Brighton Police Dog Section.
In 1965 I had been on beat duties for almost 7 years when I heard there was going to be a vacancy in the dog section and those officers who were interested were asked to apply.
I thought I fancy that and so I applied. In those days the dog section came under the ‘traffic Section’ and was run by a superintendent who couldn’t drive. I duly got an appointment with him and sat down in his office.
In response to his question I said that our family had always had dogs and that I fully understood them. That wasn’t strictly true as the only dog we had had was a mongrel, a nice dog. I took him out a couple of times but that is where my experience ended.
I gave him a lot of ‘cock and bull’ stories on how much I wanted the job and I had all this experience with dogs. Anyway other officers were interviewed and imagine my delight when I was told I had got the job.
There were two others in the dog section Pc John Bray, who was in charge and Pc Peter Gibson. I was living in a police house in Woodingdean at this time. We had to move to Lower Bevendean where a dog kennel was built in the back garden of a police house at No. 1, Auckland Drive. These were a semi detached hose with a police box in the middle where there was a telephone which could be used by the public. However, after moving there I found that more and more people was knocking on the door of my house asking me to attend all sorts of calls. It became a blooming nuisance in the end.
I met up with John Bray who had the one and only police dog van. We got on really well and we talked about what we were going to do regarding the training of my dog.
German shepherd dogs
A couple of days later John informed me that we were going down to Ticehurst to some kennels where Mrs. Ann Butler bred all sorts of dogs including . She ran the kennels and had a puppy from a particular breed who was known to make good police dogs, very intelligent and easy to train.
We set off for the kennels in the dog van, John driving. The dog van at that time was a black Morris 8 and on arrival Mrs. Butler showed us the puppy that was available. It was a big beautiful animal the colour was described as a ‘red sable.’ It was a most handsome dog. She let it out and came straight to me. The breeder said ‘how’s that it wants to be with you.’
I thought, ‘I want to be with you too.’ The puppy was priced at £18.’ That was with a small discount. She then said,” that leaves one puppy, would you like that one too, I can let that one go a small price, how about both of the puppies for say £25?’
There is no doubt that was a wonderful bargain but would the chief constable go for it. John rang the chief constable, Bill Cavey
(On amalgamation Bill Cavey became the chief constable of Cumbria until his retirement. He was a very good chief and knew the Christian name of everyone in the force over 400 officers in those days. He could also drink ‘alcohol’.)
The chief said yes to buying the second puppy.
After having some lunch provided by Mrs. Butler we put the puppies in the back of the van and set off back to Brighton and to show the chief Constable what he had bought. What we didn’t know was that these two puppies had been eating just about everything that wasn’t good for them. It wasn’t long before one of them started to be sick, the smell was horrid and then the other was sick. The sick was rolling back and forth with the vibrations of the van. I must say there was a time when I thought I too was going to be sick. I said to John, the van is in a real state now.’ He replied, that’s all ok you can clean it when we get back.’
Trouble with puppies
During the journey back the two puppies were not feeling very well at all. They had also been rolling around in the sick and it was in their coats by now. We eventually arrived at the police station. I said we can’t take them to see the Chief in this state..
John phoned the chief and explained the state the dogs were in and suggested we bring them back tomorrow when they were cleaner. He wouldn’t have it and said he wanted to see them now. In the police garage we cleaned the puppies up the best way we could and set off for the Chief’s office. We knocked on his door and got the reply ‘come in.’ We took the puppies in and he admired my dog and liked the other one too. When he had finished saying he would apply for another dog handler.
After a while Pc George Forrest got the job.
However, in the meantime I got the job of looking after both the dogs. They quickly grew and it was almost a full time job looking after them. I took them out for their , we went to Patcham for a change. That was just in the mornings. In the afternoons I had to go down to the police station and make ‘no Parking’ signs. Those in charge for a little unkind and obviously didn’t realise I had a lot more work to do when I got home. I was for ever scrubbing out the kennel, feeding and cleaning up dog mess.
My days then were from about 7am through until 10 or maybe 11 pm at nights. These were long days but I loved every moment.
At last I could start training with the dogs who I had named Bruce and the other one was Flash. I named Bruce after ‘Bruce Woodcock’ a famous heavy weight boxer of that time. I was mad on boxing and did a little when I was much younger.
Bruce was a dream to train but Flash was a nightmare. He wouldn’t do anything you asked him while Bruce was shown a couple of times and he got exactly what you wanted and he got it. In the meantime Pc George Forrest took over flash and had a kennel built in his back garden. It became much easier for me with just one dog.
We were doing more and more training. We joined up with East Sussex Dog section for training sometimes over at Lewes. Bruce grew and grew, a really fine dog. When he was about 9 months old he weighed in at 8 stones (112lbs). He was eight stones of working dog. I used to practice ‘man work’ with my two children by sending Bruce after my two boys. He always knocked them down but they enjoyed it. Ian, my eldest son still bears a scar on his back made by Bruce on one occasion.
Mount Brown in Guildford
The time had come for Bruce and me to go away on a dog course. These courses for Number 5 Region dogs and their handlers were held at Mount Brown in Guildford, Surrey. This was the HQ of Surrey Police.
We had digs at HQ while the dogs were in kennels a few minutes walk away while many of the dogs were still on 5 feet wall Bruce was scaling the 8 feet wall. I was so proud of him. We loved each other and he was very affectionate towards me and my family. He was a working dog, PC Bruce but he was like a pet to me.
One morning I took Bruce down to the playing fields for his morning ‘constitution.’ He loved it when he could run free for a little while. We had been down on the field for about 10 minutes when I saw one of the other lads with his dog. The playing fields had 2 rugby pitches and a football pitch; that shows just how big this field was.
The instructors drummed into our heads and to make sure the dogs didn’t chase one another when down on the playing fields. All of a sudden the other dog I saw was chasing Bruce. Both of us were shouting out to our dogs to come to us.
Then, a terrible accident occurred. Bruce, being chased lost his balance and slid into the iron stanchion of the goal post. It ruptured his spleen and poor Bruce was screaming out in pain. The other handler shouted sorry and said he would go and get help. One of the instructors soon appeared and with the aid of a Landover we took Bruce into town to the police vets.
The vet took one look and soon told us there was little he could do. He gave him an injection to kill the pain and told us to come back in the morning. We went back to Mount Brown and I stayed with Bruce all that day. I was mortified and kept asking the same question ‘do you think he will be ok?’ He had a few more injections given by the senior instructor every 4 hours.
During that night he died in my arms. I wasn’t going to let him go, I couldn’t believe it. My Bruce dead and on a training course, why did we have to come to this place. I contacted Brighton Police and through my tears I told them what had happened.
Pc John Bray came up with the dog van and took me back to Brighton. I hardly said a word all the way back. I sat with Bruce’s tracking line and lead on my lap. The rest of his equipment was in the back of the van. John took me home and I explained to my wife what had happened through my tears.| Then she stared crying which made me worse. When the boys came home from school I told them and they burst out into tears. What a ‘happy’ house this now was.
I went down to the police station the following day to explain to the superintendent what had happened. I sat down and wrote out my report before returning home again. There were tears and upsets for a long time after it all happened.
A couple of weeks later I was introduced to another dog, another German Shepherd dog. We carried on our daily training and I took him for his walks etc. We were just not compatible. I then resigned from the dog section and returned to walking the beats again. All this happened in just over 2 years. With Bruce it was such a happy time and by the training, running for the different dogs, laying tracks and general dog walking I had become realty fit again. What was a really wonderful and exciting time finished by a tragic accident: I shall never forget poor Bruce screaming in pain and there being nothing I could do for him.
Of nursing him during the day until he died that night. I have always thought the vet should have put him to sleep that morning. Why did he allow the dog to suffer more?
www.amazon.co.uk/ David – Rowland
Welcome to the Finsbury Publishing
David Rowland has just launched his 15th and final book, “The Spirit of Winsome Winn II”, all about the B-17 Flying Fortress which crashed at Patcham after being hit by anti-aircraft fire over Germany.