“Grandad was the first plain-clothes policeman in Dorset” my father informed me. Grandad Beck obtained the rank of Sergeant in 1908, 6 months before being made Detective Sergeant.
A descended to the training sergeant at the time, gave me this account of Grandad Beck’s promotion. “Because my Great Grandfather was the Training Sergeant he was aware of what was required and with the increase in crime, he and the top Senior ranks decided they needed a senior PC to help deal with the serious crime of the day. They looked at all the senior PC’S and quickly worked out that “Percy” would be ideal. He was promoted to Sergeant straight away to make his job easier for all, even though it would have had a small financial impact on the Force, as now there was an extra Sergeant.” Ian Swatridge.
As Dorsetshire’s first and the only Detective between 1908 and June 1915, Grandad Beck was based at Headquarters in Dorchester. He travelled around the county at the request of divisional superintendents to assist in more complex or longer investigations.
As a detective, the murder of a young women in 1913 was Grandad Beck’s highest profile case. This case was noted on his Obituary, September 1947, in the same year Mr. Beck was appointed to the Merit Class. Grandad Beck, Mr Plummer, Deputy Chief Constable, Superintendent Ricketts, and Sergeant Stockley were commended for their presentation of the case in a letter from the Public Prosecutor, Charles W. Matthews.
There are numerous accounts of this murder in contemporary newspapers from all over the UK and more recently in books and on the Internet. The Western Gazette included photographs, which was unusual. The illustrations used in this post are taken from the on-line British Newspaper Archive.
Grandad Beck was promoted to Superintendent of Blandford Division on 16 June 1915. The local newspapers were listing the men killed or wounded in the fighting in the Great War. Prior to being promoted he was a Detective Sergeant based at Dorchester. It is a possibility that the promotion came very quickly, the day before Superintendent Ricketts had died. Rickett’s had been Superintendent of Wimborne Division. The Chief Constable, Captain Granville must have been very quick to move Superintendent Sims based at Blandford to Wimborne and promote Grandad Beck. This was a significant promotion and was to be his last. This not only entailed moving to Blandford but he would have had a significant pay rise. Something his wife would have appreciated, costs were rising fast, as I wrote about in last weeks post.
Move to Blandford Forum
Grandad Beck’s days would have been taken with up passing over his current duties and learning his new ones. For his wife, Rebecca this would have entailed packing up the house and, I assume, moving at very short notice. I am sure Rebecca was delighted with the promotion but must have had misgivings about the move to a new town. The house they lived in at Dorchester had 6 rooms including the kitchen. The neighbours were from different trades, (1911 census) none of them were Policemen, though they were not far from the Police station and other policemen lived nearby. Blandford was very different because they were moving into the police station. Police stations at this time, housed the men and their families, any visiting policemen, the offices and other rooms used by the police, prison cells and stables. At Blandford, the 1911 census lists a Sergeant and 2 Constables with their wives and families besides the Superintendent. Superintendent Sims lists 7 rooms occupied by himself and his family, suggesting the accommodation was slightly larger.
Lionel and May
Lionel would have been 16 years of age and I would assume working. We know he moved with the family, so he must have had to change job. When he enrolled in the Army 2 years later he was working in a shop, so it is possible this was his job in Dorchester. Given the circumstance of Grandad Beck’s promotion he must have had to hand his notice in very quickly, lets hope it was a job he was glad to leave.
May would have been 14 years old and may have still been at School. In 1911 census is seems usual for 13 year old daughters, including those of policemen, to be still at school. Girls 14 and older, living in the same area as the family, were usually listed without any occupation. As the war progressed girls and young women were taking jobs to help replace the men that were called up. We believe that May worked in Blandford telephone exchange at the end of the war. Whether May was at School, at home or working the move to Blandford would have been an upheaval and she would have had to leave her friends behind, but it could have been exciting as well. New places to explore and people to meet for both Lionel and May.
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