Monday 4 December 2023

Metropolitan Police Cadet Corps - 1969

What you are about to read about bears no resemblance to the ‘Police Cadets’ you might find in certain areas of the UK today.  Today it is all voluntary and they are of a much younger age, so it’s more akin to the scouts or the army, navy or RAF cadets. 

I was typical of the youth of the day, two months short of my 17th birthday and busting to get out into the world on my own. I’d passed a home interview and background checks that included my parents and my sister (who was 22 years older than me, married with three children). I had also passed the recruitment tests and medical examinations that were undertaken in London at the Met Police Recruiting Centre, Borough High Street. My parents drove me from our home in Lancashire, to the Hendon Cadet Centre one sunny Sunday in April 1969.

Once checked in at reception, I grabbed my suitcase and was led off by a senior cadet, failing to appreciate that my parents were stood watching me disappear and although there was not a shred of animosity between us, I don’t believe I actually said goodbye. On reflection I could have made a much better job of this significant moment, certainly as far as Mum was concerned but not so sure about my dad.  I could not have been an easy deal for him, after all he was sixty-three and I was sixteen!  I always suspected he felt more relief than sadness at my transition. We were starting to butt heads over my motorcycle. Dad hated them, yet he had bought me a brand new one to learn on.  He then he financed my trade-up to a very exciting Honda CB250 SS once I’d passed my test. I didn’t tell him it could top 100 mph. His one condition was that I was to have training from his friend Paddy. Paddy was our local village bobby and a former Liverpool City Police traffic motorcyclist.  My Dad was a lovely man, but things were getting a little tense between us, though I eventually came to realise that he did his very best for me.


My slightly shameful farewell was exacerbated less than an hour later. I’d had a whistle stop tour en route to my dormitory; gymnasium here, assault course there, reveille at 07:00. As I was unpacking my bag, I glanced up to see a group of parents, including Mum and Dad, walk past the window on their tour of the establishment, which was led by the fearsome, ex Grenadier Guardsman, Sergeant “Bill” Bailey, with whom us recruits would soon become acquainted - we would call him ‘Sergeant’, he would call us whatever took his fancy. Mum waved at me and dabbed away a tear. I don’t know if Dad spotted me, but my selfish teenaged conscience wasn’t even scratched, let alone pricked. One day I would be a parent and would learn exactly how it feels when the child you love flies the nest. I like to think Mum knew there was no malice on my part; that it was ‘par for the course’ of a teenaged son and that I would make it up to her. Seven years later, aged sixty-eight, she would have the pleasure of a third granddaughter and enjoy precious, happy times with her, including a week’s cruise on the river Thames. Mum died a few weeks before her seventy first birthday.


My two years training as a Metropolitan Police Cadet would turn out to be the most transformative period in my life. There is no exact equivalent in today’s police, and I doubt we shall see its like again. Today there is the volunteer police cadets, but it takes kids from 13 years of age and I bet they don’t have to do ‘milling’ (I’ll explain later), which makes it sound a bit more like the scouts although it does look like a whole load of fun and can be nothing but good for adventure-starved teenagers of today.  Even today’s military cadet forces have doubtless undergone changes that renders them unrecognisable to those who I often competed against on the sports fields. The Met Police Cadet Corps regime that transformed me was established around 1960 by Colonel Andrew Croft. If you consider the background of this man, it will give you a clue as to why I consider it to have been one of the most outstanding organisations of its time for the positive development of teenaged males. Females would not be joining the cadets until 1975, by which time the Sex Discrimination Act had been passed and even the specialist ‘Policewomen’s Department’ would cease to exist, its members absorbed into the main force along with a levelling up of their pay.

While I’m on the subject of demographics, in my eighty-strong cadet intake of April 1969, there was just one non white recruit a strapping chap of African-Caribbean heritage named Mick Jackman. I never had the opportunity to really get to know him, other than brief chats at mealtimes, because he wasn’t in my House - we were divided into four separate ‘houses’ as per the school’s system of that era.  Mick was just a nice chap going through the same mill-grinding as the rest of us. Being in a visible minority of one would have brought with it many additional challenges for the guy, challenges that I couldn’t possibly have understood at the time.


The Commandant, Colonel Andrew Noel Cotton Croft DSO, OBE was an inspiration. Actually, that is an understatement. His Wikipedia entry alone could form the basis of a feature film. The below is taken from the website of the Andrew Croft Memorial Fund, created after his death in 1998.


Colonel Andrew Croft DSO, OBE, Polar Medal

Andrew Croft had a diverse and distinguished career as Arctic explorer, SOE agent behind the German lines during World War II and latterly as reforming Commandant both of the Plymouth-based Infantry Boys’ Battalion and thereafter the Army Apprentices School at Harrogate. Colonel Croft was invited by then Commissioner, Sir Joseph Simpson, to (re-) create a Cadet Corps for the Metropolitan Police.

He arrived in 1960 and retired in 1971 shortly before his 65th birthday. During his time as Commandant, the system of training underwent complete overhaul. Andrew Croft was not, however, a man to sit behind a desk. He participated in every activity, outdoor and indoor; it was his example that converted new recruits into some of the best policemen of their time.

For Croft, every young man had talent and could be trained to bring out the best in himself and, in due course, pass on the skills he had learned. Croft knew each man’s history; he shared their triumphs and disasters; with sympathy and insight, he imbued them with his own exemplary integrity and leadership skills.

Croft was awarded the DSO for his achievements in North Africa, Corsica and France during 1943-44 and was appointed OBE in 1970. His participation in the Oxford University Arctic Expedition of 1935-36 earned him the Polar Medal.


Monday 14 February 2022

Goodbye Cressida. Keep your chin up.

History has an annoying habit of repeating itself, leaving a lingering and not always pleasant taste, along with that annoying mantra, ‘I told you so’.  As I write this the British police continues to be dragged through what I consider to be one of the most traumatic periods of sustained criticism since the formation of the Metropolitan Police in 1829. 

There have always been criticisms of the police; a local Labour politician once proudly announced, after the Broadwater Farm riot in 1985, that the police got a ‘bloody good hiding’, presumably referring to the murder and virtual decapitation of PC Keith Blakelock who was going to the assistance of firefighters who had come under attack from the mob.  A woman standing next to him cheering his words ended up as the shadow Home Secretary! 

That quote caused quite a stir in the press at the time but it seems to have died the death over the last 36 years and its certainly missing from the pages of the “Black History Month” site, so at least someone seems to be letting that bygone be a bygone.  In 1829 half of Parliament never wanted ‘Peel’s Police’  and it wasn’t that long ago that I read of a motion at a debate during a Labour Party annual conference in the 80’s where there was a vote on ‘law and order’ - apparently a majority voted in favour of it; but maybe that was some journalistic joke that I took as gospel?

Politicians from all parties have their fingerprints all over this crisis, but they are the masters of smoke, mirrors and the deflection of blame. Have a long and happy retirement Ms Dick. You’ve earned it.

Thursday 17 October 2019

Are We There Yet?

I'm really only posting this to remind myself of how to do it.
Much has happened.  Good people and old comrades have died.

I became a volunteer with the regional Air Ambulance. Mrs HD and I became international dog sitters over two years ago. I am studying drama. I am still riding my beloved motorcycle. It's dark... and I'm wearing sunglasses........

......and our mighty Government still hasn't managed to conclude Brexit. I'm betting there'll be a `Jocksit` before it's sorted.

Wednesday 12 September 2018

Where Did That Come From?

Bad dream last night. It came from out of the old filing system.
I half re-lived the time I came within a gnats whisker of shooting a young chap who, as things planned out, was unarmed. We both dodged a bullet that morning.

I wrote it up under the title “The Judas Kiss in the Garden.....”

Wonder what rattled that file? Perhaps I shouldn’t have watched “Bodyguard’ on the iPlayer? That’ll teach me.

Friday 1 December 2017

Chatham House Rules - plus The New Royal Engagement

I was up the smoke last week to the annual reunion of the survivors of my old Metropolitan Police station, Cannon Row, closed down in the 80's. It used to stand within the complex on the Victoria Embankment known as "New Scotland Yard" which was the HQ of the Metropolitan Police.  That place then moved to Broadway, off Victoria Street in the late 60's to a brand new building they called....."New Scotland Yard".

Well the new New Scotland Yard got crumbly and crusty (like some of its occupants) and basically wore itself out (like some of its occupants) so they created a new home for London's police headquarters. It's now called, "New Scotland Yard" which by pure coincidence is right next door to the former home of the Met, "New Scotland Yard" - and my old nick. In my 32 years I served at numerous police stations and departments in both London and the Home Counties, but the only reunion I've ever gone to, so far, is this one. It's special to me.

Over lunch, I was sat amongst officers who formed part of the team who looked after Her Maj' when `at home` which could be any of the Royal Households, including Buckingham Palace, Clarence House, Sandringham House in Norfolk or Balmoral in Scotland. I was chatting with old chums including the Queen's former personal protection officers and some who looked after her children for decades. We all knew about the latest `engagement` and that the announcement would be coming when it did. Nobody said a word of this insider information outside of our meeting place. Not one word.

Some may call that a true reflection of the code of honour and oath of office we all took, and still hold ourselves accountable to, despite being well and truly retired. Some may say it was because by the time we tottered out of the club, full of bon homie and alcohol, into the chilly streets of London, we'd completely forgotten.

Wednesday 6 September 2017


My grandmother used to live in Forest Gate. When I was nine years old I rode my little bike the two miles from my home to visit her. Mum was cross as it was a spur of the moment thing and I hadn't asked her permission. She would probably have allowed me. Mums did that sort of thing in those days.

This shooting was just past Wanstead Park tube station. We'll be passing through there on the tube tomorrow - both ways. Luckily we're not fourteen years old.

 `Johnny used to work after school
at the cinema show.
Gotta hustle if he wants an education
Yeah he's got a long way to go.
Now he's out on the streets all day
selling Crack to the people who pay.
Got an AK-47 for his best friend
business the American way.

Eastside meets Westside downtown.
No time, the walls fall down Black man, trapped again. Holds his chain in his hand.
Brother killing brother for the profit of another,
Game point, nobody wins`.*

(*Lyrics from "Empire", a rock album by Queensryche, penned twenty seven years ago) 

Friday 28 April 2017

Fake News, Fake Drama

"`Guerrilla` on Sky Atlantic is a serious contender for best TV drama of 2017" says a headline on `Digital Spy`.

I've just sat through the first episode and have to say, as one who was a police officer living and working at the time and in the areas portrayed, I recognised very little, apart from a few Triumph Heralds and Ford Cortina's.

Actors portraying uniformed police officers were wearing helmets that would have been more suited to the London Fire Brigade, with chinstraps* worn horribly wrong (*nothing new there) and on demo duty they were issued with baseball bats - oh really? Where was that? Portraying officers indecently assaulting a lead female character during a search on the street, after first having punched her in the face for swearing at him, but then walking off? Such casual police violence I never did see. Maybe this happened to someone who heard it from someone who was told it happened to someone else.

I am aware of the phenomenon known as looking through rose-tinted glasses and I did encounter officers, during my 32 years service, who clearly had anger management problems, had a tendency to bully, who liked to invade the personal space of females (which workplace doesn't have such people?) and some who used excessive force but, from my perspective, widespread this most definitely was not; quite the opposite, it was rare. It must also be borne in mind that a past viewed through black tinted lenses can be equally distorted and in the case of this drama and probably for dramatic effect, deliberately so.

I was disappointed to see lead actors, whose talents I have great respect for, going along with this. But I suppose a job's a job. I've seen enough.