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Trafalgar Square

By Ex PC 136 'A'/135559 Alan Francis


As a young probationer I was attached to a senior constable to learn beats and pick up the ‘feel' of going out in uniform. One of these senior constables was Leslie Morrison, a Scot, who came to London to join the Police in the 1930s via coal boat from the north east (a cheap method of travel) to berth in The Thames near Battersea. These coal boats were called ‘flat irons' as they had low superstructure to enable them to negotiate the low Thames bridges. Leslie Morrison went on to become a leading guide and authority on the history of The Houses of Parliament and in January 1973 he showed the national karate team of France round the Houses of Parliament prior to the Fanfare for Europe match at Crystal Palace which I will separately describe later. When arranging this visit I forgot the fact that there are two huge murals in The House, one of the Battle of Waterloo and the other the Battle of Trafalgar but these victories were a long time ago - part of our rich history with France. This visit of the French national team was to celebrate ‘Fanfare for Europe', joining the European Economic Union.


It may, at this stage, be useful if I digress into some early police experiences in Trafalgar Square, Westminster which helped shape my formative years in the police service, giving a perspective on ‘fair play' and judgement, some of which I got right.


When eventually allowed out on my own I enjoyed direct contact with the public and Trafalgar Square was a very busy posting to experience just that. It was not long before a smart well dressed lady of about 30 years came to me indicating her swollen lip and alleging that she had been assaulted by a costermonger, known as a barrow boy, in the Strand. Still imbued with Peel House training I went with her to the barrow boy asking that she repeat in front of him what she had just told me. She related that she wanted two pears only and had been charged too much, certainly more than the advertised price per pound: she wanted her money back. What happened next I could hardly believe but remember it in slow motion - his right arm swung widely and he hit her face hard with the back of his hand. That was it. In shock I momentarily forgot all about Peel House procedure. "Right mate, you're nicked", I heard myself say, dragging him to the nearest police post. We had also to see to the victim, a vital witness, and think about the security of his barrow of fruit, an open target for free samples whether in the street or the police yard! Next day he appeared at Bow Street and pleaded not guilty before Mr Paul Bennett V.C.,M.C.   I gave evidence up to Peel House standard and, fingers crossed, told the magistrate that the accused was told he was being arrested. He was duly dealt with. Next day J.A.J. a columnist writing ‘Courts Day by Day' in the Evening News humorously reported the event headed "Two make a fine pear" - my first arrest now reported in the London press.

(It was a privilege to give evidence before Mr Bennett. He won the Victoria Cross in Le Transoy in WW1: although  injured he led a charge at the enemy armed with a spade. When he retired in 1961 the West End barrow boys, most of whom had appeared before him, made a collection and presented him with a magnificent leather hamper with silver contents.)

 Late on a Saturday a man hopelessly drunk was trying to cross the road, a danger to himself and others. He just had to be arrested for his own protection. As I approached he held on to a lamp post outside South Africa House and would not let go. Luckily a police van was passing and the crew helped me get him in the van. The lamp post remained standing. Taken to Cannon Row he insisted (from a sitting position, as he was now unable to stand) that he was not drunk and demanded to see a doctor to prove he was sober. The great shipping industry of this country was being

reduced, making many seamen redundant and homeless. Hitherto ships had been their homes. This fellow was one of those affected, all money spent on drink to ‘drown the sorrow' - and paralyse the brain. Doctors were always difficult to call out in the 1950s, they understandably did not want to come and run the risk of having to attend court thereby missing a surgery, nor did the ex-seaman have any money to pay the doctor.  A sergeant, whom I remember with affection, put on a white traffic coat, pretended to be a doctor and after various tests, like walking a chalk line, declared the accused drunk. Next morning at Bow Street he pleaded guilty before Mr Bertram Rees. "Have you anything to say?" asked the magistrate. "Yes", said the accused "I didn't think I was drunk but the doctor said I was drunk so I've pleaded guilty". Mr Rees looked at the back of the charge sheet, no doctor signature. "Doctor? Doctor? You didn't have a doctor, you must have been drunk. Any trouble officer?" I confirmed no trouble. "Fine 40 shillings".  "The accused has no money your worship", volunteered the gaoler.  The penalty was altered to one day in prison which meant he could leave after the court had risen, without  a heavy medical bill. Short cuts like this were a simple cost effective way of facilitating very fair justice but it was risky. I had reservations and remember it well over 50 years on.

I reminded myself of the sign in the National Provincial Bank Rowing Club bar at Hammersmith. ‘He is not drunk who from the floor can rise and drink and ask for more. But he is drunk who prostrate lies without the power to drink or rise.'   Our man was not as bad as that.


At Christmas 1950 in Trafalgar Square the tree from Norway (possibly the first year of the trees as a ‘thank you' for war services) attracted large crowds including nurses from nearby Charing Cross Hospital, now a police station.  Carols were sung and everyone was happy.  There followed an influx of youths with Mediterranean complexions, among others, who started to molest the nurses and other young ladies and we stepped in to stop it. Fights and arrests followed and we were helped by the Military Police who were passing and saw the fracas. At 12.30 a.m., now Christmas Day, I was due to relieve Constable Phil Pedwell in the Westminster Abbey area, and telephoned the Station to say that I was heavily engaged at Trafalgar Square. I was told to stay there.  At 6a.m. we were all off duty.  Phil Pedwell gave me a lift on his motor cycle to Victoria where we all lived in the police hostel called ‘Ambrosden Section House'. I arranged with him that we would mutually ensure each other was awake by 12 noon in order to get to our respective homes, there being no public transport on Christmas Day.


When I arose at noon I went to Phil Pedwell's room - he was not there. I washed and shaved and went to the canteen for a tea before cycling to Wembley and lunch with the family. Phil Pedwell was in the canteen. I remonstrated with him for leaving me in my room potentially asleep when we had mutually agreed to ensure each other was awake. He looked tired and white and said he had been up since 10 o'clock as there had been trouble at The Abbey. I was in a hurry.


I cycled hard to Wembley arriving home in time for the 1 o'clock news. First item: the Coronation Stone had been stolen from Westminster Abbey. I was uneasy as I should have relieved there but one cannot be in two places at once and I had been busy in Trafalgar Square. The Stone of Scone, which had been in The Abbey since 1297 had been taken by Scottish Nationalists. Years later I was to read an account of the venture in The Readers' Digest written by one of the team, and last year I read an obituary in The Daily Telegraph of another conspirator who had become a Queen's Counsel in Scotland. I mused that if this had happened in the Reign of the first Elizabeth he would have been hanged and never appointed a Queen's Counsel. The incident cost many thousands of hours of police time. The Serpentine, Welsh Harp, and some areas of the River Thames

were searched and hoaxers complicated the investigation.


 In the 1950s demand for cameras and films had still not been satisfied due to the war years, thereby enabling street photographers to make huge profits. Tourists were the target and they were promised large group photographs to be sent to their homes. A charge of £5 was normal (this was a lot of money in the 1950s). The victims/witnesses were mostly back in the United States or Canada but the photographs did not materialise and very few complained. However some did and we tried to prevent this illegal trade which was contrary to the Trafalgar Square Act 1952, Section 3. There was no power of arrest so the game was to simply stop the accused, tell them they would be reported for illegal trading and note their replies. We knew their names and addresses. I saw the Chief Inspector at Cannon Row, getting his permission to spend three weeks at the Square with a colleague and foregoing refreshment breaks in the police station. (We took some food to the police box on site and discreetly ate in there). During a normal refreshment break, when one would first eat then write up reports, the street photographers would know our whereabouts and could in that short time make more money than I was earning in a month. By police staying on post they dare not work at all.  On one occasion we arranged with colleagues from Bow Street that they would assist by stopping the photographers as they exited the Strand doors of the then Charing Cross Post Office, meanwhile we would chase them to the Duncannon Street entrance. Trying to evade us the photographers duly fled the Square to emerge in The Strand but alas as we got to the Strand the Bow Street Police had stopped the wrong people who were amazed to be told they had acted illegally. We ‘dusted them down' and tendered apologies. This cat-and-mouse activity, a war of attrition, continued until the photographers gave up. But it did not end there. I went on holiday to Torquay, Devon and from there visited The Royal Show at Newton Abbot. Who should be there but all the Trafalgar Square photographers. There were cries of "Oh, no!" when they saw me but they had the grace to laugh, and so did I!  There was no ill feeling.


One plausible thief preyed on Trafalgar Square/ Buckingham Palace tourists with cameras. He would engage them in conversation and had good knowledge of camera-value. Next he said he could get a good sum of stated cash for their camera offering to take the victims to a camera shop in The Strand. Asking them to wait outside he went into Boots Chemists in Trafalgar House with their camera and out of the Boots' side exit into the arcade never to be seen again. So many complaints were received that a team of young policemen was brought out in plain clothes with a brief to watch any man, answering the description, approaching tourists with cameras. We watched the crowds at Changing of the Guard, made many ‘stops', never found the prime suspect, but saw other crime being committed and basked in the glory of the arrests and results. Strangely, the camera incidents stopped.


Finally there was the sad case of a man who specialised in looking up the clothing of women and girls who were bending down to feed the Trafalgar Square pigeons. These days he would have difficulty for nearly all the ladies wear trousers or jeans. This particular man was so blatant and oblivious to others' reaction that I thought he would soon be assaulted. I stood in front of him to ‘give him the message' but I might as well not have bothered: he was so intent upon his purpose that he had not even seen me. So I arrested him for insulting behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace and he came peacefully to Cannon Row Police Station. It transpired that he was an army captain in charge of transport at his army base. This complicated matters. We would now have to notify his commanding officer and a representative of the army would also have to attend the court. I felt the whole incident was getting out of proportion and began to wish I had taken another course of action. The problem with that was that if I had accused him verbally and taken no further action I was exposed for ‘neglect of duty' if he then complained about me and I had done nothing further at the scene. Experienced policemen advised that if any action is needed firm action is better than weak action - I am now not so sure about that, it is all a question of balance.


At Cannon Row the army captain was taken aside by The Station Officer. It was agreed that if his occupation was entered on the charge sheet as ‘Transport Manager' then we need not notify his army base and the matter would go through court without the risk of publicity. We were trying to be kind. He agreed.  Next morning I attended Bow Street in uniform where once again the respected Mr Bertram Rees was magistrate. The accused pleaded guilty but I was very concerned when he arrived at court immaculately dressed, carrying a bowler hat and displaying a well known regimental tie. I believe the magistrate quickly spotted this. He held in his hand the charge sheet on which ‘Transport Manager' was economical truth. The accused had nothing to say except that he was sorry and the magistrate then said. " I think I shall remand you in custody for a week for a medical report". (My heart sank - this will expose our deception, I thought, I shall be in deep trouble). Mr Rees continued," ...but instead you will pay a fine of £5 and I never wish to see you in court again". What a relief. The shrewd Magistrate got the penalty exactly right and the army officer and I had learned a huge lesson. I told the Station officer, too.


A few years of these experiences was like going through ‘The University of the Streets'.

MEMORIES OF 'AR' (Rochester Row) and 'AD' 


My name is Peter Crabb 243A / 148468 I served at 'AR' from 1959  - 1962. On joining 'A' from training school I attened AD to meet  Ch/Supt Burgess ( I think ) after a few words he said "yes you're a bit small for 'A"  ( I'm 5'10'' ) and I felt quite hurt until he stood up from his desk and shook hands with me and he just seemed to keep on getting taller and taller.It maybe that he wasn't THAT tall but to a rookie meeting a real Ch/ Supt for the first time he seemed 'bloody' huge to me.


Anyway, obviously I wasn't tall enough for AD 'cos I went to AR and loved it. I remember going 'aid to AD one weekend and our relief Insp ( Wilf Lowndes ) decided to 'march us from Roch to AD. What a shambles, how no one got killed crossing Vic. Street at the junction with Gt Smith St I'll never know. Happy days, Very happy days.


All correct sarge!

Peter Crabb.

I served at St: James's Park on Promotion in 1969, in the first instance, for a year. I had many happy memories while there and a few with the Met Officers from Cannon Row. They were still sited at the old Scotland Yard building and I visited the station on may occasions getting to know, and dare I say it, love a great number of officers there.  I was later posted back there again around 1988 for another year or so.
The story that I relate  refers to two prisoners, a male and female who were taken to AD station . The female, who was a very well off lady with an address in Cheyenne Walk, who was the worst for drink, and her male companion, who was trying to be chivalrous, and got himself  arrested for obstruction police. While struggling to get her into the police van, she fell over, pulling my radio and causing me to fall on top of her. The radio was on one of the hooks on my belt and swung round straight into her mouth which immediately stated to bleed profusely. I immediately thought, who the hell is going to believe that I hadn't clocked her one. A simple arrest had apparently gone pear shaped. She was taken by police van to AD, and while in the charge room(there's a blast from the past)she started lashing out at everyone in sight.The duty  inspector came in and on seeing what was going on, clocked her one, which had the immediate effect of calming her down.
Unfortunately, I had an RPC female probationer with me at the time, who had only been at the station a day or two, and had come straight from training school, on seeing this, panicked, and put the wind up everybody by wanting to report the matter. Everybody else  had suddenly gone blind and hadn't seen anything. After a talking to her for a considerable time I was able to reassure the Inspector that she too, had gone blind at that precise moment and no longer wanted to report the matter.
After a restless night worrying about all sorts of possible complaints from her, she turned up at Bow Street court,and pleaded guilty, stating that she couldn't remember a thing about the incident. Years later I was diagnosed with ulcers and I think this was one of the causes of them. 
I hope this will give a few chuckles and maybe some will remember the incident.
Great memories of a great station and the men who manned it.
Andy Walker Retired Inspector, Royal Parks Constabulary. (now part of the Met: Police) 

Memories of 'A' From WPC285 'AR'/1892 HOWARD(1961-64)

On leaving training school at Peel House I was posted to 'AR' (Rochester Row). As a WPC I spent
my night duties at AD. In those days women police mainly dealt with women
and children so night duty was uually fairly quiet. We used to relieve the
WPC on duty in A4 Index in Scotland Yard when she went for refs. It was quite
eerie  rattling around in there in the middle of the night. My first
Christmas on duty fell during the night shift and I seem to recall passing
it in a happy state. During the night we would usually go out with the duty
officer as he did his rounds of AW an BP. Some nights we would stop cars at
random outside St. George's hospital, occasionally getting a result. I used
to love London about 5am when the streets had been freshly washed and the
only people around were thechars going off to work. The only male officers
whose names I recall are PS Garnham and Inspector Wilkinson, who used to
have his collection of helmet badges framed in the front office. The WPCs
were Sue Chandler and Annette but Ican't remember her surname.
Later, when I started courting a fellow officer at AR, I was transferred to
AH.Not exactly a hive of industry with highlights being the discovery  of a
body in the Serpentine, the  arrest of a Tom or a lost child. I was the only
WPC at AH after the departure of Dilys Puddephat.
Ihad hoped to see something from other WPCs while I wandered through your
site which I came across by chance.
I hope this will be of some use to you.
Good Luck.  Anne Preston/Ward/Howard