Reading Borough Police was the first of the forces, now making up Thames Valley Police, to be established.

The Municipal Corporations Act 1835 allowed the Corporation of the Borough of Reading to set up a paid police force. The Reading was established on Sunday 21 February 1836. When the force started it had an establishment of 34 (two inspectors, two sergeants and 30 constables). The population of the then Borough was 18,000.

In 1893 the Corporation Fire Brigade was formed. Prior to this date the fighting of fires was the responsibility of the police constables. The chief constable was also in charge of the Fire Brigade.

The beginning of the 20th century saw problems relating to use of the motor car increasing.

In 1912 the police station moved to Valpy Street, Reading taking over buildings previously used by Reading University. The police station remained in Valpy Street until 1976 when the present police station opened in Castle Street.

By 1914 the establishment of the force had risen to 113. This included a mounted section of one sergeant and four constables.

On 4 August on the outbreak of The Great War 20 constables, who had previous military service, and were on military reserve, were immediately recalled to the Colours. In addition one sergeant was seconded to the army for drill purposes for new recruits, and during the course of the war a further 32 constables volunteered for military service. With the introductions of the Police (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1915 chief constables could only approve the release of the constables for military service providing they had sufficient resources to replace them.

As a result of the immediate loss of the 20 officers recalled to the Colours, and in the anticipation of extra duties that would be placed on the police, rest days and annual leave were suspended for all members of the force.

Additional resources

Reading Borough Police was the first of the forces, now making up Thames Valley Police, to be established.

The Municipal Corporations Act 1835 allowed the Corporation of the Borough of Reading to set up a paid police force. The Reading was established on Sunday 21 February 1836. When the force started it had an establishment of 34 (two inspectors, two sergeants and 30 constables). The population of the then Borough was 18,000.

In 1893 the Corporation Fire Brigade was formed. Prior to this date the fighting of fires was the responsibility of the police constables. The chief constable was also in charge of the Fire Brigade.

The beginning of the 20th century saw problems relating to use of the motor car increasing.

In 1912 the police station moved to Valpy Street, Reading taking over buildings previously used by Reading University. The police station remained in Valpy Street until 1976 when the present police station opened in Castle Street.

By 1914 the establishment of the force had risen to 113. This included a mounted section of one sergeant and four constables.

On 4 August on the outbreak of The Great War 20 constables, who had previous military service, and were on military reserve, were immediately recalled to the Colours. In addition one sergeant was seconded to the army for drill purposes for new recruits, and during the course of the war a further 32 constables volunteered for military service. With the introductions of the Police (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1915 chief constables could only approve the release of the constables for military service providing they had sufficient resources to replace them.

As a result of the immediate loss of the 20 officers recalled to the Colours, and in the anticipation of extra duties that would be placed on the police, rest days and annual leave were suspended for all members of the force.

Additional duties

In addition to the normal duties of the police, which would have increased by the nature of the circumstances relating to the war, The Defence of the Realm Act and Regulations greatly increased the demands of the police.

The chief constables of all police forces were responsible for submitting an annual report. In his report for 1914 and subsequent reports covering the period of the war, the chief constable of Reading listed some of the additional duties required of the police, and gave statistics to illustrate the extent of the work.

These duties included:

Billeting

The requirement to find temporary accommodation for officers, men, horses and vehicle temporarily passing through the borough.

The statistics for 1914 were: 276 officers, 7,532 men, 3,873 horses and 302 vehicles.

In the 1917 report the statistics listed showed billets were found for 595 officers and 5,552 men. No statistics were given regarding horses or vehicles as no doubt by this date, most available horses and vehicles had been seized for military use.

Aliens

Aliens were defined as people who were not British citizens and were divided into 'friendly aliens' - people from countries not at war with Britain and 'enemy aliens' - people from countries who were at war with Britain. All aliens were required to register with the police and further restrictions were placed an enemy aliens.

The statistics for 1914 were: 290 friendly aliens registered and 122 enemy aliens registered. In addition 15 enemy aliens were arrested and conducted to concentration camps.

The statistics in the 1918 report had greatly increased, due to some aliens moving from London to Reading as a result of the Zeppelin bombing of London.

1,382 aliens registered, 1,717 travel permits issued to enemy aliens, 1,349 change reports sent to other forces, 221 identity book issued and 108 permit books issued.

Pigeons

All homing and carrier pigeons and lofts had to be inspected, registered and movement of pigeons licensed.

The statistics for 1914 were: 1,160 visits and inspections to pigeon lofts, 530 permits issued for keeping of homing and carrier pigeons, 4,887 pigeons found in the different lofts.

In 1917 the statistics were: 510 visits and inspections of pigeon lofts, 90 permits issued for keeping of pigeons and 106 licences issued for the movement of pigeons.

As the war progressed the different duties increased and included:

Military Services Acts

Police were required to make enquiries on behalf of the local and Military Recruitment Officers and enquiries request by the military and naval authorities in respect of men serving with the Colours.

The statistics in 1917 were: 720 enquiries relating to recruitment and 1,108 enquiries relating to men serving with the Colours.

In the 1918 report the statistics were: 680 enquiries relating to recruitment and 1,015 enquiries relating to men serving with the Colours.

Convoys of wounded

Police were required to assist in the supervision of the general public when convoys of wounded arrived in the borough at the Great Western Railway station.

In his 1917 report the chief constable states that there were 180 convoys received through the railway station during the year and lists the total number of wounded in various hospitals within the borough as 82 officers and 9,127 men.

The following additional duties are also listed in the 1917 report but no statistics are given:

Lighting control board regulations

The police were required to enforce the regulations and orders as to lights on vehicles and in the distribution of notices received.

Liquor control board regulations

Much work was placed upon the police under the regulations by reason of the constant supervision and distribution of different notices received from the Liquor Control Board (these notices restricted the normal licensing hours and who could be served).

Agricultural census returns

Police were required to distribute and collect census in relation to horses, agricultural implements, pigs and livestock kept within the borough. By the nature of these requirements the impact would have been greater on the county forces, but the chief constable of Reading makes comment: ‘These duties occupied a considerable time, and a great amount of extra attention by reason of the importance of the returns’.

Food control orders

Police had additional work by reasons of the various food orders being allocated to them to supervise which required special attention and numerous inspections to ensure no infringements of the orders occurred.

Police women

In May 1917, the first police women (Misses F Abbott and A Addison) were appointed to assist dealing with women and young girls. Two police women were also appointed to Oxford City Police at about the same time. These were the first police women to be appointed to the police forces within the now Thames Valley area. They were issued with police uniform, but did not have the same powers as a male police officer (these powers were not granted nationally until 1941).

Officers involved in the war

Twenty officers were immediately recalled to the Colours on the outbreak of The Great War, and a further 32 officers volunteered for military service during the course of the war.

Of these 52 officers three officers were killed on active service, one was killed during training, one resigned and did not return to the force and 47 returned to police service.

The four men who died were:

Albert James Lawrence was born in Kent in 1888.

He was the son of John and Sarah Jane Lawrence. Little can be traced of his early life through census information.

In the 1911 Census (Sunday 2 April 1911) Albert Lawrence is recorded as a Corporal in the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, based in Wellington Barracks in London.

In 1912 Albert Lawrence was discharged from the Grenadier Guards and placed on Military Reserve.

On 2 December 1912 Albert was appointed a police constable in the Reading Borough Police Force.

In 1914 military tension was rising in Europe. On 4 August Germany invaded Belgium as a means of accessing and invading France. Due to Germany’s refusal to retreat from the invasion Britain had no option but to declare war on Germany, and The Great War, later also to be referred to as World War One, commenced.

As Albert was on Military Reserve to the Grenadier Guards he was immediately recalled to the Colours on 4 August 1914 and rejoined the Grenadier Guards.

On Christmas Day 1914 Albert married Jessie A Jones (registered Wandsworth, London 1914 Oct-Dec Volume 1D Page 1262).

On 10 December 1916 Sergeant 11856 Albert Lawrence of 2nd Battalion, Grenadier Guards was killed in action while fighting on the Somme. He is buried and remembered with honour in grave reference II D 3 in the Sailly-Saillisel British Cemetery, Somme, France.

The chief constable of Reading reported the death to the Reading Borough Watch Committee and in the report stated that Albert had a wife and a child, but no record can be found of the name of the child.

Arthur Percy Dorey was born Stoke, near Guildford, Surrey, in 1896.

He was the eldest of six children of David and Eliza Ann Dorey. At the time of the 1901 Census (Sunday 31 March 1901) the family were living in Tuns Gate (Three Tuns) Guildford, Surrey, where David was a beerhouse keeper.

By the time of the 1911 Census (Sunday 2 April 1911) the family, now with six children, had moved to Down Road, Merrow, Guildford and David was a road foreman. Arthur, then 14 years old, was listed as working as a domestic garden boy.

In 1914 military tension was rising in Europe. On 4 August Germany invaded Belgium as a means of accessing and invading France. Due to Germany’s refusal to retreat from the invasion Britain had no option but to declare war on Germany, and The Great War, later also to be referred to as World War One, commenced.

On 27 April 1915 the Reading Borough Police Watch Committee approved the appointment of Arthur, then aged 19 years old, as a police constable in the Reading Borough Police.

In 1915, like many other young men, Arthur volunteered for military service and under The Police (Emergency Provisions) Act 1915 was released by The Chief Constable of the Reading Borough Police and was appointed to 2nd Battalion, Grenadier Guards as Guardsman 24015.

On 25 September 1916 Guardsman Arthur Dorey, of 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards was killed in action in a battle to take the town of Lesboeufs. He is remembered with honour in the Guards’ Cemetery, Lesboeufs, Somme, France, and buried in grave reference I A 9.

Claude Victor Bowra was born in Donhead St Mary, Tisbury, Wiltshire in 1889, one of four children of William and Margaret Bowra.

In the 1891 Census (Sunday 5 April 1891) the family were living in Higher Coombe, Donhead St Mary, Wiltshire where William was a domestic gardener and servant.

There is no trace of the Bowra family when searching the 1901 Census, but in the 1911 Census (Sunday 2 April 1911) two of the Bowra family are police constables. Claude is a police constable in Reading, Berkshire, and his elder brother, Reginald William Bowra, is a police constable in Bournemouth, Dorset.

Claude joined Reading Borough Police on 7 January, 1911 and at the time of the 1911 Census was one of 16 single constables resident in the accommodation provided in London Street, Reading. The accommodation was also the home of Chief Inspector Lickley and his family of five children.

In 1914 military tension was rising in Europe. On 4 August Germany invaded Belgium as a means of accessing and invading France. Due to Germany’s refusal to retreat from the invasion Britain had no option but to declare war on Germany, and The Great War, later also to be referred to as World War One, commenced.

Claude, like many young men, volunteered for service in the military, and under the provisions of The Police (Emergency Provisions) Act 1915 was released by the chief constable of Reading Borough Police on 27 May, 1915 and was appointed to the Berkshire Yeomanry.

On 1 November 1915 Claude, by then 26 years old and Lance Corporal 2682 in the Berkshire Yeomanry, died of wounds received while in training. He is buried in St Johns Churchyard in Dormansland, Surrey, in grave reference B 14 32.

Claude’s younger brother, Douglas Eric Bowra, also volunteered for service in The Great War and was appointed to the Royal Garrison Artillery. Towards the end of the war, while serving with the 18th Siege Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery, he was wounded, and returned to England for treatment. However on 12 February 1919, after The Great War had ended, Douglas died from his wounds. He is buried in the same grave as his brother Claude, in St John's Churchyard in Dormansland, Surrey.

Russell Freeman was born in Framlingham, Suffolk, in 1888.

He was one of six children of Charles and Naomi Freeman. In the 1891 Census (Sunday 5 April 1891) the Freeman family were living in The Grove, Framlingham, where Charles was a farm bailiff and his wife was working as a dairy woman. By the time of the 1901 Census (Sunday 31 March 1901) the family had moved to Framlingham Road, Easton, Suffolk. Charles was then a farmer.

On 28 February 1906 Russell, at the age of 17, joined the Suffolk Territorial Army and on 14 May 1906, at the age of 18, joined the Regular Army and was appointed a Trooper in the 2nd Life Guards, Corps of the Household Cavalry.

In the Autumn of 1910 Russell, while serving in The Life Guards, married Annie Gillard in London (registered St George Hanover Square 1910 July-Sept Volume 1A Page 1194).

In the 1911 Census (Sunday 2 April 1911) Russell was living in Trevor Buildings in Hyde Park Barracks, London.

By 5 June 1911 he had left The Life Guards, and placed on military reserve as on this date he was appointed a Police Constable 58 in the Reading Borough Police Force.

In 1914 military tension was rising in Europe. On 4 August Germany invaded Belgium as a means of accessing and invading France. Due to Germany’s refusal to retreat from the invasion Britain had no option but to declare war on Germany, and The Great War, later also to be referred to as World War One, commenced.

On 4 August 1914 Russell, who is on military reserve, was recalled to the Colours and rejoined the 2nd Life Guards as Trooper 2543 Freeman.

The 2nd Life Guards were mobilised for war and landed at Zeebrugge, Belgium, on 7 October 1914.

In the early summer of 1916 Trooper Russell Freeman was injured while in action, and taken to one of several military hospitals which had been set up around the town of Rouen. On 14 July 1916 Russell died from his wounds.

He is remembered with honour in St Sever Cemetery at Rouen where he is buried in grave reference A 29 12.

Information on this page found and verified from researching archived police records and newspapers plus from entries on the following websites: Find My Past, Ancestry, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Forces-war-records.