The Dorset Police Athletic Club Sports Meetings 1930-35

The reports, photographs and family memories show Grandad Beck as fond of sports. The Dorset Police Athletic Club had been formed in 1896. Photographs, from the family collections, show tug-of-war teams and racing cycles. Family memories are of him loving cricket. In 1938, 2 years after his retirement he thanked the Poole Divisional Police Sports Club for allowing him to continue to umpire the cricket and other sports teams.

The Dorset Police Athletic Club held an annual sports meeting in June each year, 1935 was the 35th meeting as there had been no meeting during the war. The club had been in existence for 39 years. This post is related to the years 1930 to 1935 when the meetings were held on a Wednesday. Proceeds from the event was given to various charities including Dorset hospitals, police benevolent fund and police sports clubs.

Picture showing the sports field with crowds of people in the stands behind and officials on the field
Dorset Police Athletic Club meeting circa 1930
Waiting for runners or riders?

By the 1930s these were grand affairs with large crowds, three to six thousand spectators reported in the newspapers. In 1930 the Western Gazette reported A programme of 40 events was got through expeditiously in something like five hours. One hundred and twenty competitors in solo events and nearly 150 members of teams competed for the £300 worth of prizes and the several challenge cups. The event was held on Dorchester recreational ground, possibly the ground were Tesco’s stores was built,on Weymouth Avenue. Stands were built for the spectators who came by bus and train from all over Dorset.

The day started with a luncheon for invited guests, these included senior policeman, military officers from the Dorset Regiment and other local dignitaries. Many of these guests acted as judges and other officials. During this time Grandad Beck was one of the Clerks of the Course along with 3 other superintendents from Dorset. The Luncheon was followed by various track and cycling races, novelty races and the main event Tug-of-war. The crowd were entertained by a military band who later played at a evening dance held in the marquee on the ground. Other entertainment included clowns and trick cyclists and the presentation of the prizes. The rose bowl was presented to the Dorset police officer with the most points from the events.

Luncheon

After the luncheon, in the marquee set up on the grounds, speeches were made. During 1930-5 Grandad Beck proposed the toast to the Chief Constable Major Peel Yates. Peel Yates had been Chief Constable for 11 years by 1935 and each year Grandad Beck found a slightly different way to praise him.

In 1935 Superintendent Beck said he was the last serving member who attended the first meeting 39 years ago. As he was retiring from the force, this would be his last year as vice-president of the club. He said that Major Peel Yates was a sportsman in every sense of the word, and was liked by every member of the force. He referred to the value of sports to any body of uniformed men. In 1932 The longer they knew Major Peel Yates the better they liked him.

Sports

The meeting opened with a hundred yards sprint for Dorset police officers with 20 years’ service. From the reports I don’t think Grandad Beck took part in this or the Dispatch race. The dispatch race was run in teams from each division with the Superintendent to run 100 yards, inspector 120 yards, sergeant 220 yards and constable 440 yards. By the 1930s the ranks of the runners seems to have been relaxed.

Cycling was a major event with several races for all sportsmen as well as races just for the police. While most cyclists used racing bicycles the policeman’s mile cycle race was ridden on ordinary bicycles. Often both the cycling and flat races were handicapped, and provided entertainment for the crowd watching racers at the back catching up those running a shorter distance. Sportsmen came from all across the country and after the 1932 Olympics the papers reported that Poole Wheelers Club was represented by W. Harvell, the Olympic rider. The cycle racers came from Portsmouth, Bath, Southampton, Eastleigh and Exmouth in 1935.

Various flat races were run, some of the races were only for the policemen and some were open. Both boys and girls races were included. Competition between Dorset police divisions were popular including the Divisional relay. The police also took part in the high jump.

The Tug-of-War was a major event and had heats thought the day with the final closely fought. A team from Luton Police were the men to beat in the early 1930s. Other teams came from Wiltshire, Weston, Taunton and Bristol Police forces and the Royal Marines (1934).

The novelty races included obstacle race which in 1931 included punting trolley along, climbing ladder, going through maze, capturing apple in bucket ow water and drinking milk from feeding bottle. Musical chairs in costume, Bucket and potato race; flowerpot and stilt race and boat race. I can’t imagine what the boat race was as there is no river near the venue.

The papers report an entertaining day for both the competitors and the spectators. Would you have liked to have attended in your best cloths and hat?

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References Quotes in Italics:
Western Gazette: 1938 4th November p6 Col7; 1935 28th June p3 C1&2; 1934 15th June p16 C3&4; 1933 23rd June p2 C3&4; 1932 24th June p3 C1&2; 1931 19th June P3 C1&2; 1930 20th June p3 C5&6.
Bridport News: 1935 28th June; 1932 24th June.

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