Life in the Police

Joe became PC 39, based at Red Lion Street Police Station, and was issued with his uniform by Ike Howell, Wolverhampton’s PC 1. He then went for 13 weeks training at Ryton on Dunsmore Police College, before returning to Wolverhampton to work nights, from Red Lion Street. At the time it was a poorly paid job, police constables only earned four pounds ten shillings a week. As a result many good policemen were leaving to go into industry where they were paid twice as much.

New recruits were shown the ropes by a senior constable before they obtained their own beat. They worked in the suburbs until they gained experience, before being moved towards the town centre. It was a tough life, they were expected to be able to look after themselves. After the war there was much drunkenness and fighting on the streets at night. Joe describes his early duties as follows:

“The Wolverhampton people were very good. We used to go out on parade at a quarter to six in the morning, a quarter to two in the afternoon, and a quarter to ten at night. We did a straight 8 hours, 6 days a week. When we marched out, and had our handcuffs and truncheons checked, with our cape across our arm, between 12 and 15 policemen marched up Darlington Street like soldiers, with a sergeant. People used to stand in Darlington Street and Queen Square to watch. I think they admired us.

You didn’t move into the town centre as a young bobby until you had proved you could work the beat properly. You would start in Chapel Ash, Merry Hill, and Finchfield, and work the beat regularly, always next to a senior constable. I started off working in Brickkiln Street, Worcester Street, and round there. When the senior man in Darlington Street or Worcester Street wanted to look round the properties at night, to check them for security, you moved up a notch to look after his beat.”

A very important event in Joe’s life took place on June 2nd, 1947 at St. Philip’s Church, Penn Fields. He married Margaret who has been his life-long companion and friend.

The scene in Wolverhampton when Wolves won the F.A. Cup in 1949.

The team with Billie Wright (Wolves and England Captain) holding the cup, were escorted from the Low Level Station to the Town Hall to be received by the Mayor.

The two police officers on the left are PC 43 Frank Fieldhouse and PC 39 Joe Davies. Courtesy of Joe Davies.

The Traffic Department

After two years on the beat, Joe joined the police traffic department and became a police driver.

“Sergeant George Llewellyn was in charge of the mobile side of the borough. He was earmarked to test about 8 drivers who had already got licences. I was in a good position because I had been driving for years. We went out on a test, and he explained that normally people were sent on an intermediate course, but he was going to take a gamble with me, and send me on an advanced course.

It was a 5 week course at a Home Office driving school in Preston, run by the Lancashire Police. I was a little worried because of my bad habits, I had never been taught to drive.  At Preston there were 3 or 4 others on the course, all pre-war bobbies, I was the only post-war bobby there. After 3 weeks I was worse than ever, but I soon improved, and came back with a grade 1, the highest grade. We had a police garage down by the Molineux, opposite Tin Shop Yard, next to The Fox. George Lathe had a shop opposite. The workshop was there as well as some surplus vehicles.”

Joe began working on motor patrol in a new Wolseley 18, one of the two in the Wolverhampton force, and greatly enjoyed the experience. Chief Constable Goodchild, a forward thinking man, realised that radios would be used in police cars before the end of 1948. Wolverhampton’s first radio car, one of the Wolseleys, EDA 587, began operating as a radio car on 1st September, 1948, and Joe became one of the first policemen to use a 2-way radio in a police car.

The first patrol car in Wolverhampton to be fitted with a 2-way radio.

Photo taken in Finchfield Road in 1948.

Courtesy of Joe Davies.

“It was a bit antiquated, in a Wolseley 18, built like a big tank. A little bit tail heavy with all of the batteries in the back, because it took a lot of power. When you operated the radio it was a straightforward switch. At the conclusion of your message you had to lift the switch back up, but a lot of people got into trouble because they left the switch down and blotted the whole system out. After 12 months or so it was altered to a little handset with a trigger. We worked 9 to 5 on days, and 5 to 1 on nights.

It was a very interesting time, we did everything. The only way the sergeant at Red Lion Street could contact the policemen on the beat was by flashing the boxes, which took time. The boxes were triangular in shape, one side for the engineer, one side for the public, and another for the police. There were 72 in the borough, you had to test every one on your beat, which you opened with a key on your whistle. They were at focal points, all on junctions so they could be seen from four directions. Even on motor patrol before the wireless, you had to keep an eye on them.

The sergeant could instantly contact us with the radio, so we dealt with everything. We had a good arrest on our first night on radio patrol. We were down the Stafford Road when we received a call. A lorry had been stolen, I can see it now. We were going towards the Three Tuns out of town, I was with Ernie Tranter, the PC who was assisting me that night. The lorry was going up the road the other way, and I said to Ernie “There’s that lorry”.

Joe, briefing the soldiers who were searching for a missing boy at Bushbury Hill. They were from West Park Drill Hall. Joe is wearing one of the early two-way radios. Courtesy of Joe Davies.

It wasn’t dual carriageway then, so we turned round by the Three Tuns, but by the time we got to Oxley Moor Road there was no sign of him. He hadn’t gone up the Stafford Road, there hadn’t been time, so we turned into Oxley Moor Road but couldn’t see it anywhere.

We turned into Renton Road and just caught sight of his back lights as he turned round a sharp left-hand bend.

He rammed it straight into the hedge, got out and went. I said to Ernie “Mind the car, I’m after him”. I was young and I was fit, and he ran like hell down the road. I couldn’t see him, so I wandered gradually back looking behind the walls and the houses until I found him. The press were quickly on to this and we got a good article in the paper.

We had a terrific fleet of bikes when I was serving, they were better than cars, the best tools because you could nip about, and quickly turn round. They earned their keep.”

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