Stories from the book, 'The Police in Lewes.' Part 6
In 1968, there was a very serious fire at Lewes Prison, where it was necessary to evacuate all or most of the prisoners. They were transferred by coach with heavy escorts to several other places of internment.
An avenue of men was formed by both prison officers and policemen, whereby the prisoners passed from the prison to the waiting coaches. As they got on the coaches many of the drivers were quite touchy about these ‘guests.’
They asked if there would be enough prisoner escorts on the coach’s, when they were assured there would be, they tended to relax a bit then.
Not surprisingly, the media had got wind of what was going on at Lewes and turned up in force. This was really ‘news’ for them. They appeared in front of the prison, with cameras clicking away. They drove the sergeant there mad by continually asking him questions about this incident. He eventually got fed up with it all and then finally said, ’it’s no good, you can question me all you want but I can’t give you any answers. The only person who is able to answer your questions is the Chief Constable and he isn’t here.’
That was enough then for the press as they moved away looking for other people who might be able to answer their questions. As the last one moved away to find answers elsewhere, a voice behind the sergeant suddenly said, ‘That was the correct answer, Peter.’ On turning around there stood Chief Constable George Terry. He was standing there with his collar turned right up but not interfering with what was going on with a large grin on his face. That was one of the things that impressed George Terry (Later Sir George Terry.) Somehow he seemed to know both the Christian and surname of every one of his officers in Sussex Police.
Sir George Terry
Mind, the other side of the coin was when a clothing parade was held at West Street, just after George returned from his Chieftain-ship in Lincolnshire, The parade room was full with some twenty to thirty men when the Chief walked in with the tailor and Denis Myatt walking behind him.
Everyone knew Dennis but it took a few minutes of whispering before the men, who were on parade, to identify their Chief Constable?
What are you lot doing here
Another fire which comes to mind, said one officer, who just happened to be at the Prison fire happened one night, soon after 1am in Iford, which is roughly half-way between Lewes and Newhaven. This was when a large barn on the Iford farm was quickly well alight. The night patrol car from Lewes attended together with two fire tenders. This particular farm house was set back from the A275 road, the road that runs from Newhaven to Lewes. The farm house was accessed via a drive leading to the front of the house. The two fire tendrs were in the front drive with their blue lights flashing, the lights reflecting from from the farmhouse windows. While to the rear of the house, the barn which was full with hay, the winter feed for the animals, the barn was crackling merrily away, the flames being reflecting off the rear windows. Loud banging to the front and rear of the doors met with absolutely no response and so it was presumed the occupants of the house were not at home.
The two fire tenders were being operated with several firemen shouting from the front of the house to the rea, where there were other firemen working. With all this noise going on you would have thought that if there were someone at home they would have woken up by now.
After an hour or so the fire was eventually put out, the foremen had packed up all their equipment, the blue lights turned off, the engines revved up and slowly started to leave the scene. Just as the fire tenders made it to the driveway, a bedroom window opened and a tousled head appeared and shouted out I a loud voice, Hey, what’s going on then, what are you lot doing here!’
Cold stone sober
Prior to the introduction of breath tests, a drunken driver was invariably detected by the manner of his driving. A garage proprietor from ‘Up Country’ was arrested for being DIC (drunk in charge) At this time he had as a passenger a very attractive lady, and in spite of his protests he was charged with this offence. He duly appeared in court and he was convicted. Very shortly after the completion of the ‘ban’ that he had received from the court. He was arrested again for the similar offence, again in the same sports car but he was with a different girl-friend. He again protested his innocence; after the completion of the second ban, He was out driving yet again. For the third time he was seen driving erratically yet again, with yet a different friend in the passenger seat, she too was very attractive. Yet again, not only protesting his innocence, saying that he was ‘cold stone sober.’ He also complained that he was being picked on by the police, which led to a complaint sent to the Chief Constable from the car-driver.
He was again arrested and at the police station he was instructed to empty his pockets onto the counter of the charge room. He missed the counter with a handful of coins, which went all over the floor. He bent down to pick his money up and banged his head hard on the edge of the counter. He stood up for a few seconds before bending down again for a second attempt, he managed to pick up a couple of coins but the majority were still on the floor.
Standing up again, He stood up straight and said to the sergeant, ‘you’re right, I’m pissed.’
After all his appearances at court for virtually the same offences at West Street police station he finally realised what the problem really was and then he, his car and his attractive girl-friends were never seen again either in or around Lewes.