Boys in Blue

I was picked up by minibus outside a pub in Kidderminster on a chilly September morning with my suitcase and travelled to the police training school in Droitwich picking up more new cadets along the way. On arrival we were shown to the dormitory which was going to be home for the next three months. I felt quite anxious about sharing a bedroom I had never shared before, where would I get changed? Well we soon got to know each other and were changing at such speed throughout the day we only concentrated on getting our own uniform on correctly. There were eight girls and three boys. There was also a senior course of cadets who showed us the ropes in the first week. I shared a dormitory with three other girls from my intake, Jill, Kay and Sue. In the first week we were issued with our uniforms and I was not happy, the uniforms weren't blue at all but black. That is how little I knew. We were issued shoes and adventure training boots. We were taught to 'bull' our shoes to a mirror finish using Kiwi parade gloss polish, a soft rag and your own spit. We had to learn definitions off by rote. I still remember the definition of a constable. A constable is a citizen locally appointed, who's authority is derived from the Crown. His primary functions are the protection of life, etc. I came top of the class for definitions, scoring a 100% in the final examination.

They were long days, so no opportunity to get up to any mischief. Every morning we had to make our bed into what was called a 'bed box'. Sheets and blankets folded in a particular way so they looked neat and tidy on the bed. At 7.30am we had to be present for breakfast followed by morning shake up in the gym or on a Wednesday a run down to Droitwich lido, a few lengths in a freezing out door swimming pool and if we were lucky we would get a lift back in the mini bus. We then had morning parade in our best uniform, then change to our day uniform for drill and the classroom, change again into tracksuits for first aid or a gym session and back into uniform for more classroom work. Then after tea we had hobbies, except Wednesdays. Hobbies were activities of, fencing, judo and swimming until 8pm, I loved the judo and fencing. I was not a strong swimmer. Afterwards we had to press our uniforms, bull our shoes and keep the room and wardrobes clean and meticulously tidy for room inspections. I was loving every minute of it and couldn't get enough. Cross country running was a real treat, three or five miles around the water tower on the horizon from the training school. I pretty much always came first out of the girls, which facilitated me in having the cleanest and warmest shower once back at base. It was very disciplined. PC Tucker was our main Instructor and he was an ex-sapper in the army so brought those skills with him. All the time we were being groomed to be successful police constables. There was an assault course which none of us were too keen on. It was well past its best and was responsible for a number of injuries, the worst being Kay losing the skin on her hands as she slid down the rope. Health and Safety didn't apply to the Police Service back then. In December 1983 we all successfully passed out from phase one of the cadets.

Phase two we were on attachments. I spent four weeks at the blind school in Condover, near Shrewsbury, a couple of weeks in Kidderminster A&E department, a number of back room offices in Kidderminster police station, being our introduction to the shear amount of paper work generated in crime prevention and crime fighting. We went adventure training at Bishops Castle old police station. We walked up the second tallest mountain in Wales, Cader Idris in atrocious weather. I loved it, even if I did eat my emergency rations, being a Mars bar and four glacier mints instead of the dry packet of chicken supreme we were supposed to make. To be honest looking back it was inevitable we would all do that. We got fatigues for eating them when we got back to Bishops Castle. I even managed to get out of mine as I was first in the shower and had an almighty nose bleed! I was taken to Shrewsbury hospital where they cauterised a burst blood vessel in my nose. I also went to the prestigious Police Staff College at Bramshill as an admin assistant to a Chief Inspector and Superintendent running the Special Course. The Special Course was offered to high potential police officers that were also in the top two hundred candidates in the country with the annual Sergeants exam. I had no desires on Special Courses or promotion, I just wanted to be a Police Officer and couldn't wait for phase three where we were attached to a shift at a police station.

Phase 3 came a little early in 1984, due to the increasing demands on the police to the the miners strike. Initially I was at Kidderminster Police station but moved out to single quarters in Bridgnorth. It is here that I met Sue B my parent constable for phase 3. She was a none police driver and so we walked miles in our twelve hour shift. I loved operational policing, attending calls for help and trying to think of solutions for neighbour disputes. I looked ridiculously young at 17 in a police cadet uniform. We were distinguished by a metal cadet plate on our epaulettes, blue flashes on or jacket collars and a blue band on our hats instead of the black and white check. Occasionally my naivety would show through, like the motorist that told me he was in Dire Straits, I quickly told my parent constable, Sue B that this guy played for Dire Straits, when she explained it was a saying that people use to say they are in financial difficulties. I still had lots to learn. Drinking on duty was against the discipline code but back then I did occasionally see it going on, especially on nights when the back room of pubs were visited. Christmas 1984 Sue B and I went to the Post Office exchange for our usual cup of tea with Flo, on early turn. However this morning I was given a cup of tea with whiskey in it and a piece of fruit cake. They all watched and laughed as I slowly turned green from the alcohol. I was being tested so I finished it and no way was I going to sick it back up. A good walk around and a hearty breakfast sorted me out.

The most vivid memory has to be the double fatal motorbike accident. The bodies were brought to Bridgnorth mortuary at the cottage hospital. I was left in charge to record property and tidy up as best I could before the parents came to identify the bodies. I had seen on television how the deceased arms were crossed over the chest and so I did that. It was in the middle of the night and I kept looking at these two boys that would only be a couple of years older than me and the trauma about to be faced by the parents. As they arrived with a policeman I made a discreet exit. I was invited to attend the post mortem. Back then officers would receive 50 pence for each post mortem completed. You had to write down the weight of each organ. The first of the deceased was brought out for examination into the cause of death. The mortuary attendant said, 'which idiot crossed this guys arms?' Well that was me. Rigour had set in and made getting to the chest area very difficult. I was so embarrassed.

Sue B taught me about offences, discretion and how to engage with the public. But most of all she gave me probably the best start possible by teaching me the paperwork and how to write reports properly in the police language. Just before I finished phase three my confidence was boosted when I was trusted to collect found property from a local pub by myself and left to complete all the necessary enquiries and paperwork.

In single quarters I was looked after by the house keeper and cook Mary. She had a small selection of cooked dishes. The best was treacle tart with carnation milk, I lapped it up showing my eagerness, I soon learnt never to tell Mary something was lovely as it would be served day after day. Fridays was bed changing day and at 11am the bed was changed, regardless that I might be in a deep sleep after a night shift.

In January 1985 I left the cadets to start initial training as a constable at the regional training school, in Ryton upon Dunsmore.

No comments:

Post a Comment