History of Met Women Police Officers

The Metropolitan Women Police Association was formed in 1976 by a group of women officers to provide a means of helping women police officers to meet and keep in touch with one another
Margaret Damer Dawson in her Women Police Service uniform, about 1917
WOMEN IN THE POLICE SERVICE, 1914-1918 (Q 108499) An officer of the Women Police Patrols collaborating with male police constables. Copyright: © IWM.
WOMEN IN THE POLICE SERVICE, 1914-1918 (Q 108500) Officers of the Special Patrols, paid by voluntary organisations for police work in small towns. The three women shown in the photograph worked in Somerset. Copyright: © IWM.
On the February the first women patrols were inaugurated by the Metropolitan Police. 110 women led by Superintendent Mrs Sofia Stanley. Copyright Pinterest
Sophia Stanley
Metropolitan Police Authority
WOMEN IN THE POLICE SERVICE, 1914-1918 (Q 108496) Mrs Sofia Stanley, Superior of Special Women Police Patrols. Copyright: © IWM.
Lady Astor Guardian
The Guardian
A line of policewomen newly recruited for duty at munition works. (Photo by A R Coster/Getty Images)
Daily Mail
Miss Peto appointed Superintendent in charge of A.4. Branch.
Bertha Massey Gleghorn, then just 33, was Britain's first woman police officer
Policewoman Margaret Cleland shows off her George Medal to her friends and family in November 1964. (Image: Mirrorpix)
Shirley Becke, who has died aged 94, was the first woman commander in the Metropolitan Police (the equivalent of assistant chief constable)
The first black woman officer was Sislin Fay Allen who served from 1968 - 1972.
History by the Yard
Group photo, senior women police officers of the Met Police in January 1973. Apart from the two in civilian clothes, they are wearing the Norman Hartnell uniform, introduced in 1968. They are (left to right, back row): Chief Inspector Nora Blacklock, Chief Inspector Celia Cundy, Detective Superintendent W Taylor, Superintendent Jessie Moss, Chief Inspector Jill Flight, Chief Inspector Connie Hobbs, and (left to right, front row): Superintendent Joan Partridge, Chief Superintendent Greta Drinkwater, Detective Chief Superintendent Barbara Kelley MBE, Commander Shirley Becke QPM, Chief Superintendent K Skillern, Chief Superintendent Mary Wedlake, Superintendent Winifred Doughty. Date: 1973

In the beginning


Two things were instrumental to the grudging acceptance of Women Police in the second decade of the 20th Century:  Concern over the slave traffic and the advent of the First World War.

‘………………..the strength of Police forces fell rapidly as men of all ranks left to join the Colours.  Everywhere problems of order and decency in public places cried out for an urgent solution’ wrote Dorothy Peto, the first Woman Police Staff Officer in her dairies.

Faced with conditions which offered both a challenge and an opportunity, two separate schemes for the organisation and employment of women on police duties were promptly launched.   Women’s movements abstained from their militant activities to help the war effort.

In 1914 Nina Boyle advertised in ‘The Vote’ for women to offer themselves as ‘Specials’ , when Sir Edward Ward called on the nation for special constables.   She called for recruits to work part time as ‘Women Volunteer Police’ (WVP)  Sir Edward declared only men were suitable, Nina Boyle ignored him and carried on recruiting.  Mean  while Miss Margaret Damer Dawson, a suffragette – was ‘Head of Transport’ of a committee formed by Chelsea people, who greeted and helped Belgian refugees escaping from the Germans, she had been involved in an incident whereby a couple of the refugees had been ‘spirited’ away by ‘white slavers, she needed a group of women in uniform – women police in fact.  She had commenced recruiting ‘women police’ in September 1914. When she learnt of Nina Boyles plans, they decided to join forces and Nina became her deputy. They became the ‘Women Police Volunteers’  (WPV).  In February  1915 – Damer Dawson and Boyle fell out over the WPV being used to police a curfew enforced against women.  A vote was taken, Boyle was defeated.  Damer Dawson decided to drop the name ‘Women Police Volunteers’ and reformed the group as the ‘Women Police Service’ WPS.  Later they became the Women’s Auxiliary Service (WAS).

The Met.’s future Women Police had their foundation in the second scheme proposed by the National Union of Women Workers, known from 1918 as the National Council for Women.  In 1914 they had been approached by Scotland Yard and asked to set up women patrols in the Metropolitan Police area, they were known as Voluntary Women Patrols (VWP).  Their task was to work among the women and girls who were coming to London in increasing numbers to hang around the various army camps, parks, recruiting stations and railway terminals.

A special Women’s Patrol Committee was formed by the National Union in London and within a few months more than 500 voluntary patrols had enrolled, the movement gradually spreading throughout the country and proving to be of invaluable help.  The National Union of Women Patrols Committee received a subsidy of £400 in 1917 to carry out its patrol work in the Metropolitan area.  Records show that 2,338 women were working as patrols in 92 different areas.  The Union trained the women and then sent them out under their auspices or lent them to Chief Constables.  Between 4,000 and 5,000 women passed through their hands.

Mrs Sofia Stanley was appointed Supervisor of ‘Special Patrols’, there were 37 Special Patrols in London at the beginning of 1917, working two nights a week.  By the end of 1917 London had 55 full time Special Patrols.  But there was confusion and conflict in the different approaches that arose between the two groups – the WPS being more militant. In 1918 women aged 30 and over were given the Vote for the first time.  By the end of 1918 the Home Secretary had ordered the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police to recruit women into the police force.

Interestingly in 1916 women had for the first time in history been employed as typists in New Scotland Yard, taking the place on male officers.  The Daily Express asked a Scotland Yard official if women would ever be employed as police constables?

‘No, not even if the war lasts fifty years’ was the reply.


  • 23rd December – Police Orders sets out the qualifications and conditions for the new ‘Metropolitan Police Women Patrols’.
  • The Monday after Christmas the first group of women began training at Beak Street Section House.


  • Women Police established in London when the first Metropolitan Police Women Patrols came into service on 17th February.
  • Establishment 110. Strength 110. The first batch were recruited from the’ Special Patrols’, although many in the second batch were from the WPS.
  • Mrs Sofia Stanley, Superintendent in charge. Assisted by Mrs Elinor Robinson.
  • The first three sergeants made immediately – were Grace Russell, Patty Alliot and Lilian Wyles.
  • London was divided into three and each was given a section.
  • They had a contract for a year, as an experiment.  But no power of arrest.
  • Women 25 – 38 years of age, not under 5’4″.


  • The Geddes Axe – Establishment cut by Parliament from 112 to 20. (29 June)
  • Mr. Shortt M.P. said in the House of Commons that Policemen’s wives could do Women Police Work.
  • Lady Astor retorted Police did not choose their wives for patrolling streets or escorting prisoners.
  • Mrs Stanley no longer has a role from 21.11.1922.
  • Insp Grace Dixon in charge of A4 (women’s dept)


  • Women first attested and given power of arrest. They were to be sworn in as constables’
  • Establishment increased to 50.
  • Insp Betha Clayden is senior female officer.


  • Bridgeman Departmental Committee on the Employment of Policewomen


  • General Order issued, women must resign if they marry, but did not apploy to those alread married.


  • Women over 21, given right to vote.
  • The Savidge Affair – involves Insp Llian Wyles re statement in a sex offene


  • Centenary Parade in Hyde Park.
  • Establishment 50. Strength 47 uniform and 2 CID.
  • The Home Secretary gave authority for 100 women but that was not reached until 1938.



  • Miss Dorothy Peto OBE. appointed staff officer for Women Police. (Began duty 11th April)
  • Insp Clayden retires
  • Lilian Wyles joins CID, perfoming detective role in cases around women and children.


  • New Conditions of Service were introduced which required women officers to resign on marriage.
  • Uniform modified; collar and tie introduced and shorter skirts.
  • Refreshment period cut to 30 minutes.


  • Miss Peto appointed Superintendent in charge of A.4. Branch.


  • Introduction of Children and Young Persons Act 1933. All reports on juveniles were channelled through A.4. and the A.4. index on juveniles was started.


  • Hendon Police College


  • The Royal Jubilee Review in Hyde Park – Women not allowed to march but put by Royal Box.
  • Silver Jubilee of George V. The Mall was closed – except for school children. Women Police used for the first time on a ceremonial.


  • Women Police attached to each Juvenile Court and to the Juvenile Bus service.
  • Pembridge Hall Section House opened.


  • The Coronation of George VI.
  • Women Police were authorised to take fingerprints.


  • Wandsworth Section House opened for women.


  • Outbreak of World War II. Married women allowed to rejoin.
  • Establishment 153. Strength 128 uniform and 8 CID.
  • Women Police dealt with refugees, evacuees, and enemy aliens.
  • They took their turn on duty at air raids.
  • Officers were posted to duties at the Internment Camp for enemy aliens on the Isle of Man.
  • HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH visited Pembridge Hall Section House.


  • An unexploded shell hit Pembridge Hall.
  • Assistant Commissioner George Abiss donated the Lady Abiss Trophy for the Annual First Aid Competition.


  • Members of the Women’s Auxiliary Police Corps were attested.
  • Women Police Section of the M.P.A.A. was formed.


  • W.P.C. Margaret Gleghorn killed by a flying bomb whilst on duty at Tottenham Court Road. Women Police were involved on duty in many air raid incidents.
  • Pembridge Hall was damaged by incendiary bombs.


  • Miss Elizabeth Bather, OBE. appointed Superintendent in charge of A.4 Branch. (ex group Captain in WAAF, aged 41).
  • Superintendent Peto retired.
  • The marriage bar removed.
  • New style ‘Bather’ uniform introduced and worn until 1968.
  • Women Police allowed to take part in VE Parade.


  • Princess Elizabeth’s wedding.
  • W.P.S. (CID.) Alberta Watts was the first woman officer to be awarded the Kings Police Medal for Gallantry, for courage and re-channelled resource in a case of robbery with violence.
  • Swimming, tennis, shooting, hockey, athletics and choir sections formed within the Women Police Section of the M.P.A.A.


  • Women admitted to the Police Federation.
  • The age limit was lowered to 20 as an experiment.
  • 18 Pembridge Square was acquired as an additional house to Pembridge Hall Section House.
  • Peto House in Aybrook Street, named after Miss Peto,
  • Replaced Wandsworth Section House for women in training.


  • Superintendent Bather promoted to Chief Superintendent.
  • Cricket and Walking women sections formed in the Women Police Section of M.W.P.A.
  • Establishment 338.
  • Strength 235 uniform and 21 CID.


  • Introduction of Women Specials.


  • Metropolitan Women Police Sports Club formed.
  • Netball section formed.


  • George VI died.
  • Women Police first took part in Nijmegen Marches.


  • Coronation of Elizabeth II.
  • Police Council established; election of Federation women advisers.
  • First Aid Competition for Grace Lucas Trophy introduced.


  • CID attachments for women introduced.
  • Nylon stockings introduced.
  • 26th January – women police to wear Divisional letters on shoulder straps (epaulettes) in place of MP.


  • Awards of the George Medal to W.P.S. Ethel Bush and W.P.C. Kathleen Parrott for courage whilst engaged on d observation during an investigation into sex offences.


  • The Dixon Committee recommended an increase in Women Police establishment to 656.


  • Women Police manned first casualty bureau after the Lewisham rail crash.
  • Women Officers served with the British Police Unit in Cyprus.


  • Badminton Section of Women Police Sports Club formed.


  • Street Offences Act introduced. A4.Central Index of Prostitutes formed.
  • W.D.C.s appointed to Flying Squad.
  • Establishment 575:   Strength 429 Uniform and 49 CID.


  • Chief Superintendent Bather retired.
  • Women Police employed on Vellocette lightweight motor cycles in outlying areas on 4 subdivisions
  • Triumph ‘Tigress ‘Scooters trial (uniform and plain clothes).


  • Superintendent Winifred Barker promoted Chief Superintendent in charge of A.4. Branch.
  • Police Federation Act 1961 gave Women Police full representative and voting rights.
  • Introduction of the National First Aid Competition.


  • Age limit to join reduced to 19 years.

Working Party Report on Met Women Police (inc Supt Shirley Becke) reveals their duties to be: :

  • Patrolling – varied by district
  • escorting women, children and young persons
  • custody of women priosners in hospital and stations
  • taking fingerprints
  • Juvenile and Matrimonial court officers
  • Court Inspector at Croydon
  • Enquiries re missing females, young persons, etc
  • observations on crime, brothels, betting, licensing etc
  • police raids where children and women may be found
  • school crossings
  • deporting women aliens
  • divisional short hand writers
  • statement takers in indecency cases
  • execution warrants re deserters and absentees from Women’s Services
  • Lecture outside organisations
  • CID and aids to CID
  • Central index of Prostitutes
  • training school


  • 1 Chief Supt
  • 4 Superintendets and 1 in CID
  • 4 Chief Inspectors
  • 11 Inspectors and 3 in CID
  • 51 Sergeants and 11 in CID
  • 454 constables

7 and half hours parol duty, 1 hour for refreshment.       1 women officer (minimum) on division on night duty.


  • Award of the George Medal to W.P.C. Margaret Cleland for courage in rescuing a know deranged man and his child from a roof .
  • 6 women attached o Lambeth Traffic Garage – drove Morris Garage ‘B’ sports car.


  • Chief Superintendent Barker retired.
  • Superintendent Shirley Becke promoted Chief Superintendent in charge of A.4. Branch.


  • Jennifer Hilton takes up Bramshill Scholarship to Manchester University


  • New style uniform designed by Norman Hartnell introduced.
  • First black woman police offcer – Sislin Fay Allen.


  • Chief Superintendent Becke became the first woman Commander.
  • Establishment 629:  Strength 515 uniform and 77 CID.
  • Juvenile Bureaux introduced staffing by both sexes.


  • Women appointed to Mounted Branch.


  • Women appointed dog handlers.


  • Women appointed to Traffic Division.
  • New style ‘Surrey’ uniform introduced.
  • Sislin Fay Allen resigns


  • Integration. Equal opportunities. A.4. disbanded.
  • Separate establishments abolished. Commander Becke appointed to Inspectorate.


  • Equal pay. Commander Daphne Skillern appointed to take charge of C.O. Branch.


  • Girl Cadets introduced.


  • First Woman Chief Superintendent appointed to take charge of a subdivision.
  • The Metropolitan Women Police Association formed by Chief Superintendent Greta Drinkwater.


  • A First Aid team of women of the Metropolitan Police win the Grand Prior First Aid trophy a competition against leading teams from the commercial world.
  • New style uniforms introduced, with ‘Butcher Boy’ hat. (Reverted to ‘Surrey’ hat in 1979).
  • Lord Edmund Davis Report into police pay.


  • 60th Anniversary reception and Reunion Dinner of women in Metropolitan Police, attended by HM Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother..
  • Strength on 1st January 1979 – 1498.
  • 5000th woman joined the service on 19th February – 60 years after the first group left training class.


Establishment:        2074 – 1952 in uniform and 119 in CID

High rank divide:

  • Chief Superintendents:            1 woman………………..130 men
  • Superintendents:                       3 women………………..127 men
  • Ch. Inspectors:                          5 women………………..257 men
  • Inspectors:                                 14 women………………893 men
  • Detective CS:                             3 women…………………87 men
  • DCI:                                             4 women…………………167 men
  • DI:                                                6 women…………………327 men
  • DS:                                              16 women……………….1037 men
  • DC:                                              90 women……………….1431 men



  • WPC Jane Arbuthnot killed with others by IRA bomb at Harrods


  • WPC Yvonne Fletcher killed whilst policing a demonstration outside the Libyan Embassy.
  • Jennifer Hilton Acting DAC, responsible of Equal Ops, Race and Gender
  • Establishment:  2484 (2307 uniform and 174 CID).


  • New style uniforms introduced, with reinforced Bowler hat.


  • Jennifer Hilton responsible for Met Police Training
  • Women no longer precluded from becoming authorised firearms officers.


  • 22 women trained as AFO’s


  • Jennifer Hilton retires and made a life peer – Baroness Hilton of Egardon QPM.  The fist career Met Police officer to be ennobled.  Active in the Howard League


  • 8th January – last time women were given separate warrant nos. from the men.
  • Early details – information from The British Policewoman – Her Story by Joan Lock’
  • Other detailsare from ‘Metropolitan Woman Police Association’ archives.


  • WPC Nina McKay stabbed to death, whilst performing duty as a TSG officer at Forest Gate.


  • Rape Investigation victim support in Sapphire Teams
  • Cressida Dick appointed Commander in the Diversity Directorate


  • Engender – Met Police action plan to empower women in Met Police
  • Female Officersmay n ow wear the muslim headdress ‘hijab’
  • Commissioner’s women’s focus group set up


  • Met Police unveil the new female Met Vest
  • Sharron Kerr – first woman in charge of the Flying Squad
  • Janet Williams – Commander of Special Branch
  • First National Senior Police Women’s Conference.  Commissioner praises role of women police officers


  • WDC Georgina Shanley wins £200,00 for bullying ordeal


  • Cressida Dick appointed Deputy Asst Commissioner in Specialist Operations


  • Cressida Dick appointed Asst Commissioner in Specialist Crime Directorate.


As of June 2014, these are the current senior ranking women in the Met Police:

  • Asst Comm. Cressida Dick                                 Specialist Operations
  • DAC Fiona Taylor                                                   Directorate of Professionalism
  • DAC Helen Ball                                                       Senior National Co-ordinator Counter Terrorism Policing
  • DAC Patricia Gallan                                               Specialist Operations Headquarters
  • DAC Maxine De Brunner                                       Specialist Crime & Operations: Intelligence, Tasking & Operations
  • Commander Alison Newcomb                            Area Commander Central
  • Commander Christine Jones                              Area Commander North
  • www.metwpa.org.uk/history.