Liverpoolplate

Liverpool City Police

A CAdet Tale by Ian Hawkes Ret.

Although determined to leave school at the age of 16, I never did get round to writing off for the application forms from Riversdale College for the marine wireless engineer’s course, my whimsical preference. Weeks went by with no action on my part, so my parents presented me with The Ultimatum: either go back to school or join the police. “Something had to be done”, apparently. School was not my thing, so when the application forms for Liverpool City Police Cadets magically arrived they were duly completed and returned, now suitably adorned with such phrases as, “I remain, Sir, Your obedient servant”.

In July of 1960 a trip out to Mather Avenue for an interview and medical assessment was eventually followed by acceptance and I commenced that September, as Cadet 81. After a little basic training the new intake was dispersed to various departments around the city. I was to work in the Divisional Office at “F” Division, Speke. These assignments (I can’t remember whether they were for two or three days per week) normally lasted for about six months, so I was surprised to be called in after less than a month, to be told that I was being re-allocated to the Training School Office. I don’t think I did anything wrong, even though I wasn’t enjoying the Speke experience. The Divisional Sergeant seemed unsure what he should have me doing, so most of my time was spent looking out of the window as I became more and more bored.

In the Training School, the old bull’s eye type of switchboard, with connections made with ¼” jack plugs on long leads, could be surprisingly busy, but I did master it fairly quickly. The best advice I was given was to make it always sound like any problem was the fault of the caller. I well remember one Inspector on the office phone shouting in frustration to one caller, “It’s no good you shouting at me, it is you that can’t hear me – I can hear you.” I still puzzle over the logic of that one.
The job included small amounts of administration work, but the phone switchboard was the mainstay. This job was to be the precursor for several future office assignments over the years. I must have been alright at the job, as the assignment lasted for twice the normal duration. As an aside, it was nice to see a photograph of Inspector Marriott on the museum’s website for, although I very often put calls through to him, I never met him. He was very polite on the phone, unlike some of the senior officers. Around fifteen seconds was the maximum delay in responding to the Superintendent’s extension, after which he would come storming through to enquire which blithering idiot wasn’t answering the phone properly.

Further assignments over the next three years were to C.I.D. Central/Prosecutions Dept., in Cheapside, with Sgt. Lavery, then Rotaprints (housed under MerCRO - producing crime circulars and property lists), and another stint in the Training School Office. (Must have been alright then?) These were followed by MerCRO itself - and I thought I had escaped the almost-mandatory assignment! Happily the latter didn’t last very long, otherwise I think my teeth would have suffered even more from the copious quantities of Coca Cola we purchased at 6d a time from the machine in the canteen.

The staff members whom I can recall were Superintendent Tom McHugh; Inspectors Pugh, Evans, and Nicolson; Sgt. “Johnny” Edwards, and Con. Douggie McKay. There were a couple of others whose names escape me. If memory serves me correctly, the constable who dealt with the logistics of medicals, uniforms, etc., was called Con. Gresty. They were all assigned to the ephemeral “K” Division that administration staff belonged to. The Chief Constable of the time was J. W. T. Smith and the A.C.C. Watson: stern, forbidding people, only ever encountered on Very Special Occasions.

Other members of my intake have been consigned to the amnesia bin, but I can still recall Henry Barton, Roy Barclay (did he ever marry Carmella from the Odeon?), Neil McIntyre, Arthur Garnet, Derek Anderson, Eddie Shimmin, Bill Coady, Ian Scott, Adams, Griffin and Redfern.

As home was on the “posh side” of the river, I was obliged to live-in. Each Saturday we cadets would line up in the canteen to receive our wages, out of which we immediately paid rent and subsistence; then we were inspected before being allowed to venture out into the real world. Those who lived outside the city could travel in civvies, but the others had to travel in uniform. There was nothing much to do for those living in and money was in short supply. (I think I ended up with about £3-10s after paying my dues.) Officially, of course, we were all too young to go to pubs, but we couldn’t have afforded to go anyway. The main pastime was the swimming pool. A couple of hours each evening were standard.

Training School days were preceded by inspection and parade on the small drill square. It was at this time of my life that I gave up having breakfast in favour of an extra hour in bed, a habit which has endured for over 50 years now. Drill is no way for any sane person to start a day, in my opinion. Nor is it proper to spend hours rubbing the toecap of a boot with a polishing cloth, spit and Cherry Blossom – anyway, why just the toecap?

Each morning our iron-framed beds in the Training School had to be made up (or rather, unmade!) with everything folded and in a neat pile, with the counterpane – also folded – wrapped round the entire bundle, which was positioned in the centre of the mattress. Periodic inspections were made of the rooms and cupboards and woe betide anyone who failed to satisfy Johnny Edward’s expectations, nay, demands. Inspector Pugh’s expectations were even higher, so it was much better when he wasn’t involved.

Inspector Nicholson was a benign gentleman who arranged for cadets to attend Childwall College of Further Education for, well . . . er, further education one day each week. I recall the scene in the college hall at lunchtimes, as we gathered round in huddles of six or so, all sharing the communal Woodbine and listening to the pop music of the time, prominent amongst them being Helen Shapiro’s “Walking Back to Happiness”.

On Tuesday evenings, Anfield College hosted typing lessons for us, again at the instigation of Insp. Nicholson. As this was the time of thick fogs, on a couple of occasions we had to walk all the way from Anfield College back to Mather Avenue, as the buses had stopped running. Very inconsiderate! The typing instructress, Miss Brown, was very young, shapely and pretty and, I am ashamed to say, received a lot of stick from us 18 year-old louts. She did very well though, as her lessons have stood me in good stead over the years – from typing police reports to various civilian/NHS computing and desk-top publishing occupations (a bit like a modern Rotaprints!). Sadly, the same cannot be said for the lessons in Pitman’s Shorthand given personally by Inspector Nicholson. I can remember the pee, bee, chay, jay, kay, gay, bits but the rest is mere graphiti.

Cadets were ex-officio members of the Liverpool Boys Association, so teams of us would represent the cadets in various swimming galas. Some of the venues were not the kind of place you liked to linger; Burrow’s Gardens, off Scotland Road, being one of the worst. Having access to free training each evening we did have an unfair advantage and usually won the events. Several cadets undertook Royal Lifesaving Awards in swimming; from the Bronze Medallion up to the Award of Merit in my case. The small pool at the Training School was not big enough for the very highest award, the Diploma. By the time we got to Bruche, the only award left was the Instructor’s Certificate, which Cheshire Constabulary’s Sgt. Hope successfully put me in for.

Supper for those living in could sometimes be delayed if there was a dinner dance in progress. This resulted in us not getting fed until after 11 p.m. The catering staff must have been grateful to us at such times, as we almost invariably gave a hand to stack the dishes and (ahem) assist in the disposal of any stray food. On one occasion I went for my belated supper with a prodigious thirst. In front of me was a very full ½ pint glass of orange juice. There was a slight taste of perfume to it, but as it was so full, it couldn’t have been drunk from. At 2 a.m. I was still being walked round the school’s running track by a couple of unsympathetic mates, trying to get sober. Knowledge now points to the presence of gin – in abundance. I’ve never had any since.

Sports were some people’s idea of good clean fun, but having cut my arm very badly during a session of basketball in the training school’s gym, (severed artery, rushed to Sefton General Hospital by ambulance) I was never in favour of so-called healthy exercise. Thus, when Douggie McKay and Johnny Edwards decided that the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme was the way to go, there were qualms on my part. A preliminary course, in association with the Liverpool Boys Association, led us to spend a few days at an Outward Bound School in Ambleside. Trekking across the fells and having al fresco picnics was, even I had to admit, quite good fun and almost painless, apart from the midge bites. Even better, when it came to assessment at the end of the course, my little group had won! I almost got to like it.

Building up for the main event, various map-reading exercises were undertaken, notably around Parbold Hill, where contractors were in the throes of building the M6. These days, we often travel that way en route to Cumbria and my family are heartily sick of my anecdotes.

One of the things besides swimming that passed our off-duty time was (I use the phrase with full poetic licence and with the full intention of misleading readers) guitar-playing. A few of us living in had our own guitars and could play as many as four chords. This came in useful, as we had to perform a concert as part of the community service section of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. Our own equipment was not suitable and we approached Frank Hessy, the owner of a guitar shop in Manchester Street (now occupied by “Me Mam’s Kitchen”), who very kindly agreed to lend us guitars and a bass. 50 years later I still cannot play bass, but that is what I bagged for myself. That Johnny Edwards actually signed as guarantor for the things amazes me.

However, with that borrowed kit, together with an amplifier and speaker borrowed from Childwall College, we managed to keep a whole bunch of Downe’s Syndrome kids happy for at least 15 minutes. The “music” was somewhat lost in the melee, but happiness abounded for the kids, and we eventually gained our badges. The Silver Award was presented to us by the Chief Constable, J.W.T. Smith on the Training School drill square. Similar, but more intensive activities ensued for the next stage: the Gold Award. Inspector Pugh devised a route across the Berwyn Mountains, camping out each night and map-reading during the day. (“The camp site is just over the next mountain”, was the frequent, but almost invariably wrong cry.) The first night we arrived in camp just as the tutors were about to send out a search party. The next day wasn’t much better as we had settled down by a delightful waterfall after lunch (sausages, instant mash, tinned rice pudding and apricots all in the same pan!) and the whole team of us had gone to sleep in the sun for a couple of hours. To cap it all, my brand new Perdio six transistor portable radio (£6-19s-6d) had fallen out of my shirt pocket into the stream. Although retrieved immediately, it was never quite the same again. Eventually we ended up in a small Welsh village where, by coincidence, a relation of Inspector Pugh owned a public house. There, at the end of three gruelling days, I consumed my first pint of ale, a brown mixed. (Mixed with what I have no idea.)

Returning home, dirty, tired, dishevelled and smelling of ale, mother must have wondered what I had been up to, but gaining the subsequent Gold Award meant a trip to Buckingham Palace accompanied by proud parents. The Duke himself wandered round giving out the awards and shaking hands with each recipient as the Queen led the way, asking how far people had travelled. The event was marred a little by rain, as this meant that the ceremony was held in the rather smelly – albeit impeccably clean - palace stables.

In our final year we attended the cadet’s annual dinner and dance. We were due to entertain (again a euphemism designed to deliberately overstate our abilities) with our musical repertoire. The stage was set up with the official Liverpool City Police microphone and stand, all plugged in and ready to go. The one member of our band who had his own equipment, Cadet Ian Scott, plugged in his amplifier for a bit of a rehearsal prior to the evening’s commencement. Having only a short lead on his amplifier, he had plugged it into a light socket. Sadly, as it was only a cheap amplifier, it had been designed with the chassis (and thus all the metal parts of the instrument!) connected to one side of the mains. With a normal plug the polarity couldn’t have been reversed, but a light socket isn’t polarised. In this case the live side of the mains was connected to the guitar’s metal bits, including the strings. Without additional factors this would have merely resulted in a slight tickle when the strings were touched, but the force microphone and stand were (very correctly) earthed. When Ian leaned over to grab the mike stand, with guitar tucked under his uncovered arm, he completed the circuit. He fell to the floor twitching madly. Stupidly, I bent down to remove the guitar from his grasp, and was lucky it merely gave me a quick jolt. Realising that the situation was serious, I kicked the stand out of Ian’s grasp. It landed across his guitar and I still can remember the strings lighting up like incandescent bulbs as they passed the full current available from the mains socket and burnt out.
Later, apart from the stupidity of my actions in trying to remove the stand without disconnecting the mains, I felt quite pleased that nothing too serious had occurred. The incident put paid to our performance, naturally, so the intended audience were spared. Next day I was working in the office when a disgruntled Superintendent McHugh came in demanding to know who was going to pay for the broken Liverpool City Police Official Microphone. Nothing was ever said about how close it had come to being a fatal event, nor did anyone complain about our non-appearance!

Now nearly 19 years old, we were getting to be almost adult. The transition was marked by examinations with both educational and medical aspects. Happily I passed both and moved on to the Police Training School at Bruche in September, 1963. Sadly, some of my colleagues over the last three years didn’t make it, or decided that their future lay elsewhere. One cadet of long-standing, Derek Anderson, was struggling to achieve the minimum height of 5’ 8”. Con. Gresty had him hang from the wall-bars in the gym for half an hour until he had stretched sufficiently to make the grade. Happily, the shortfall in numbers was balanced by some newcomers from outside, some of whom were even women!

Ian Hawkes April 2012

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