Jim Dolan was born on 2nd June1920 in Southport, Lancashire. The son of a ‘Retired Constable’, he served with the RAF during the war as a, ‘Bomb Aimer’. When he joined Hampshire Constabulary as PC 182, on 13th May 1946 his occupation was shown s a spot welder.
He was initially posted to Winchester. A picture survives of PC Dolan as part of a Judge’s Escort at Winchester Assizes in 1948. He served at Winchester until a move to Wallop on 18th May 1950. His final posting was to be Weyhill on 15th February 1955. Whilst at Weyhill he took and passed his Sergeant’s Examination and started to do some shifts as the Acting Sergeant.
Former colleague, Bob Cameron, recalls the tragic death on duty of Jim Dolan.
“I had been warned for Court for the 3rd December 1956 and I remember arriving at Andover Magistrates’ Court that morning and being told about Jim’s death by other officers. He and I had not been particular friends although there was some bond between us as I and a couple of other officers had been about to go off duty at 10pm one night when a call came in to say he was being assaulted.
We piled into the van and sped out to his village and Jim said how grateful he was to get that support. In any case I had always liked and respected him and so the news was a great shock.
An account of his death appeared in the Andover Advertiser on Friday 7th December 1956 on the back page. Under the bold headline “TRAGIC DEATH OF POPULAR CONSTABLE” the first paragraph read,
“A 36 year old policeman, PC James Dolan, who was married with five children, was killed in a road accident less than 100 yards from the front gate of his home at the Police Cottage, Weyhill, late on Sunday night.”
The two column article goes on to relate that a car stolen the previous night in Andover had been seen by the crew of a Wiltshire police car travelling from Ludgershall towards Weyhill shortly after 10pm and they had passed a message to Jim Dolan, who was at home in the Police Cottage at Weyhill.
He had been Acting Sergeant in Andover all day but put on his uniform and went out. He walked 60 yards up the road towards Ludgershall, saw the headlights of a car coming towards him and started waving it down with his torch. (This was long before the days of fluorescent and reflective jackets of course so he would have been in his plain black uniform.)
The driver of the car, a Petty Officer in the R.N., saw him and started to slow down when a car travelling in the opposite direction hit Jim Dolan and threw him into the path of the other car, killing him instantly. Both the drivers stopped.
A tragic aspect of the accident was that the driver of one of the cars went to the police house to ask Mrs. Dolan to telephone for an ambulance as “a man had been injured in an accident.” Mrs. Dolan went out and discovered that the man was her husband.
The stolen car was later found some 500 yards from the spot where Jim Dolan was killed with the engine still warm although there was no evidence that it had ever reached that location.
In a separate article in the next column in the paper under the headline “IMPRESSIVE SERVICE AT WEYHILL” the funeral service in the village cemetery is described. Ironically the service was conducted by Father Downey, a Catholic priest whose car it was that Jim Dolan had been looking out for when he was killed.
The article told how forty police officers, including the Chief Constable, Mr Richard Dawnay Lemon, the Assistant Chief Constable Mr Richard Gill and Superintendent ReginaldE. Pascall, the Divisional Commander and the coffin was borne by PC’s Robert Cameron (me), L Carpenter, Gwilym Locke, Joseph Stratton, Dennis Willmot and David Wren.
In the photo of the coffin being carried the officers are, from the front, P.C. Dave Wren, Andover, P.C. Den Willmot, Andover, and P.C. Les Carpenter, Clatford.
Members of Jim’s family included Mrs Dolan behind the coffin, accompanied by her father, her niece and other family members. Wiltshire police officers were present together with a contingent from RAF Andover, Andover Magistrates’ Court, Local Authority representatives and Weyhill residents.
On the front page of the same issue, “MAYOR LAUNCHES FUND FOR PC DOLAN’s WIDOW.” where we learn that the Mayor of Andover had already started an appeal to the public, that £63 had already been collected and that the Andover Sub-Division had cancelled the annual Christmas party for the children of police officers and would donate the money to the fund. By the next issue of the paper the fund had grown to £400, just about a years salary for a police constable in those days!
Reading this triggered another memory that some of us in the Sub-Division thought Jim would not have wanted the party to be cancelled and that we should not deprive our children of it, arguing that we could all match the cost of the party and give that money to Mrs Dolan. This caused some bad feeling as you might imagine.”
A memorial plaque was erected at Weyhill Police Station in honour of PC James Dolan. It was unveiled by the Mayor of Andover and James widow, Edna was also present. When the Police Station was demolished in 2015, the plaque was moved to the local church.
This article was written by Robert Cameron, a long time member of the Hampshire Constabulary History Society. He served with Hampshire Constabulary from 1st August 1952 until his retirement on 31st July 1977. He passed away in 2011.