I reminisce sometimes on how things have changed since I was a young man in my twenties, and I was a uniformed police constable walking the beat in inner south London between the Old Kent Road, parts of Camberwell and Kennington, from the Oval to the Elephant & Castle. The uniform had not changed for a hundred years, with the tunic done up to the neck, the helmet, the thick black shiny cape, which when rolled up with its leather strap could hang on your belt, and make the perfect weapon if surrounded and in trouble. Boots had a guardsman's shine, and postmen, bus drivers, and milkmen, all wore a very smart uniform with collars and ties, and everybody took such a pride in their appearance.

Best suits were always worn on a Sunday, and trainers and denims were unheard of. I had joined the force in 1950 after returning from Egypt, and my first wage was 7-50 a week. This was a vast increase from the 2-50 a week as a soldier for King George V1. By 1953 I was earning the fabulous sum of 11-50 a week.

There was a strength of 90 policemen at my station, 30 to a relief, and all 15 beats would be covered 24 hours a day, and you were posted to a beat for a month, so you got to know so many people, both the good and the bad. You had to try the doors and sometimes windows both back and front of all shops and business premises at least twice a night on your beat, and you were only allowed in to the station for 45 minutes in an eight hour period for refreshment.

You were an integral part of a very large poor community, and you daily did so many natural things for individuals, such as the washing and laying-out of a dead spouse for some elderly lady who could not cope. I learnt beats with an elderly policeman, who had stayed on after his time because of the war, and he could find a quote from Shakespeare to match nearly every occasion. He taught me so many things, like pennies on the eyes of dead bodies to keep them closed, a handkerchief under the chin tied on top of the head to keep the mouth closed and as if smiling. He would stand back and say, "Ah death, where is thy sting. "He always put socks on the deceased, saying, "The old ladies in their grief always feel their feet, saying how cold they are. "So policemen were liked and respected, and there was no question of having to wear a flak jacket to prevent a sudden stabbing, or the myriad of strange items they have to carry on their belt these days.

We had come to our station, a new Superintendent, Jim Hill, DFC, an ex Spitfire Pilot, who had come straight from officers college, and although we generally had no time for officers who had not come through the ranks, this man had proved himself to all us young ex-servicemen.


By Len A.Hynds

I was driving the new Superintendent back to our station with him sitting beside me, looking the very embodiment of a spitfire pilot, with his upturned moustache, and he was asking me questions about the manor as I drove along. He appeared very nonchalant as if nothing ever fazed him, and he was asking about the local inhabitants and he was very impressed that we were held in such high regard by them. I had answered that the relationship was perfect, when I had to stop the car at traffic lights. From the pub on the corner a host of young lady factory workers emerged all very merry and laughing. They had been having some farewell drinks for one of them about to get married.

As they crossed in front of my car, they noticed it was a police car, and one very pretty young lady walked alongside my window, and thinking she was going to ask a question wound the window down.

She leant in completely, put both arms around me, and kissed me full on the lips much to the hilarity of her friends. The superintendent stroked his moustache upwards with one finger and said, "Yes I see what you mean."

Red Lips