Move along there please.

POLICEMEN using a trolley bus, bicycle, taxi, or even a hearse to chase criminals…it's not a scene from a comedy show, but memories of life in the former Ipswich Borough Police force from Geoff Lusher of Church Lane, Harkstead.

POLICEMEN using a trolley bus, bicycle, taxi, or even a hearse to chase criminals…it's not a scene from a comedy show, but memories of life in the former Ipswich Borough Police force from Geoff Lusher of Church Lane, Harkstead.

The force was amalgamated with the West and East Suffolk forces in 1967 to form the Suffolk Constabulary, but the Ipswich force was based at the Town Hall with an entrance from Princes Street. This part of the Town Hall has had several uses since the police moved out, but the blue lamp is about to be reinstalled over the door as the police will have a presence there from early this month.

I featured the borough force in Kindred Spirits recently, and asked for memories. Fomrer policeman Geoff tells us how police work has changed since he was a member of the borough police.

He said. “I was fortunate enough to join the Borough Police in October, 1957, at that time there were about 100 officers, only about six of which were women. The chief constable was Jim Crawford and his deputy was superintendent Simpson. It being such a small force everyone in it knew each other and there was a very friendly atmosphere throughout. It was not uncommon for Mr Crawford to stroll around the town centre wearing civilian clothes and to stop for a friendly chat with his officers who were patrolling the streets.

“During my time in the Borough Police there was a far greater police presence on the streets of Ipswich than there is these days. If my memory serves me correctly there were nine beats in the town centre which were policed by beat officers on foot and 12 beats covering the outer areas of the town, which were covered by officers on pedal cycles.

“Communication was limited. A beat officer was required to contact the police station at a pre-arranged time every hour; this was usually done from a police post, box or ex air raid warden buildings, which were located at points around the town. If the station needed to make contact with an officer, an amber flashing light on the posts or box was activated. Members of the public could also make contact with the station at the same points. In an emergency an officer used a public call box.

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“If it was necessary to get from one part of the town to another in a hurry an officer would often hop on an Ipswich Corporation bus. Most of the borough taxi drivers were also helpful and would even help to transport a prisoner to the station in their cab. They would also come to your assistance if you got into trouble with rowdy or struggling people. I remember one humorous incident; a taxi driver stopped when I was on foot patrol in the Norwich Road area and made a complaint about a male passenger in his cab. I decided to arrest the man, the taxi driver agreed to convey us to the police station. I sat in the back seat with my prisoner, as we went along Crown Street we slowed down approaching High Street and the prisoner jumped out of the cab and ran up High Street towards Upper High Street where the borough mortuary was located at that time. As I chased the man a hearse passed me, as it reached the fleeing man it stopped. I didn't know who was most surprised, the man or I, when fellow officer, Pc Rushmore who had seen what was happening, leaped out and apprehended the man!

“Another source of frequent help in the town centre was the United States Air Force Police who did a mobile patrol, usually in a pick up truck. If an officer was in trouble they would always stop to assist, and if you requested them to convey a prisoner to the station they were more than pleased to help. They put them in the back of their truck, and took them to the police station.

“In addition to the main police station in the town hall, there was a second station in Key Street at the rear of the Customs House. It was known as number two station, and was used by three constables, whose main job was to patrol the docks area; they were Percy Newson, Walter Dickinson and Fred Sadler. All were officers of the old school and were well known and respected by their colleagues and members of the public. Two other officers, who I am sure many people will still remember, were Jack Roper, who was the beat officer for the Gainsborough, Racecourse area, and Walter “Bomber” Harris who patrolled the Whitton area. Both were of large stature and would stand no trouble from anyone.

“Due to lack of space at the main station the Criminal Investigation Department operated from premises in Queen Street before moving to Lower Brook Street. The traffic department's garage was in Lady Lane before it moved to West End Road. When I first joined the police it ran two Vauxhall Wyvern cars and two Wolsely 6/90s plus a Bedford van and also two Triumph Sped Twins motorcycles. As I remember the Vauxhalls were used as “area” or “crime” cars, the Wolsely's and the motorcycles were used mainly as traffic patrol vehicles, but they also responded to non-traffic related incidents if required.

“Prior to joining the force it had always been my ambition to become a police motorcyclist, and after serving seven years on the beat I was lucky enough to be transferred to the traffic department. Following motorcycling and driving courses I qualified as a first class advanced driver and motorcyclist. I stayed with the traffic department throughout the remainder of the existence of Ipswich Borough Police and when the force amalgamated in 1967 to become part of Suffolk Constabulary, I remained as a traffic officer for the rest of my police service, retiring in 1987.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my 30 years police service, especially my first ten years with Ipswich Borough Police. I send my regards and best wishes to all my old colleagues and friends.”

Geoff added: “Prior to amalgamation I remember attending a meeting at the Town Hall of which the newly appointed Chief constable Mr Matthews, was present, an assurance was given that the level of policing in Ipswich would not be reduced following amalgamation, alas this was not to be the case.

“When I was on the beat it was almost impossible to pass through the town centre without seeing several officers, after amalgamation, while I was still serving, the number of officers patrolling the streets of Ipswich decreased. Now often you can go through the town without seeing a single officer.

“I fear that if the government's current plans to amalgamate Suffolk Constabulary with other forces goes ahead the level of policing in Ipswich and indeed throughout Suffolk will be further reduced resulting in an increase in crime. In my opinion, if the streets of our town and rural areas were heavily policed by officers in constant contract with members of the pubic, as was the case in the 1950s and 60s, there would be far less crime than there is today.


Do you have any stories to share about the Ipswich Borough Police. Write to Kindred Spirits, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN.

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