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.
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.
Worst floods for 35 years
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.
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.
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.
In this post Photographs of Beaminster Police station 1920 to 1925 I wrote that Grandad Beck may have had two horses to get his trap up the steep hills. From the Western Gazette, January 1920 in a report of the Standing Committee meeting I found conformation of this. The Chief Constable repeatedly asked the committee to provide the Superintendents with cars, but they thought this unnecessary and extravagant. We must remember that in the early 1920s the country was recovering from the First World War and the financial situation was difficult. Prices were fluctuating, up then down. Farmers were having a hard time, especially in Dorset which had one of the highest county rates in the country.
Superintendents needed to travel around their Divisions not only to supervise the local men but also to attend the local courts and other events. Grandad Beck attended courts at Beaminster, Bridport and Lyme Regis. I would assume that appearance of the Superintendent, clean and tidy uniform, was desirable at these occasions. This may have been one reason the Chief Constable was not in favour of motor-cycles, the roads would have been very dusty in the 1920s.
Dorset Constabulary were having to cope with changing priorities and keep within their budget. In 1920 Weymouth had its own police force which merged with Dorset Police Constabulary in the interest of greater economy. We also learn that a Police Constable looked after the Superintendents horse or in Grandad Beck’s case horses. It seems that it was the shortage of PC’s, that eventually lead to the horses being fazed out. I will write more about this next week.
Policemen were often involved in fighting local fires. From the family collection, the photograph below is of a fire at Burstock Grange, near Broadwindsor taken in 1921. A terrible fire destroyed the thatched roof on the farm house. Due to this fire, today only about a third of the farm house remains thatched. I haven’t had time to research more but I thank the Facebook group ‘Memories of Bridport’ for helping me identify the location of the photograph and Andrew Frampton who confirmed his family have farmed there since 1912.
Fires at the Village of Loders
Bridport Carnivals in the 1920’s were major events in the town year. In June 1921 the day started early and ended late. Celebration and fun for all the family, while raising funds for the local hospital. Times were tough especially for the sick and needy, medial treatment had to be paid for or you needed to rely on charity. The country was going through a time of depression and unemployment following the first world war, so a day of fun was welcomed by the people of Bridport and the surrounding area.
Bridport carnival was celebrated in 1921 on Alexandra Day Saturday 11 June. Over £300 was raised for Bridport hospital from the varied activities on the day. The day started with the traditional flower sellers, selling flowers door-to-door and to the people waiting to watch the carnival processions at 2pm.
Blue skies and warm sunshine played an important part in the success of Alexandra Day… Flags fluttered in the breeze of an ideal June day- the shrill laughter of the youngsters echoes and re-echoed in the streets, while the enthusiasm of grown-ups was non the less remarkable.
I wanted to share this photograph with you taken in 1923. Posing for this photograph is the most senior policeman in Dorset Constabulary at the time. Grandad Beck had a copy of this photograph in his collection but this is a scan of a framed photograph my cousin was given, that had been on the wall in one of the police offices for many years. Hence the fading at the sides.
Below is one of the cases bought before Bridport Magistrates court in January 1924 in which PC Grey rode his bicycle for 10 miles, on a winters evening, to catch a thief. This post shows how attitudes to tramps was to change over the next few years. It is also interesting to note that the magistrates were to continue to warn the shopkeepers against leaving unattended goods outside their shops.
First a photograph from Grandad Beck’s collection, I think this was taken at Beaminster Police Station in the early 1920s. I am unsure if the Police are issuing new or second hand uniforms to their men. During this time police budgets were being cut so it is likely that these are second hand uniforms. Thanks to Ian (who is researching policemen in Dorset) we think the man in the bowler hat, with his back to the camera, is Chief Constable Dennis Granville. Standing next to him on the right is Grandad Beck.