By Len A.Hynds

For several years after the war there were thousands of bombed buildings about, and re-building still had a long way to go. Thieves used to infest these derelict buildings, stealing fittings, lead pipes and flashing, and these were known as "The bluey boys", quite frankly, it was too easy to catch them, and I used to regard this form of arrest a bit of a pain.

One of the bluey boys, with initiative, branched out into stealing car batteries during the night, purely to cut out the lead strips inside.

One morning at 4am just as the first streaks of dawn were appearing, I saw him pushing his barrow, going from car to car stealing the batteries, which were easy to get at in those days.

I watched for a while, and then got right up to him without him realising it. I approached from behind and spun him round, and he was so startled that he nearly dropped his latest acquisition which he had in his arms.

The trouble was, the acid in the battery shot out and went onto my face, but more importantly, into both eyes. It was not his fault, and purely an accident. We were near a telephone box and I pushed him inside.

My eyes started burning and I had difficulty in keeping them open. I told him to telephone for an ambulance, which he did. I took my prisoner with me in the ambulance to the Royal Eye Hospital, but the doctor thought I was taking things too far when I tried to take my prisoner into the treatment room.

I had to get him to promise that he would not run away, and when my eyes were washed out and I could see again, there he was sitting in the hallway, waiting for me. I phoned the station for the van to collect us and take us back to the barrow and stolen batteries. I had already made up my mind, in my usual perverse way not to charge him, as he had been straight with me, and could so easily have escaped.

He was astonished when we got back to the scene, and we replaced all the stolen batteries in the cars that he pointed out. I sent him on his way rejoicing!

Two days later I was on duty at the station, when a bewildered citizen came in, claiming that there were fairies loose on the streets of London at night. He said that he had just checked his oil, and his battered very old battery had been replaced by a brand new one.