Police Constable 273 George Forrest

273 George Forrest
Brachial artery, located on the inside of the upper arm, inside the elbow, frequently used in place of carotid pulse in infants
Source: ClassConnection
1950s ambulance interior
Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository

My Story

This is story as I remember it, bear in mind this was about 57 years ago. I have no idea of the date except that it was probably late September or early October.

Getting the call

I was working a five pm to one am shift on St James’s Street. My booking off point, the point we had to make 10 minutes before booking off was St James’s Street and High street. I was there a couple of minutes early so I suppose that this incident must have taken place between 12.45 and 12.55. I recall that there were not many people about. I heard a shout for help, which obviously came from the flat over the shop, which I believe was a green grocer’s at that time, on the east corner of the junction.

I dashed over to the door and fortunately found it closed but unsecured. Still shouts coming from above, so I dashed up the stairs into a room that was plainly used as sitting/dining room. There was broken crockery and glass on the table and the floor. There was a lot of blood on the hearth rug.

The crime scene

There were two women and two men in the room. One of the women was sitting in an easy chair close to the fireplace with a tea towel loosely wrapped around her lower left arm. The towel was saturated with blood which was running in a steady stream, not dripping, into the hearth. There was sufficient blood already in the hearth making it impossible to see the tiles in the hearth and it was being added to by the second by the blood running from the end of the tea towel.

I called for more towels to put on the injured arm and grabbed the brachial pressure point in the injured arm. The flow of blood stopped. I looked at the wound and what I thought were tendons, etc, were clearly visible. I gently released my grip and the blood immediately began to flow again. I reapplied the pressure. I was told that an ambulance had been called. While we waited for the ambulance I was able to find out what had happened and how the injured woman had sustained such an injury.

Events leading to the incident

It seemed that the two women were sisters, the younger woman was the occupant of the flat with her husband. The older sister and her husband were on holiday. I cannot remember where they lived. Things were going well until the conversation, fuelled by alcohol, revealed that the husband of the older woman had been, for want of a better description, “sleeping with” the younger of the sisters. Things got really heated up, hence the broken crockery and glass. The older sister had picked up what remained of a large pub type ashtray and hurled it across the room, aiming at the younger, now injured, sister. The aim was good and the missile had unfortunately sufficient force to cause the injury I could see.

The ambulance arrives

Back to my part. When the ambulance arrived I thought that I was going to be able to release my grip, I had been releasing my grip periodically for a second or two to make sure that the blood flowed a little. The ambulance crew tried to stem the flow, but without success. No matter what they tried as soon as I loosened my grip blood flowed again. It didn’t matter what they tried, nothing was successful. A sitting type stretcher was brought up the stairs where the injured woman was strapped into the chair and an attempt was made to get her down the stairs. Remember I am still hanging on to the pressure point all the time.

The stairs were awkward because they were not very wide and in three sections, i.e. two turns with landings to negotiate. Somehow we managed to get the chair out and I had managed to hang on to the injured arm getting into all sorts of contortions whilst the ambulance negotiated corners  at great speed to the A and E at the Royal Sussex County Hospital. By this time I had been “hanging on” for at least thirty minutes.

The Sussex County Hospital

The A and E was at that time in the front door of the old part of the hospital in Eastern Road. Blood was immediately pumped into the injured woman’s good arm and the doctor was then free to turn his attention to the injury and was able to try and stem the flow of blood. I saw six pints of blood pumped in and there were another three-four bottles standing nearby. The doctor was struggling to stop the flow, but eventually managed it and I was able to relax and release my grip, which I did gratefully. I had been hanging on for at least 35-40 minutes, possibly longer. The doctor looked at one of the nurses and said get this young man a cup of tea, I think he deserves it.

I stood in the reception area with my cup of tea. I had taken no more than a sip when who should come through the door, Horace George Spencer, Sgt 23. He gave me a right royal rollicking, which I suppose to a degree I deserved for not letting the comms room know, but I had been busy. A few days later we found ourselves on the same shift and he had the decency to meet me and apologise. He went up a great deal in my estimation then and after that we got along very well.

Chief Constable’s Commendation

A few days later DC Toft told me that I was being put in for a Chief Constable’s Commendation, which was welcomed as I was still on probation. I managed to go one better and get one from the Watch Committee. Apparently the doctor had put in his statement that had not taken the action as promptly as I did the injured woman could have been dead in five minutes.

This is to certify that at a Meeting of the Watch Committee held on the 2nd day of December 1959 Police Constable 273 George Forrest was commended for his efficient and continued application of first aid, whereby the life of a woman who had sustained a dangerous wound was saved.

George Baldwin, Chairman of the Watch Committee.

A. E. Rowsell, Chief Constable.

I believe that a Watch Committee Commendation was a bit of a rarity, I can’t recall any others between 1959 when I got mine and 1968, amalgamation. I was also told that the last one given to a probationer had been before World War Two, at least 30 years earlier. I wonder if there is any way it could be checked.

Audio copyright Paul Beaken