The Norfolk Policewoman

Location : Norfolk

I left school in 1963 just prior to President Kennedy being assassinated. I went to work at Mann Egertons, which was a garage, a big garage on Prince of Wales Road. I worked in the insurance department, I worked there for a year and then I went to be a dental nurse. I think I did that for a year as well. Then I worked in a shoe factory in the accounts department, that was. What was it called? W. H. H. Clark, I think. No longer there now, like so many shoe factories, and then I think I was there for 2 years, and I joined the Norfolk Constabulary in 1967, October 1967. Went to training school October 16th 1967. Went on the train to Coventry, met a lady at the station who worked in Garlands as the buyer and she talked me into going first class with her on the train which I did, never done before. Then we had thirteen weeks at training school in Ryton-on-Dunsmore near Coventry, old RAF Station, as all the police training centres were. When I joined there was fourteen of us joined Norfolk Constabulary. I was the only woman, all the rest were men, pretty good. Went to training school and again there were five women in the class and twenty men, pretty good ratio really. We had a lot of fun there, hard work, one or two left while we were at the training school. One man left before we even got changed. We did our thirteen weeks and then we went back, we were sent back to our stations. I was sent to King's Lynn. I very nearly resigned there and then. I had never been to King's Lynn, sounded like the end of the world, and I got there and I thought it was the end of the world. All the street lights went off at 12 o'clock, all the streets were narrow. It was really grim. It was just a fishing place really, very close to the soil the people there. It was rough, it was a rough place.

So what kinds of things did you do as policewomen there?

To be honest I really don't remember, I was only stationed there a year. You're on probation for two years and you should really complete your two years at the same station and I didn't.

I only did a year because they needed me somewhere else. All the single women always had to do the moves if they needed somebody at another station. It was always the single women that got moved. What did I do at King's Lynn? I can't remember. When I first went there they only had two Pandas because they had just started the Panda system in 1968. The year the Theft Act came in, so there was a Panda each side of the river, one in North Lynn, one in South Lynn. We didn't have radios like they have now, we had a great big radio that you had to strap on your back and they had about one between ever so many, so if you got a radio you felt that you were really lucky, but if you needed to contact the station you found a phone box and you phoned up the operator and reversed the charges.

Any problems with this system? Did it seem to work well enough?

Well yeah, yeah, I mean if you were close to a phone box when you needed one. I mean it wasn't, it wasn't an immediate system but it worked as well as anything did in those days. Yeah, we had this great big radio which was the size of a, it was about 14 inches tall and about 5 inches wide and about 3 inches thick and it was in a leather carry case and you had to carry it on your back and it had an aerial that went up about 10 yards, well I suppose it went up about a yard and it was…

Did you take it out much?

No, no because I was only the junior wasn't I there, so I very rarely got allowed a radio. We used to do a lot of observations for flashers in those days. I remember one day being sent out at 9 o'clock in the morning in my miniskirt and a basket with my sandwiches in to walk around The Walks, which was a like a big park area where you used to get a lot of flashers, and it was freezing fog. I mean I hadn't been there long, and I waited there all day. I walked round and round, nobody flashed me. When I got back – because we were uncontactable – they had caught somebody about an hour after I had gone out, but nobody bothered to try and find me. But it was all very hit and miss in those days because of the lack of contact, the lack of communication.

How did you feel you were treated as a junior constable and as a woman?

Not very well, Not very well. I forgot to mention we joined as a separate department which was called the policewomen's department which was entirely different. I mean it was obviously stationed in the same place and we still had the same powers as the men but we dealt with women and children, sexual offences. The men did 8 hours a day and we did 7 ½. They got ¾ hour for their meal break and we got an hour, but we only got 9/10ths of their pay and we integrated eventually in 1976. And then we were, then we became equal and then we did just the exactly the same as the men. I'll come to that later because there were a lot of problems when integration happened. While I was at King's Lynn, I went on a policewomen's course at Chelmsford. Everyone had to do it. Mostly the girls had done 18 months before they went on one and I think I had done 10 months so I hadn't. I didn't have a lot of experience when I went on my policewomen's course. That was quite handy and courses are always very good aren't they? It was only for 2 weeks and then I did a continuation course. Again that would only, that would have been a year later. When did I go down? I went down in February because I was going to King's Lynn in the January. The following February I went on my continuation course and again that is usually 18 months after you've joined and I went down with several of the men from Norfolk Constabulary.

Though I joined Norfolk Constabulary, while I was at training school we became Norfolk Joint Police and all the forces, Great Yarmouth, Norwich City and the County all amalgamated as of the 1st January 1968, so they then became one force. The name eventually changed because Norfolk Joint Police was absolutely dreadful and they eventually changed it to Norfolk Constabulary, but the 3 forces were very separate. Norfolk Constabulary didn't have any money, Yarmouth and Norwich City had a bit more money than Norfolk Constabulary. When I was at training school I didn't even have my full uniform. I had a traffic warden's uniform with the yellow flashes taken off, I had a skirt and jacket that didn't match, I didn't have a great coat. My inspector came down after a little while and brought me a gabardine mac. There was loads and loads of snow while I was at training school, I should think for 2 months that we were there, there was snow and it was freezing cold and I didn't have a coat.

Your ragtag uniform, did it affect your approach to your training and the job?

No, no it didn't. No it didn't make any difference because all the uniforms were slightly different. Mine was the worse, no doubt about that, but I mean it was just funny really. What was I going to say about training school? We worked very hard there because there is a lot of law to learn and we did little play acting things, you know arresting people and stopping cars. We used to have to do traffic duty, you know the traffic signals with your arms and we did it to music, and when we finished there we had a pass out parade and all the parents came, came up to see us and we did – on the parade ground we did a formation thing. You know all crossing over like the soldiers do and that was all very nice. We didn't think we were going to be able to do it because there was snow on the ground and we had to clear the parade ground of all the snow and it didn't snow again so we were able to do it. This was in January.

Were you quite proud of passing out?

Oh yes, oh yeah. It was a really big thing and we had had a pass out dance the night before so there was a few sore heads on the day. Oh yes that was very good yeah, yes we were. But we were all very sad to leave, there was lots of tears. Well we had all been together for 13 weeks, so we had made lots of friends and so it was all very sad.

Did it prepare you for going out into..?

Not at all, not in the slightest, not at all. When you get back to your station it's absolutely nothing like you do at training school. Well everything is done with instructors isn't it, not real people. When I first went to King's Lynn, my cousin took me because my mum and dad didn't have a car, so my cousin took me to King's Lynn, and we arrived there at night and it was really dark. And I got in the police station and of course being at training school everybody is really, really smart, uniforms are all pressed, creases all down your sleeves and men's' trousers and you're absolutely spotless – and I went in the station and the policewoman came to counter, she had a jacket undone, she had a fag in her mouth, ash, ash all over her jacket and that was my first introduction.

We had a switchboard there with plugs. They used to have switchboards with plugs that used to put in when people answered you, answered the phone and we used to have to do switchboard duty. The policewomen did it when the switchboard operator went for her breaks and there was nobody on the switchboard at one time, and of course, being new, I flew down the stairs to get in the switchboard room to answer the calls. I mean it wasn't my turn but I felt obliged to do it. So I flew down there, I tripped over the wire and the cord, the cord that the plug goes in, and I bent the plug so the switchboard was totally out of operation until somebody came and fixed it, so that was my experience of the switchboard! Another time I was answering it and I had to keep the Chief Super. waiting because he used to have a special little flap so you knew when he was on the line and I kept him waiting and I answered the call and he said ‘who is that?' And I said ‘PW15' and I was actually PW14. I don't think I have ever been as deceitful as that, but I was frightened. There were two young girls there, me and another girl who used to be called Twiggy, and he used to call us his dancing girls. He was a very theatrical man, he was in the amateur dramatics, he was very, very well known for acting because he used to be the Chief Constable because King's Lynn used to be a force all by itself, King's Lynn Borough, and he was the Chief Constable and he was a very theatrical man with very booming voice. Things are so much different now.

Can I just interrupt? Were there many other characters like that at that time?

Loads of characters, absolutely loads of characters. We had one, there was one there, Jack Troop was his name, a policeman, a PC, he was quite elderly and he had a warrant to serve on a well known chap in King's Lynn and he couldn't get him and he turned up at 6 o'clock in the morning and he just went in and arrested this man and that made the papers, that made the national papers. But he turned up and walked in this house at 6 o'clock in the morning to arrest him but he couldn't get him at any other time, but he was a character. There were no end of characters. But I don't remember that much at King's Lynn, but there were at other places.

So you moved on then?

Yeah from King's Lynn, when I went to training school for my continuation course, when I came back I was stationed at Dereham, so I never went back to King's Lynn. I moved to Dereham, and I was there 2 ½ years, very different, very different division, smaller but as policewomen we covered a bigger area, and so on Saturdays we used to go to Swaffham to cover Swaffham market. Tuesdays we went to Fakenham to cover Fakenham market, and on Sundays in the summer we went to Wells which was absolutely wonderful. I used to go with another PC, it was always us two we used to go there and we used to park, we used to go in the van. We would park at the beach car park, and we would walk along the beach in uniform, make sure everything was tickety-boo and have an ice-cream. It was absolutely wonderful, it was. It was lovely. We used to drive the van down the beach road. I don't know if you know Wells? Yeah, well you know they got the bit at the top that goes down by the rivery bit, never remember what it's called, it's not the rivery bit. Well people walk the dogs along there don't they, and of course we had a P.A. system in the van, and we used to walk along there and I would go "woof woof" and of course the dogs they all go berserk. We had a lot of fun. The reason we went down there was because at 5 o'clock we used to have to do traffic duty at the quay and it was an absolute pain because it, like now, it was absolutely chock a block with traffic and there was nothing that you could do, but our Chief Superintendent insisted that we went down there. And you could never sort the traffic out, because the traffic was coming from all ways and it was just a mess really, but we didn't mind because it was a wonderful day. We used to have a wonderful time there. They don't get things like that now. What else did I do at Dereham?

That was very rural police work I suppose?

Yes, yes it was. Yeah, you got a lot of indecency so we, you know as policewomen we sort of went through the division quite a bit. We had a van, we had an old Morris Estate station wagon. You know the ones with the wooden panels on, and of course it was pretty old and it had been driven by absolutely everybody, and I used to have to fold up my coat to sit on it because the seat had dropped so much I couldn't see out of the windscreen, so I used to have to fold up my coat. I remember going to pick up a prisoner with a girl from Norwich once in Bristol, and we went all the way down to Bristol and my colleague drove down there and I drove back. We picked her up, and we came back. I dropped her off at Norwich and then I drove back to Dereham, and bearing in mind I had driven all that way and it was pouring down with rain and I got back at about midnight and there was some building work going on at Dereham and they had a portable office block, and as I pulled into the yard I just felt I had caught the car. Because it was pitch black, pouring down with rain, and I got out and there was a little bit of wood on the wing mirror and I thought I just hit the wing mirror on this little wooden hut, so I thought no more about it and locked it all up and went and put the keys in, and went home. When I came on duty the next day the chap who takes it out after me said ‘What ever did you do to that car?' I had stoved the whole wing in. I had hit a brick pillar, but I hadn't noticed. I hadn't done it deliberately, but it didn't matter because I didn't have to pay for it, so I had a bit of a reputation for that.

Did you make any mistakes other than that one or do any things that you were really pleased with and proud of?

I did. I got told off for something that I hadn't done when I was at King's Lynn. We had a female Inspector who used to go to all the divisions where the policewomen were and she told me off because I had done a missing person's form and I had filled it in and that had gone away, and she told me off because it was not very tidy, and I hadn't typed it because we had typists, so I had just given it to the typist and she typed it, and I got told off for it being a mess. And I was not very happy about that, but there you go – I accepted all these things. I got told off for a lot things really. It was pretty, yeah it was pretty hard really, yeah it was like going before the headmistress. It was still like being at school you know. You were told off and rapped across the knuckles for things.

Was that the same for everybody or just younger and female?

No. No, no there were always favourites weren't there and I certainly wasn't one. I do remember being told off at King's Lynn by the Chief Super. because I had forgotten to send an N.I.P., which was a notice of intended prosecution for somebody who had parked causing obstruction, and I should have sent an NIP. It has to be sent within 14 days and I forgot to send it because, you know, I hadn't got a lot of experience and I had just forgotten. You had to do it for obstruction, so he told me off, but then he softened it by saying ‘But you will never do that again will you?' ‘No I won't sir.' But it was petty. You got told off for such petty little things. When I was King's Lynn you used to have to salute a lot. You saluted everybody above the rank of Inspector, even Detective Inspectors who weren't in uniform, and really salutes are for the uniform, but when I was at King's Lynn our Detective Chief Inspector always insisted on being saluted, even in the police station, so as you went in the police station you had your hand on the door handle and with the other hand you would take your hat off. Because if you had your hat off you didn't have to salute, so you always made sure you had your hat off before you got in the station. It was petty, incredibly petty. We used to have to salute funerals as well. If a funeral went past you always stood still and saluted the hearse as it went past, which was quite nice really. You know you got a bit of respect for doing that, but they don't salute now at all, but there was a lot of saluting went on then.

Now to Dereham. Oh yeah, Dereham, this is what brought it all up because Gressenhall then was an Old People's Home, because now it is museum, which is where I came in contact with this because I went to this women's, ladies day at Gressenhall. Prior to that it used to be the workhouse, but when I was at Dereham it was an Old People's Home but there were a couple of out buildings that we used for a refuge for women, battered wives, and I remember taking a woman there with her child and it was snowing. We used to get a lot of snow in those days. It was snowing and it was really, really cold and I took her to this place and they were like, I suppose they were converted stables, and it was just a bare room, brick room with a stone floor, the door didn't fit right down to the bottom and there was just a bed in it. And I had to leave this woman and her child there and it was it was awful, I mean even for then it was very backward. It was freezing cold. I felt so sorry for them, but that was the kind of thing that happened. Our cells were like that as well. They must have been outside because the snow used to come under the door of the cells as well at the police station. It was like going back to the Middle Ages really.

Then from Dereham I went to Great Yarmouth. Totally different place. This was – when did I go to Yarmouth? – I went to Yarmouth in 1972, moving on a bit now. We had proper radios there. It was nice at Yarmouth, it was a nice policewomen's department and I had a lot of fun there. I was in the lifeguards when I was at Yarmouth so we used to, you know, if I was off duty then I would go down to the beach with the others and we would patrol the beach and have a little boat, a dory, we used to go out on, very nice.

Did you ever have to save a life?

No never. When I was at Dereham we had a ladies life saving team and I was in that and we used to do competitions and we did a thing on the beach at Yarmouth and it was Bank Holiday Monday, August Bank Holiday Monday, which was at the beginning of August, and it was bitterly cold and the waves were so high we couldn't go out as far as we should have done, and it was really, really cold and we didn't win. We used to have to march on the beach with all of this equipment.

Right, anyway that's that, and I was at… a lot of night clubs there. Very, very busy in the summer time, incredibly busy. We used to be on call. Policewomen used to be on call because we didn't work 24 hours a day and Bank Holidays we used to finish 2 in the morning. Ordinarily we would finish either 11 o'clock or 12 o'clock, 11 o'clock during the week, 12 o'clock at the weekends. So if you finished late you were on call until the first one came on in the morning, and in the summer time you always got called out, sometimes twice a night, missing girls. People, teenagers would go to Yarmouth with their parents and they would meet up with the fairground boys and then they would decide they didn't want to go home so they would run away. We were always collecting girls from the fairground and they would scream and shout and fight and generally make an exhibition of themselves on the front.

Was it the opposite in winter then? Was it very quiet?

Incredibly quiet in the wintertime, very quiet. We used to have a rest in the wintertime on Sundays. On Sundays in the wintertime we used to go in the toilet and do our knitting, if there wasn't anything to do obviously. It was generally sort of enough to tick over, but it was quiet in the winter time because most of the places were closed up. I mean there was nothing along the front really, a couple of restaurants open, the fairgrounds were closed, nobody came in the wintertime and so it was quiet. But we needed a rest because we were so incredibly busy in the summertime because the population increased by 4-fold, so it was. And you had certain weeks: You had Scottish week, Birmingham or Scottish fortnight, Birmingham fortnight, Leicester fortnight, different times and Scottish fortnight was always the worst. They used to get hellishly drunk and cause no end of trouble, so there was always fights. Bank Holidays our sergeant, policewoman sergeant always told us never to go on the front, but of course we always did because that was where all the fun was all the excitement was. I went there just as the mods and rockers finished. They, between the police and the magistrates, they put an end to that. They used to have a blockade and stop them, stop them coming in. Couldn't do that now, wouldn't be allowed, but they used to stop them, and if they caused any trouble the magistrates would just send them down, so that they nipped that in the bud pretty quick. But that wouldn't happen now.

You mentioned lots of excitement on the front was that a big part of what drew you towards being a police woman?

No, no it wasn't. No I joined, very foolishly I thought I would be able to help people. I thought it was for the good of the community, which it is in a way but it becomes different when you join. Your whole attitude changes because you deal with such awful things, your mind changes and you tend to think that everybody is crooked or nasty, so you get hardened very much you just change your whole attitude.

Did you attitude change throughout your career? Did you go through periods of thinking like that and then have a bit more of a positive outlook at times?

No you don't realise it, you don't realise that it happens. It comes very gradually as with the learning curve. You do things, you try and be helpful and things backfire on you. I don't really want to tell stories. I got quite friendly with a girl who was always in trouble. She was the subject of incest when she was very young, and when she was 15 Social Services decided they would take her into care. A little bit late – she had been abused since she was 11, and she was at work at 15 and we had to go and pick her up from her work place. And I had several dealings with her, so I knew her, and when we went to pick her up she went absolutely berserk and she tried to strangle me and she put her arm around my throat, put her hand around my throat, but she stood leaning towards me so I wasn't able to reach her and she was pulling my tie tighter and tighter, but she apologised afterwards. It was the shock, it should never had happened like that, and I got quite friendly with her because she was put into, what's it called . . .. Bramerton. It was a Remand Centre and she was put in there and I used to go and visit her. She eventually was murdered when she was about 18. Went out with a man and he murdered her. London, she went to London to live. So she had a very, very sad life, and you just learn from things and you get hardened because things go wrong. You try to be nice to people and they just kick you in the teeth, and so you get hardened and you see all the young people coming into the job and you think crumbs that's how I used to be. She'll learn, he'll learn, and of course they do.

You mentioned earlier about when the forces were amalgamated some of the problems that caused, and to do with the male and female distinction?

Ah, no that was integration that was different. Amalgamation was just when the forces amalgamated. That caused a little bit of a problem because Norfolk Constabulary didn't have any money, Norwich and Yarmouth had a bit more money. They were smaller forces, they covered a very small area didn't they? Yarmouth literally covered just Yarmouth, and Norwich covered just Norwich within the ring road, and if you ever had to go to Norwich for anything nobody spoke to you because Norwich always considered themselves above the County, as did Yarmouth, and so it was very difficult if you had to have working relations with them. But it gradually changed because people came and they joined Norfolk Constabulary so that gradually broke down the barriers. But, I mean, I'm a member now of Norwich City pension offices and because I didn't join Norwich City I have to be an honorary member and I had to be voted in you know. I had spent 19 years in Norwich, but I'm still not Norwich City, you see. So it still goes on even now.

I suppose our biggest thing really there was shoplifting, dealing with shoplifters but it was so much easier to deal with them then than it is now. It takes so long to get anyone at court. Then you could arrest. If you arrested a shoplifter before 10 o'clock in the morning or before half past 9 in the morning you could get all the paper work done and have them at court on the same day, and they would be dealt with, because if they were holiday makers they would be going back home weren't they? They wouldn't want to have to come back again so you just rushed through and you could get the whole place ready for that day. Now it takes about 3 months to get anybody at court and the same with drunks. You know you could get a drunk and you could get them to appear at court the next morning and dealt with. It was so easy.

Did you see these changes take place towards the end of your career? Things begin to become harder for you or…?

Oh long before I left yeah. There were tremendous changes in the time that I joined and the time that I left. Incredible changes! Well we changed first of all from only having a couple of cars and no radios to having everybody had a personal radio, didn't they? You couldn't go out without a radio and cars everywhere, a few walking beats but mostly it was cars and Crown Prosecution Department which we didn't used to have. The police prosecuted their own offences, so you had a Sergeant and an Inspector in charge of the prosecutions department and we did our own prosecutions. In London, in the Met, PCs did their own prosecutions, but then we got Crown Prosecution Department and it seems to have got harder and harder to get things done.

We haven't really touched upon the male and female officer; what it was like when maybe the female officers began to be treated more like the men in the force.

I haven't come to it yet. Didn't happen until I came to Norwich you see, which is why I put in to come, well kind of why I put in to come to Norwich. Norwich is my home and I was at Yarmouth ‘72-'76, and we were going to integrate in '76 or '77. And it was in February and the policewomen's department was no more: "Cast off like old boots", that is what everybody said. It had taken us years. I think we had just celebrated our 50th anniversary of a policewomen's department, and then we were cast off like old boots and no longer required so they put we were "integrated". I came to Norwich. And then we had to go on the beat like everybody else and it was totally different from us. We hadn't had the training, we didn't get any extra training. I mean we didn't deal with road traffic offences and things on the street, sticking tickets on cars and things like that. What we did was much more interesting.

I mean if they had a female murderer in we were always there. There was always a female policewoman had to be present at the interview and we looked after them when they were locked up. We went to Holloway to pick them up, took them back again. We dealt with all the sexual offences, much more interesting than traffic isn't it? Anything involving women we were always involved, any crimes they committed they were ours and the men left us alone.

There was always a sergeant at every division. We had an Inspector and a Chief Inspector who come out periodically to make sure everything was going okay, and then we integrated, we were same as the men and it was very, very difficult to start with, very difficult. We hadn't had the same training as the men and of course they came across great problems when sexual offences were committed, because they then didn't have the women to deal with them and they tried doing it with the men taking statements and of course the men hadn't been trained to take statements so we lost a lot of cases initially. Because they didn't take the statements properly and they didn't get the full details of the offence that happened, you know, the touchings and the . . . . ., because they didn't like to ask, did they? You can imagine that men didn't want to ask women about all the intricacies of their sexual goings on. I mean it's bad enough for a woman to ask when a woman has been raped. It's hard and to have men doing it was really not the right thing, and so that gradually had to change and they decided that they would have to have women to do this. But it was very difficult because we were then working 24 hours a day, there weren't many women. When I first joined the police force there were 26 women in the policewomen's department and that included the Sergeants and the Inspector. There weren't many more than that. I don't know if there were any more than that when we integrated, which meant that there were only 2 girls on each shift and if one was on leave there was only one, so if anything happened a policewomen was needed you were taken off your beat or whatever you were doing so we were never given a proper beat. We always had to be sort of floating about doing something. We always would be filling in for somebody, so you never got a proper beat. You know, whereas the men got a proper Panda and they got their proper beat and they had it for month after month after month, we didn't get it for 2 days running because we were always filling when somebody else was off because they needed us still for policewomen's work. So I would think for the first 4 or 5 years it was an absolute mess really. It didn't work very well and then they got us a sort of mini-policewomen's department at Norwich where they just had 4 of us, one covering each shift and again it didn't work very well because there wasn't enough of us to do the job properly and they still used us for other things as well, and then that all disappeared and they got a department for child abuse and then it all changed and then the men did the training, but they still had women for taking statements from women that had been assaulted.

When you saw these problems could you speak very openly about them or did you just have to get on with it?

No. No, we just sort of mumbled and said, ‘told you so', but it didn't make any difference because it was a national thing, it wasn't Norfolk, it was happening throughout the whole of the country. I mean, I don't know if you're old enough to remember but there were big problems. They did a programme, TV cops Thames Valley, Thames Valley police and they followed them about and they had a rape victim come in there and they televised it, and the, men were doing the interviews and it was awful, it was farcical. The men for a start were showing off in front of the cameras and it was just absolutely awful, and I think from then on they realised that things had to change and they got in proper . . . I can't remember what the department was called,

Victim liaison sort of stuff?

No not victim liaison, no, no, that's a civilian thing. It was like child abuse and sexual offences they all sort of came in one and they trained up people to do it, so it was done properly. But they had so many different departments for different things. When I first joined if you were on the beat you dealt with everything. Everything that you came across you dealt with to the end, and then it gradually, gradually changed so it became different departments. I think first of all it was the Drug Squad, that would have been the first thing that somebody else dealt with so eventually you never dealt with drugs because you always called the Drug Squad in, so then you lose the knowledge don't you? You only have certain people that have the knowledge to deal with it and the same with the sexual offences. You had a squad to deal with that, and when I was at Norwich myself and another colleague started a shoplifting squad, so again nobody else would touch shoplifters. We would perhaps have 11 cases at court a week. We would deal with 3-4 shoplifters a day. It was really, really busy, but nobody else would touch them you see, because we had a squad for it.

Then you got Community Relations department and there were certain things that they dealt with, and I think there was always a Fraud Squad, but that became bigger. Everything, all the departments became bigger. Then you got stolen vehicles squad, stealing bicycle squad, and all these different squads, so they dealt with things and so the person on the beat gradually lost the knowledge of things and, to a certain extent that was a bit sad, but I think as things get busier and things get worse you have to have them. It's just, I just think it's a shame but things changed enormously, great changes.

As a uniformed person, especially as a policewoman, did you ever find it difficult to ever just take that uniform off completely and be just a private civilian?

No. No, because you work shifts and because of the nature of the job you tend to mix with police officers. I mean the friends that I had before I joined the police force I kept, but I'm not sure I made any new friends outside of the job. It's very much – it's not quite the same now – but it was very much a family and you socialised with your own shift because of the hours that you worked. When you were day off, they were day off. Other people that you knew were working, so your social life revolved around your shift pattern and the people that you worked with. Doesn't happen now, because when I was at Bethel Street everyone paraded on at Bethel Street, so you knew everybody. They don't now, they parade on at the satellite stations around the city, like Earlham, Tuckswood, (Ketts Hill has gone hasn't it?), Thorpe, Sprowston, Thorpe Marriot. So they're all in separate places so they don't mix with the other police officers, which is not good because when we were all at Bethel Street you talked about things, you talked about what you're dealing with, you'd talk about what's happening and whose doing what. Criminals I mean, so everybody knows what is going on and you know where everybody is, where they should be, who saw so-and-so, and you can marry it up with perhaps something that has happened. "Oh you saw him there, did you? Oh well that's funny because there was a job just done around the corner." You know, so you could marry things up much easier than I think can happen now because they don't mix together like we used to.

Your colleagues became your friends?

Yeah, well you think they do until you leave, although I still got a lot of friends that I worked with.

They left to, so is that the distinction? Once you're outside is it very clear that you are no longer inside?

Yes, yes, once you've left, you've left. You know you're not involved anymore, you're not part of the game; you've fallen off the board. Which is incredibly difficult to adjust to, I found it.

I mean I wasn't married. I married the year before I left so it was my life as with most of the policewomen. Because when I first joined up, until integration really, if a woman got married she still stayed in the job, but as soon as she had children she left. Then with integration that didn't happen and women when they got married and they had children they stayed in the job, and that made it very difficult, because for a start when they were pregnant they had to be given an office job. I remember once at Norwich there was 5 women all pregnant at the same time, so that was 5 officers you got that are not operational, so that caused a little bit of problem really and then of course when their children are ill you have to give a little bit of leeway to them. It's much, much different now I know because when my grandson, who is at the school where a serving police officer's child is, they're the same age, and I speak to her sometimes and she only works part time and there is only certain hours that she can work, and when she has to pick the child up she has to finish work. That didn't happen with us. If we had a job, if your shift ended, tough, you just carried on, you had to, you had to finish what you were doing but they don't do that now.

What do you think is the best way?

The way that we had it. It wasn't easy, but it was better for the job and better for the general public. If you're dealing with somebody it is much better that you continue dealing with them because you know what happened right from the beginning don't you, rather than handing it on to somebody else who doesn't know the whole story, only what you quickly tell them before you go off duty. I certainly think it's better when everybody is together because of the gossip, because you know what is going on everywhere.

Did you feel there was any resentment from your male colleagues about the difference in rules?

Oh yes, oh yes certainly, when the women got office jobs when they were pregnant and, also when they were allowed leeway when the kids were ill or when something happened. They always got the time off, when they want their annual leave they could always have it, you know in school holidays, and resentment of course from us who didn't have children and who weren't married because we had to fill the gaps in don't we?

So, this doesn't have to be a summary or conclusion, but looking back now on those 30 odd years and all the people that you've met and all the places that you went, do you feel good about what you've done? Did it seem to be a happy time for you from what you've said?

When I was younger it was a happy time. We had a lot of laughs there, we worked very hard, things were very strict, much stricter then than they are now, and you always get more fun by trying to break the rules don't you? There don't seem to be any rules to break now. I mean even when I first came to Norwich you were given certain foot beat, if you were on a foot beat you were perhaps given one side of the street, you weren't allowed on the other side. And of course you would always sort of arrange to meet up with somebody on a different beat, you know. Then you got a radio call: "Where are you?", and you had to pretend you were somewhere else and then you would use to run like hell to get back to where you should be! And, I mean, that is always much more fun than not having any rules to break, although it was a bit irritating at times. I mean, I remember one night, again it was snowy and icy, I was in a Panda with another PC and we were patrolling and we were off duty at 10 o'clock, and about 9 o'clock we had a call, ‘Officer needs assistance on Mousehold', and it didn't say "urgent assistance", just "needed assistance". So we came down Mousehold and the roads were quite clear and we could see his light, his blue light flashing in the woods, so we turned off and there was a sort of like a track that we went down, and it was nothing but a ice rink. It was sheer ice, and we just hit this ice, and the Panda went round and round. The driver just took everything, his feet off the pedals, his hands off the steering wheel. We couldn't do anything, we were just spinning round and round towards this car which was obviously what he had done, and we literally stopped within a foot of this car, and we got out and we said ‘What's the matter?' He had done exactly the same, and he had stopped about 6 inches from the edge of about a 10 foot drop! So we all looked at it. "Who's going to get in then?" "No, I'm not going to get in." And of course we had to get this car back again. We got an hour's overtime out of that! But that was really funny! I started singing the skaters' waltz as we went round and round. I don't know, have you got any other questions?

If there isn't anything that immediately comes to mind, then we'll pause.

When I was at Kings Lynn, we used to have to do duty at, at …. it wasn't called Crown Court then, it was Quartersizes and Assizes, and this was Quartersizes – that doesn't sound right Quarter Sessions. I think that's what it was, anyway, which is the equivalent of Crown Court with the judge and everything, and there was a Recorder on that day. Anyway I was sitting there just minding my own business and the recorder was sitting up there, and he nodded off, and behind him there was a ceremonial sword, and, I mean, it was huge and person sitting beside him asked for a glass of water, and they used to have an usher, and the usher came past and he knocked the sword over and of course it, it just missed the Recorder!! It just came swishing down, and of course he was nodding off, and of course he woke up and I couldn't stop laughing! It was just so funny, and I laughed and laughed, and he sent me out of court. I thought I was going to get the sack, but it was the funniest thing I had ever seen! It just came swishing down and just missed his ear by a centimetre. He was not amused and I was highly amused because I have a bit of a loud laugh and I just couldn't stop, it was so funny! And I got sent out and I thought I was going to get the sack. I did get told off, I did get told off, but I didn't get the sack.

Comments are closed.