Written by Marion Edwards
Reigate Borough had its own police force until 1943 and the Head Constable had to submit Annual Reports to the Borough Watch Committee. The reports (held as SHC ref CC98/22/1) are mostly statistical, with brief paragraphs under descriptive headings outlining duties and activities throughout the year. Those made during World War I are no exception, but they do contain some insight into the effect of the war on the local constabulary. The Reigate Constabulary was a small force. In 1914, it had 40 officers in total, comprising 1 Head Constable, 2 Inspectors, 7 Sergeants and 30 Constables.
The reports for 1914 and 1915 contain an extra paragraph entitled ‘War’:
1914 – ‘War was declared in August last, which has imposed much onerous and anxious work on the Police. A great number of Home Office and War Office Orders and Communications has been issued, necessitating constant and diligent attention by the Police for efficiently carrying out the same.’
1915 – ‘The War has made the work of the Clerical and Detective Departments of the Force very heavy. Considerable investigations and reports occupying much time and attention have had to be made to the Home Office, the War Office, the Competent Military Authorities and other Police Forces.’
For 1916 and 1917, the reports are slightly more detailed than 1914-1915, giving a month by month breakdown of events. Even so, mention of the war here is very brief and rather abstract:
1916 (incorporated into the report for 1917) – ‘April… War Bonus of 3s per week granted to each member … Half pay granted to members of Fire Brigade called as “Stand-By” when hostile aircraft are reported’; ‘May … The question of calling the Fire Brigade to “Stand-By” in case of Air raids left to the discretion of the Head Constable’; ‘September … The Head Constable to inform Station Officer of every order received of the approach of hostile aircraft’; ‘December … The allowance agreed to be made by the Council to members in HM Forces to be continued as required … ’
1917 – ‘February … War bonus adjourned … Reeves fund to be invested in War Savings Certificates’; ‘March … No further depletion [of manpower] for military service … War Bonus Committee to consider further War Bonus to the Police … War Bonus increased by 1/- [shilling] per week for each dependent child, the bonus not to exceed 5/- [shillings] per week’; ‘April … Two guineas granted to PC Bryan for extra clerical services during the war’; ‘June … Head Constable to require discontinuance of noisy instruments [perhaps the army band?] … Police and Weights and Measures Department to enforce Food Orders as to prices and weights’; ‘July … Food control correspondence … Dilution of flour referred to Sanitary Committee’; ‘September … Head Constable presented memorial for war bonus … 6s per week and 1s for each dependent child granted to all ranks’; ‘October … Supt Mason paid for air raid calls and granted £3 for past … Letter of sympathy for PC Leonard in the loss of his son on active service … Home Office and air raids, and early closing’; ‘December … War Bonus resolution 4 of Sept 10th rescinded, and 5s per week to each member (except the Head Constable) 2s 6d to his wife and 1s 6d for every child not over school age or earning substituted’.
The report for 1918 returns to the format of 1914-1915 with statistics and brief sections, and includes a paragraph entitled ‘Army Service’:
1918 – ‘Constables who have joined the army, whether as reservists or as volunteers or under the Military Service Acts, cease to be members of the police service, and on rejoining the police force should be formally re-attested and should be allowed to reckon their military service for the purposes of police pension, promotion and advances in the scale of pay’
Under ‘Miscellaneous Matters’ are recorded ‘War was declared against Germany and Austria on the 4th August, 1914’ and ‘The Armistice was signed on the 11th November, and hostilities ceased at 11am’.
By 1918, although the strength of the force was officially still 40, the Reigate Constabulary had been reduced to 20, 14 of which had enlisted; one of those enlisted had rejoined the force and there were 6 vacancies. Apparently none of those who enlisted were killed on active duty.