Problems for Dorset Police Force During WW1

Grandad Beck was promoted to Superintendent of the Blandford Division of the Dorset Constabulary in June 1915 nearly 11 months after the start of World War One.  This promotion came at a difficult time for the Dorset police force as reduced police numbers and rising costs caused major problems.  Reading the Dorset Standing Joint Committee reports in the Newspapers, the wages that the men received were constantly being reviewed, as the price of food and other essential commodities rose.  At the same time the Chief Constable, Captain Granville, was reporting on police strength, how many policemen had been released to the military, and the deaths of former policemen in the fighting.

War Bonus

Policemen were paid weekly, each week they would have walked or cycled to their Divisional headquarter, saluted their senior officer and received the cash due to them.  As the war progressed their wage was not enough for them and their families to buy the basic necessities of live.  To overcome this the Standing Committee, along with other police forces, issued a War Bonus, awarded until peace was signed.  The first bonus of 2s (shillings) per week for all ranks of Dorset policemen, was issued in April 1915, by the end of the war the bonus had risen to 10s.  In September 1917 The Food Controller stated that the cost of living had increased by 101.7% since the start of the war.

Many policemen, who had retired on pensions, rejoined to replace those joining the military.  These men were getting their police pension and their wages.  In July 1917, 4 Sergeants and 9 constables had reached retiring age since the start of the war. These men were unable to retire and claim their pensions, unless medically unfit. All policemen had to work extra hours. By 1916 constables were working 14 or 15 hours a day instead of 9, with one day off a fortnight instead of one day a week and since July 1915 all leave had been cancelled.

Allowances

It was not only pay that was an issue with increasing costs. Policemen’s boots had nearly doubled in cost (from 11s to 21s) by November 1917. Therefore the committee increased the boot allowance from 6d (pence) to 1s per week for all ranks.  Bicycles were being used more by the rural districts due to increased hours, larger beat areas and making lots of enquiries for the Army. In November 1917 this allowance was increased from £1 to £3 per annum, in specified areas, for Sergeants and constables.

Superintendent’s also had problems with their allowances for feeding their horses and prisoners.  In October 1916 the superintendents allowance for the subsistence of prisoners whilst in custody was discussed.  They were given half-pence per hour while a prisoner was in custody, which was not enough to cover the increased cost of the meals.  Each prisoner received 12 ounces of bread and 2 ounces of cheese three times a day, 8am, 1pm and 5pm.  A pint of tea or coffee at 8am and 5pm.  The committee agreed to double the allowance. I wrote about the forage for the horses last week in Locomotion for Dorset Superintendents.

Pay rises after the war

After the war, Police Sub-Committee had a hurried meeting, in June 1918. The Metropolitan Police were threatening to strike over pay and conditions.  The Met. police went on strikes in August 1918 and June 1919.  It is likely that Grandad Beck’s brother Ernest was involved in these strikes. This resulted, a year later, in a uniformed pay scale for the all police forces in the country.  New rates meant a constable on joining received 70s (at start of war 20s 9b) per week rising after 22 years’ service to 85s (pre-war 24s 9b) per week.  Sergeants, on promotion, 100s (pre-war 26s 10b) per week rising after five years’ service to 112s 6d (pre-war 29s 8b) per week. Superintendents would get £400 (pre-war £138 7s 11d) per year rising to £460 (pre-war £173 7s 9b) after 4 years.  At the Standing Committee meeting in Dorchester, the new compulsory pay scale was implemented. Mr. W. Carter commented, that the Dorset policemen are getting more wages than they actually asked us for, free houses, free clothes and pensions! Policemen are doing well. I have previously written about other changes introduced at this time in Public-Spirited County Policemen – A Difficulty Solved.

Police strength

The Chief Constable had 218 policemen at the start of the war and by the end 57 officers had joined the military, 9 of these lost their lives.  Finding replacements was not easy, the force was only able to employ those over 40 years and some of these men didn’t stay long.  While the pensioners helped, the chief constable told the committee in January 1916,  the pensioners didn’t have the vigour of the younger men and some of them had to resign because they couldn’t stand the work.  By the end of the war the force was 50 men under strength, this included the 11 officers who were employed on duties of a military character. There were 25 men who were entitled to retire, but not allowed to because of the war.

The force had returned to full strength by May 1919 though some of the pensioners were still employed.  In March 1919 the one rest day per week was restored. The Chief Constable told the committee that he would require 60 new recruits. All those men who had serviced in the military were entitled to return to the police force, including those who had been injured, if possible.  Police Constable Sam Coombs had been severely wounded in the war and had a artificial foot, was to be re-employed. The Chief Constable said he was a very deserving young fellow and he proposed to reinstate him as a constable and find work for him as a station constable and telephone attendant.  The committee applauded the Chief Constable to mark their approval.

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Ref: Quotes in italics
Western Gazette:
1919: 21 March p8; 16 May p10; 25 July p8; 17 October p9
1918: 1 February p6; 17 May p3; 19 July p3; 18 October p6; 8 November p5
1917: 2 February p5; 25 May p7; 20 July p6; 19 October p6; 30 November p8
1916: 4 February p5; 20 October p8
1915 22 October p9
Western Daily Press: 1915 26 April p3

Locomotion for Dorset Superintendents

During the First World War transport for the Superintendents in Dorset Constabulary was discussed by the Dorset Standing Committee.  Historically the Superintendents had used horses and carts to get around their areas, these were stabled and looks after by a constable. With the advent of motor bikes and cars, the police looked at these forms of transport to increase their efficiency.  It should be remembered that though motorised transport was faster than horses they were restricted to a maximum of 20 miles per hour.  How times have changed.

Line of Motor Bikes and early cars under trees
This photograph was in the family collection, I have no idea where or why this was taken and kept but perhaps someone will recognise it

Replace Worn-out Horses with Motor-Cycles

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WW1 Soldiers in the Courts at Blandford Forum

Two tales from the newspapers involving the residences of Blandford and the RAF.  Even in a time of war it is inevitable that the number of soldiers, at the Royal Naval Division based at nearby Blandford Camp, would cause problems for the residents of Blandford.  The first case takes place just before Christmas in 1915,  3 years later at the time of the second case, it was noted that the local and national crime rate had significantly decreased.  Grandad Beck was present at both court cases and had the help of the military in the investigations. This is just the type of co-operation that Supt. Beck was commended for, as I wrote about here.

Alleged Wholesale Pilfering

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Floods, Chocolate and Intoxicating Liquor: Blandford Forum 1916/17

As I had previously written about annual reports on premises licenced to sell intoxicating liquor in Bridport Divisions. I thought I would look at Grandad Beck’s annual report to the Blandford County Licensing Sessions in February 1917. This gives a interesting look at life during World War One.

First I will briefly write about two other cases before the Courts in Blandford Forum. A tale of 5 lads and their quest for chocolate, and one relating to the severe winter weather.  Across the country, people suffered from a winter of  storms, heavy snow, gales and high tides which bought lots of flooding during the winter of 1916/17.

Photograph of a cattle market
Cattle Market possibly at Blandford

Worst floods for 35 years

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“Dad, Dad the war is over”

Grandad Beck told my father the story of how May overheard a conversation while she was working at the telephone exchange in Blandford Forum.  May promptly telephoned her father to tell him that the war was over.  The call is likely to have been between an Officer in London and the RAF station at Blandford.  Grandad Beck went on to tell my father that he gave her a good telling off.  May was in a position of trust and must not repeat anything she should overhear.

Girl with white cat in snow
Photo of May taken at Blandford Police Station most likely during WW1

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Lionel – Son, Brother and Soldier for 101 days – at Peace

On 23rd April 1917 Grandad Beck’s son Lionel joined the Royal North Devon Hussars 2/1 Battalion. His service was to last 101 days, just over 3 months.  From his discharge papers and the three letters Lionel wrote to his sister May, we find out about this time. Less than a year after he returned home,  Lionel died, his death certificate contained a surprise.

Lionel the soldier

We learn that Private Lionel Howard Beck was 5ft 6in with blue eyes and fair hair. Before his  call up, Lionel, worked as a shop assistant, most likely in Blandford where he lived at home with his parents and sister.  At this time Grandad Beck was Superintendent at Blandford and the family lived in the police station.

Supt of Police and young man in military uniform
Lionel with his father, Grandad Beck

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Blandford Magistrates Petty Session in 1919

The move to Beaminster in November 1919, meant some changes for Grandad Beck, as Police Superintendent, I wrote about some of these here. Blandford had more military personal unlike Beaminster, Bridport and Lyme Regis which were more rural. Blandford Camp was a depot for the Royal Naval Division until 1918 when it became an intake camp for the newly reformed Royal Air Force. During 1919 there were several motor related court cases at the Blandford Petty sessions, I have written about two which involved RAF drivers.  To give a flavour of life in 1919, the year after the end of World War One, I have included a summary of some of the other cases before Blandford Magistrates.  First is a sad case of the death of a young girl that was killed in a motor accident.

Tented area
Unknown Photographs from Grandad Beck’s collection – any thoughts?

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Frances Jane Beck “Who fell asleep” May 26th 1919

Grandad Beck’s mother died on May 26th 1919, Grandad Beck, Rebecca and 18 year old May would have joined Eli (Grandad Beck’s father) and the rest of the family at Garland Road, Longfleet, Poole, Dorset for the funeral.  My Great, Great Grandmother, Frances Jane Beck was buried in the St Mary’s churchyard, Longfleet. Later to be joined by her husband, Eli and Grandad Beck.

Seated gentleman with older lady on his lap
Grandad Beck with his mother Fanny

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Moving Police Stations – from Blandford to Beaminster

On November 21st 1919 Grandad Beck took over his duties as Police Superintendent of the Bridport Division from Superintendent Saint who retired the day before.  Prior to this Grandad Beck had been in charge of the Blandford Division, this was a promotion  as the Bridport Division was larger than Blandford’s. The Bridport Division consisted of 2 Borough town, Bridport and Lyme Regis and the Market Town of Beaminster.  The Division police station was built at Beaminster around 1862.  The choice of location was most likely because, as a borough, Bridport had their own police force.  Grandad Beck’s new division consisted of 3 Sergeants (one each at Bridport, Lyme Regis and Beaminster) and  22 constables, 11 of these based in the rural villages.  Blandford was smaller with 1 Sergeant and 10 constables, 5 in nearby villages.  It is unlikely that either of these divisions had their full number of constables, see last weeks post.

3 Ladies, 2 seated with tennis rackets
Rebecca and May with Grandad Beck’s sister Beat (Beatrice)

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Public-Spirited County Policemen – A Difficulty Solved

During the early 1920’s the question of national police pay and conditions was considered which lead to a recommendation that policemen should work fewer hours and have more holiday, but the cost of providing enough policemen became an issue.  As the financial crisis in the country worsened the Home Secretary instructed the forces to make cuts in the police budget dispute the earlier recommendation.  The Dorset Police Standing Committee and Chief Constable discussed the question of how to satisfy both demands, eventually it was the Police Constables and Sergeants that provided the solution.

Group photograph of policemen
Taken at Bridport Police Station 1921/22
Back row PC 175 Alfred John Wintle ; 101 ?; PC 66 George Peach; PC 143 ?; PC 31 William J Jones; PC 135 ?; PC 64 William Charles Henry Carter
Front row PC 100 ?; Sgt Walter Bown; Supt. Beck; PC 36 William Meech acting Sgt; PC 107 Francis G Vatcher

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