Of the 330 police officers from the Thames Valley forces who served on the front line during the First World War, 49 died.

With 4 August 2014 being 100 years to the day since Britain declared war on Germany, Thames Valley Police Museum has published a web section dedicated to those officers who fought, and died, in service of their country.

They are listed according to which of the eight forces in existence they served at the time.

Today, of course, those eight forces are now represented under of force - Thames Valley Police.

Ode of Remembrance

"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them."

Policing the Thames Valley are during The Great War

At the time of The Great War, there were eight separate forces covering the Thames Valley Police area.

Of the eight, three were county police forces:

The other five were borough and city forces:

The county forces were under the command of Chief Constables, and the area was divided into divisions with Superintendents in charge. The borough forces were much smaller areas under the comand of a Head Constable, also referred to as a Chief Constable.

All police officers were male officers. Women were appointed to both Oxford City and Reading police forces towards the end of the war, to assist in dealing women with the growing problem of prostitution. Although they wore police uniform, they did not have the full powers of their male colleagues. These were given in 1941.

When the war was declared on 4 August 1914, all police forces suddenly had an immediate reduction in their police numbers as a result of officers, who had previous military service prior to joining the force and were on Military Reserve, being recalled to the Colours (Buckinghamshire Constabulary had 20 officers recalled to the Colours).

During the period of the war, over 330 officers served in the military as a result of being recalled to the Colours, or volunteering. The Police (Emergency Provisions) Act 1915 allowed officers, providing they had the permission of their Chief Constable, to join the military and, when discharged, to return to their police force, with their military service being counted towards their total police service.

Resources to cover for the officers were already planned and in the process of implementation. The First Police Reserve was implemented by recalling retired police officers, who were still fit for police service. These officers were paid and, where they had to move back to their police area, they were provided with an accommodation allowance. They were provided with full police uniform and worked full police hours.

A Second Police Reserve, also known as the Special Constabulary, was introduced. Local people, with good character, were asked to volunteer for police duties. Initially they were only provided with an arm badge to indicate their role. They were unpaid, and worked a limited number of hours to meet local requirements. Turnover within the numbers occurred when either people ceased to volunteer, or they were recruited to the military when conscription was introduced.

The additional hours being worked by the existing police officers, the appointment of First Police Reserves and volunteers to the Special Constabulary assisted to maintain cover for the officers serving in the military, and the increase in police work as a result of the additional duties placed on the police service.

Wages and hours of duty

Each force sets its own wages and hours of duty. In the county forces it was normally nine-hour day, divided between four hours in the morning and five hours in the evening or at night. In the borough forces it was normally an eight-hour shift.

It was only after the Police (Weekly Rest Day) Act 1910 was fully implemented in 1913 that all policemen were entitled to one rest day per week. Prior to implementation it had normally been a maximum of one rest day per month. Annual leave was normally a maximum of seven days per year.

Constables in the county forces were mainly posted to rural parishes and lived in those parishes. Even on their rest days they were only allowed to leave the area to which they were posted, with the permission of their superintendent.

All policemen had to attend at least one church service on a Sunday.

When the war commenced, rest days and annual leave were immediately cancelled. In most forces some entitlement to rest days was reintroduced in 1915, but annual leave entitlement was not returned until 1919.

Communication

The telephone had only recently been invented. By 1914 the force Headquarters for each force was connected, but not all the main stations.

Main form of communication was the written word, mainly the handwritten word, as typewriters were expensive and only just being introduced. If copies of a letter from the Home Office and legislation were required for circulation to superintendents, handwritten copies were made.

In the borough forces, information was passed on when officers paraded for duty at the start of their shift. This occurred within the towns in the county forces, but for more rural-based officers it was passed on when they were visited by a supervisory officer when making a 'conference point' or when they attended a weekly or monthly parade.

Urgent messages were sent and delivered by the Post Office using the telegraph and telegrams.

Transport

Although by 1914 the motor car had been invented, and was beginning to cause an additinal policing problem, no police force had motor transport. Transport was by horse, horse and trap, pedal cycle, or walking. Public transport was by the train or horse and carriage. Reading had a tram system, but their first motorised bus was not introduced until 1919, and their first police car was introduced in 1924.

Police duties

The main police duty has always been the protection of life and property, the maintenance of order, the prevention and detection of crime and prosecution of offenders against the peace.

Some of the additional duties that were placed on the various police forces included monitoring of weights and measures, and quality of food, work that is now undertaken by the local council's trading standards department. The Chief Constables also had responsibilities in respect of supervising common lodging houses, and for the licencing of premises for the storage of petrol, plus licensing of explosive stores. They also carried responsibilities for the licensing of passenger carrying vehicles, including Hackney carriages, and the drivers and conductors of such.

The police were also responsible for carrying out duties within the requirements of the Board of Agriculture and the Diseases of Animals Act. This included visiting farms and people keeping pigs, and issuing movement order for pigs from one premises to another.

Additional duties as a result of the war

The defence of The Realm Act and Regulations imposed many restrictions on the people of this country and it was the responsibility of the police to monitor and enforce the regulations. The Aliens Act was introduced which required persons who were not of British nationality to register with the police. It also defined aliens as friendly aliens; people from countries who were allies of the United Kingdon, and enemy aliens; people from countries who had declared war on this country. Some male enemy aliens were placed in prison, but others were allowed to move around, with restriction, again enforced by the police.

All persons keeping carrier or homing pigeons had to register with the police and all pigeon lofts and pigeons had to be inspected on a regular basis. Movement of pigeons between licensed keepers could only take place with a movement licence issued by the police.

The Chief Constable for Reading Borough recorded each year, in his annual report other additional duties that his police force were required to undertake as a result of the war. It is believed that these duties were also carried out by all of the eight forces that now make up the Thames Valley Police area. These additional duties included:

  • Finding temporary billets for officers and men who were passing through the area, plus temporary stabling for horses and places to park military vehicles.
  • Under the Military Service Act, making enquiries and submitting report to local and other recruiting officers.
  • Making enquiries at the request of the military authorities concerning relatives and men serving with the Colours.
  • Liquor Control Board Regulations required licensed premises to close earlier than normal, and this was monitored and enforced by the police.
  • Paperwork connected with Agricultural Census returns distributed, collected and checked by the police.
  • Convoys of wounded were met and escorted from railway stations to the many war hospitals throughout the area.

In a report to the Standing Joint Committee in April 1919 entitled 'Special Report on the Work of the Regular Force and Special Reserve for the County of Berkshire during the Great War 1914-1919', the Chief Constable would also confirm details of the census that involved the police service.

For the Army Council and Board of Agriculture:

  • The Agricultural Census 1916
  • The Wool Census 1916
  • Horses and Mules No.1 Census 1917
  • The Cattle, Sheep, Pigs and Agricultural Implements Census 1917
  • The Horses, Mules and Assess No.2 Census 1918

For the Ministry of National Service:

  • The Employers of Industrial Labour Census 1918

For the Ministry of Food:

  • The Livestock and Feeding Stuffs No.1 Census 1917
  • The Livestock and Feeding Stuffs No.2 Census 1918
  • The Livestock and Feeding Stuffs No.3 Census 1918
  • The Potato Stocks Census 1918

For the Road Transport Board:

  • The Earmarked Transport (Motor and Horse Drawn) Census 1918

For the War Agricultural Committee:

  • The Employers of Agricultural Labour Census 1918

For the Director of Recruiting:

  • Checking the Census of Persons Employed

A police officer's diary during the war

What would life have been like for a police officer serving his community in the Thames Valley area during World War One?

Sergeant 1916 Pax is a fictitious character who could have served in any of the eight local forces which merged over time until 1 April 1968 when they became Thames Valley Police.