Policing Southampton in the 1950s

The following article was written in 2003 by Jim Brown, former police officer in Southampton. It is a personal opinion and reflects on how he saw the world in the 1950s. It is, in effect, a piece of oral history and uses language of the time.

I joined Southampton County Borough Police on 28 August 1952 and was posted to ‘B’ Shirley Division. I first spent my initial training at Sandgate, Folkstone, where most of my time was spent learning “definitions”, having to be able to quote large sections of law by heart. To this day I can still quote the full and lengthy definition of larceny in full. (It may seem strange to younger officers of today to learn that one definition, homosexuality, was then a very serious crime, stated in the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 as “the abominable crime of buggery”, punishable with life imprisonment.)

The first change to my life came on my return from Folkstone, when I was ordered to leave my home (The Brewer’s Arms, Bedford Place, run by my parents) and live in the Police Hostel at 1a Archers Road. I had not been previously told that officers were not allowed to live in licensed premises!


The uniform was somewhat different to that of today, as the old style closed neck tunic was worn, with your number on the collar. Open neck tunics with blue shirts and a tie were issued later and the closed neck tunic was then only worn on night duty. The winter overcoat was extremely thick and heavy, giving useful bulk when persuading somebody to move, but best of all in wet weather was the cape. Helmet, pair of waterproof leggings, rubber boots and cape meant that patrols in the worst of weather presented no problem whatsoever. Hands were always warm and pocket books dry. A rolled up cape was also a useful tool when dealing with aggressive drunks! Helmets had to be worn at all times and you were considered improperly dressed if seen bareheaded and liable to be on a report! Flat caps were worn, at all times, in police vehicles.

Uniform Southampton

The uniform right hand trouser pocket had an additional deep narrow pocket to hold the truncheon. This meant that only the leather strap showed, hanging out of the pocket, likewise only a small part of the handcuffs showed in the left hand trouser pocket. Whistle and chain was also not only a decorative part of the uniform but also a necessary part of equipment. Personal radios and mobile phones were yet to be invented. A whistle was therefore the only means of summoning assistance, although the only time I ever needed to use mine, when chasing a suspect, it proved impossible as I had no breath!!

One idiosyncrasy was that the winter uniform only came into use when the Chief Constable decreed it. Similarly, the Chief decided when shirt sleeve order came into use, and it was his personal decision on whether or not the heat was bearable in full uniform.

Gannex raincoats later replaced the overcoats but again could not be left off until the Chief decided it was now official summer! Changes came about on the first Sunday after the Standing Order was issued, so it could be several days whilst officers had to continue to wear the heavy duty gannex in searing heat.

The whole point was that all officers had to be dressed the same, it was not permitted for some to be wearing tunics, others a gannex and others in shirt sleeve order.

All officers, no matter their rank, travelled to and from duty in full uniform. It was thus common to become involved in incidents whilst travelling to or from home. As very few individuals possessed cars or m/cycles, most travelled by cycle or bus (often riding on the platform with the blessing of the conductor, who welcomed your company). This facility was also useful if an incident made you late travelling back to the station from your beat for meal break.

Shift System

There was a 5 shift system: 2pm-10pm; 6am-2pm; 10pm-6am; 5pm-1am; and 8.30am-4.30pm. (Shifts changed on a Sunday, so the first Sunday after 5pm-1am was 9am-5pm). The 8.30am shift mainly covered the four daily school crossings, regarded as an essential and high priority duty, but the other day shifts also covered schools.

School crossing wardens had not then been invented and the preservation of life was part and parcel of policing. In any event we were the only ones with the power to stop traffic. (Traffic wardens had also not yet been created)

Each shift consisted of a section of approx. 15 officers, together with two sergeants and an inspector. The supervisory officers worked a different three shift system that still gave 24 hour cover.

There was only one rest day a week (a 48 hour week was then the norm in the country) so when your name came to the top of the roster you could pick Saturday as your rest day and the following Sunday as you were then second on the list.

Only one officer could take leave on a Saturday, four on a Sunday and up to three on weekdays. It was therefore rare to have a complete weekend off duty. Annual leave was then only two weeks, again on a roster for choice.


Shirley ‘B’ Division, which then extended from Tanners Brook in the west to Hill Lane in the east, was broken down into 11 beats. This was extended to 14 in 1954 when the Borough was extended as far as the River Test to include Redbridge. The other divisions were Central ‘A’ Division, bordered by Hill Lane to the west and the River Itchen to the east (with 14 beats) and Bitterne ‘C’ Division east of the Itchen (with 11 beats). Bitterne was also extended in 1954 to include Harefield and Thornhill. Portswood was a sub-division (with 6 beats) and part of ‘A’ Division, which was also police headquarters. There were thus 42 beats throughout the town in 1952, increased to 48 when the Borough was extended both east and west in 1954.

Shirley police station 1950s
Shirley police station in the 1950s

A probationer was accompanied on patrol by a senior PC for the first month, but there was also a system called ‘Methodical Patrol’. Every beat was written up with detailed directions that when followed ensured that every street and alleyway was covered. It had to be strictly followed when so booked out by the section sergeant i.e. travel down a certain street, turn left into so and so road, right into so and so etc. etc. This was also used as a punishment for an established officer – it severely restricted one’s freedom of movement and the beat’s known “tea-holes” (discovered by each individual officer and never shared with others!) could not be visited.

If the section was short because of annual leave/sickness then several beats would be coupled and covered by cycle. Some beats, such as those in Coxford and Lordswood were already cycle beats because of the distances involved. On the other hand, when there was a surplus of manpower officers would be allocated to ‘Main Road’, i.e. Shirley High Street and or Shirley Road. This cover of the main road also applied at Bitterne and Portswood, but in ‘A’ Central Division, (which was also police headquarters) the main High Street and Above Bar were treated as beats in their own right and considered a high priority.

On night duty a desirable allocation was that of “Team Car”. This, in 1952, was an unmarked Hillman Estate and the divisional emergency response vehicle. (This vehicle was later changed to a large Ford Transit.) During the day it was allocated to a senior PC who was the divisional ‘Emergency Driver’ and he attended all calls within the division. On nights he was accompanied by one of the night duty sergeants and a section PC and as well as responding to all calls the car continuously toured the division throughout the tour of duty.

Business and other lock-up premises were checked, front and rear, some public houses visited, persons on foot carrying property such as suitcases or holdalls checked and vehicles parked in unusual locations checked. Notes were made in pocket books for these activities but no reports had to be made out unless premises were found insecure. In such cases the sergeant’s first responsibility would be to trace the officer on that beat to find out why he hadn’t found it first! A good explanation had to be forthcoming!

When attacked premises were found by staff when they arrived for work, it was quite common for the night duty officer (who had probably been in his bed for an hour or so) to be visited by an officer from his local station (nobody was on the phone) to obtain the time from his pocket book when he had last visited the premises concerned. This was so that CID could narrow down the time of the attack and check the “Vehicles Seen at Night” slips for cars seen in the vicinity at the material times. If it was a serious break-in they had no compunction in ordering the officer to immediately attend the station and write a report with full details of his last visit! Overtime did not apply in such cases as he was lucky not to be on report for not having discovered it himself before going off duty!

Vehicle cover

In addition to the officers patrolling on foot each Division, including Portswood sub-Division, had its own ‘emergency driver’ based in the station. There was also a traffic division, based in Hulse Road, consisting of 5 Wolseley cars and 10 Triumph ‘Saint’ 1,000cc motor cycles. These patrolled in two shifts, continuously from 8am to midnight, at all times within the town boundary (other than in pursuit of a vehicle).

Hulse Road
Vehicles at Hulse Road, Southampton

Although they were primarily responsible for detecting and dealing with traffic offences and accidents, they were also readily available for serious incidents where back up was needed or where the divisional emergency driver was already committed.

There were thus, in addition to around 40-45 patrolling officers, 15 vehicles in radio contact patrolling within the borough as well as 4 emergency drivers based in stations.

In 1965 a divisional motor cyclist was also allocated to each station, again in two shifts from 8am to midnight, continuously patrolling within the division.

It was for this reason that the Chief Constable issued a directive that a unit had to be at the scene of any ‘999’ call within 4 minutes, otherwise a report had to be on his desk the following morning giving an explanation. ‘999’ calls to the fire brigade or ambulance station also triggered an automatic attendance by a mobile unit as it was always assumed that a police presence would be needed. The fire brigade radio frequency was also linked to that used by the Police so both services were always in direct radio contact.

Shirley motorcyclist
Shirley Division’s first divisional motor cyclist in 1965.


Police pillars were scattered throughout the town, together with brick built police ‘boxes’ that were often a relic of the wartime ARP warden posts. (One was able to have a smoke in the police box!) Every beat had a number of pillars and boxes, connected by direct landline to a switchboard in the divisional station. We had keys to open the locked door on one side of the pillar and these, as I later found, also fitted the pillars in Portsmouth. A door in the other side of the pillar (or on the wall outside a police box) could be opened by members of the public to give direct access to their local station.

A light on top of the pillar, or outside the box, could be set off by the station to attract the patrolling beat officer. As personal radios or mobile phones just did not exist this was the only means of contact.

Police pillar
police pillar 2

Non-urgent requests for police attendance, such as complaints of wilful damage where the offenders were not present, were passed to the beat officer when he next rang in. If a quicker response was needed the pillars on his beat would be flashed for him to answer.

When making an arrest on the beat one either took the prisoner to the nearest pillar, police box or public telephone box to ask the divisional car to attend, or, if the prisoner was difficult, request a member of the public to dial ‘999’ for assistance.

Because we had no direct means of communication whilst on patrol this made us very self-sufficient. Patrolling in pairs was unheard of, except for when a Probationer was being shown the beat by a senior PC.

We “rang off” from a pillar on our beat at the end of our tour of duty. We usually had our own cycles with us, unless our beat was close to the station, so went straight home from the pillar. However, we had to wait at the pillar at the end of the shift for the station to flash us before we could ring off duty.

They did not do this until the succeeding shift had completed their parade and marched out of the station. It was therefore quite usual for us to have to wait 5 minutes or more, sometimes as long as 10 minutes, before being able to report off. It was part and parcel of the ethos that the streets had to be covered at all times – that was always the top priority of the supervisory officers.

Female police officers did not walk a beat. There were only a dozen in Southampton, with a PW Sergeant (as they were known at the time) in overall charge, and they were dispersed among the four stations. They worked day shifts (although one would be on night duty to deal with incidents involving females – as well as a matron when a woman was held in custody)

They mainly dealt with women and children, taking statements for indecency offences or searching women prisoners., They only received 90% of a constable’s pay because of their restricted duties.

Information (Control) Room

This was based in the Civic Centre and staffed by senior constables who were perhaps not so fit for outside patrolling duty. They had a wealth of local knowledge and experience and were thus able to deal with any situation that arose. In the event of a major incident the headquarters station sergeant, whose desk was adjoining the Information Room, would take charge.

A radio link could be set up with the Hampshire Constabulary control room and if a cross border major incident, such as a robbery involving an immediate search or pursuit, a “Hue and Cry” was set up. This not only involved a radio link between Southampton and County vehicles but meant that as many officers as possible were contacted to cover set major junctions in an attempt to locate the wanted vehicle/person.


The only support staff (known as civilians at the time) employed in police stations were the typists, cleaners and female switchboard operators. They would place incoming calls direct to the appropriate extension but had to answer direct line calls from the public on police pillars. The adjacent duty enquiry office reserve officer would be called to deal with the caller if there was a problem. The switchboard was covered by the reserve man during the night as all incoming calls were diverted to his extension.

One officer on each of the main 2-10, 10-6 and 6-2 shifts also acted as reserve man but his real function was to cook the main meals and supply tea throughout the 24 hours. Officers would bring in either sandwiches or raw food (egg, bacon etc) to be cooked when they arrived for their break.


When reporting for duty (1/4 hour before the stated time, otherwise you were considered ‘late on parade’ and liable to be reported) you were first paraded in front of the duty sergeants and inspector and produced your handcuffs and truncheon. You were allocated your beat, given your ring-in time, unoccupied houses, meal time and two ‘points’, one each side of your meal break.

Central parade
Parading at Southampton Central

The ring-in times were evenly divided among the section in 5 minute intervals e.g. one ringing at 5 minutes past the hour, another at 10 minutes past etc. You rang in from a pillar or box when arriving on your beat and nominated the next pillar you would be ringing from. In that way you had a degree of control as to how you patrolled your beat and the station also knew where to expect you every hour. A ring had to be made within 5 minutes either side of the allocated time.

Householders going on holiday would inform the station of their dates of absence, with details of the keyholder, and each property had to be visited at least once during each tour of duty, meaning each house was visited at least three times in a period of 24 hours. We all had to make a note of the time each unoccupied property on our beat was visited.

My pocket books were full of such entries, usually between 5 to 10 each shift but up to the 30 mark in the summer. Sometimes a spare beat officer would be allocated solely to checking unoccupied houses for his entire shift.

The allocated ‘points’ were stated times and locations, e.g. 3.40pm bottom of Regents Park Road, always exactly half an hour after your ring-in time (in the above example, the ring-in time would be every 10mins past the hour.)

One of the section sergeants or the duty inspector was liable to appear at any of these ‘points’ and sign your book accordingly. This ensured that (a) you were covering your beat (b) were sober and properly dressed and (c) your pocket book was made up correctly, with all entries contemporaneous.

The ‘slips’ were read out on parade, commencing from when the section was last on duty. These ‘slips’ were a typed or handwritten record, maintained on message pads approx. 6” x 4” and held on a ring binder, with details of all incidents taking place in the division. They were completed by the duty enquiry office officer (invariably a senior experienced PC who was not 100% fit for outside duty.)

All complaints, reported incidents etc. were briefly noted, with the officer dealing or attending marked on it, together with the result. You thus knew what incidents or problems concerned your allocated beat and were fully aware of complaints involving unruly youths, vandalism etc. so that you would pay attention to the problem.

A check could therefore be made at any time on the times and details of all incidents, who attended and the result. These ‘slips’ were filed monthly and retained indefinitely so that in the event of a serious crime, or a complaint being later lodged, details could be easily obtained.

The divisional superintendent would request the ‘slips’ regularly throughout the day so that he was always in touch with current matters.

As the chief constable was insistent that all complainants/contacts were seen and informed of the outcome or thanked for their information, this was always checked on by the superintendent via the ‘slips’.

They also included details of all crimes occurring in the Borough, wanted persons, stolen vehicles etc. You therefore also took down details of stolen vehicles in a separate record book held with your pocket book.

Working conditions

Meal times were exactly ¾ of an hour, and I mean exactly. I well recall being shouted at by the duty Inspector for entering the station 3 minutes before my meal break and being made to leave the station to walk the pavement for those three minutes!

The whole point of the exercise was to drive home the fact that our place was outside and highly visible to the public, not indoors out of sight. When remaining in the station to write up reports (having first obtained permission) one was regularly scrutinised by the sergeants or inspector to ensure we were not taking a minute longer than absolutely necessary.

There was no such thing as paid overtime, only in theory! For every ¾ hour overtime worked one received 1 hour time-off, to be taken on request but at the discretion of the station sergeant. Police Regulations allowed for this to be paid if not taken within, I think, 3 months, but the station sergeant ensured this was never allowed to happen.

Officers usually requested 8 hours time-off, to make it worthwhile, but it was sometimes useful to be able to leave early or arrive late on a shift to keep a social engagement. It was always very carefully controlled and it was common to be instructed to take time off when you didn’t actually want it.

One fascinating annual matter was that of “Compensatory Grant”. A rent allowance was paid to officers not in police accommodation and this was tax-free. However, the Inland Revenue did not see it that way and it was taxed. To rectify the situation a lump sum grant was made annually, equal to the amount of tax paid on the rent allowance during the preceding year. This was again taxed, so in the ensuing year the grant also included the tax paid on the previous year’s grant. A wonderful example of bureaucracy at work!

Pay at this period was in cash, paid weekly, and very few officers had bank accounts. When this was changed to monthly pay several years later supplementary payments were made until officers, who all had to open bank accounts, were in a position to cope with the delayed cash flow.

Discipline was always strict and the patrol sergeant’s main function seemed to be to try to catch a PC absent from his point, having a cup of tea in the back of a café or, horror upon horrors, in the rear of a public house having a drink! Talking to members of the public was part of the job but talking to the officer on the adjoining beat was gossiping and liable for a report!

The statutory authority for Southampton Police was the Watch Committee, composed of local councillors and aldermen. They appointed the Chief Constable and confirmed the initial appointment of all officers and their promotions.

As the Chief saw them on a very regular basis, to discuss police matters, he was always made fully aware of local complaints and problems. Although they could not dictate any action to him he nevertheless always acted on such problems as a matter of policy. He also, of course, had much feedback from all officers as at any one time there were between 50 to 60 officers on patrol and in direct contact with the general public. In this way the citizens of Southampton had a direct input on all local matters and problems that concerned them, even though they might be considered as minor.


There were not too many forms at this time and these were brief and usually single sheets. Two sides of a Form 17 were filled in for traffic accidents; Form 22 for offence reports (no matter the offence, murder or riding a cycle without lights); Form 31 for premises found insecure when checked; Vehicles Seen at Night form (the registration number, location and direction of travel of vehicles seen after midnight were recorded and passed to CID for follow up after serious break-ins, robberies etc.); Sudden Death Report, and Form 19, the Occurrence Report that covered everything else.

Statements would always be taken at the time, or as soon as possible after the event, usually in the pocket book and transcribed afterwards, and were attached to the appropriate report.

There was also a duplicate leafed crime complaint book, but this was jealously guarded by the divisional detective sergeant, who would try to ensure that entries were only made when authorised by him.

This was because the divisional crime figures were enormously under-recorded. I estimate that recorded crime was probably only half that of reported crime. This was, of course, self-defeating when it came to increasing manning levels but the competitive detection rate was considered to be more important.

Statements taken for minor thefts where there was no real likelihood of success were kept in the locked desk of the DCs booked out to them and only ‘crimed’ when detected.

Many attempted break-ins were also written off as wilful damage or “storm damage”! Once a prisoner admitted further offences and was prepared to sign a TIC form, it was surprising how many crimes were suddenly brought to light and taken into consideration!

School crossings have already been mentioned, but there were also occasions when traffic duty had to be performed at difficult junctions (before traffic lights were introduced there).

Two in particular were Four Posts Hill, where several roads joined on a blind bend and the junction of Regents Park Road and Millbrook Road when the shifts changed at the BAT tobacco works.

This also took place whenever traffic lights broke down – a regular feature.

Traffic control was also performed at the scene of accidents and therefore we usually carried a pair of white slip-on armbands. It was always impressed on us that if the correct Highway Code signal was not given then a motorist ignoring it could not be prosecuted.

Point patrol

‘Dell Duty’ was another occasion when traffic had to be performed. In the case of Shirley this meant turning off the traffic lights at the junction of Hill Lane/Archers Road half an hour before the match to control traffic. A second officer would be on duty at this point to control the hundreds of pedestrians. I well remember, as a probationer, standing at this junction with a crowded Howard Road ahead of me, and on seeing an individual stepping off the pavement into the road merely calling out “Oi – get back” and pointing, for the offender to promptly get back into line!.

There were about 15 officers from both “A” and “B” Divisions covering such junctions in the vicinity of the Dell, which we would enter to watch the match approx. 10 minutes after it started. We would leave 10 minutes before the end to resume traffic control at the junctions.

There were only five off duty officers on ‘Special Paid Duty’ inside the Dell, one at each corner post and one at the player’s entrance. That was more than sufficient to control the crowd inside. The odd over the top drunk was usually ejected and sent on his way rejoicing.

The fact that so many officers were patrolling the Borough and readily available meant that we were used for all sorts of functions. One was delivering the regular ‘Crime Informations’ to second hand or scrap metal dealers. This was a list of recently stolen property so that (a) they could contact the station if it was offered for sale and (b) provided evidence should they be later charged with receiving.

Another was to serve witness notices and the personal service of a summons. This not only saved on postage but meant we had some direct contact with minor offenders.

Another regular duty was to inform the next of kin of an unexpected death, either in an accident or in hospital. Bearing in mind that few households possessed a phone, requests from hospitals to inform relatives of a sudden deterioration in somebody’s condition were also a frequent occurrence.

During the first 14 days of each month, a note was taken of vehicles displaying an overdue road fund licence and this information was passed onto the licensing authority. Drivers of vehicles with expired RFL’s of more than 14 days were automatically seen and reported for summons.

At this time it was an offence to park during the hours of darkness without lights and during the evening drivers of such vehicles were traced and either reported or, if not long after lighting up time, cautioned.

Parked vehicles seen without lights during the night were noted, the front of a Form 22 Offence Report made out, and followed up by the early turn officer who would trace and report the driver.

Persons seen cycling without lights were automatically reported (again, often cautioned if they had a reasonable excuse like battery failure or not long after lighting up time) but cycling on the pavement just never happened!

An essential part of night duty was the checking of all business premises on your beat, both before and after your meal break. Shop front doors were checked and it was not uncommon to find that staff had left without properly locking up.

The rear of premises were also checked, if accessible, and such places as the back of the large Labour Exchange in Millbrook Road could be a bit eerie in the early hours of a dark and windy night. It was common to have your truncheon to hand when carrying out such checks!

One duty that made a nice change from working the beat was that of “Bassett Patrol”. This was an unmarked vehicle, working 3pm to 11pm daily, with a uniformed driver, sergeant and PC that patrolled the Bassett area throughout the shift. Suspicious vehicles or pedestrians were checked and unoccupied properties visited. The principle was that these were good class dwellings containing high value property – the fact that the Chief Constable lived in Bassett was purely coincidental!

Court System

In addition to the Magistrates Court (who could award up to 6 months imprisonment for an offence, up to a total maximum of 12 months for two or more offences) there were Quarter Sessions, with a Recorder, for indictable offences, and the Assizes at Winchester, with a Judge, for the most serious offences such as murder, rape, S18 GBH etc.

Prisoners could earn up to 1/3 remission of their sentence for good conduct but there were two categories of offender who had no remission – those undergoing Corrective Training or Preventive Detention.

After two serious criminal convictions an offender would be warned that he was now eligible for Corrective Training (known as CT) and this was for not less than 2 and up to 4 years imprisonment. On release from CT, if over the age of 30, he became eligible for Preventive Detention (PD), meaning that if brought before the court for a further criminal offence, no matter how minor, he would be sentenced to a minimum of 5 years and up to 14 years imprisonment. These two sentences were very effective, both as a deterrent for serial offenders and as a means of keeping persistent criminals out of action for a sustained period. The protection of the public was the guiding principle.

One constant problem was that offenders sent for trial, whether or not pleading guilty, had to have a full committal hearing before magistrates. This meant that all main prosecution witnesses had to attend to make their depositions in a form of mini trial, in order to satisfy the magistrates that there was a case to answer. This usually meant a special court being set up, lasting a day or more. Witnesses had to undergo an examination all over again when the case came to trial, for a not guilty plea, and the defence had plenty of advance warning of the strength of the case against them.

All offenders appearing before magistrates were prosecuted by a full time police inspector. For a committal or if there were any complications, the case would be dealt with by a solicitor, paid for by the police. In all cases this meant that the case papers were always readily available as the officer in the case would have submitted them to headquarters for a final decision. Once a prosecution was authorised by a senior officer the papers were passed to the court Inspector, the officer in the case informed of the date of hearing and witness notices issued to the divisions concerned for service.

Persons charged for minor crimes, such as shoplifting, were either kept in custody overnight or bailed to appear the following day, when the case would be dealt with. Prisoners committed for trial by magistrates would invariably appear at the next session of Quarter Sessions (as the term implies, held 4 times a year, in the Civic Centre) or Assizes at Winchester. It was thus rare for a person to have to wait more than 2 to 3 months before being dealt with.

Somebody charged with assault on police invariably received a prison sentence and such a charge was therefore not made lightly. A few knocks and bumps were accepted, with an aggressive prisoner getting as good as he gave, but if a real injury was sustained, especially if it resulted in sick leave, than a charge would invariably be brought. Magistrates were unhappy with “their” police officers being assaulted in the course of their duty and always took a serious view of such a charge.


Detectives constables were unlikely to be appointed as such until after at least 6 to 7 years’ service, after a tour as ‘aide’, and then underwent training at New Scotland Yard. There were no scenes of crime officers, all detectives did their own fingerprint examination at the scene, checking for forensic evidence, taking samples etc. Fingerprints found had to be photographed in situ. There was therefore a small section of police photographers, who were also fingerprint experts. They attended the scene of major crimes, making a thorough examination and taking official photos. They also photographed all prisoners before court each morning and took their fingerprints.

The detective dealing with prisoners would complete a full descriptive form for his prisoner and this would accompany the charge sheet and be available for the photographers, before being filed in the Criminal Record Office (housed in the ground floor corridor of headquarters in the Civic Centre).

This office also filed all completed case papers so that an investigating officer was able to view the case papers of a suspect with a local record before interviewing him. He thus had advance knowledge of his likely behaviour, description etc.

Detectives worked a different shift pattern to uniform officers, mainly ‘split shift’. These were called:

Days – 9am to 5pm. (Normally concluding any time after 7pm)

Ordinary Turn – 9am to 1.30pm and 6pm to 9.30pm (Often worked straight through and usually completed around 11pm)

Late Turn – 9am to 1pm and 8pm to midnight. (Again, sometimes worked straight through and almost usually completed in the early hours). No matter what time one went off duty, an appearance at 9am the following morning was demanded.

One officer, in turn, was allocated to a week of night duty, covering the entire borough and using the one and only CID car to patrol and answer calls for assistance. It was his responsibility to ensure that correct procedures were followed when crimes were reported. This was even more essential when somebody was arrested as his expertise regarding the Judges Rules was needed when suspects were to be interrogated.

Of crucial importance, regarding the admissibility of confessions, was administering the caution. A caution at the wrong time could give the defence a loophole and demolish a prosecution. The old caution was a simple one “You are not obliged to say anything unless you wish to do so, but what you say may be put into writing and given in evidence”. The problem was that the rules stated that it had to be given “As soon as a police officer has evidence which would afford reasonable grounds for suspecting that a person has committed an offence…….. before putting to him any questions, or further questions, relating to that offence.”

The question as to what exactly constituted ‘reasonable grounds for suspecting’ could often be a tricky one, and the timing of a caution was always seized upon by the defence when an admission was retracted.

There was no paid overtime or time off in lieu as a detective allowance of £1.50 a week was paid to cover plain clothes allowance, detective expenses (being forced to buy drinks in public houses in the course of duty!) and overtime. However, rest days worked (and many were) could be taken at a later convenient date.

At police headquarters, all detectives, including one from each of the other stations and the British Transport Police, met for a 9am conference, where crime was discussed and overnight offences booked out to individuals.

At this period Southampton Docks was policed by the BT Police and their own CID officers dealt with the vast majority of offences. They had their own individual expertise that was invaluable. However, it was accepted that the Borough Police had ultimate jurisdiction over the docks as it was part of the town, and “A” Division detectives would be detailed to supervise major investigations in conjunction with BT detectives. This always worked very well as there was full co-operation between the two organisations.

Jim Brown served with the Southampton County Borough and Southampton City Police from 1952 until 1970.