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My Early Police Days ............. Part 5

Mervyn Mitton




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

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


I will show a few other pictures at the end.


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.


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....................







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