History of the Brighton Police 1938-1967

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British WW1 poster regarding the killing of war pigeons being an offence under Regulation 21A of the Defence of the Realm Act
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Inspector Gerald W Baines of the Brighton Police compiled this history

World War 2

At the outbreak of war in 1939, 17 reservists in the force were re-called to the Colours and an additional war-time strength of 44 First Police Reserves (retired policemen) and 130 War Reserves was approved by the Home Office. The force played an active part in home defence measures and, as the war progressed, Brighton was declared a restricted area and the police were given additional responsibilities in checking that unauthorised persons did not gain access to the town. The wireless system had to be suspended and in fact the pre-war type of pocket wireless was never re-introduced. The basement of a new police building in Market Street had been completed just before the outbreak of war, and the basement rooms were converted into a ‘Battle Headquarters’ for the force.

War years

Over the war years a considerable proportion of the force joined the armed forces, to serve in all three services in all quarters of the globe, and the Special Constabulary again proved a valuable asset in filling the gap at home. In 1942, 248 Specials were regularly employed, with an average of 70 men on duty from 8 pm to midnight each night. In the same year history repeated itself when a woman police sergeant and one woman constable were appointed, but this time the policewomen were to remain after the war as a permanent part of the force. 1942 also saw a ‘pigeon messenger service’ instituted to provide links between various forces in the event of failure of other means of communication, the pigeon loft being installed at the small police station which then existed at Patcham.


On I April 1943 the Brighton force had its first experience of amalgamation, when all the forces in Sussex were joined to form the Sussex Police Force. Brighton was joined with Hove and Shoreham to form No 3 District- another case where history is soon to be repeated. By 1943, 61 members of the force were serving in the armed forces and distinguished service was given both by these men and by the men who remained with the depleted and, at times, sorely tried force at home. Several members of the force who served in the armed forces were decorated for gallantry and the Roll of Honour bears the names of those who were killed through enemy action either in the armed services or when on duty at home in Brighton. The force could be proud of its war record, and with the end of the war and the return of men who had been absent in the services, the force turned its attention to the demands and problems of the post-war period.

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