Stories from the book, 'The Police in Lewes.' Part 12
One of the more routine jobs that the policewomen were employed to do in Lewes was the control of the traffic which was increasing almost month on month, with the lorries getting larger all the time; the traffic really did need controlling. These duties were undertaken at the following points, Cliffe Corner, Library Corner, Star Corner, or sometimes at Prison Cross Roads.
WPC kate Piper
When I was first assigned to traffic control duties I went on patrol with Peter Stoner. He told me to turn off the traffic lights at Library Corner and to get out there in the road and control the traffic! ‘Oh help’ says me, ’what do I do now?’ Peter Stoner, ‘Get out there and remember that Headquarters staff have got go to get to work on time, but most of all remember that the Chief Constable lives in Lewes and he has also got to get to work on time!’ The important thing is ‘Don’t fling one up’ (salute him) when he passes you,’ because if you do, a lorry driver might misunderstand the signal and then could drive straight into the side of the Chief’s car.’ Says me, ’What’s the Chief’s car like?’ Peter said,’ it is a Red Volvo Estate, NPN 1Fo, don’t forget.’ Anyway Peter then taught me the basics of traffic control duty, and then left me to just get on with it.
Many hours were spent doing this traffic control duty in Lewes and occasionally I saw NPN 1F (The chief Constable’s estate car.) I always made sure that I didn’t stop it, that is, if I saw it coming along. All I could remember was Pete’s words to keep the traffic moving and not to salute while doing Traffic control. This was embedded in my brain. Due to the amount of beat work carried out in the main streets of Lewes, I was always aware that I would probably see the Chief Constable’s car at some stage and that he would expect me to ‘fling’ him up a salute. I dutiful obeyed my orders in that respect and one day when the traffic was pretty light, the chief’s car pulled up by the traffic lights at library Corner and his driver, Bert Collins, alighted. He congratulated me on ‘flinging’ one up to the car, but then said,
‘The Chief has said that he would like to know your surname – he only knows you as Kate. Incidentally you only have to salute when he is actually in the car – and he isn’t in it today.
Perhaps the chief liked bare legged women?
Around about this time, policewomen were issued with a new style uniform which consisted of a navy blue military style dress, a short skirt, silver buttons and court shoes. We all wore stockings at that time and in fact were issued with 12 pairs of stockings each year. When wearing stockings the inevitable sometimes happened – the suspender gave way and a sixpenny piece often saved the day for us. On day, on a particularly long spell of point duty this happened to me. I always left my duty bag in the Lewes Building Society at Library Corner whilst doing the point duty. I always kept a six-penny piece in my bag for emergencies in my duty bag. I used I had used up my six-penny piece in lieu of a suspender button, when horror of horrors, another suspender button broke off, and as a result my stocking rolled down my leg. I did no more than to stand in the doorway of the Building Society and slipped off my stockings and quickly returned to my Point duty job just as soon as I could. It wasn’t very long afterwards the Chief Constable came through in his car with me ‘doing my point duty work, being ‘bare legged.’ He grinned at me as he passed with a cheery wave. I never heard a word from anyone about that little incident, perhaps the chief liked bare legged women?
looking after their ‘police lady’
Traffic control in the Cliffe was usually for a minimum time of some four hours at a stretch, and during some of the winter months, it could be a very cold job indeed to have to do. The shop girls in the area were always very kind to us, and I remember quite frequently being presented with a nice hot cup of tea on these particularly cold days. One day the girls in the Woolworth’s branch were particularly kind and gave me such a cup of hot coffee. I don’t know what was in it but it was certainly ‘laced’ with something other than sugar? I gulped it down and felt a real warm glow all over my body. Those girls certainly knew how to look after their ‘police lady’ very well indeed. They kept an eye on making sure I got my liquid refreshment. They also kept an eye out in case the sergeant came along, if they saw him, they would sneak me out the back door!
A warm sitting in the police car
Whilst there were always things going on in the town, quite often a foot patrol would be quite a long hard slog, walking up and down the hilly streets of the town. We girls certainly had a fair share of ‘plodding the streets of Lewes.’ Quite often due to the shortage of male officers, WPC’s would be the only foot patrols out on the streets. Fortunately the drivers of the area patrol cars would often take pity on us and pick us up for a warm sitting in the police car. I hasten to add – nothing else! They would then drop us off when the sergeant was about.
There were times when we were out on foot patrols in the town that we would get recalled to the Police Station because of an incident that had occurred somewhere on the Division.. This incident required some immediate attention. One such call that I recall was an incident down at Newhaven police station. I was taken there at a fast rate of knots. The incident was where a women in the cells was in distress. On my arrival I was taken into the female cells and saw a rather dishevelled woman – and she was in the final stages of labour! I was told that the woman had arrived at the police station in a rather intoxicated state. The lady had been arrested and put into the cell – with a view of ‘sleeping it off’.
It was later that I learned that during the labour pains at home, she had had a drink to ease her pain and make things a little easier. Her ‘Hubby’ had come home and thought that she was merely drunk, and had therefore thrown her out of the house and into the street. She had then gone to the police station for some help. The poor girl had nowhere to go apart from the police station and none was forthcoming, she had just been arrested! Men eh!
By the time I arrived she was almost due to produce, and I was privileged to help deliver her baby daughter before the ambulance had arrived. Needless to say to say her husband later experienced the temper about which George Terry had questioned me on my interview to join the police. Fortunately very few people have actually seen my temper in full flow – but I think on this particular occasion, I was fully justified. There was a happy ending to the story, as there is a baby somewhere, who was delivered at Newhaven Police Station and who is named ‘Kate.’
These stories have been taken from the Book ‘The Police in Lewes.’ For which I am very grateful.