Police Rattles and Whistles
The origin of the rattle is not clear. Peel’s first policemen were issued with a small and usually folding rattle which fitted neatly into specially made pockets in the swallow tails of their coats.
In the 1880’s experiments were carried out in London to find an alternative to the rattle. It was discovered that the sound from a whistle, already being used in some provincial forces like Liverpool, could be heard at 1000 yards (900 metres) – almost twice the effective distance of a rattle.
1884 Whistles are Issued
The Metropolitan Police issued whistles in 1884. The London police whistle was invented by Joseph Hudson of Birmingham in 1884. His first contract for 21,000 whistles was the foundation of a prosperous business.
Early varieties for constables and sergeants were dull grey metal “pea whistles”, with a large ring on top and a hard cork ball inside. Senior officers’ whistles were silvery with an acorn moulded on the top.
The air whistle came into use in the early twentieth century and has remained largely unchanged ever since.
Extract from Police Uniform and Equipment, by A A Clarke – Shire Publications