A policeman’s Christmas
“Present Appointments” bellowed the Sergeant.
Eight constables stood at attention before a massive table in the Parade Room and on the shouted order eight pairs of hands reached down the seam at the side of their uniform trousers and seven of them with all the spped of gunslingerss in the Westerns withdrew in the right a truncheon and in the left a pair of gleaming handcuffs.
I was the eighth and although I had been put through the exercise numerous times in training and three times on the previous nights, I somehow fluffed the draw when my handcuffs snagged my pocket and I was left with my truncheon at the present and my left hand still tugging at my cuffs.
Had I been a cowboy of old, I would have been drilled through the heart. As it was I was mortified at the Sargeant’s scowl. I had just got my handcuffs out in time to be late on the command “Return Appointments”.
The Sergeant read out the allocation of duties for the night with emphasis that a close eye be kept on pubs as this was Christmas Eve. Whilst revellers could be tolerated things should not be allowed to get out of hand.
The experienced bobbies on this particular night knew that this really meant that once things started to hot up and preferably before the fists started to fly, they should step in and firmly break things up.
I was working with PC135 George Anderson on one of the town centre beats. George had joined the Denville Police in 1936 after 4 years in the Coldstream Guards. Shortly after the war broke out he was recalled to the Guards and soldiered thoughout the war returning to Denville and policing in 1945. Tall and an erect 6 foot 2 inches, he was built like the proverbial barn. With military moustache, twinkling blue eyes and a ready smile, he was a popular officer with his colleagues and with the general public he met on the streets.
However, anyone who messed with him did so at their peril. George solved trouble on the streets in his own style. First of all the smile, a few soft words and a ready quip. If that didn’t do the trick and folks got awkward, George was prepared to get physical which meant that he emphasised his point by getting the first blow in.
I saw eveidence when after pub closing time a loud argument involving five young men had developped in the Market Place. Things had got heated and two or three of the youths had starting pushing each other accompanied by much foul language.
George said “Come on and follow my lead”.
He then strode quickly up to the group, stepping into the middle and asking them to break it up. I stood behind him uncertain what was going to happen but hoping it if was necessary to draw handcuffs and truncheon he was not going to be a sitting duck if his hands were struggling to relieve his appointments from his pockets. The youths seemed to be taking no notice of George’s words and in fact one of the youths struck out at the other.
George reached out and grabbed the two ringleaders by the shirt collars, swung them apart and them smartly brought them together again. Blood spurted from the noses and lips of both of them and they fell apart as the other three recoiled.
George said “Now piss off andif I see any more of you lot tonight, you’re in”
The two parties quickly left in opposite directions. I breathed a sigh of relief.
George said ” Come on Frank, we’ll go round the back of Charlies and have a fag”
I guess I am learning a lot about policing methods!