night”.
PS: there is a prize for those who find all of the Christmas lines and lyrics in this blog. The prize; I won’t do this again next year. Ho ho ho.
May 2014 will celebrate the 10 year anniversary for GMIC. There are a lot of exciting things planned for next year at GMIC which also ties in with the 100 year remembrance anniversary for the Great War. Some of the things I will highlight are:
A refreshed look and layout
A dedicated World War I area to highlight the anniversary
New GMIC anniversary membership badges for all members who take out a subscription or renew in 2014.
My thanks to all staff and members for keeping up the GMIC spirit and I am looking forward to the next 10 years !
From time to time family can get on one’s nerves and you just need a change of pace. Somewhere to go that, with luck, proves to you that things at home are not all that bad; that or at least, your own family is not all that dysfunctional after all.
I believe the same is true with forums. After a while one starts to read posts and think, “Oh, grow up for God’s sake”, “Stop wasting my time” or “You have to be kidding me!” We all have our “buttons”, people and posts that irritate the only healthy nerve one has left. You know the types, those you consider post too many subjects at the level of an adolescent school boy or those pompous types who insist on referring to themselves with the word “one” rather than “I”. Now you would think that last example would give one pause to reflect, but it didn’t.
The catalyst for this blog was not anything here on the GMIC, as you might think would be obvious, but rather from visits to some of our neighbouring forums. It should be said right off that this is not a critique of other military based forums or any particular forum but rather a collection of observations over the years. I (you see I can use that to refer to myself after all) have several interests besides military history, some of which includes geology and paleontology, antiques, archeology and science in general, as well as woodworking and gardening. With all of these interests you would think I spend a lot of time on the internet but not so. For the most part my internet time is spent here on the GMIC, with occasional forays into other territories from time to time. My dear wife spends time on yarn and knitting, as well as quilting and genealogy forums. Talk about boring! Seriously, over the years we have read a lot of rude posts and odd reactions from the forum administrators.
All forums have their rules, some more extensive than others; the one thing that they all have in common is the requirement to be civil and the, at times, subtle warning that you can be banned if you cross the line too many times. These are all very reasonable to be sure.
Here’s some of the posts and administration reactions, somewhat paraphrased, but still in the spirit of the exchange.
My first example:
A member posted a reply pointing out, rather bluntly but still in a civil manner, that the author of the initial post was wrong. Administration replied that the originator of the post was a personal friend and a long –time member and that any further “attacks” would result in the respondent’s dismissal (banning).
I guess that Administrator should have posted a list of her friends along with the rules so that no one ever questioned them and therefore could avoid being banned.
Another case involving several members went as follows:
Member number one posted that the author of the initial post was wrong and that he should check his facts before making a post. It happened to be a comment about research that member one had published but the posting member was not aware of this.
Administration banned member one with no explanation.
Member two asked for the reason for administration’s banning of member one.
Administration banned member two.
Member three posted a comment that it seemed a little harsh to ban member two just because he had asked for the reasons behind the banning of member one.
Member three...yep, banned.
I was thinking about applying for membership but I figured that would result in me being banned!
On yet another forum:
A member had asked why a suggestion for improving the forum had gone unanswered even though this member had asked it several times on the forum and once in a PM to the Administrator.
The Administrator finally answered with a warning that if this member continued to harass the membership they could face disciplinary action. I found this strange as the suggestion was a simple enough one that was only directed to the Administrator yet the reply regarded the harassment of the whole membership.
Talk about confusing. Looks like the best advice here is to ask only once to avoid harassing the membership and being threatened with banishment. Maybe the membership consisted of only the Administrator?
In this last example I will need to be very vague because this exchange was so offensive that I can’t give detailed descriptions without the possibility on insulting the reader. One of the strict policies here and on many forums is the avoidance of the topics of politics and or religion. Of course on any military history forum the discussion of the politics of the past is not only unavoidable but perhaps desirable in order to understand the events that took place.
Member one posted a vase with some inscription on it with a translation and a general comment about the culture of the area from which it came.
Member two commented that this was not the exact translation as this was his native tongue and that the comment regarding their culture was far from accurate.
Member one countered that he knew what he was talking about and that member two, let me put it this way, ate the meat of, wore the skins of and cavorted with swine. This was no doubt an attack on the fellows religious views and as you can imagine was met with an unbelievable personal attack, albeit provoked, by member two on member one.
This went on for several posts until both parties seemed exhausted and stopped posting. As I read this I kept wondering where the administrator was and why he or she was not putting a stop to this. It generated a mix of emotions in me from disbelief to anger. In the end I started to think that perhaps the administrator shared the views of member one. I didn’t check but perhaps member one and the administrator were one and the same.
That was enough for me to decide that I would avoid this forum in the future as not only was the administration out of line by doing nothing, but also I did not want to be associated with that forum in any way.
I’m sure we could all add to this list and I would have posted the topic on the regular forum but it would have been too hard, as you can see, to stay away from breaking our own rules by just relating these horror stories. So now I am (oh how I wanted to say “So now one is”) back from visiting the neighbours and I have only one more thing to say.
Here are the long awaited results for the photo competition. My congratulations to all the winners, as well as a thank you to all members who took the time to enter the competition. I would also like to give a big thanks to Peter and his judges who spend time and effort deliberating over all the entries, which I know is a time consuming task.
Above all a special thank you goes to Mervyn, who without his drive and contribution none of this would happen.
PHOTO CONTEST RESULTS:
Chairmans Award to: mmerc20 Sinking in the Desert
CATEGORY 1 - PERSONAL COLLECTION
Chris B Sepia 3 Stooges (1st PLACE) Dante Black Brunswickers (2nd PLACE) paja Order of the Yugoslav Crown (Merit) Cimbineus Eagles (Merit) pinpon590 Kriegsverdeinst (Merit)
CATEGORY TWO - HONOUR THE PAST mmerc20 Sinking in the Desert (1st PLACE) paja Bubanj Memorial park (2ND place) Komtur Berlin, Summer 2013 (Merit) J Temple West Occupation, Channel Islands (Merit) Chuck in Oregon Old vet with Stalin image (Merit)
CATEGORY THREE - MEDALS AND AWARDS
mmerc20 Honoured Pair (1st PLACE) Komtur Pride of a Jewish German (1) (2nd PLACE) Cimbineus In the name of the… (Merit) gregm Memory trunk (Merit) gregm Domed ek (Merit)
CATEGORY FOUR - CATEGORY OF CHOICE Jock Auld IMG 0347 (1st PLACE) Chris B Night food market Morocco (2nd PLACE – tie) Chuck in Oregon Art is Hope (2nd PLACE - tie) Komtur Northern light of Denmark (Merit) Bob Lyons Luftwaffe cup and saucer (Merit)
As November 11 and Remembrance Day approaches many people start to think, for the first time in a year, of the sacrifices so many have and are making for their nations. For those of us in the collecting field there is no need to be reminded of this as I believe we are more than a little aware of what has been given up so that we may enjoy our freedom. For the sake of this blog I am not talking about those who have or are serving and may be members here, as they are in the moment while most of us have never experienced service, either during a conflict or in times of peace. Before continuing I do want to thank the GMIC members both former and current servicemen and women for your service. I wont mention names as that might embarrass some but you know who you are.
I often wonder just how many people would remember this day, November 11, and what it really means to our way of life if it were not for media coverage and the sale of the poppy. Would we remember such current events as the conflicts in the Middle East if it were not for the nightly news? How many can even begin to name the conflicts since the Korean War? I say this because I wonder how many would jump from the Korean conflict straight to Afghanistan or Iraq missing Viet Nam completely. I speak now of those outside of America, but even that being the case I have to wonder how many Americans go through their day to day routines unaware of the cost of their way of life, and ours for that matter.
I suppose there is a good case to be made for those on the battle field every night and on weekends at their local paint ball field or video game Tour of Duty not being able to remember real conflicts. After all the trauma of seeing your fellow combatants splattered with paint or a video character shot down and having to wait until a new game is started must be hell. Of course I joke, albeit in a vein of sarcastic reality.
Perhaps one of the benefits of there being collectors and students of military history, such as we are, is that we are helping to keep the memory of those who served alive. Even though we may be avoided at parties as that fellow who bores everyone with history it prompts people to at least realize there is a history to be remembered.
Not that the hockey game or baseball scores are not important, (they really arent, I just said that to make the sports jocks feel good), it is history and in this case military history that has shaped our lives today and will for a long time to come.
The 2013 Photography Competition is starting. Entries can be submitted from today. The categories have changed from last year to allow for greater flexibility. This is a competition with some great prizes. Show imagination composition and, most importantly look for the different angle or approach to the subject. Where the entry calls for a brief description to accompany the photo make it brief and concise.
From your personal collections: For this year we are allowing non-militaria subjects matter but use our GMIC non-militaria forum as a guide to suitable subject matter. Keep to just your militaria collections if you wish.
Honour the past: Monuments, graves, memorials to past individual military. This will also cover past wars and skirmishes. We feel that this will combine well with visits to battlefields. An ideal combination of the battle areas and the memorials.
Medals and Awards. From your own collection or, ones you have seen on trips or, in museums. Some background information is required on each. A lovely open subject so, use your imagination.
Any subject of your choice. military, non-military, homes, families, landmarks, views.
Opens : Midnight (GMT +1 UK time) Tuesday 1st October 2013
Closes: Midnight (GMT UK time) Thursday 31st October 2013
Conditions of Entry
The competition is open to all GMIC members and their immediate family. Enter under the member’s name.
All entries should be original and copyright owned by the person entering them.
By entering this competition you give to GMIC the licensed right to use your image unconditionally, including editing of the image as it sees fit. The member still retains full ownership of copyright.
There is no limit to the number of entries you may submit in each category. However, use your discretion, as flooding categories with multiple entries is unlikely to be viewed favourably
Entries must be with-in the category limits as shown
No inappropriate images, if in doubt then don't post it !
Judging panel will be Peter Monahan (chair), Megan, Claudius and Spasm (Steve).
No doubt many of you are aware of the tragic news that Rick (Research) Lundström who only recently was able to rejoin us at GMIC, was killed yesterday,17th September 2013 in a road traffic collision.
Rick had been a member of GMIC since 2005 and proudly passed his 20,000 post mark only last week. It is too early to pay him full honours at a time when many of us are in shock at this tragic news and are mourning the loss of a friend, who is simply irreplaceable in the world of military research and collecting. But I assure you that Rick who has played such a significant part at GMIC will be properly remembered so that his name lives on for future collectors.
I only had the pleasure of meeting Rick once on one fine day in the fall of 2007, when I visited his home and spent an afternoon whiling away the hours talking about military history and viewing the artefacts in his modest and well cherished collection. I made a friend for life that day and although our friendship was internet and letter based in the years that followed, like many of you I mourn the loss of our friend and online companion.
My thoughts at this time are with his elderly mother, family and close friends.
It’s been a while since I have written and since we last talked I have moved my study and with it the Home Office into new surroundings; same address just a new and better location. This involved new cabinets and displays so it was a lengthy process. In addition to this I decided to retire from public service and the past six months has been spent attempting to wrap up my projects. Although to get them all completed would take another two years as new road connections through forests are limited by budget and in our country a short construction season. Still all has finally come to pass with a few more touches to the study and the unfinished work projects in the capable hands of my replacement I am free to do what I want to do with rest of my life.
Reading the posts on the GMIC lately I noticed one by Robin talking about the addition of a new Crimea Medal, I’m still envious, and in addition to this the addition of a cigarette card of this medal featuring the same bar. I believe Mervyn mentioned that some members are adding cap badges and other insignia to their medals and medal groups. This is something I have been doing for some time now and I wanted to talk about this interesting augmentation to medal collections as well as other military collectables.
Below is one drawer of medals where I have added the cap badges to the medals
I find myself; or rather catch myself, boring family and friends with my collections and constant droning on about history and this battle and that battle and how the breakdown of diplomacy led to one conflict or another. Most of my medal collection is housed in shallow drawers and if there is one thing I’ve noticed is that the average person’s eyes will start to glaze over after the third, and if I’m lucky, the forth drawer of what is perceived as one medal or group of medals after another with little to no differences. In fact I too start to think that there is a certain monotony about a sizable collection of just about anything after a while. If you are at all like me this “monotony” somehow imparts a warm feeling of comfort and security, as does the knowledge that I am a student, of sorts, of history and how these artefacts are in concert with the events they commemorate.
For most of us, we collect for ourselves and not for others, nor do we seek to garner praise for our efforts from the few upon whom we may bestow the honour of viewing our treasures. I suppose that is somewhat a joke in the average person’s opinion as many would think even an hour going over someone’s collection, their passion as it were, to be a total waste of time. However, they are simply members of the great unwashed masses so let’s not give them any more consideration here.
I’ve seen several collections where the owner has framed their collection, breaking the medals up into specific themes or a grouping to one recipient. For the most part I really like this, however in my case; wall space is and always has been at a premium. Framed documents and larger photos have always taken precedence in allotting wall space so medals were placed in shallow drawers out of necessity as much as anything else.
In this blog I am speaking more about additional items to enhance the experience for someone viewing a collection and even to make it more interesting for the collectors themselves. Some of those additional items could be the cigarette cards mentioned earlier which could be of a soldier in uniform as much as the particular medal. My Bahawalpur collection has a cigarette card featuring a soldier from that country in full uniform, which I think is quite interesting. In addition to this I have added a post card commemorating the 100th anniversary of the 1st Bahawalpur Regiment, 1834-1934, and their battle honours.
Other additions to collectables, that comes to mind; could be the addition of nipple, or hammer protectors to a black powder rifle or musket, or an authentic muzzle plug for the same type of weapon. A small word of caution here; it might be best not to make the announcement around the water cooler, in the office, that you are awaiting a shipment of vintage nipple protectors. Nasty rumors could be forthcoming. Of course rifle slings either authentic or reproductions dresses up a rifle or musket quite nicely. A discussion on reproductions, “to use or not to use”, is a topic for another time.
Examples of additional items for a musket are shown below. The nipple protector and muzzle plug are on an 1853 Enfield and the sling is an original on a Pattern 1842 Brunswick Rifle marked as belonging to the Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR).
Swords too have accessories such as wrist straps and sword knots that can be added. Sadly my Japanese sword collection has no such accessories, yet, but who knows, perhaps in the future. The only one with any such strap is missing the all important knot.
The British sword shown below, with original leather sword knot, is the Pattern 1895 Infantry Officer’s Sword displaying the cipher of King George V.
As always I hope this short dissertation will give the reader pause to think about alternatives to simply adding yet another item to the collection and enhance the specimens you already have.
When you live , or, work in an old town or city, it is easy to overlook historical buildings and landmarks.
This happened when I was first posted to Bethnal Green Police Station. The area was a mixture - tall, ugly concrete blocks of flats - typical for the the late 1960's. Rows of old terraced houses and and tenement blocks - built-in the 1880's to try and improve the area and cover the shame and bad publicity that Jack the Ripper's murders had caused. There were also many small and medium sized factories and workshops.
Walking - or, driving in a car on duty, it was easy to see just the people and the streets - however, once I was on night duty I had the opportunities to really see what made-up this 2000 year old area of continuous occupation. There will be other occasions when I will be able to go into detail - however, as an example, there was a short cross street between Brick Lane and Commercial Street named Fournier Street. Basically, it was a row of joined houses dating back to the 18th Century and in the style of the 17th Century. Most of them were derelict.
During the time of King Charles 2nd - who was restored to the British Throne in 1660 - his French counterpart was the 'Sun King' - Louis X1V (14th). Following the urging of Cardinal Richelieu, he barred the Hugeonots - or, Protestants - from practising their Religion and they were forced to flee overseas. Many to Britain. My Mother's family name was Bozier - a Hugeonot descendent.
The French silk weaving industry really depended on their skill, and when they left it fell into decline. Their loss was England's gain - the area the silk weavers chose to live was the same Fournier Street in London's East End. Many of the old houses have now been renovated and are shown as they used to be - workrooms on the ground floor - living accomodation above. There are several museums and it is an area worth a visit.
Inside of one of the houses - the marks on the beams were for silk weaving machines
Map of the area - Sever's House is now restored for the public.
THE MECHANICS OF A 1960'S POLICE STATION
I can only talk about the running of a Police Station in the 1960's/70's. I would think little had changed over the previous 100 years - and, quite frankly, if a system works why keep making changes. This seem to be the prevailing attitude today - change for the sake of change - or, is it just me getting old ?
'HB' or Bethnal Green Police Station, was not the Divisional Station - however, because of the large population in the district it had a complement of some 200 Police and civilian staff.
The commander of the Station was a Chief Superintendent (equiv. to a Lt.Col. in the Army). He was assisted by a Superintendent.
The CID (Criminal Investigation Department) numbered about 25/30 - under a Det. Inspector.
There was a Process Dept., under an Inspector for dealing with Summonses. When you reported someone for an offence, the paperwork was reviewed in this Dept. to ensure there was enough evidence to go to Court. When you made a direct Arrest the Sergeant dealing with the Charge also, had the responsibility of ensuring that it was a legitimate arrest - with the evidence to prove the Act the arrest was made under.
The Station also had a detachment of Special Constabulary - who at that time were only allowed 2 hours duty a week. I remember one old Special who was an Estate Agent. When on duty he parked his Rolls Royce in a side street.
We had a fully staffed canteen and after 8p.m. we had facilities in the sitting area to make tea and light meals.
The uniformed Branch numbered some 120 men - split into 3 Divisions or, Reliefs. These were identified as 'A' "B' and 'C' Reliefs - each under an Inspector and two sergts.. The system was changed some time ago, however, the above had existed for very many years.
A 9 week cycle was followed. Early Turn was 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.. Late Turn was 2p.m. to 10 p.m. and Night Duty - 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.. You did 6 weeks of alternate Early and Late Turn and then 3 weeks continuous Night Duty.
You paraded 15 minutes early to be told what was happening, receive special duties and who was wanted. You also Paraded Appointments . This was to show you had your whistle, truncheon and report books.
You have to remember that Police are a disciplined Force and subject to the Rules laid down by Parliament and your Commissioner or, Chief Constable. For example - you don't decide which variation of uniform you will wear - Dress of the Day is shown in Force Orders. With holidays, sickness, time off and Court appearances the Relief rarely paraded more than twenty men - and sometimes much lower. Just meant we worked harder.
Hopefully, this brief outline will give you an idea of the set-up. With so many people with-in the Station you really worked with your own Relief - and the men on the other shifts. I was on 'B' Relief. Being so dependent on your colleagues for help in an emergency, you tended to become close friends - on and off duty. Although, as often happens you tended to have your own group.
When I finished learning Beats with Jock, my Relief was about to start on 3 weeks of Nights. This meant I would be Patrolling my assigned area - or, Beat - on my own. Being the East End, away from main roads the back streets were poorly lit.
Let me say right now - you don't know the meaning of ' Being on your Own ' until you have patrolled for the first time at night - and on a freezing February night....
Radios had only recently been introduced - and we did not have enough to go around. I'm fairly sure that friends I had made, had ensured I had one that first night. They were Swedish Stornos and quite powerful. The unit went in your back left pocket and the microphone was fed up to your tunic or, greatcoat lapel. You could hear all station calls and if you wanted to speak you pressed a button on the top. Messages went to our Reserve Room or, Communications Room. This was manned by two PC's and an elderley , retired PC, manned the switchboard.
We were supposed to return by midnight for refreshments - but, in the dark back streets I got hopelessly lost. It got to about 12.30a.m. and I knew I was a long way from the Station and knew that people would be wondering where I was. I didn't want to use the radio - I knew I would never hear the last of getting lost..........
The decision was made for me - I was looking in my A-Z wondering where the 'hell' I was, when 4 drunk yobos found me !
They were very cautious at first - then got 'cheeky'. I wasn't nervous of them - perhaps a little intimidated. There were 4 of them and I only stood 5' 8". I decided that I'd better call in for directions - doing so, it slipped out that I was having a little trouble.
Before I could turn round 5 Police cars and the van - plus some 20 police had arrived to see "what I was 'up to' " The whole canteen had turned out. Very embarrasing - but I knew then that I had friends.
The yobs got a quick lesson in having respect for their local Police - and I got lots of different lectures in letting people give assistance when it is needed.
I learned a lot from that incident - and of course - with time and experience you become a more confident person. However, like all of the Services - Military and Civilian - you have to learn that you are part of a team.
Next time - a few more incidents. Some years ago I was asked to write for a local Radio Station, some humerous memories. Having recently found them in the move from the shop, I will add one to each future post.
HUMOUR IN UNIFORM
One of the duties of a London Policeman is Reserve Duty. This is where , once in a while, you man the communications room and make sure that there are always a few uniformed men around the Station.
One quiet Sunday afternoon I had 'pulled' this duty and was thankful as it was a cold, wet afternoon in winter. About 3 p.m. the Duty Sgt. called me into the Front Office, where there were two men who were covered in mud. They said that in the morning they had been clearing a site (they were building workers) and had found two large iron objects. Thinking to sell them for scrap they had loaded them onto their open flatbed lorry. When they had gone for a drink someone said they looked like bombs and to bring them to the Police.
Needless to say I was very grateful !! One look told me that they appeared to be large shells or, even bombs without fins. Beating a retreat wouldn't have helped - if they had gone-up so would half the East End of London - I tried Bribery ! Take them to Commercial Street police station I said - they won't take so long to deal with them !! Not likely - they wern't moving an inch and expected me to deal with them. Eventually we managed to get them into a corner of the station yard and covered them with sandbags - the London Police have always been good at immediate action to to re-assure the public !
The 'bloody' workmen left and we had to evacuate the Station and the surrounding area until the bomb squad came to take them away.
YES ! They were live and very unstable - had to be detonated in a nearby park. They were 1st World War 8 inch Naval shells. Heaven alone knows what thay were doing in the East End of London ?
A couple of years ago - in Durban, I was asked to value and identify a deceased estate with militaria. The friend who was with me spotted a mortar bomb and picked it up - ' look', he said 'it's a Chinese one. Oh my God, it's live with it's detonator and it's sweating '. We retreated very quickly and the SAP bomb squad had to detonate it. Please, please - no-one bring me any more shells or, bombs.
I have split this post into two parts of 7 pictures each. The last time I tried to post I reached 13 - pressed the wrong
button and wiped everything - my language was quite 'bad'......
The Thames River Police were one of the earliest Forces set-up in London - in the 1790's. Their main purpose was to protect the West India Docks - which were constantly having attacks on the different ships valuable cargoes. Today they patrol all of the Thames area.
Another view of the Communications Room - remeber that all air traffic had to go through this room. I don't suppose it has changed much in the setting - just the modern equipment. I think it would be good if someone had access to a picture of the room now ?
The crew for the high speed area cars, was a driver and wireless operator , plus for certain times a plain clothes officer in the back to follow suspects on foot. I was actually trained as an operator for the radio - not easy trying to call a chase to the ops. room while doing 80mph in traffic.
I hope you have found these 50 year old memories of some interest - I think they have come to a natural conclusion and whilst I could continue the wise author knows when his audience is 'flagging'.Thankyou for reading
Sorry for the short delay - I have decided to retire and closing South Africa's top Collectors' Shop (Militaria, silver, porcelain, prints etc) has been a major undertaking after 24 years in the shop. Nearly finished and then things will - hopefully - get back into a routine.
We have talked in these past few blogs about my time in the Metropolitan Police - a period in my life that I greatly enjoyed. I am often asked by people about what would be a good career for their children - dependent on the child, if he/she is of a confident nature - then I always say that a job as a Police Officer is both a challenge and a satisfying way to spend your working life. There are many dangers - however, you have the companionship and friendship of your fellow Police, and there are many different careers within the police that you can apply for. Not everyone in this World has to be a high flyer - many of my friends were quite happy to remain as uniformed constables. They enjoyed the inter-action with the public and the salary allows a good standard of living. The choice is up to the individual to pick the Branch they wish to serve in - and to take the exams if they want promotion.
So, having given my short recruiting speech, I must remind you that I joined 46 years ago - and the Policing of those days was quite different then today. Not in a bad way - just that things are more technical today. One example would be the new pullover daily uniform. I hated it when I first saw pictures - now , I realise it is part of the modern way people dress and probably more functional then the heavy tunic. Daily life has changed and evolved and a modern Police Force has to do the same. Friends I am still in contact with after all these years always say - 'Mervyn, you would hate it today - so much paperwork and so many petty regulations."
I possibly would - we had a lot of freedom and discretion in those days to do our job. However, change is inevitable and most Countries today have pressures that didn't exist fifty years ago.
I came across a recruiting book that I was given when I first applied - so , probably printed 50 years ago. I am going to show some of the pictures - just to remind you of times past.
Dress of the Day - 'A' Division - in front of Houses of Parliament
The light m/cycle on the left is the Velocette air cooled Beat Patrol Bike. The main use was for delivering messages and attending to routine calls - however, they made many arrests. The m/cycle on the right is a patrol one for Traffic Division. Note the different headgear. The Velocette driver wore a standard helmet with extra re-inforcement.
A Member kindly told me recently, that this Blog is a part of Social History. I hadn't thought of it in this way - however, I suppose it will prove of interest to some Police researchers and perhaps, younger Policeman. The simple fact is that this happened to me personally, 47 years ago !
Since I was to spend the next 7 years there - here is a little history on the area.
The East End of London is to the left of the Tower of London - if you were facing the River Thames. Originally - in the time after King William 1st. (1066) it was reserved as a hunting area for the King. Gradually, it became a number of small market gardens , producing fruit and vegetables for London. However, large parts still belonged to the Sovereign and were administered by the Crown Estates.
The whole area was quite run-down and in 1968 large parts still had serious bomb damage from WW2. Despite the poorness of the area, most people were still staunchly Royalist - and some-what grudgingly, accepted 'us' , as 'their' police. I have always found it strange how people's opinion of the Police changes quickly when they need help.
The Royal Mint Map in 1833
The Royal Mint in 1833
The Royal Mint used to be on the left of the Tower - and was there for many years , before going to Wales in the 1970's. Prior to that it was with-in the Tower. The area around the Mint was an ancient one - still known today as the Minories - it was in fact an Abbey for the Minor Prioresses of the Order of St. Mary - created in 1494.
Sometimes distinguished people who were beheaded in the Tower , were allowed to be buried with-in the Minories. This beheaded scull is believed to be that of the Earl of Suffolk -- Lord Grey. He was the Father of Lady Jane Grey who seized the Thone for nine days. They were both beheaded.
When I was at Bethnal Green, the Governor of the Mint had the 'bad' habit of calling an 'Emergency' and then standing at the gates with a stopwatch. You had 3 minutes to get there ! I can remember some very frightening 80mph (140kph) across the East End to avoid an enquiry . The Area Car for HB had the call sign 'Hotel 2' - perhaps it still does ? It was one of three fast pursuit cars for the Division. They were Jaguar 2.4's at that time.
Moylan Police Section House was on a small turning off of the Ratcliffe Highway . This was an old road that ran between the Tower and the Isle of Dogs and the West India Docks. Because it was an important road - with numerous cross-roads it became known for it's illegal burials.
Suicides and executed people were not allowed to- be buried in Consecrated soil. The few that were allowed at the Minories, probably cost a great deal of money. The next best thing was a cross-roads - with it's shape as a Cross. Also, in this vicinity was the important Parish Church of St. George's East - it lay alongside the Highway. Over the years many bodies were buried at night - and are still often found when the road is dug-up.
St. Georges in the East - 1729
These two tipstaves for St. Georges date back to 1848 &9. Given each year by the Churchwarden to the in-coming Parish Constable
Having always had an interest in History I found the whole area to be full of old monuments and buildings. Should we continue with the Blog I will talk about some of the 'hidden' areas - the thing with London is that we have over 2000 years of continuous habitation and in the older parts so much of it has survived.
I START DUTY
Having settled in at the Section House, I had quickly discovered one serious problem. No under- cover parking. I had a Triumph TR4a sports car with a canvas hood at that time and quickly realised that it wasn't suitable. I changed it for a Singer Vogue - same as the Hillman Minx , but a little more varnished wood on the dash. A great car and although I missed the exhaust note of the TR - and the acceleration, it never let me down and with a friend from the Station we took it on a trip right through Spain and Morocco.
With the Section House we each had our own rooms, a nice canteen , TV room (if you liked Football...) laundry rooms and a small yard for cycles. A Sergeant was in overall charge.
These Houses were an idea from Victorian times - they gave young constables somewhere to live - and in an emergency a considerable body of men were available at short notice. We shared large bathroom facilities and I have quite fond memories of the place. We were from Stations all over the Division so, it was a way to make friends - and find out the 'gossip'..............
Bethnal Green's call sign on the radio was in the military alphabet - 'HB' - 'Hotel Bravo'. This stood for Bethnal Grren Police Station and 'H' Division. The Station has moved now, so this may have changed. However, I will in future use these initials for Bethnal Green. Incidentally, a Bethnal - in medieval language was a mental hospital.
Any new person , to any job, is wise to take things slowly and let people get to know you. I think this is advice some of new members on GMIC should remember. I know it took a few months until all of the older PC's gave full acceptance.
For the first month new Constables are posted with an older, experienced Constable. This period is called 'Teaching Beats'. He sets the hours and you are separate from normal activities. The idea is for you to learn the streets and the area. Also, to deal with as many different incidents as possible to give experience.
I was with a 20 year service Constable - we will call him Jock. He was to become a good friend and knowing the 'job' so well, was a great mentor. He certainly knew every place we could get a cup of tea on a cold, wet day !
I was amazed to find that we had three of Jack the Ripper's murder sites on our Ground (meaning our Station's area) There were always members of the public asking for directions - and if we had time it was nice to spend a little time telling them local history. One site - the house in Hanbury Street - was still exactly the same as the full page drawing in the Illustrated London News from 1888. This was where Annie Chapman was dismembered on 8 Sept. 1888 - the address was 29 Hanbury Street. Developers later pulled it down - but, I have been told that it is to be re-built ?
29 Hanbury St. 1888
The backyard. She was killed at the bottom of stairs.
We were walking back to the HB one morning when we spotted a big old Cadillac - mind you, it was probably new in those days. Bright pink and with the tall tailfins. It was parked outside a house in Vallance Road - where the Kray Brothers Mother lived. We walked over and were looking at the car when the Kray twins - Ronnie and Reggie - came out. We spoke generally and they wished me well. They hated the CID but, were very careful with Uniform Branch - we could have stopped them every few yards.
The Kray Gang was at it's peak at this time. Enormous investigations were being made of the various murders. I was told that Police believed they carried out far more then could be traced back to them - but, that's just gossip. Jock had shown me the bullet holes - still ringed with Police chalk circles, in an old wall where Jack 'the hat' McVity had been killed quite recently. There was also a search for one of their hitmen who had gone missing. Rumour had it that he was dropped into bridge foundations on the M1 .
A Pub in Mile End Road - The Blind Beggar' - used to have a framed bullet found behind panelling. This is where they claimed he had been shot. The owner's claimed the Police missed-it. Who knows ?
Next Chapter I join my 'Relief' ( the name for the patrol unit - at that time there were three giving 24 hour coverage) at HB and go on Patrol on my own.
I saw on TV that London has been subjected - yet again - to public disorder. I suppose a capital City will always be a target.
Probably the worst riots that London ever saw were the Gordon Riots of 1780. Lord George Gordon stirred-up a great deal of sentiment about the Catholic Relief Act of 1778. This allowed Catholics to join the Army without taking the religious Oath. The British Army was short of men, being actively engaged in the United States War of Independence , plus other areas, this Act was intended to help recruiting.
Demonstrations turned into violence and attacks on property and three prisons were broken into and the inmates allowed to escape. This made the situation even more violent and after three days the Guards and other Regiments were ordered onto the streets. Their order, discipline - and firepower brought things quickly under control. 285 rioters were killed. This was a lesson not quickly forgotten.
http://gmic.co.uk/uploads/monthly_06_2013/blogentry-6209-0-37423900-1372082849.jpgclick GORDON RIOTS - painting by John Seymour Lucas
During the Industrial Revolution - aprox. 1800's to 1850's - the Midlands and Northern Regions suffered from many outbreaks of violence and destruction. With really only the isolated local Constables, many Parishes swore in Special Constables from their citizens - often in the hundreds. They were usually equipped with a truncheon.
http://gmic.co.uk/uploads/monthly_06_2013/blogentry-6209-0-47176800-1372083205.pngclick Peterloo Massacre - 1819 - by Richard Carlile
When serious trouble occured and the Constables and Beadles lost control - the alternative was the Militia. The 16 August 1819 saw a very bad disturbence in Manchester - with many thousands in the crowd. The local authorities lost their nerves and ordered the Cavalry to charge. This became known as the infamous Peterloo Massacre - you cannot have a cavalry charge on men, women and children - mainly unarmed - without serious consequences. 15 were killed outright and between 400 and 700 maimed and injured.
These two outbreaks of lawlessness - even though 40 years apart - caused the Government to think seriously on the reform of Policing in the Country and eventually the Home Secretary, Sir Robert Peel - with the backing of the Prime Minister , the Duke of Wellington and from the Lord Chancellor , the Lord Lyndhurst - introduced the Act which led to the formation of the Metropolitan Police and their going on duty in 1829.
People often ask me how the Met. Police can be regarded as the first Civilian police force ?
Dublin and Glasgow did pre-date the Met. - however, there were also numerous small towns who had formed Town Forces. Many of their truncheons still survive. However, none of these worked in the same way as London - or, with an Act of Parliament (apart from Dublin ). The organisation that was created to administer such a big area and with so many men, was a totally new concept.
London and the Metropolitan Police can rightly be considered the first Civilian Police - and with it's distinctive style, was copied throughout Britain and very many other Countries - this also, included cities in the United States.
London must still be the only City of it's size, where the greater majority of the Force do not carry firearms. For me, this must be a main criteria for a 'civilian force' - and, of course, this applies to most - if not all - of mainland Britain. Our Police are citizens of their communities and are probably the mainland defenders of our British way of life.
Finally - week 13. We had exams to taken and - of course - all of the assessments made on us during the course were taken into account. I seem to remember that I came 2nd. or, 3rd. - really, it was not important - we had all come through together.
http://gmic.co.uk/uploads/monthly_06_2013/blogentry-6209-0-24335500-1372085462.jpgclick Class Photo - I am 3rd.row - on right.
We were issued with our truncheons and whistles at this point - to be followed with our Divisional numbers and Letters when we knew where we would be posted. We also had the class photo taken.
The truncheon was 17 inches long (37cm), with a wrist strap at the end. Sewn into your trousers on the right side was a long pocket - this was behind the usual pocket. Most of our class could be seen - after issue - practising 'quick draws'. They looked like something out of the old 'wild west'. I was lucky to be issued with a dark coloured 'stick' - as they were called. Made from heavy lignum vitae - a South American wood - it probably dated back to the 1880's, as did my whistle.
We had been asked to write down our Division of choice - however, it was explained that the final decision would be on which area needed replacements. Parts of the Met. area are quite rural - so, it is the Central Divs. that are preferred by most younger Constables.
I had asked for 'B' Div. - that is the Knightsbridge area (Harrods !). I thought it would be interesting. What did I get - 'H' Division - London's East End. They nearly had my letter of resignation the same day............ Fortunately I didn't and it was a great place to work - always something happening.
Epaulette insignia were now issued - they had to be on the uniform when you first went to the Divisional Station. Each letter and number had to be pushed through the cloth and then screwed-on - with so many jackets and coats it took forever. I expect they have a better way now ?
I had become Police Constable 'H' 639. A number that was to become well known.
I think my Course finished in Dec. 67 and I reported for duty early in January 1968. The acting Div. Station was Arbour Square Police Station - and it adjoined the famous Thames Magistrates Court. Commercial Street Station had been closed and the new Div. Station was being built at Leman Street. A very old street and a very old name. A Leman was the medieval word for a prostitute - very fitting.......... Leman Street has now been closed and my old station has been moved and is now the new Div. HQ.. Don't you just hate-it when you get old and everything keeps changing !
I think that there were three of us there that first morning - and the Chief Superintendent saw us separately - a very courteous thing to do. He explained that I was to be stationed at Bethnal Green Station - which was probably the heart of the East End. He also told me that I would have a room at Moylan House - Police section house - named after a former Commissioner. I was to be there for about eighteen months.
'H' Division was fairly small - approx. 2.5 miles x 2 miles (approx. 4 Kms x 3). Very denseley populated and at my time , still mostly 'cockneys'. Many have now moved to Essex and the 'Green' now has a very mixed population - with the famous Brick Lane area being mostly of Bangladashi descent.
For my next 'thrilling' episode - Jack the Ripper - and, I meet Reggie and Ronnie - the infamous Kray twins.
http://gmic.co.uk/uploads/monthly_06_2013/blogentry-6209-0-02187400-1372088014.jpgclick My original epaulettes for 'shirtsleeve order'
We seem to be progressing quite well with the story - and to my surprise seem to have a small following.
Episode 3 produced some debate and comment on the Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police - this is good and helps to clarify points that might have caused confusion. You have to remember that I just sit down and type as memories return to me - I am bound to have a few lapses.
Twenty eight years ago I wrote a book on the History of Policing in England - this was mainly to show the background on the equipment of the past. Whilst there are many Force histories, I believe this still to be the only general one for collectors.
The routine continued and now - halfway through the course - it was all coming together and making more sense. The weather had been cold and we had a number of snowfalls - however, the winter uniforms and greatcoat had many years of practical design behind them and were warm and comfortable - just heavy.
I mentioned that the exhaustive background checks on new recruits were thorough - but, at first hand I was to see examples of where trainees were already in the system before it all caught-up with them.
One of these was in a class further along and his habit of keep disappearing to the Loo caused comment. Both his classmates and the staff noticed and eventually it was found that he was using a drug. Needless to say we never saw him again.
I have to be careful with these memories that I don't identify anyone by name - at least, those who had done wrong. I am still bound by the official secrets act - which binds all police officers. However, incidents I mention happened long ago.
The other incident was weeks later - we were having our mid-morning break in the canteen when the Chief Superintendent came-in - followed by two military police sergeants. They went straight to the table of a class that was close to graduation and arrested one man. This really took us by surprise - shock ! horror ! probe ! - what had he done ? Turned out he was a deserter from one of the Services. They caught-up with him just in time - he would shortly have been on patrol.
When you think about-it - if you managed to join, you would have a fairly good hiding place. I don't think it would be easy and eventually, they would be caught out.
I understand that from our original class of twenty, only six were still serving after our two year probationary period. The shift system is not to everyone's liking and certainly limits friends. I think it is why many Police marriages fail - and also, why many go out with and marry, nurses who understood the pressures.
We had regular classes showing restraint holds for prisoners - based mainly on wrestling moves. I found in training and later on the streets, that unless they held still I wasn't very good at applying them. My Father had done wrestling as a young man - but even he gave-up on me. The hold that did work for me was to hold their their right arm under my left one and grasp their hand under mine. If they struggled you could exert pressure to immobilise the wrist.
When I first went to Division handcuffs were carried around the steering columns of police cars - however,PC's took the keys for themselves and you could never use them. They are now issued - however, I solved the problem by buying my own - saved a lot of struggling.
They also instructed us - briefly - on the use of the wooden truncheon. 17 inches overall, (37.5cms) for constables and sergeants - and a shorter version for Inspectors (they were more expendable....) A very effective weapon, they were made from teak, ebony or lignum vitae. All very dense woods that don't float. Nowdays they use the extendable steel baton - which is based on a German WW2 commando version.
The only instruction that I remember being told, was never to hit anyone over the head. This is common sense. If your opponent is armed then the best place to strike is the arm holding the weapon. The 'hit' of choice is the collarbone - the arm justs drops.
Despite popular myth, most police could do their entire service without drawing their truncheon from the special pocket that ran down the right side. I probably used mine more for breaking windows when looking for people who hadn't been seen for a while. However, I did have occasion - on a number of times - to use it - and will cover those in future posts.
I GET INTO TROUBLE
We used to get Sundays off and the weekend before we started class 13 , I thought how was I going to get everything back to Bournemouth (100 miles or 160kms) away. I decided to go to Bournemouth by train and bring my car back for the week. I had a TR4A sports car at that time and since the ex-commandant's house had a big parking area - which other people used, I thought it would be OK. WRONG !
I was summoned to the Superintendent's office on the Wednesday. "Why is your personal car parked on Police property - which doesn't have insurance cover for your benefit" ? I was quite 'gobsmacked' - and then something happened which still makes me laugh today. The phone rang - he answered - and it must have been someone senior. He sat up straight with his left arm down his side at the attention position. I have never seen this done before, he was on a phone. After a further lecture he told me to remove the car at once. I replied that if I did , then I would keep driving and he could have my resignation. Shame - I was looking forward to going on duty. He was obviously of the 'old school' and I don't think anyone - particularly not at Hendon - had stood up to him. Reluctantly he told me I was not to resign and could keep the car until I left the following week. Some common sense at last.
I think the next chapter will cover my final days at Hendon - and then the first weeks after they released me on an unsuspecting public....................
One of our Members kindly commented that the Tower Blocks at Hendon Police College - a photo was shown in Part 3 - have been empty for a number of years. With that being the case, why were they built in the first place ?
The first home for the Metropolitan Police was Great Scotland Yard. This was on the Embankment of the River Thames - across the road from the Houses of Parliament. Before Scotland and England were joined in 1603 , when James the 6th of Scotland also, became King of England as James 1st. following the death of Queen Elizabeth 1st. - Scotland Yard had been the home and Embassy for the Scottish Ambassador.
The building was rebuilt for the Met. by the famous architect , Norman Shaw , in the later part of the 19th Century and was re-named New Scotland Yard. This building is still in use - however, the name moved to the new building in 1966/67.
When the planned move back to the Embankment takes place the name and the famous sign will be attached.
With the Metropolitan Police first 'Marching Out' in 1829, the whole concept of having a large disciplined force in place over a big part of Central London caused great concern. Until that point only some 4000 Parish Constables, Beadles and Night Watch were in charge of over one million people. There was little communication between them and events in one Parish would not be known in another.
The French Revolution and the oppressive policing by Napoleon's para-military forces caused fears in England that our New Police would act for the Government. This led to a number of crowd attacks on Constables of the 'New Police' - as they had become known. There was also constant bad publicity in the papers and from the pamphlets that used to be sold on the streets.
(by Bob Marrion-Plan drawer H Div.)
Quickly though, it was seen by the middle classes that this was a civilian orientated Force - and formed to keep them safe and the English way of life - preserved.
With only a thirteen week course there was an enormous amount of work to get through. The classes covered many subjects - the most being our knowledge of the Law , how we should question people , forms and statements etc.. I think the sheer volume of paper work daunted all of us.
All of the above was then tested on us with staged incidents. Great Fun - if you weren't the one being tested.
The class would be taken by your Sgt. to an area specially set-up for demonstrations. You might find two old cars pushed together as an accident scene. A man in civilian clothes (another instructor dressed-up) lying unconcious on the ground and behind the steering wheel of one of the cars a man slumped over.
Our instructor might shout out - ' Constable Mitton, you're on duty, walk around a corner and find this scene - what do you do ?' We all did the same thing - PANIC !
But then training took over - we had been taught PRIORITISE - deal with any violence first - then assist the injured. Call for help - if required - and find witnesses.
I walked over to the man on the ground - unconcious - and blood on left leg and on ground. You must remember that this was in the days before cell phones and police radios - which were just being introduced. Ask one of the crowd - there is always a crowd, even in Instr. classes - to run to a shop and call Police and Ambulance. Turn him on his side - make sure airways are clear and that he isn't bleeding to death.
Then - to the man behind the wheel - drunk out of his mind and mumbling. Fine - ambulance is on the way - see if they think he needs hospital - or, if I can take him to Police station. Again, there was no Breathalyser at this time. I'm checking for witnesses and a distraught woman runs out of the crowd - 'Thank God I've found you Officer - my sister is having a baby'. PANIC - PANIC ! Where is she - is someone with her - has an ambulance been called ?
While your'e sorting all of this out, there will be other staged incidents - and all the time notes are being kept on your handling of the situation and points given. Sometimes, I felt it was easier being a 'vagrant' on the bus.......
There is nothing like this to give you better training and an understanding of your new job - I clearly remember , we all thought this was just to teach and test us. However, when you go on duty you quickly learn that real life is far more stressful and multiple events regularly happen. Because you are the man with the 'pointed hat' and the blue uniform you quickly find that most people standwell back and wait for you to do 'something'.
You have only to see the pictures of the murdered soldier in Woolwich to see how the crowd formed a circle very well back. However, had a Constable been present, I am sure you would have seen him run forward with only a truncheon to 'do his duty'.
I have gone into some detail with the training - ex-police and soldiers in the Forum, will nod knowingly - we have all experienced the pressure. Hopefully, others - and our Google readers will find it of some interest. Once again - please remember that things are different 47 years-on.
TIME OFF FOR GOOD BEHAVIOUR
The routine was varied with some outside trips. For one day the Class was attached to a regular Police Station and we were individually taken on patrol. I remember walking around Camden and thinking - 'I hope I don't get posted here " . My early instincts were to arrest anyone under 20 - but, the Constable walking me round said I needed a reason - more damn red tape !
The other interesting place we visited was the Met. Police Museum. This was above Bow Street - the Divisional Station, and had a wonderful collection of early Met. related historical items. When Bow St. was demolished the Museum was closed and the collection went into storage.
The Museum has now re-opened and I understand has been very well done. Perhaps someone can tell us if it is open for visits - and if the answer is 'YES' - is there a contact number ?
Recruiting doesn't always get the right people and next time I will tell you of some incidents that took place during my thirteen weeks.
Earlier today (5-25-13) I attended the Ft. Lee Military Show for the first time. I had a blast… great show, wonderful location; altogether a very worthy effort by the organizers. I’ll certainly go again next year, and I’ll probably have a table of my own then as well.
I primarily went to hook up with two good friends, Kevin Born (one of the show’s organizers- thanks Kevin!) and Ralph Pickard (author of “Stasi Decorations and Memorabilia, Volumes 1 and 2”), as it has been a couple of years since I saw them last. A wonderful reunion ensued, along with some minor buying and selling on my part. Great way to spend a beautiful Saturday morning and early afternoon.
Insofar as content, most of the vendors dealt in artifacts from multiple countries and the country that had the most items on display/for sale was the US. Wars covered began with WW1, although I did see reunion items from the US Civil War. There were a couple of US vendors who also had a smattering of Third Reich items, and a couple who also had Eastern Bloc awards. Kevin and Ralph’s tables were the only tables displaying East German militaria.
The highlight of the day was Ralph’s sharing two unbelievable groupings he has acquired… and when I say “unbelievable”, well, you can certainly take that to the bank. The first group is that of a Hungarian State Security agent who retired a Colonel in the mid ‘70’s. In this group, Ralph has been able to acquire this gentleman’s awards from his own country, which include awards from both the Rakosi and Kadar periods and the documents that go with them; Bulgarian awards and associated documents; East German MfS (“Stasi”) awards and their documents; Soviet awards and their documents including the highly coveted “Outstanding Member of the MOOP” (in absolutely pristine condition) and KGB 50 Year award badge. Also with this group, is a Hungarian classified award document that, by virtue of it not having a copy distribution number, may be the sole copy of that particular document, and an interesting pass that admitted this gentleman to all secure areas in the event of an emergency- a sort of “get out of jail free” pass. There were other documents, such as his retirement document, as well. Suffice it to say I have never seen a grouping so impressive and so complete… then Ralph showed me the next case.
This next group was that of an Armenian KGB agent (rose to Lt. Colonel) who was posted, for obviously a good little while, in Afghanistan. 24 awards with documents (for all but, I believe, 2 of the awards), including the Soviet Order of Personal Courage, Soviet Order of the Red Star, Afghan Orders of the Red Star (2), Afghan Order of Glory, Afghan Orders of the Star (1st and 3rd Class) and Afghan Medal for Valour… this guy saw more than his fair share of action. I have never this many Afghan awards in one place, let alone with nearly all the documents TO ONE INDIVIDUAL. I know that Ralph took a lot of time (and money) to get these groups together so completely and they really are beyond amazing. Such collections allow you to go past the individual medal, as impressive and desirable as it may be, and actually get an insight into the life and career of the individual who achieved these awards. Genuine history. And, what probably goes without saying is my appreciation to Ralph for sharing this with me. Strike two from the “bucket list”.
I said in Part 1 that Peel House may have been the first Metropolitan Police Training School. I was right and a little research showed that it was first opened in 1907. Strange that I was there for it's final two weeks in 1967. I think it may have been kept for Police offices and was only sold a few years ago for a large new flat development. One has to compare all of these sales of Police property as 'selling off the family silver'.
Over the years I have seen so many 'bright' new officers arrive - all with one idea - get noticed. First it was armbands - then an attempt at whistles - then truncheons. These are just the noticeable ones - but, the effect is the same. When you have changed all the traditions - sold all the buildings - changed the teaching disciplines - what are you left with. 32,000 men who have lost their links with an important historical past - and the morale which uniqually made them one of the most important Forces in the World.
The new Peel House is the Admin. building at the re-built Hendon Police Training College. I am showing a picture of the very impressive central tower - totally different to the Hendon of my day - then it was mainly one level buildings and in a smaller area.
Built-in the 1930's the first College was the idea of Lord Trenchard who was the Metropolitan Commissioner at that time. Like very many senior ex-service officers' of that period, it was thought that only people from 'background' should be officers. He set-up Hendon as an Officers Training School - along the lines of Sandhurst - but for training officer's of police.
There were quite a number who graduated as Inspectors. However, World War 2 happened and Hendon was closed. When it re-opened after the War it was for training Constables.
The Police have always promoted from with-in their own ranks - although the Commissioner and Chief Constables were often brought to the Rank from senior Army officers. When I first joined the Commissioner was the first to be promoted to that rank from starting as a Constable. His name was Simpson and he was a very good influence on the Met. and highly regarded. I think all senior positions from that time have been police promotions - although, often from other Forces.
The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police is the most senior officer in England and Wales - he is followed by H. M.'s Chief Inspector of Constabulary and third in seniority is the Deputy Commissioner. Chief Constables rank below these officers.
WE ARE EVICTED.............
I think my class were the very last ones at Peel House - unfortunately, Hendon was still not ready for us. We were put into temporary accomodation above a Police Station in North London - still bussing it daily like a group of uniformed vagrants.
After about five weeks of this nonsense Hendon found us a billet - they had quickly taken over the Commandant of Cadets house in the officers section, and installed the twenty of us at 4 per room. One bathroom and one toilet between us - I'm still not sure why I didn't run away ! I used to get-up at 5 a.m. to have a bath. As for the Commandant of Cadets - I never did find out what happened to him - they probably had him in a tent in the park......
Life could now settle into a harried routine of classes , studying in the evening and then preparing uniforms and shoes for early morning parade. How this must 'ring a bell' for all of the servicemen in the Forum who will have gone through something similar.
One of the larger items we were given with our uniforms was the ' dreaded' Instruction Book. This probably weighed well over a kilo and had ring binders. A large envelope was attached with all of the revisions - endless evenings of work. Even worse, we had to learn - word perfect - the provisons of the various Acts.
When you make an arrest you do so from your knowledge of the Law. Lawyers have the luxury of being able to prepare their cases with plenty of time. A Police Officer does not have this - you may have only seconds to make a decision - get it wrong and there will be serious problems. So, it is vital that a Constable knows his law and understands what powers he has been given. I should add - that often , having made a decision, you then find yourself fighting them amongst parked cars.
When I joined, the course to become a Constable was thirteen weeks in length - then two years as a probationary Constable. This was under the supervision of a designated Sergeant, who was your advisor - and, you also attended for two days a month, for instruction - this was at special buildings attached to a Divisional Station.
The end of Week 13 had a passing out parade - your official class photograph - and the posting to your Division. We were allowed to ask for the Division you would like to be posted to - and we all had our own thoughts on this.
This was still in the future - for now, I was just a number.
Several people have asked me why I decided to do a Blog on this subject. There is no particular reason - I
have mainly started it to support this Forum section - we haven't had any longer ones for a while. I also
thought that members who have not served in the Police might find it of some interest ? Police are the most
visible of our support Services - in fact we take them as part of everyday life - however, few people know
the training and experience that goes into doing the job well.
Whilst I write from my own experiences - every young Policeman has gone through virtually the same learning
curve. Experience and knowledge come with training and with help from your colleagues. Please do remember
that my training days were a long time ago - things have greatly changed since then.
So, one summer's morning in July 1967 saw me at the Metropolitan Recruiting Centre in Borough High Street, on
the South Bank of the Thames. They gave me enough forms to fill a small bag and I went off to fill them-in. This
was quite a task - every period of my life had to be accounted for - and addresses and contact information given.
I was 30 at this time and had worked and been at School, in a number of Countries so, this was no easy task.
Eventually it was completed and sent off - and I stalled on the job in HongKong to see what would happen. Month
followed month and I had heard nothing - I phoned to see if they wanted me - "Yes, we do - but where were you
for 6 months in 1963 ?" I hadn't a clue - back to old desk diaries - and Yes, I was saved. I hadn't been in Prison
for 6 months as they must have thought , but had been on 6 months paid leave from Thailand. They checked on this
and I was accepted after a medical.
This wasn't the usual quick one - but was very thorough. I had an op. scar behind one ear - could this cause problems
if I was hit on the head - I had no plans to be hit on the head - so didn't think it would be a problem. I ended up having
tests of some type and all was well.
Late in September I packed a bag and reported to Peel House. This was one of the original training schools for the Met.
- if not the First. It was a very dingy old building - in a street of equally unpleasant old houses behind Victoria Railway
Station. I think that if I had known what was ahead with accomodation I would have run off to HK.
We were welcomed and warned that we would be bussed to Hendon Police College every morning - and return to sleep
at Peel House every night. The bus trip took over an hour each way. Peel House was as rough inside as it looked outside.
However, my 'class' were delightful - and in the face of adversity we 'bonded' and shared our problems. Forty seven
years later I am still close friends with several of them - and even a 'Godfather' to one of their children.
The nicest thing about Peel House was that the walls of the Hallways were covered with old decorated truncheons and
tipstaffs. I spent hours looking at them and working out which areas thay had been for. Later, after the building was
demolished they were taken to Bramshill Training College (for senior police around the Country). When I visited there
to research my book I was able to see them still stacked in the basement.
There had been a period for the Police in England and Wales when recruitment was put on hold - rather similar to the
present situation. I was in the first in-take after this ruling was relaxed - and we were a double class. exMilitary were able
to join up until their 38th year - we were 20 in total and the appointed classleader was from the Welsh Guards. He was
a great help to us all - I often wonder what happened to him - he would be 84 today.
Came the Monday morning and we were on a bus trying to cross London in rush-hour. When we reached Hendon - way
on the other side of London - we were met by our class instructor. Nice chap - he was a sergeant and if I remember had
a young family, so he had volunteered to be an instructor for a few years - this way he could keep normal hours.
The first job was that we were taken to stores and issued with our uniforms. The Met. take pride in having well fitted
uniforms and tailors were on hand to arrange any alterations. Two helmets, one flat cap, winter uniforms, summer uniforms,
winter greatcoats, summer raincoats , car coats, leather note book covers - and so the list went on. I remember that I
didn't walk out - I staggered. And we still had to get it back across London on a bus. We did not have whistles, armbands
or, truncheons at this time . Neither did we have a warrant card. The numerals on our shoulder straps were TS with the
number underneath. This stood for Training School - we were warned not to get involved in any police actions - as we
weren't one yet.................
We had a week to fit our uniforms and get used to wearing them - imagine 20 of us trying to get access to the iron ! Like
any body of recruited men, these times of worry were the founding of friendships for years to come.
The following Monday we were checked for correct uniform and marched to a classroom. We were shown how to sit at
attention - shortly after were called to stand at attention and an Assistant Commissioner was escorted into the room by the
Chief Superintendent of the College. He welcomed us - wished us well and proceeded to 'Swear' us in as Constables
of Her Majesty's Police. This was known as the Attestation Ceremony and from that point on we had the same powers
as trained Police Officers.
For better - or worse - certainly worse for any criminals I was to come across - I was now a Policeman.
Good God - what had I done.......................
This being a quiet Sunday afternoon - overcast and cold (19o C this morning) - it seems a good time to start this new Blog entry. My earlier ones have had good readership - the one on Wartime years is now over 8000 views. I appreciate that many of these are from Google - virtually everything we write is picked-up and published under different headings.
I have had this idea for a while - and perhaps our Members will find it of some interest ? I joined the Metropolitan Police in 1967 and served for 7 years in London's East End. This makes it 46 years ago and a lot has happened in that time. The Police of today do not have a great deal in common with those earlier years.
One quick word of explanation - these days Police tend to call themselves Police Officers. Technically, this is correct. Police are Officers of the Court. All Police have the same basic powers of arrest - be they very senior officers or, constables. The intermediate rank is Sergeant - followed by Inspector and up-wards. From Inspector they are Officers of Police, since they have supervisory rank.
In 1829 the Home Secretary, together with the PrimeMinister - the Duke of Wellington - and the Lord Chancellor, brought into being - through an Act of Parliament - the Metropolitan Police. The Dublin Police had been the first Force and had been succesful - there had also been a few other early small Forces. However, Policing as we know it, really does start with the Metropolitan when they first 'Marched Out' in 1829. They were the first civilian Force and grew to be very much part of the Community they lived-in. Previous overseas forces had been an arm of the Governments i.e. para-military units.
When I first joined there were some 28,000 uniformed and plain clothes Police - plus - approx. another 15,000 civilian staff. I am not sure of the totals in 2013 - however, even with the cutbacks it must be higher.
The rank of Constable is a very old one - and is still used in a non-police capacity. For example - the Governor of the Tower of London - always a very senior retired officer - is the Constable of the Tower. It is thought the word is of Roman origin and was possibly the Comes Stabuli or, Count of the Stables for the Emperors. I do not intend getting too technical - these are just quick explanations to give you a background.
The British are a very conservative people and our earlier Policing has come down directly from the Anglo-Saxons. There are still words and traditions being used that are over 1200 years old. The US Sheriff and the Sheriff's Posse are in fact English and the Sheriff was the King's representitive in the County. Parish and Town Constables were the main form of public control and in 1829 the one million inhabitants of London were under only some 4000 Night Watch and Parish Constables. The first time the word Police was used officially was with the Dublin Police Act of the 1790's.
Scotland has just become one unified Force and I expect the politicians would like to do the same for England and Wales. Hopefully, they will be stopped. Separate Forces that understand the inhabitants of their areas are - in my opinion - greatly preferable to one conglomerate.
MY POLICE STORY
My family had emigrated to Australia after World War 2 - as did many British people . I had cousins in Australia and through them my Father was able to get me admittance to Geelong - Australia's senior Public School. I have always been very proud to have been there and to be able to call myself an Aussie. Very unpretentious people - but so friendly. When I left School I didn't want to go to University - the pressures weren't the same in those days and I couldn't see the point of a degree when I wasn't going into a profession. Instead I was accepted by the top Advertising Company in the World - J.Walter Thompson. In my entire life I have never been asked for a ref. or to produce any previous work. A telephone call was all it took from your boss. How different the World is today - my god-daughter spent the whole of last Saturday taking 4 accountacy exams.
Cutting a long story short - after all, I am leading up to why I joined the Met. Police - I worked 4 years in South Africa in the 1950's - returned to live in Brisbane and was 'headhunted' to work in Thailand for 3 1/2 years - in advtg.. I returned to the UK on 6 month's home leave and was again asked to run an advtg. agency in Sierra Leone, West Africa. I was there for two years - still a safe place in those days - but I still have recurring Malaria from those days. I returned to live in Bournemouth and was considering an offer of another overseas posting - however, I was 30 at that time and you could not join the Police in London unless you had British citizenship, had been 6 months in the Country and were not over 31.
This forced me to a serious decision. I had wanted to serve in the Australian Army and had been selected for Duntroon (their off's trng. school) . My Father had refused to sign , so that went 'out the window' - however , the British Police - particularly London had always been an interest. Hesitate - and I would be over acceptance age.