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When the first civilian police force in the World - the London Metropolitan police - marched out from New Scotland Yard in 1829, their uniform was based on the civilian dress of the day. Totally different working conditions existed in those early days and it was clearly laid down in Instructions, that the constable was to wear his uniform at all times and he was, therefore, on duty at all times. The difference between parading on duty and being on 'off' duty , was to be shown by an arm band worn around the left wrist of the tunic. The first ones were horizontal in their striping and only had a few rings - by the time I joined they were vertical and in alternate stripes of blue and white.
The top one was my first issue in 1967 and was of a cloth - the replacement was nylon. They were discontinued in - I think 1972 or,73.. They were not the easiest things to put-on in a hurry - it took practise to have them lie flat around the cuff. The City of London Police had red and white stripes and still wear them - the only Force - to my knowledge - who still keep up their traditions.

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This fine drawing shows a P.C. of 'H' Division, as he might have looked in the first days of the Metropolitan Police. The arm band shows the original horizontal stripes.

I have always wondered - did any other Police around the World, use a duty armband ?

Drawing copyright - Bob Marrion

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Hello Mervyn, and Gentlemen.

I won't be quite as emphatic as Rick there, but along the same train of thought perhaps - Why was it necessary to indicate if one was "on duty" or "off"?

I wouldn't imagine that if a, say victim of a mugging, came running up to our "off duty" policeman, he (or she) would hold up the hand and say, "Hold on chum - I am off duty", while pointing to the armband.

Or is it a case of, like the big head gear, being conspicuous and preventing crime that way?

Interesting item though, and worn up until recently too.

regards

Thomas

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The whole concept of policing was new - and the idea of the constable always being available was quite radical. Since he had to be on duty at all times he needed to be able to show when he was 'officially' on street duty - however, if anything happened. then he put himself 'back on duty' and did what was necessary. This still applies today - Robin, Leigh Coldstream and other retired Police - will tell you that they were always 'on duty' and were expected to act accordingly. An example would be if you were on holiday and saw a serious crime - then you took action as a police officer - since England and Wales are jurisdiction areas - Scotland being separate - then that was the area you had authority. Most police I knew would not become involved unless it was very serious - but, in the Met. you usually got a Commissioner's Commendation for acting out of your area.

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The wearing of the armlet indicated as has already been said that the officer was "on duty" i.e. booked on. I remember as a young P.C.many times travelling with a serial of officers 18PCs, 2 Sghts on the underground from the East End to a demo in central London and the inspector i/c directed that the armlet would be removed until on "ground assigned" in central London. In addition when the officer was Off duty and the armlet removed he could enter a public house and consume alcohol in uniform. The removal of the armlet to deceive a landlord was a further discipline offence if in fact the officer was on duty. These regulations stem from the period when police were not allowed to wear mufti and were always dressed in uniform. The regulations changed with the licensing act in 1964 if I remember correctly.

S.MacKay

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May I say it is a pleasure having you post to our sub-forum - I hope you will add from time to time, your knowledge would be most helpful.I'm sure Leigh, when he sees this, will be pleased. The info. you give on pubs and armbands is great and I - for one - had never heard of this. At least by the time I joined we had police coaches provided - must have been quite a sight to see 30 or more police on the underground. You mention the East End - please tell me you were at Bethnal Green ? That would be a great co-incidence and I would have lots of questions for you !!!

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I am pleased that some have found my comments useful. I was a young PC in the early sixties at "HP" Poplar. Long since closed and demolished but part of "HH" sub-division

Most serials in those days from outer London divisions travelled by tube into central London. The serial inspector was issued with a bulk travel

warrant ( no free tarvel in those days) which provided him with a tickets for all to travel on the underground.

I note the comments on the armlets and how they were attached. I have included a photo of mine attached to my original No1. uniform. I see on many films of that period that the armlet is wrongly attached to the cuff and a loose end is flapping about. Mine isn't as you will see it is properly attached. I have no recollection of officers finding the armlet an encumberance when in a tussle or an anchor for a villain to hold onto, however no doubt it was pulled off at some time.

As you can see this was made to measure when I was 19 and it still fits.

Well almost ;)

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Amazing that you can still fit ? I'm not sure I would still fit into mine - however, I didn't keep it when they were withdrawn - you will probably know that they were all sold to Elstree Film Studios for £3.50 each - and, the best Melton cloth you could buy. I knew Poplar well we used to go there on Sundays when our canteen at HB was closed. I don't expect you would know it now with all the new Dockland developments. When I was radio operator on Hotel 2 , we used to go down to Isle of Dogs, on night duty, and look at the ships....

Are you retired now - do you still live-in London ?( Just being nosey????) Mervyn

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Amazing that you can still fit ? I'm not sure I would still fit into mine - however, I didn't keep it when they were withdrawn - you will probably know that they were all sold to Elstree Film Studios for £3.50 each - and, the best Melton cloth you could buy. I knew Poplar well we used to go there on Sundays when our canteen at HB was closed. I don't expect you would know it now with all the new Dockland developments. When I was radio operator on Hotel 2 , we used to go down to Isle of Dogs, on night duty, and look at the ships....

Are you retired now - do you still live-in London ?( Just being nosey????) Mervyn

Well slight exaggeration to say it still fits. I am long retired living in north Essex, but have happy memories of the Met which I am proud to have been a member. I knew that part of the East End very well lived in the section house at HH. Patrolled many a night on foot as aid to "HI" and like you knew the docks and the places to get a cup of tea. Sorry for the delay in responding, I dont access the site very frequently.

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When you mention the Section House - do you mean the one on Ratcliffe Highway - nearest station was Arbour Square ? I was there for 18 months from Jan.98. I created a great 'stir' - I wanted my own TV in the room and that wasn't allowed, so I submitted a 728 to the Ch. Supt. requesting permission. The file came back - nearly 2 inches thick - it had gone right to the Comm. who had said - of course they can. So all thr others can thank me for that. Mervyn

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Hi All

Ive joined this here forum just to find out about Early Peelers......fantastic picture by the way! The armband was used when the officer was on duty. The main reason for this is that they had to wear their uniform at all times. This was to stop them mixing with the criminal fraternity...as many of them did. They had to seek permission to marry and also permission to dine out with certain persons. all this for a £1 a week and 1 weeks unpaid holiday a year and 2 months out of 3 on night shift. They had 12 hour shifts and had to walk their beat at 2.5mph. They were not to stop and talk to maids or any other person unless it was in the course of their duties and they were not of course allowed to go into a public house. So many early Peelers were dismissed for this that the tailors complained about having to keep altering the uniforms!!!

Early duty armbands had three horizontal blue stripes.

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Hello Sgt. Grant - welcome to GMIC - you must tell us your first name. Nice to have another member interested in Police history - please let us have a few details , are you a police officer etc.. Do you collect ? Mervyn

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From what I have read, I believe they were discontinued in about 1968 time. An interesting thing to point out, is that the only officers exempt from wearing the armband were officers attached to the traffic department due to the safety implications of them snagging on an indicator arm or the like.

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I have memories of it being a little later then 1968. Perhaps a little earlier then the estimate I gave of 1972/3 - however, I had two issues so it must have been at least three years that I wore the band. Does anyone have a clearer recollection ?

How is progress going with your eventual application - I hope you are still keen on joining ?

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I have memories of it being a little later then 1968. Perhaps a little earlier then the estimate I gave of 1972/3 - however, I had two issues so it must have been at least three years that I wore the band. Does anyone have a clearer recollection ?

How is progress going with your eventual application - I hope you are still keen on joining ?

Off duty coppers - well those on their way to and from work - stood out a mile. It was always a tweed jacket with their duty blue shirt and tie underneath. Funny thing is you don't see that anymore because they live at the other end of the county and drive into work.:rolleyes:

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I have memories of it being a little later then 1968. Perhaps a little earlier then the estimate I gave of 1972/3 - however, I had two issues so it must have been at least three years that I wore the band. Does anyone have a clearer recollection ?

How is progress going with your eventual application - I hope you are still keen on joining ?

I still have not applied yet because I am still 17. First, I am trying to find work so that I have some life/work experience because I have heard from many sources that they value that. What with many forces having a hold on recruitment, I am starting to think that joining first as a Special or PCSO first will be a good way to get my foot in the door, if you like. Thanks for asking, though, and yes still keen on joining.

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No - go straight for the main Job. However, think of a Force that's big enough to require new people all the time. This is why the Met. has to be high for a career - just so many positions. Let us know what you decide - we 'oldies' all have an interest in the next generation....

Does anyone know if the Met. still has Cadets - that would be a good start for you.

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No cadets Mervyn,

And a bit of a problem with the country being bankrupt! The last rumour I heard is the Met are'nt recruiting for 5 years and if you want to join you will have to be a Special for 5 years or take a Universtiy course that will drop it to 3 years as a Special. There are no places for PCSO to become Constables either.

The Counties are in a far worse situation!

But on the plus side I keep hearing rumours that they want to bring in retirement at 25yrs to get rid of all the expensive boys and girls, so every cloud!

Best

Craig

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False economies, Craig. They will regret the cutbacks in years to come. Thanks for adding that great photo with the dogs - are you on the left or, right ? I hope you realise that where you are standing is where 'H' Div. always paraded for Trooping the Colour - the position was so good I always vol. - and we faced the Parade.....

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Im on the left with my retired bitch! (oh er missus) still with me though. Strange that my new Sheperd is black as well.

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My info is that the armband was discontinued in 1972/3 and was replaced in England and Wales with the wearing of a diced cap band, as used in Scotland first.

The regulations changed to state that the cap should be worn while on duty, presumably replacing that aspect of the Duty Armband that says if your not wearing it your off duty. Serving and retired officers could confirm this perhaps. I know it was a big issue to put your cap on when you got out of an official vehicle.

Bengullion -

Interesting to see how the arm band attached, however I think this may be a 'Met' only way of wearing it ,as most photos show the buckle to the outside between the two loops.

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My info is that the armband was discontinued in 1972/3 and was replaced in England and Wales with the wearing of a diced cap band, as used in Scotland first.

The regulations changed to state that the cap should be worn while on duty, presumably replacing that aspect of the Duty Armband that says if your not wearing it your off duty. Serving and retired officers could confirm this perhaps. I know it was a big issue to put your cap on when you got out of an official vehicle.

Bengullion -

Interesting to see how the arm band attached, however I think this may be a 'Met' only way of wearing it ,as most photos show the buckle to the outside between the two loops.

Most forces didn't wear an "on duty" armband prior to the adoption of the Sillitoe Tartan in the early 1970s. However, Newcastle Upon Tyne City Police did have a "zebra stripe" band on their caps before the switch to the diced version.

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The Malta Police Force used the duty armband till the mid 1980's, and ours was the horizontal one!! I still have a few of them in my collection!!

This fine drawing shows a P.C. of 'H' Division, as he might have looked in the first days of the Metropolitan Police. The arm band shows the original horizontal stripes.

I have always wondered - did any other Police around the World, use a duty armband ?

Drawing copyright - Bob Marrion

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Sorry, Haven't looked at this for some time. Dublin Met Pol carried armbands but they were horizontal. Incidentally they preceded London Met Pol.

Bengullion

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