Every night the
gas lamps flickered and hissed as the pubs spewed their nightly quota of
belligerence and raucousness on to the streets.
Being handy with your fists was a necessity. If you went on duty
and didn't have a scrap you were darned lucky. One of the first rules my
station sergeant taught me was, if you had any difficulty with any man, make
sure you got the first punch in, you might never have another
Fidler and Muller were my superiors and two straighter or tougher men I've yet
to meet. I remember one local troublemaker coming into the station one
"I want to make
a complaint," he said.
assaulted by a copper last night in Deakin Road."
Fidler's eyes narrowed. One ham-like hand reached out and grasped the man by
the coat. The poor bloke was yanked forward and found himself staring into the
Fidler's voice growled, "So?"
We never saw
the man again.
of our tough attitude didn't stop at sergeants, it went right to the top. One
day, about a week after I'd jailed a bloke, his brother stopped me in the
"If you didn't
have that uniform on I'd knock your bloody head off."
"Right," I said. "Meet me in Fordruff's Timber Yard at 6.30 and we'll see about
We met. He
didn't knock my head off and we were the best of pals. But coming out of the
timber yard, still pulling my jacket on, I walked smack into Inspector
glanced at my battered face and grinned.
"One of these
days Oakey you're going to pick a wrong 'un and get your ruddy nose bent."
Without another word he left.
Inspector Millson went on to become a Deputy Chief Constable of
Worcestershire. Typical of many in my day, he saw the justice of tough measures
for tough customers. Nobody held a grudge. If you beat a man in fair fight, you
not only knocked some sense into his head, but you earned his respect as
being held down by three blokes, while a fourth put his boot into my ribs. I
never forgot his face.
A few weeks
later I saw him walking along the Coventry Road. I crossed over and
deliberately jogged him with my elbow. I pinched him for assaulting a police
officer. He got two months. That was justice. Rough but straight.
Mind you, life
certainly had its lighter moments. I'll never forget the day we went on an
outing to Stratford-on-Avon Mop.
There were no
cars so we went by charabanc. Four horses and an open carriage with benches on
either side. Bitter cold it was and ice on the roads. If we hadn't stopped at
every other pub we'd have frozen to death.
Paynter drove. The reins in one hand and a bottle of rum in the other. We had a
marvelous day. What with the pubs open all day and Inspector Fred Amphlett and
me knowing all the showfolk we hardly spent a penny.
Round Hay Mills
the showfolk had permanent fairgrounds from which they travelled to places like
Mr. T. Clark,
known always as Old Man Clark, ran the fairgrounds in those days: a young lad
called Dick Chipperfield worked for him then. We knew them all.
As always the
fairground showmen were warm-hearted and generous. For the kids nothing was too
much trouble. If ever a child was shortchanged on a side show, and complained,
Old Man Clark would be round like a shot. No argument. The man responsible
would be sacked on the spot with no pay. If he felt disposed to argue, a quick
belt around the ear from the old man would change his mind. The kids were never
home from the Mop was a rather hazy affair. I do know that the cold seemed to
have lost its snap, or perhaps it was just the warm glow that came from inside.
It was fortunate that the horses knew their way back home!
One day in 1911
we were dispatched post haste to Droitwich. Apparently a local election had
been held and the Conservative candidate elected. In the Liberal stronghold of
Droitwich this election sparked off a riot.
For the first
time in my life I heard the 'Riot Act' being read. A Mr. Jackson Gabb read the
Act, his voice booming out over the noise of the rioters.
As soon as the
Act had been read and the rioters warned of the consequences, we moved in,
truncheons swinging. Within minutes the riot was over. Apart from a few broken
bones and sore heads casualties were slight.
Except for a
short break between 1914-18 when we put the Kaiser straight on a few points
(again in the Worcestershire Yeomanry). I spent most of my life in the police
force. A career eventful, and exciting enough for any man.
Round about 1926 of course we had the 'General Strike'. That was
a rough time for thousands of people. But, like all things, it had its lighter
drove all the trams and lorries. If a pretty girl got on a tram the fare was
invariably a kiss or nothing.
oddly bent and twisted gas lamp testified to the enthusiastic but unskilled aim
of the young drivers.
strike I was on night duty at the railway goods yard of Tyseley. I remember one
night a train driver trying to get to work through a picket line of about six
They beat him
up and threw him out. He came to me. Together we went back . Between us we
wiped the floor with all six. The driver went to work every night from then
We had our
share of parades and demonstrations much the same as the police do today. Only
difference is we weren't so gentle and we cleared 'em a lot quicker.
We had our 'sitters' even in those days. The suffragette movement
had a strong following in Birmingham. They frequently staged 'sit downs' in
public places. We were gentle with them. We just picked them up and sat them
in the nearest puddle.
looking back. The times were rough and turbulent, but never without humour.
Life was simple and uncomplicated. You loved and laughed, drank and fought just
for the sheer exhilaration of living. As long as you were honest and never
afraid to stand up for what you believed in, then life was good.