Ethel Bush, policewoman - obituary
Ethel Bush, who has died aged 100, was one of two policewomen to be awarded a George Medal for courage.
In early 1955, after several women had been attacked on Fairfield Path, a quiet alleyway in Croydon, all five woman Metropolitan Police officers serving at Croydon station at the time offered to act as decoys, including Sergeant Ethel Bush and WPC Kathleen Parrott. Police had feared that a woman would be murdered as the attacks became more violent.
On March 7 WPC Parrott, according to a later report, was “ferociously attacked from behind” and forced to her knees. She started to lose consciousness but managed to hit her assailant with her torch and rip his mask from his face before he ran off. She was off sick for six weeks.
Then, on April 23, Ethel Bush was on patrol in uniform when she spotted a man matching the description of the assailant. She quickly returned to the police station to change into plain clothes before going back to the alley as a decoy, while six CID officers, a dog handler and PC Parrott hid along the mile-and-a-half route Ethel would have to walk. “All would now depend on the officers being able to intercept him before serious injury could be inflicted,” the report observed.
She was just a few yards from where the footpath met a main road when William George Barnett, a 29-year-old labourer, picked up a log and brought it down, hard, on her head.
“To his amazement,” ran the report,
“she did not crumble to the ground as he intended, and as officers raced towards the couple, Ethel turned to face her attacker. With blood gushing over her face and shoulders she grabbed hold of the man’s jacket but he smashed his fist into her face and was able to escape.”
The felt hat she had been wearing probably saved her life.
Barnett was arrested soon afterwards and WPC Parrott and WPS Bush, who needed 11 stitches to repair the wound to her head, were among nine women who were able to identify him as their attacker. He was subsequently sentenced at the Old Bailey to 10 years in prison.
After commending the two policewomen for their “most conspicuous gallantry”, the judge in the case went on:
“I cannot myself imagine higher courage being shown than when you went along that path with the full knowledge and your eyes open that you might be, and you Sgt Bush were, the victim of a violent attack.”
On November 22 1955 both women were awarded the George Medal at Buckingham Palace.
One of five children, Ethel Violet Bush was born on March 10 1916 and worked as a seamstress before serving in the WAAF in India during the Second World War.
She joined the Metropolitan Police as a constable in 1946 and was promoted to sergeant in 1953. As well as her George Medal, her bravery in 1955 earned her a Commissioner’s High Commendation and £15 from Bow Street Police Fund.
After retirement in 1971, Ethel Bush moved to Crawley to be closer to her family and became a keen gardener. In old age she moved into a care home in West Sussex where, in March this year, she celebrated her 100th birthday with a visit from Assistant Commissioner Helen King and one of the Met’s youngest police officers, PC Katie Dennell.
The log that she was hit over the head with in 1955 is on display in the Crime Museum. Kathleen Parrott died in 2015.
Ethel Bush, born March 10 1916, died May 18 2016