Stories from the book, 'The Police in Lewes.' Part 19

British police car in the 1950s
Photograph: guardian.co.uk
Jack Greenaway
The Police in Lewes
Max Miller and the demon barber at the 1947 Police Ball with Pathe News filming 'the gruesome scene'
Keir Angel's collection
Worthing Police Ball was a highlight of the calendar. This photo from 1952 shows Sergeants Thomas, Dear and Vorley (back row), plus three sadly-unidentified Special Constables, receiving singing tuition from Jessie Thomas before that year's performance.
Sussex Police
Midhurst Police Ball, March 1933.
Sussex Police

Jack remembered a few other characters who were in and around Lewes during those times, Great people with a very good sense of humour as well as being good ‘Coppers.’

Conky

The first one was George Moore, who was affectionately known as ‘Conky,’ because of his large nose, which was considerably improved by an accident he had at Falmer. As a result of this accident he received reasonable damages for, among other things his loss of taste! However he still demanded a glass of beer rather than a glass of water, that is, as long as someone else was paying for it.

George was a pretty sharp dealer and was one of the regular drivers of ‘call sign KB15,’ which was the Station’s patrol car. One day he was on a late shift, 5pm – 1am. He had not long moved to Ringmer and Jack Greenaway was his observer in the patrol car. This was the first meeting between the two of them. He had seen him before but not whereby they could have a chat.

Cheap or better still free

It was pretty dark as the patrol car made its way to Uckfield, where George had previously been stationed and they were then going on to the brickworks on the A22 – miles off the Lewes Sub-Division. George spoke to someone he knew and George asked this person for some old reject plant pots. Even if some were chipped it didn’t matter, as long as they were ‘cheap or better still free.’ Off the two went and George selected some pots and told, not asked me, to help carry them back to the car. As we loaded these pots into the boot of the patrol car, the man walked away saying that he wouldn’t be a minute as he was just going to the office to make out the bill! George was shocked and after turning a deep shade of white  spluttered out a few words which were totally incoherent. He got all these pots out of the boot and left them on the ground in a large heap and drove away at a fast rate of knots.

It was spotted that the rear number plate lamp bulb was no longer working. He then admitted to Jack that he had fitted a secret switch in the car so that when he wanted he would switch off the rear lights so that no one could take the car number from the rear. That was just in case he was somewhere where he shouldn’t be. When we got back to Lewes Police Station the lights were fully working. Jack admits that he never found this secret switch, it was very well hidden. George was no fool, that’s for sure.

The Police Ball

Another memory Jack has was the time when Harry Banyard, who was the Chief Inspector, handed the late patrol car crew a wad of tickets for the Police Ball. He gave them instructions to sell them during their tour of duty of duty! Or when, after Harry retired, Frank Deeprose spent every evening for several weeks in the room next to what had once been ‘Stitchy’ Welfare’s uniform store. This was on Special Police Ball preparation duties. Frank was a very experienced carpenter and was detailed to make some scenery in order to transform the Town Hall, where the Police Ball was always held, into one of Kier Angel’s ideas for the theme of this year’s Police Ball.

Like, one year I remember, Kier Angel had this idea of turning the Town Hall into a ship and on the morning of the Ball the whole lot of Rural officers had to ‘make a point’ at the Town Hall. There the committee had installed a gang plank, which had been borrowed from Newhaven Harbour. A police car was used to transport it up to Lewes, (hardly the correct use for a police car.)This gang plank had been placed over the Jacobean staircase, much to the concern of Mr. Chester Church, who was, at that time, the Hall Keeper. The scenery transformed the Assembly rooms at the Town Hall into the interior of a cruise ship. Then, of course, there was the ballroom where the balloons had to be blown up before the Rural Officers could return to their proper police duties, which as it turned out occurred in the late afternoon. It was Sergeant No. 60 who was in charge of the operations at the Town Hall, now we are back again to the very well known ‘Fod.’ Needless to say, once again the Police Ball was a great success, and raised a lot of money for the local charities.

Almost every main Police Station in Sussex had their own Police Balls, including Brighton Borough Police and it is right to say that every Ball raised a lot of money for the local charities. It seems alien now, looking back that it was the policemen who went from shop to shop and business to business selling the police Ball tickets. Some people bought them and mentioned the word ‘bribery’ but although we needed to sell out, some people bought them in order to be on the side of the police. Whatever the feelings they did raise a lot of money and helped out the charities throughout the year.

‘Sarge, I’ve found this bike’

Sometime in the 1960’s a newly appointed policeman by the name of Peter Allcorn joined us at Lewes, he was 6’-7’’ tall and looked ever taller in the High Street when he was wearing his helmet on duty On one of Peter’s late shifts, he opened the door of West Street Police Station and called out in a loud voice, ‘Sarge, I’ve found this bike. Is it ok to bring it in?’ sergeant Gordon (Dugald) Finlayson, came out of his office, to be confronted by this huge man who had been and was still in retirement. He was a professional actor and a real comedian. He kept a ‘dead-pan’ face as he rode this small child’s bicycle into the ‘front office.’ Gordon convulsed, falling about with uncontrollable laughter, he just couldn’t help himself, he was totally helpless with laughter at this really huge figure on this very small child’s bicycle. It was very well known that when Gordon laughed, it was just uncontrollable and it certainly was on this occasion.

Several constables emerged from various offices in the police station to see Peter riding round the front office on this tiny bike and with this sergeant laying in a heap on the office floor and then crawling back to the Sergeant’s office and roaring his head off and at the same time crying his eyes out. What an afternoon that was.

These stories have been taken from the Book ‘The Police in Lewes.’ For which I am very grateful.

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