My name is Jim Allgood and I was a policeman for 30 years. I have been asked to share some of my experiences. I was brought up in a little village called Ratcliffe-on-Wreke, about 7 miles from Leicester. My dad didn't want me to join the Police Force, I don't know why. I am not aware that he had any criminal record but he did not like policemen, and he certainly did not want me to become a police officer. He even said things like, 'I'm not having a policeman in this house while I live here!'
Anyway, we made an agreement that I would go to Morris's, an engineering firm in Loughborough, and after a year there he would review the situation. Which is what I did and hated every minute of it. On the 365th day I was waiting for the clock to tick off the final minutes. My dad said, 'Oh, if you still want to do it, go on then'. The strange thing about it, when I did get into the Force, we would go for a drink together at the pub and people would greet me saying, 'Hello Jim, haven't seen you around for a long time'. My dad would reply, ' No, he's a policeman now and really enjoying it'. He was tickled pink and from then on he was OK. I never did find out why he was against my joining in the first place.
I joined the Police Force cadets and was stationed at Syston. My job included washing the station car and fetching the sergeant's fags and things like that. Young people wouldn't do that nowadays. They'd just laugh at you. The highlight of my time was when I was posted to do the school crossing patrol. Most policemen hated it and so did I later on but it actually helped me learn all about the roads in the area because lorry drivers used to ask the way and I had to know! One of the children used to bring me sweets which was very nice.
My first real experience came when I had to help search a reservoir for a body. A suicide case was suspected and indeed it turned out to be so. My job was to go every morning about 9 o'clock and again later at the end of the day to see if it had floated up. About five days later it did and a boat was sent out to drag it to the side. 'Cadet!' came the order. 'Pull the body out of the water!' I was only 18 years old and had never seen a dead body before. I got hold of the hand and pulled and the arm came away. The stench was awful. One of the worst things with dealing with dead bodies was the smell. I ran to the bushes and was extremely sick.
Around Melton, (where I was posted when I was accepted into the Force proper) you'd get what looked like old cowsheds but many were mortuaries. If you had to collect a body, say after an accident on the A1, you would want to get it cleared away and locked up as quickly as possible, and we would use one of these mortuaries. I remember taking one body to join two others in one of these mortuaries once. After carefully locking the door, I realised I had forgotten my gloves. Unknown to me, my driver had them in his pocket. But he let me go in for them and he shut the door on me and locked it. I could not find the light switch and I did get the hairs on my head beginning to stand up until he started to make ghostly noises. I then realised that it was his idea of a joke.
It was not all dead bodies and tragedy. It was the custom those days to inform the Police when you went away on holiday. The officer on the beat would check your house regularly. I was doing this one day with a young probationer when a door that he tested flew open. He fell in and saw two old ladies lying motionless. He came out pretty quick, almost traumatised with the shock of finding two dead bodies. We went in together and it appeared that they were fast asleep. So we went outside and banged on the door until one of them came to see that all the noise was about. They told us that they had been on holiday but the weather had been so atrocious they had returned home and never informed us.
Talking of old ladies, I helped one once who was having difficulties with putting the money in a public phone box. 'Officer', she said. 'Can you help me? I keep putting my 4p in but I can't get through.' So I helped her using my own four pennies. She was very grateful and took my number. Two days later, she came in to the station with her son who said that her family had heard that the old lady was planning to leave me all her money, and that they would contest the will. I told him not to be so silly as I would not make any claim. She was quite a wealthy old girl . It was the nearest I got to a fortune.
It was in 1959 that I became a fully paid-up member of Her Majesty's Police Force in Melton Mowbray. Events moved quietly in this small country town but I do remember one or two happenings. I saw a car parked under a No Waiting sign. I thought that is really taking the mickey. So I went over to him, conscious that this would be my first prosecution, and said, 'Excuse me sir!' 'Yes, officer?' 'Do you realise you are parking in a prohibited place?' 'No' he said. 'Well I'm afraid you are. If you take a look at the sign you will see that you are right under it, No Parking'. 'If you look a bit closer officer, you will see that it says No Parking on Tuesdays only'. Luckily he was a nice fellow and he saw the joke, but I did feel a twit.
I was escorting a heavy load through Stamford once and it came to a low bridge.There was no way of going under and it certainly couldn't turn round. We were stuck. I was very worried because I had foolishly disregarded the given route and substituted one of my own. I could see me losing my job. We let the tyres down and then found a flange to lower . With that, it just squeezed through.
But I did have some success. I was in the market place at Melton Mowbray once and I'd heard that two gangs of teddy boys were coming and had planned to have a fight. They crowded in, about 20 on either side of the market place. I knew one lot, they were the local yobs. Of course they started shouting Yah-Boo at each other and things began to get a bit nasty. I stepped out in front of them and shouted,'Look! this is my town centre and I'm not having any of you here. If you want to knock seven bells out of each other, go down to the park. You can do it there. The Melton guys, you stay here. I guarantee I won't let them go for five minutes. The rest of you, push off. I'm not having any fighting in my market square.' They muttered a bit, but they went. Afterwards I had to have a cigarette to calm my nerves. It was shaking in my hands and I noticed that the creases in my trousers were trembling too. Suddenly I heard this strange noise, going dong-fut-dong-fut. It was the sergeant with his leg in plaster. Someone had told him that the young policeman was having trouble and, being the only other policeman available for about 15 miles, he had closed the station and come to help me. There were no radios or reserves in those days. When it was all over, he said, 'Well done, lad. But don't you let me catch you smoking on duty again.' It certainly was a bit hairy at the time though.
Patrolling the town's streets could get tedious at times, but there were one or two ways to liven things up. On a nice summer day you could cycle round the park. I was doing just that one day when I took it into my head to climb over into the paddling pool area and cycle round and round the pool, singing happily at the same time I think it was 'Raindrops keep falling on my head' or something like that. However, the park was not as deserted as I thought. Someone was exercising his dog and he called out, 'You really enjoyed that didn't you?' I jumped off the bike and in my shock at being found out, I dropped it in the water. I did feel an idiot when I was fishing it out.
Night patrols could be even more tedious. You just walked up and around the streets by yourself, although occasionally there might be two of you. In those days you had a book and you had to enter the number of every car you saw passing through Melton Mowbray after midnight. There weren't any. Everyone was in bed like good rural people should be. These days you would need the assistance of a secretary. One of our favourite places to while the time away was the lingerie shop. Here we could gaze at the display, something you couldn't possibly do during the day. Also we found that if you leant on a plate-glass window such as Tesco's, the glass would give a little bit. Then you would rock back, and the display stands would fall over with the shock wave.
Ghosts and spooks and things like that don't bother me, but I did see a ghostly happening at Skeffington once in the graveyard. When you were going round on security at large country houses, you used to call on cookie who was always good for a mince pie or something a bit more substantial. I went round this particular house because I saw a light shining in the window. 'Oh that's Lady I forget the name- who died at the hands of her lover!' It appeared that on the nights that she was supposed to be around, the light shone at this special window. Just in case, I went round the church with my truncheon in my hand, though what use a truncheon would be against a ghost I do not know. I went back in daylight and was invited in. I looked out of a window and two or three yards away was the window that had been lit up. However, when I went outside I could see a door but no window was there. The story was well-known in the village.
Sometimes it came as a shock to discover how the Police were regarded by some people. In Melton Mowbray was a Polish camp where few could speak English to any degree. Often it was the young who did the translating. I went to one door just to make some enquiries and the old grandmother responded to the knock. Knowing there was a young girl who was fluent in English I asked where the daughter was. The old lady was got very upset. It turned out that in Poland at one time, the police would take the young girls away, bringing them back when they had finished with them. We explained that policemen in England were not like that. Our job was to maintain the peace.
In those early days, the only data the sergeant could use to write how good you were, was to see the written work you put forward. Consequently it became a bit of a push to get prosecutions and lots of names in the charge book. I look back and think that that was one pf the worst things they could have done. It forced us into reporting as many people as possible, motorists mainly. I got a bit conscientious about this realising that sometimes people just made mistakes with no criminal intent.
I applied to join the Nyasaland Police at one point but as policemen were leaving the police in droves my superintendant would not release me. I had met Rona by now, and we decided to try Bermuda. I applied for a police job and Rona was going to go as a teacher. Things were progressing well, we had even booked our passage on the boat, when my dad got run over and killed. I was an only child, so we decided to stay in England to help my mum.
It was goodbye to my stretch at Melton Mowbray, as I was appointed village policeman at Tilton-on-the-Hill, near Loughborough. This was in 1964, the year Rona and I got married. It was a very pretty village and when I stood at the highest point, in every direction as far as you could see, was my beat. I had my own little motor-bike to nip around on. Later when I was in London, I had one of those Noddy bikes. We used to race with them sometimes, clearing a circuit in the streets and after making sure each road junction had been made safe. Off we'd go, disregarding the traffic lights and the street signs. This would take place at about 3 o'clock in the morning. I had my name up as the fastest driver for a short while.
Meanwhile, in Tilton life progressed at a calm and slow pace. My first Christmas there, a farmer rolled up to my house with trailer full of logs. 'I've brought you your Christmas logs', he said. 'Oh thank you,' I replied, expecting him to throw off a few, but he tipped up the whole lot. Unhappily my car and motorbike were at the back of it and I couldn't get them out. We soon got a line of volunteers to form a chain and move them. That was typical of the kindness of the people of Tilton. They were kind and also law-abiding. I only showed about 30 crimes a year. Many small misdemeanors I dealt with myself. For instance if I received a complaint about stone-throwing, I would go and have a word with the family concerned. It was better than reporting them, as they could not pay any fines, being too poor to find the money. After discussion with the property owner, I would offer to overlook it this time but it must not happen again.
Provincial officers had the powers of veterinary officers in controlling the movement of farm animals. Farmers would come knocking on my door to get guidance when they needed to move their stock. Some areas were prescribed during outbreaks of foot and mouth disease, swine fever or suspected anthrax .
I used to play darts in the pub. If I were off-duty, closing time was flexible, but if on duty, the darts games had to stop on time. Nobody ever saw anything wrong with that, and neither did I.
I eventually went to Dagenham, in the East End of London. Perhaps the Tilton posting became too easy and I felt I needed something a bit more challenging. It was certainly that. The Kray brothers held sway at the time, and the Richardsons. There were some horrible things went on. Terrible revenge was administered to anyone suspected of snitching to the Police. One chap was stripped and had a wire brush pushed up his backside. Anything like that would not have been done in the name of the Krays. They would put someone else in the frame for it.
When we first went to Dagenham, the only way I knew was to go down the A1 and turn left. Rona's face grew longer and longer as she saw the dirty streets and dingy council tenements. It was disgusting and quite a shock. 'Where have you brought me to?' she demanded. 'You just wait. We will have a nice flat with central heating. We'll be warm at last'. We had been frozen in the country winters. Most of the people who lived in Dagenham were decent folk, if a bit rough. Even the Superintendant was rough to my way of thinking. His language could be very raw.
New recruits came in for tricks played on them by their senior colleagues. For example, we would gather by the Town Hall and as the clock made ready to strike, we would rush forward. The dong of the clock would disturb the pigeons from their perches above and off they would soar, casting down their droppings. The poor recruit, not knowing about moving out of the way fast, would get plastered and end up looking like one of those statues white with bird droppings. Another time he might be sent down to the Thames to collect a sample of mud for analysis. Who on earth would want to analyse such filthy stinking mud? The rookie would return with his shoes and trousers plastered in the stuff. It is called black humour and there was quite a lot of it about. Another trick was to tell the new recruit to watch out for Concorde going over and to guide the pilot in by pointing his torch upwards, say, three flashes and three spaces, repeated. Believe it or not, they actually did it.
I remember a smash and grab raid one particular night. Somebody had driven a car backwards into a shop window, jumped out and grabbed some stuff. My job was to guard the rest of the stock. It could be very boring standing there in the dark, so I went into the shop, which was a clothiers. I took a look round and saw a very nice sheepskin jacket, which I proceeded to try on. Suddenly I heard crunch crunch as someone stole into the shop, walking on the broken glass. He was taking his chance to see what was going free. I kept to the side and stood still. He obviously held the same tastes as me, as he began to remove this sheepskin coat from the model, me. Suddenly I shouted, 'You're nicked!' Poor chap, he started to run but was so shocked he fell over his own feet and was well and truly caught.
I was given one of those velocets and told to go off and learn the district, a bit like the taxi drivers have to learn the knowledge. I got quite lost but I noticed a young man wandering along and it struck me that there was something wrong with him. I stopped to question him and it turned out that he was from a mental home. He had run away and got in with a gang of gypsies who used him shamefully, making him do the hard labour in a tarmacing job they had on. They fed him very little, and the poor lad needed help. I phoned through for assistance on my mobile phone. In Leicestershire this would have necessitated finding a phone box or knocking on someone's door. Literally, within one minute about 20 police cars arrived on the scene to offer assistance. Back in the country, the whole of the available constabulary would have had to turn up to match these numbers. I was very impressed. It is a wonderful feeling to know that you have such an efficient organisation behind you, especially when you are lost!
A sergeant taught me once of the usefulness of sirens. I was out with him when a row blew up at The Brewery Tap, an Irish pub. It started to get a bit heavy with chairs being thrown about. I started running, but the sergeant said, 'No wait a minute. This is the way you do it boy. Give them time to calm down a bit'. So anyway we went in. 'You keep quiet,' he said, 'I'll do the shouting'. He folded his arms and waited for a minute until a siren was heard approaching. Then he yelled, 'Stop that!' and they all stopped thinking that a whole lot of police were arriving. They did not know that it was a passing fire engine!
At one time we had a snowfall and I noticed a trail leading to a warehouse. This was at night and the silly burglar had given no thought to the snow giving him away. A nice gentle phone call to my colleagues and we were ready for him. As he came out of the warehouse, we switched the light on and got him. 'It's a fair cop, guv,' he said. People think that that is a fiction, that criminals never say that, but they do.
There were a lot of drugs around and I got involved in several cases. At these times I was on plain clothes duty, not with the CID but on a specialist posting in the police.
After about two years I became a sergeant which meant a quieter time as you have to step back from what is happening. You now have a control job, a supervisory job. You can't go climbing across roofs with a warrant in your mouth. That's down to the youngsters. I went from station sergeant to inspector. Most of my time was spent in training and designing course work. I was happy with that. It was the sort of thing I really wanted to do. I'd done all the chasing around after criminals. Although I do remember being in the Q-car once, and we got chased by the uniformed police thinking that we were the criminals.
I was promoted to Chief Inspector and served two years on The Royal and Diplomatic Protection Department. The post was not so exciting as it may sound, as it was mainly an administration role.
On retirement, I joined the Royal Parks Police and served as recruiting and training officer, but that is another story. Well, this brought me up to my 30 years service and I'd reached retirement. I enjoyed my time in the Police Force and if I had the choice again, I would do the same. We wanted to come back to this part of the country and we found this house at Colsterworth.
This page was last edited on Monday 10-Aug-09 14:46:11 BST