My police station for nine years, before I went to Scotland Yard, was Carter Street in South London, notoriously rough, with more than its fair share of resident criminals within its boundary, which stretched from the Elephant & Castle, down the Old Kent Road, along the Grand Union Canal to Peckham and Camberwell, then to the Oval Kennington, then back up to the Elephant. There were over 90 public houses, and innumerable illicit drinking dens, and gambling places, and other places of ill repute. So a PC walking a beat, without a radio in those days, was completely on his own, with only his truncheon as protection, sometimes against razor fighting gangs, so every PC at Carter Street as a general rule knew how to look after himself, and they became as rough and tough as circumstances demanded.

I tell this story to show the other side of those men.

IT'S ENOUGH TO BREAK YOUR HEART

By Len A.Hynds

I had been doing traffic point duty at the Oval, when on being relieved I was called to an accident outside The Horns Public House, where a car had driven into the rear of a lorry. A young mum in her mid twenties, driving the car with her two small children in the back, were not injured, but the car was smashed in at the front, headlamps, wings and radiator, and the car non-driveable. Fighting back the tears and trying to be brave, she told me that the previous evening, at her isolated cottage outside Ripon in North Yorkshire, she had received a visit by a P.C from Ripon station, to inform her that her husband, a travelling salesman, had been involved in an accident in Cornwall, but had died before reaching hospital. The police in Cornwall needed somebody to identify the body which was now in Bodmin Mortuary.

She had no relatives who could do this for her, and in her isolated cottage no-one to leave the children with. So she had set out in this very old car, with the children in the back, with only enough money for petrol each way, and some snacks for the children. To say she was distraught would be to put it mildly, and now she was stranded in London, and just didn't know what to do.

I had her car towed into his garage by Charlie Valiant of Sutherland Square, and the station van to take us into the station, where they were comforted by our wonderful old matron, and had a wash and tidy up in her room. George Howard was Station Sergeant and he took them all down into the canteen and bought them breakfast. I phoned Charlie Valiant, and he told me how much all the replacement parts would cost, and I said that she had no money and explained the circumstances, and that I would try and raise the money through the lads on duty. Charlie immediately said, "See what you can do Len, I wont charge anything to do it."

Within half an hour by seeing everybody in the station, I had raised enough for Charlie to purchase a new radiator, wings, front bumper, headlamps and side lights, with everybody contributing from the Chief Inspector downwards. With PCs wages then about £10 a week, I knew that many had completely emptied their pockets. I took the money round to Charlie, and he said that he would start work on it immediately. When he asked how she was going to continue the journey, I told him that we would take her, and after a discussion with the other PCs as I had the best car, (an old Wolseley), it would be me. He said that it was a round trip of about six hundred miles, and after working out how much the trip would cost with petrol terribly dear at half a crown ( 15 pence), a gallon (4 Litres), he insisted I took the petrol money from him, as he guessed I had already emptied my pockets.

So we set out at about mid-day and they were all soon asleep in the back. There were no main roads in those days, and motorways were unheard of, so it was winding narrow country lanes all the way to Cornwall, which took nearly nine hours and the Bodmin police opened up the mortuary for us, and I stayed with the children outside whilst she went in to identify him. It was 10pm when we set off back again on that long journey, with her in the back cuddling the children telling them that their daddy had been such a good man, that he was now with Jesus. There was a lot of crying in that car, but they all eventually fell asleep.

We arrived back in the station yard at 7.am, and Charlie had just delivered the car, and all were standing around it looking at his handiwork. He had worked on it all the previous day, and all night, non-stop. I am sure that he had done extra things without telling anybody, such as brake linings, and adjustments. After George took them into the matrons room for a morning wash, he bought them all breakfast again, and eventually they were back in their car ready for the long journey northwards. We all stood around the car saying goodbye to the children in the back, when from the driving seat, she said to Charlie, "You know I can't pay you now, but let me have the bill so I can send it to you." "Nothing to pay love, it's all been taken care of." Charlie replied.

She looked amazed, and then another Sergeant stepped forward and put a brown envelope on the seat beside her. "Thatís for petrol and food on the way back home."

I saw her eyes fill with tears, and then she wept openly, and looking at this hard bitten bunch around the car, she said, "You are all such kind wonderful men"

I have often wondered how that poor young woman got through that difficult time. Life can be so hard for some.