Reading Branch meeting 31st October 2019

Speaker: Tony Keep from Thames Valley Police Museum 

Tony started his research to commemorate what was thought to be 47 policemen lost in WW1, but actually turned out to be 49. At the time of WW1 eight forces existed covering the area now known as Thames Valley force. In his research he used Examination Registers which were kept manually, records from Berkshire and Buckinghamshire Records Offices, Chief Constables Reports, Standing Joint Committee Reports, Watch Committee minutes and books or newspaper reports. Additional material was gathered from the Thames Valley Museum, The National Archives and the Internet.

The first Police Force was the Metropolitan founded in 1829 and following Acts of Parliament in 1835 and 1839 became a paid force. In 1856 National Government legislation saw a change in how the force was organised. County Police Forces controlled by Standing Joint Committees under a Chief Constable and Borough Police Forces under Watch Committees with Head Constables.

In 1914 there were 8 forces including those of Berkshire (1856), Buckinghamshire (1857), Oxfordshire (1857), Reading, Oxford City, Windsor plus two more. All of these were amalgamated into the Thames Valley Force in 1968. These early policemen were only allowed one day off per month with Borough forces doing an eight-hour shift and County Forces doing a nine-hour split shift. In 1914 time off was increased to 1 day per week. Further improvements in conditions of employment were brought in with a National Wage Scale in 1919.

Tony outlined the form of communications within the force. There were no motor vehicles prior to 1914, typewriters although invented were little used most documents were hand-written. Reading Force did not have a motor vehicle until 1924 and had to rely upon public motor busses introduced in Reading in 1917. There were only four mounted officers at that period in Reading.

When War was imminent preparations were made for the emergency with 1st Reserves raised from retired men and 2nd Reserves raised from volunteers who did not have uniforms just warrant card, truncheon and am armband. Tony gave statistics of all eight forces during this time and the numbers of men involved. On the outbreak of war numbers of police were called to the colours or volunteered thus reducing the numbers available for duty. This was coupled with numerous bits of legislation causing additional work for those remaining. Defence of the Realm Act & Regs, reduced licensing hours, all racing and homing pigeons and lofts had to be recorded and licensed and movement controlled, and the Alien Act both of friendly and enemy population further added to the burden. The police force was also responsible for billeting officers, soldiers and horses as well as organising convoys of wounded soldiers. Censuses were undertaken in 1916 an Agriculture and Wool census, and 1917 Horses, Mules and Livestock. Lists of motor vehicles had to be made and kept up to date as well as petrol stores, forages and numbers of cattle, sheep etc as well as who was available to destroy said stock tin the event of an invasion. Tools, wood and tentage was listed.

Tony concluded his fact packed talk by naming those serving force members killed in action and gave a reference to the TVP Museum web site for a full description.

Picture of Vicki