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Mikkel

GWR Police, ca. 1900 - did they wear helmets?

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I'm trying to establish the uniform of the GWR police constables around 1902, in particular whether they wore caps or helmets at this time.

 

In Slinn’s GWR liveries, there is a photo of the staff at Taplow in 1892, including what he assumes is a policeman with a badge on the sleeve and a cap. A gent with a similar badge and cap can be seen in the photo from West Drayton (same year).

 

At some point though, helmets appear to have been introduced, as seen in the photos here:

http://headline.org.uk/police-forces-officers/

http://www.britishpolicehelmet.co.uk/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderpictures/DSCF1377.JPG

 

But when the change from cap to helmet happened is not clear. The website of the British Transport Police mentions a major modernization of the GWR police in 1918, but whether this affected uniforms I don’t know.

 

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Good luck in your search. I'm afraid that I'm no help at all.

 

I confess to being amused at the notion of "GWR Police". (That might mean something different in the contemporary model railway fraternity.)

 

What was the origin of the GWR Police? I wonder what 'law and order' concerns they managed - like pilfering, trespass, etc? Did they perform the role of a ticket inspector or was this separate?

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It's an interesting little bit of GWR history that seems to have received limited attention.

 

As I understand it, the original GWR "police" force originated in the need for someone to "police"  the line - understood broadly, and including signalling. Later as the signalling department became a force of it's own, the police gradually became more like an actual police force, and seems - along with other railway companies - to have a played an important role in forming what is today's transport police.

 

A bit of general history here: http://www.btp.police.uk/about_us/our_history/timeline.aspx

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As I understand it, the original GWR "police" force originated in the need for someone to "police"  the line - understood broadly, and including signalling. Later as the signalling department became a force of it's own, the police gradually became more like an actual police force, and seems - along with other railway companies - to have a played an important role in forming what is today's transport police.

 

 

That's why, as I'm sure Mikkel knows, Signalmen are still referred to as "Bobbies" – or they were while there still were signalmen. Don't know what they call the folk stuck in front of computer screens in modern signalling centres.

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Another photo here showing a GWR police constable wearing a helmet, at Merthyr Tydfill in the 1940s (center row, far left): http://www.alangeorge.co.uk/Images_I-M/MerthyrTydfilRailwayStation_Staffcirca1945_CliveThomas.jpg

 

Having trawled through a lot of station staff photos from the turn of the century, I still haven't seen evidence of anyone wearing helmets at that point.

 

Edit:

 

A nice photo of a group of GWR police officers here, dated 1922 (and another distance shot after that, from 1912). The photos in the collection on those pages are an interesting study of railway police uniforms from around the country across the years: http://www.btphg.org.uk/?page_id=54&wppa-album=5&wppa-occur=1&wppa-photo=336

Edited by Mikkel
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Have you tried the police museum at Newport Pagnell?

 

They have a huge collection of Bobbies' Helmets, and probably know the history of style of headgear better than most.

 

Kevin

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Thanks Kevin, I will send them an e-mail, and also one to the BTP History Group.

 

My theory at this point is that there were three main phases in the uniforms of the GWR Police:

  • A first phase when their responsibilities included signalling and they played an key role in operations, with suitable Victorian attire (including top hats initially)
  • A period of decline up to around WW1 when they lost signalling responsibilities and did not have a separate dept of their own but belonged to the individual GWR depts, eg the goods department etc.  This seems to fit the 2-3 photos I have seen from the 1890s when their uniforms seem quite similar to other GWR ground staff - including caps - and where the main features to distinguish them are  brass numbers on the collar and a badge on the arm.
  • A revival period from ca. 1918 when they were organised into a separate dept and salaries and uniforms improved, including helmets rather than caps.

Note there was also a Detective dept. from early on, which had more status and carried plain clothes throughout.

 

These are only assumptions based on what I have been able to find so far in my books and on the web. Just for the record, I have below ordered a few key quotes in sequence to give a brief potted history. The quotes are from excellent websites of the British Transport Police, and the BTP History Group respectively.

 

 

The earliest railway policemen […] were appointed to preserve law and order on the construction site of the railway, patrol and protect the line, and control the movement of railway traffic.

 

As claims for compensation for lost goods increased, the Railway Companies decided to act by forming detective departments. The London and North Western Railway and Great Western Railway formed their CID in 1863 but had used police officers in plain clothes to undertake special enquiries for several years before.

 

Later, as police duties were diverted from traffic control to protective work, control of the force was divided and the principal departments, such as the operating and commercial department, had their own police establishments. This led to a decline in the railway police at a time when, after the passing of the 1856 County Police Act, County Police Forces were being formed and becoming better organised.

 

(During WW1) the uniformed police on the GWR [...] did not form a separate body but were employed by different departments so that their names were included under those departments.

 

However there was a Special Police Department of plain clothes detectives […]

 
From 1900 several railway companies reorganised their police forces. The London, Brighton and South Coast Railway virtually reformed their force from scratch, followed by the Great Eastern, the North Eastern and Midland in 1910, Caledonian in 1917 and the GWR in 1918. As with almost all county and borough forces these reorganised forces were headed by ex-army officers. Reorganisation dragged the railway police into the 20th century as pay, conditions and uniforms were improved.

 

At grouping the big four) each had its own police force controlled by a chief of police. These four forces were each split into a number of divisions headed by a superintendent, and divided into a number of divisional posts led by an inspector. Detectives worked with their uniformed colleagues at most locations. Many 'non-police' duties were retained however, with officers acting as crossing keepers or locking and sealing wagons.

Edited by Mikkel

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I would be very surprised if they were acting as Crossing Keepers (in the railway meaning of the term) as late as the time of the Grouping.  Their involvement in train signalling seems generally to have ceased around the time of the introduction of block signalling although it must have varied between Companies - some had Signalmen as early as the 1850s for example.  From various pay tables for the pre-1914 period it seems clear that the involvement of Policemen in train signalling had completely finished by the turn of the century.

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Thanks Mike, that did surprise me too - probably not correct as you say.

 

I have a found a record of a GWR policeman at Smithfield depot, whose job in 1890 included "booking the men in and out" at the entrance gate. I suspect this kind of mundane everyday work will have taken up a lot of their time at this point. 

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Having a company policeman on the gate checking staff was probably intended to  deter and detect pilfering. It was also part of the role of docks police forces (railway police at railway owned docks) until they were generally replaced by security companies.

 

Pete

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I wonder if that involved an actual search of pockets?  In this fascinating account from Old Bailey, there doesn't seem to have been much of a search as the culprits managed to conceal the goods in their trousers :). I thought I'd incorporate a scene from this story on my layout, which is why I got interested in the GWR police:

 

http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?id=t18900623-514&div=t18900623-514&terms=department

.

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Any copper with a bit of time will tell you they never had a truncheon...........only a staff.

 

Dating back to the staff or token carried by the original railway bobbies when on single lines........

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They couldn't search everybody with a constant stream of carts going in and out, so the police presence would be partly a deterrent, backed up by random searches and targeting anyone 'looking suspicious'. The BTP police presence at Southampton docks didn't stop pilfering but presumably made the perpetrators more careful and deterred the casual or impulse theft. In the 70s you could get cheap meat in certain pubs; but not the sort where a young man with long hair would be welcome.

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Good luck in your search. I'm afraid that I'm no help at all.

 

I confess to being amused at the notion of "GWR Police". (That might mean something different in the contemporary model railway fraternity.)

 

What was the origin of the GWR Police? I wonder what 'law and order' concerns they managed - like pilfering, trespass, etc? Did they perform the role of a ticket inspector or was this separate?

At a bit of a tangent to the the OP, sorry.

Are the current BTP part of the police or do they come under the DfT?

Also most U.S. Railroads still have their own police departments. Their officers, despite being privately employed, have the full powers of the 'normal' police. One of the officers shot after the Boston bombing worked for the MBTA

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Any copper with a bit of time will tell you they never had a truncheon...........only a staff.

 

Dating back to the staff or token carried by the original railway bobbies when on single lines........

 

Here's a photo of one on Flickr - assuming it's an original: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gusset/16139716445/

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Just to follow up on this, here is an attempt at a GWR police uniform in the early 1900s. The figure is a modified 4mm Andrew Stadden guard/inspector (removing a bag and strap). I first tried doing the brass numerals on the colar with 2mm transfers, but they were too large, so it’s just a bit of paint. The badge on the sleeve should be a little rounder, but after repainting it 4 times I gave up and left it as it is.

 

DSCN0260.jpg

 

 

 

And here’s my take on a GWR detective of the same period, using an unmodified Stadden figure. There are more Stadden figures in my blog, if anyone is interested.

 

DSCN0267.jpg

 

 

 

Lastly, if my theory is right anyone wanting to do a GWR police officer after WW1 (possibly 1918) could have a look at this constable from the Dart Castings range, which isn’t too far off from the helmeted GWR policeman of later years, as seen eg here: http://headline.org.uk/police-forces-officers/

 

DSCN0308b.jpg

Edited by Mikkel
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Fascinating thread Mikkel.....thoroughly enjoyed it.

 

Great job on the painting......very nice detailing...far better than Ij am able to achieve.

 

I just wish Dart would do a casting like that without the shirt and tie........I don't believe these were introduced for Constables and Sergeants until the early fifties so it's a bit limiting

 

Kind regards

 

John

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Very interesting subject Mikkel.  Sorry I can't help you with anything concrete. You might want to enquire at York Museum as they have a decent collection of headwear such as these seen in 1979.

 

post-12721-0-68325000-1444942284_thumb.jpg

 

 

 

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Very interesting subject Mikkel.  Sorry I can't help you with anything concrete. You might want to enquire at York Museum as they have a decent collection of headwear such as these seen in 1979.

 

attachicon.gif0255.jpg

The one on the left is a Station Inspector's cap - just the same as a Stationmaster's but with a bit less gold braid.  When I first started full time on the railway in 1966 Geoff Phillips (if I've got the name right?) the Area Manager at Slough still used to wear one - not withstanding regular missives from Paddington telling him not to.

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Fascinating thread Mikkel.....thoroughly enjoyed it.

 

Great job on the painting......very nice detailing...far better than Ij am able to achieve.

 

I just wish Dart would do a casting like that without the shirt and tie........I don't believe these were introduced for Constables and Sergeants until the early fifties so it's a bit limiting

 

Kind regards

 

John

 

Thanks John, aha so the shirt and tie came later, thanks for that info. It doesn't look easy to modify on the Dart figure. You could try writing to them, they have been quite responsive to suggestions for figures in the past.

 

 

Very interesting subject Mikkel.  Sorry I can't help you with anything concrete. You might want to enquire at York Museum as they have a decent collection of headwear such as these seen in 1979.

 

attachicon.gif0255.jpg

 

Thanks Colin, I must have missed those last time I was at the NRM. The photos in Slinn's GW Way suggest that (for my period) the policeman's cap was just a regular kepi with no decoration. But then again, I'm beginning to wonder just how standardized the headwear was in practice. if you look at staff photos from the 1890s and 1900s, there seems to be a good deal of variety even among people of the same staff category.

 

The one on the left is a Station Inspector's cap - just the same as a Stationmaster's but with a bit less gold braid.  When I first started full time on the railway in 1966 Geoff Phillips (if I've got the name right?) the Area Manager at Slough still used to wear one - not withstanding regular missives from Paddington telling him not to.

 

A nice story Mike, and maybe a good example of what may have happened in earlier days too - not so often among senior staff perhaps, but I bet not every piece of clothing in a staff group was exactly as per the regulations.

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An amazing collection Mike, thanks for sharing that. Really shows how the world has changed, imagine a public institution in today's world doing something like that.

 

Where was the photo taken please?

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Mikkel,

As you mentioned the Dart figure here are some from MMS Models.  They are the correct uniform, and although they appear to be keeping their heads down as there is probably a raid on, I think one of the heads has a police helmet, while the other looks like a cap.  It is an easy matter to remove the helmet and gas mask box from their back I would think.  The figures as whitemetal and very good although the ATS girls I bought are just a bit thin.

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Oh yes, I had completely forgotten those - thanks Chris. I won't be needing them as I already have my 1900s constable above, but for those modelling a later period they look really good. The concept of lose heads really is a good one (in modelling, that is!). 

Edited by Mikkel

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