Back in the Metropolitan Police Force in October 1956. After completing my two years voluntary service as a military policeman I returned to London and spent the following three months at Hendon Police Training School, not only studying Police Law and Practise but learning unarmed combat, with particular emphasis on self defence and physical methods of arrest.
Upon completion of my initial training I was posted to Canon Row Police Station adjacent to the Houses of Parliament, where I remained for the following nine months. My duties there mainly consisted of manning ‘Protection Posts’, including the front door of 10 Downing Street, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament and the various foreign embassies. At these posts I was expected to prevent any unlawful assemblies or acts.
It was during this time that I first got a taste of the raw savagery that accompanied public demonstrations in those days. One of many public demonstrations was taking place in the country and the leaders of this particular event had organised a march on 10 Downing Street to present a petition to the Prime Minister. Many thousands of demonstrators attended and, although officially prohibited from marching in the area of Whitehall, they broke through a thin police cordon and approached the entrance to Downing Street.
To Protect the Prime Minister’s residence and prevent the demonstrators laying siege to it was firstly a single line of young constables, who were positioned across the mouth of this famous street. This line included me and we were facing the demonstrators with our arms linked together. Behind us was a row of mounted officers and behind them was a row of officers with dogs.
All of us young men in the first line were big and fit rugby players and we were determined that no demonstrator would pass us, but how wrong we were! Egged on by their leaders the demonstrators not only punched us in our faces but battered us around our heads with the wooden handles of their poster displays. With little check in their step they then marched right through us and approached the line of horses.
From where I had been knocked to the ground I was sure that the horses would stop them, but again I was wrong! Fully prepared for this formidable obstacle, the leaders of the march rolled marbles beneath the feet of the horses and this caused their riders to lose control of their mounts, while the demonstrators marched straight through them.
Then there came the line of big fierce police dogs - and this proved to be another matter altogether! Their handlers had them on long leads and, in their excitement, the dogs were going mad, lunging, snarling and snapping at the attacking demonstrators. Their action was fortunately enough to slow the demonstrators down and give the mounted police and we battered foot officers time to recover and join in the melee. After a fierce fight in which many heads were cracked on both sides and blood ran quite freely, the forces of law and order managed to prevail and we forced the demonstrators away from Downing Street and on down Whitehall.
The sequel to this event was one that I found ended the many demonstrations of public anger that I dealt with as a senior officer in the following years. The demonstrators portrayed themselves as law-abiding citizens, while accusing the police of overreacting!
My Professional Career
Where did you start your service as a constable?