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History of the Metropolitan Police
11 years ago
A comprehensive history of the Metropolitan Police from 1829 to the present. In these pages you will find descriptions of famous and lesser known events throughout the history of The Met as well as biographies of key figures and details of famous cases.

police officer saluting

1829 - 1849

Until 1829, law enforcement had been lacking in organisation. As London expanded during the 18th and 19th centuries the whole question of maintaining law and order had become a matter of public concern. In 1812, 1818 and 1822, Parliamentary committees were appointed to investigate the subject of crime and policing. But it was not until 1828 when Sir Robert Peel set up his committee that the findings paved the way for his police Bill, which led to the setting up of an organised police service in London.


The formation of the Metropolitan Police Force on 29 September 1829.

Sir Charles Rowan and Richard Mayne are appointed as Justices of the Peace in charge of the Force.

Sir Robert Peel, founder of the Metropolitan Police.

1830 PC Joseph Grantham becomes first officer to be killed on duty, at Somers Town, Euston. The Metropolitan Police ranks were increased considerably to 3,300 men.    
1831 Further riots. A crowd attacks Apsley House, home of the Duke of Wellington, and break all the windows. The police eventually restore order.    
1832 Richard Mayne, the Commissioner, tries to clarify the roles of the Magistrates and the Commissioners as the Bow Street Runners continue their existance.    
     Please stay tuned for the next installment.....
11 years ago

Coldbath Fields Riot (Grays Inn Road). A major crowd disturbance was dealt with by the Metropolitan Police with controversial use of force.

PC Robert Culley was killed at this event, and the jury returned a verdict of Justifiable Homicide.

The Cully Cup
This was presented to those who returned the verdict criticising the police for the unnecessary use of force.

1834 The Select Committee designated with the task of inquiring into the state of the Police of the Metropolis reported 'that the Metropolitan Police Force, as respects its influence in repressing crime and the security it has given to persons and property, is one of the most valuable modern institutions'
1835 In October a fire breaks out at the Millbank Penitentiary and 400 Metropolitan Police officers and a detachment of the Guards are called to restore order. This prompted the press to call for the police to be put in command at all large fires.
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1836 The Metropolitan Police absorb the Bow Street Horse Patrol into its control.

An officer in a replica Mounted Horse Patrol tunic

1837 Select Committee appointed to look into the affairs of the police offices. They also propose that the City of London be placed under the control of the Metropolitan Police.
1838 Select Committee finally reports and recommends incorporating of Marine Police and Bow Street Runners into the Metropolitan Police and the disbandment of the Bow Street Office and other Offices. These were all agreed and put into effect.
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The two Justices of the Peace, Rowan and Mayne are termed Commissioners by the Metropolitan Police Act 1839. Enlargement of the Metropolitan Police District by the same Act.
1840 Gould Interrogation case in which Police Sergeant Otway attempts induced self-incrimination in the accused, which is immediately discountenanced by the Courts and Commissioner Richard Mayne.
1841 Formation of Dockyard divisions of the Metropolitan police.
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1842 Formation of the Detective Department.

The memo appointing the first officers to the Detective Body

1843 The Woolwich Arsenal became part of the area to be patrolled by the Metropolitan Police.
1844 Richard Mayne, Commissioner, called to give evidence to the Select Committee on Dogs. He stated that in the Metropolis there were a rising number of lost or stolen dogs. In the preceding year over 600 dogs were lost and 60 stolen. He declared the law to be in a very unsatisfactory state as people paid money for restoration of dogs. 'People pay monies to parties whom they have reason to believe have either stolen or enticed them away in order to get the reward...' Mayne believed it to be organised crime.
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1845 The Commissioners, in returns to the Home Office, states that the aim of the Force was to have one Policeman to 450 head of population.
1846 Plain clothes officers were frequently used at this time, but a June order made clear that two officers per division would be employed on detective duties, but that police in plain clothes must make themselves known if interfered with in their duty.
1847 Statistics for the year were; 14,091 robberies; 62,181 people taken in charge, 24,689 of these were summarily dealt with; 5,920 stood trial and 4,551 were convicted and sentenced; 31,572 people were discharged by the magistrates.

The Metropolitan Police were still, despite their good record on crime prevention, facing discipline problems amongst their officers on the 18 divisions, with 238 men being dismissed in the year.

11 years ago
1848 Large scale enrolement of Special constables to assist the Metropolitan Police in controlling the Chartist Demonstrations.

Metropolitan Police Officer takes a break during the Chartist demonstration on Kennington Common

1849 Authorised strength 5,493. In reality 5,288 were available for duty. The population at this time in London was 2,473,758.
1850 Retirement of Sir Charles Rowan as joint Commissioner. Captain William Hay is appointed in his place.
1851 The Great Exhibition with its special crowd problems forces the police to temporarily form a new police division. The total manpower of the force at this time was 5,551, covering 688 square miles.

Cartoon critical of the police handling of the crowds at the Great Exhibition. The caption reads "The Ladies and the Police - the Battle of the Crystal Palace"

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1852 Sir Charles Rowan, first joint Commissioner, dies. In his obituary note of 24 May The Times wrote: "No individual of any rank or station could be more highly esteemed or loved when living, or more regretted in death."
1853 Lord Dudley Stuart, MP for Marylebone and a persistent critic of the police, suggests in Parliament that the police are not worth the money they cost. He recommends that they be reduced in numbers, and a higher class of officers be recruited to control the constables.
1854 Out of 5,700 in the Metropolitan Force, 2.5% were Scottish, 6.5% Irish. The Commissioner was not happy about employing these officers in areas of high Scottish or Irish ethnic concentrations.
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1855 Death of Captain William Hay. Sir Richard Mayne becomes sole Commissioner.
1856 Detective Force increased to 10 men, with an extra Inspector and Sergeant.
1857 The Commissioner Richard Mayne is paid a salary of £1,883, and his two Assistant Commissioners are paid salaries of £800 each.
1858 First acquisition of Police van for conveying prisoners. These were horse drawn, and known as 'Black Marias'.

Early Prison Van

Black Marias

'Black Maria' was the nickname for secure police vans with separate locked cubicles, used for the transportation of prisoners. The name is said to have come from a large and powerful black lodging-house keeper named Maria Lee, who helped constables of Boston, Massachusetts in the 1830s when they needed to escort drunks to the cells.

drawing of an early horse drawn prison van

Early Horse Drawn Prison Van

The Met's first vehicle of any kind was a Black Maria drawn by two dray horses, acquired in 1858. Within 30 years the number had increased to eight, and a special area in the yard of Bow Street Police Court was reserved for them to load and unload their charges.

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1859 Police orders of 6 January state "It is a great gratification to the Commissioner that the number of police guilty of the offence of drunkenness during the late Christmas holidays has been much lower than last year... In A, F and R Division only one man was reported in each, and in H Division not one man was reported in the present or last year.."
1860 Police begin the occasional use of hand ambulances for injured, sick or drunk people. Accommodation or 'ambulance sheds' are later provided for these in police station yards.

Police orders on the 25 January made allowance for one third of Metropolitan Police officers in Dockyards "to be relieved each Sunday, to give them an opportunity of attending Divine Service..."

The Metropolitan Police act as firemen at the British Museum. The Superintendent in charge said of them "From their manner of doing the work, I should be inclined to place considerable confidence in these men in an emergency."

ice fulfilling fire brigade duties at one of the Dockyard Divisions

11 years ago
1862 Further expansion in the Metropolitan Police with the formations of the X and W Divisions in the west, and Y Division in the north.
1863 Drunkenness is still a problem in the force, and in this year 215 officers were dismissed for this reason.
1864 Execution of 5 pirates of the ship 'Flowery Land' at Newgate. The Metropolitan Police supply nearly 800 officers to keep the peace.
1865 Further extensions of the Metropolitan Police District in terms of the area patrolled in north east London.
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1866 3,200 police under the command of Commissioner Richard Mayne were used to control a serious riot in Hyde Park. 28 police were permanently disabled, and Mayne was hit by a stone which cut his head open. He was forced to call in the Military to restore order.
1867 The Metropolitan Police are severely criticised after Commissioner Richard Mayne ignores a warning about the Clerkenwell bombing by the Fenians. Mayne offers his resignation, but it is refused.

Police inspect the scene at the Clerkenwell explosion

1868 Death of Commissioner Sir Richard Mayne. Lieutenant Colonel Douglas Labalmondiere acts as Commissioner.
1869 Lieutenant Colonel Edmund Henderson appointed Commissioner.

Lt Cl. Edmund Henderson

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1870 The standard height for Metropolitan Police officers is raised to 5ft 8ins, except for Thames Division, where it is 5ft 7ins.
1871 As a result of frequent larcenies of linen, the Commissioner Edmund Henderson said, on the 21 April, "Constables are to call at the houses of all persons on their beats having wet linen in their gardens, and caution them of the risk they run in having them stolen..."
1872 Police strike for the first time. Various men are disciplined or dismissed, although these latter are later allowed back in to the Force.

This post was modified from its original form on 03 Apr, 18:48
11 years ago
1873 The Metropolitan Police acquire 9 new stations : North Woolwich, Rodney Road (Lock's Fields), Chislehurst, Finchley, Isleworth, Putney, South Norwood, Harrow and Enfield Town.
1874 A survey of recruiting over a 2 year period showed that of those who had joined the force; 31% came from land jobs, 12% from military services, and 5% from other police jobs. The remainder came mostly from manual jobs. The majority of recruits and serving officers came from outside of London.
1875 New police offices at Great Scotland Yard are taken possession of on 4 October 1875 by the Detective and Public Carriage Departments.
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1876 8 January the following order was released : "Relief from duty during severe weather - dufing the present severe weather as much indulgence as possible is to be given to the men on night duty, due regard being had to public safety.."
1877 Trial of the Detectives or Turf Fraud Scandal exposes corruption within the Force.

The trial taking place at the Old Bailey

1878 Charles Vincent was appointed Director of Criminal Investigations, the reformed Detective Branch which became known as C.I.D.
Charles Vincent
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Great Scotland Yard

This was a small street running east from the northern end of Whitehall, parallel with Whitehall Place. The original Metropolitan Police Commissioner's office (No. 4 Whitehall Place) backed on to it, and A Division was based there in the back of the building. The name became colloquially attached to the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police, especially as additional buildings were acquired to house branches of the expanding force.

The exact origin of the name is unclear. The following two stories have both gained creedance at various times:

It is said the location had been the site of a residence owned by the Kings of Scotland before the Union and used and occupied by them and/or their ambassadors when in London, and known as '"Scotland". The courtyard was later used by Sir Christopher Wren and known as "Scotland Yard".

The street names are said to have derived from the land being owned by a man called Scott during the Middle Ages.

Turf Fraud Scandal or the Trial of the Detectives

This notorious corruption scandal in 1877 resulted in the reorganisation of the Detective Branch into the CID.

A rich Parisian woman, Madame de Goncourt, became the victim of two English confidence tricksters, Harry Benson and William Kurr, who persuaded her to part with £30,000. Scotland Yard were called in, and Superintendent Adolphus Williamson employed a bright multi-lingual Chief Inspector, Nathaniel Druscovich, to bring Benson back from Amsterdam where he had been arrested. Druscovich seemed to find the job surprisingly difficult. Sergeant John Littlechild and two others were sent to catch Kurr, and were repeatedly foiled by his moving on just as they expected to arrest him. Eventually they caught up with him in Edinburgh, and he stood trial and was convicted.

Scotland Yard began to wonder why the arrests had been so difficult, and Benson and Kurr began to explain. Inspector John Meiklejohn, a deeply corrupt character, had been in Kurr's pay since 1873, accepting large sums of money to tip him off when his crimes were about to lead to his arrest. Meiklejohn had offered Druscovich the opportunity to borrow money from Kurr to repay his brother's debts, and thus Druscovich was also implicated, as was Chief Inspector Palmer, who appears to have been duped into going along with his colleagues.

drawing of trial in progress at the Old Bailey

The trial in progress at the Old Bailey

The three were sentenced to two years in prison, and the scandal nearly wrecked Williamson's career. Although his integrity was unquestioned, his supervision of subordinates seemed wanting, and following the Committee of Inquiry, Howard Vincent was given the opportunity to reshape the Detective Branch.

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CID - Criminal Investigations Department

The Criminal Investigations Department was the successor to the Detective Branch which was reorganised after the Trial of the Detectives. CID has become the normal term for plain clothes police detectives in the UK. It was founded on 8 April 1878 by Howard Vincent. Initially Vincent was directly responsible to the Home Secretary, but since 1888 the CID has come under the authority of the Commissioner.

Charles Vincent

Charles Vincent, Director of Criminal Investigation

Vincent inherited a small body of detectives in Scotland Yard, with others in the Divisions under the command of Divisional Superintendents. His new Department proposed for the first time the formal establishment of permanent Divisional Detective sections who would liaise with the central Branch at Scotland Yard.

The 60 Divisional Detective patrols and 20 Special Patrols commanded by 159 sergeants and 15 Detective Inspectors would be an improvement on the occasional plain clothes or 'winter patrols' of two working on a monthly shift system in the Divisions.

At Scotland Yard the old Detective Branch was remodelled with one Superintendent (Williamson) commanding 3 Chief Inspectors and 20 Inspectors, and an office staff of six Sergeants and constables.

The CID were paid slightly more than uniformed police, and could also claim a number of allowances. In 1883 Vincent set up the Special Irish Branch, which, as Special Branch, would become the first of the specialized squads and units spun off from the CID.

CID officers cunningly disguised as dockers during an investigation into drug smugglers at Limehouse Docks C. 1911

The same CID offciers dressed in their sunday best


10 years ago
1879 Initial rules for dealing with Murder cases, released on 7 June, stated "the body must not be moved, nor anything about it or in the room or place interfered with, and the public must be excluded.."
1880 Formation of the Convict Supervision Office for the assistance and control of convicts discharged upon license.
1881 Possibly London's most famous police station, Bow Street, was rebuilt in this year.

Bow Street Police Station

Bow Street Police Station

Possibly London's most famous police station, Bow Street was the site of the first Police Office, and subsequently the premier London magistrates' court.

When the Metropolitan Police was founded in 1829, the two Commissioners placed the station house on the site of numbers 25 and 27. Bow Street Station became the Divisional Station of the original F Division (Covent Garden), and remained the Divisional Station for Holborn and Covent Garden when E and F Divisions were merged in 1869 and F Division ceased to exist for several years.

The Bow Street magistrates' had developed an anomalous legal independence, with no statutory basis for its authority. This was ended by the 1839 Metropolitan Police Act, which defined them as Stipendiary Magistrates like the others. Nevertheless, Bow Street continued to be seen as the premier London Magistrates Court, and committal proceedings for great criminal cases such as that of Dr Crippen continued to take place at Bow Street.

bow street police station

Bow Street Police Station and Court. In the foreground a horse drawn prison van (Black Maria) pulls away to the interest of the bystanders

In 1861 blue lamps were introduced outside police stations, but Queen Victoria objected to having this distressing reminder of the blue room in which Albert died confronting her whenever she visited the Opera House. Bow Street therefore became the major London police station which famously did not have a blue lamp but a white one.

Construction of the new purpose-built Bow Street police court and station, with a section house for the 106 PCs was started in 1878 and completed in 1881.

The Metropolitan Police Historical Museum was originally housed at Bow Street, but transferred to temporary storage accommodation in Brixton in 1983, and subsequently to Charlton.

10 years ago

The Fenians and the IRA

The Fenians were 19th Century Irish Nationalists organised in 1858 as the Irish Republican Brotherhood in Ireland, and in 1867 as the Clan na Gael in the US. The name derives from old Irish 'Fianna', legendary Irish warriors whose name became an Irish term for soldiers.

Their activities included the Clerkenwell Bombing in 1867, in which 12 people were killed and 126 injured as the Fenians attempted to rescue two of their members.

police inspect the scene of the Clerkenwell explosion

Police inspect the scene of the Clerkenwell explosion

They conducted a bombing campaign between 1883 and 1885, of which the Bombing of Scotland Yard was certainly the most embarrassing for the Met.

In 1883 Scotland Yard received an anonymous letter threatening to 'blow Superintendent Williamson off his stool' and dynamite all the public buildings in London on 30 May 1884. On the predicted night, shortly before 9pm, the CID and Special Irish Branch headquarters were indeed successfully bombed, although since the building was empty only neighbours and a cabman were injured by shattered glass. The bomb was concealed in a cast-iron urinal on the corner of a detached building in the centre of Great Scotland Yard which now housed the CID. Williamson's office was completely destroyed. That same night, bombs went off in the basement of the Carlton Club and outside Sir Watkin Wynne's house, and an unexploded bomb was found at the foot of Nelson's column.

Damage caused to Scotland Yard and the Rising Sun public house following the

Damage caused to Scotland Yard and the Rising Sun public house following the Fenian bombing

The failure of Scotland Yard to protect its own offices, and the subsequent successful explosion of Fenian bombs under London Bridge, in the Tower of London and in the House of Commons the following year did much to lower the reputation of the Metropolitan Police.

The activities of the Fenians led to the formation of Special Branch (Initially the Special Irish Branch) as the first specialist operational Sub-Division of the CID. The Irish Republican Army effectively continued the Fenian's work after the failed Easter Rising of 1916.

The British reaction to the rising shocked the Irish people when the 16 leaders were executed, so whereas the Fenian Irish Republican Brotherhood had been the unpopular extremist wing of the Nationalist movement, it became possible from 1919 for the IRA to command the mass support required for successful guerrilla activity against an occupying power.

10 years ago

The growth of London and the area needing policing is illustrated in Tottenham, (Y Division) when 8 miles of new streets are formed in a year with nearly 4,000 houses on them.

The Metropolitan Police at Devonport Dockyard illustrate the diversity of the role of the force as the Police Fire Brigade has its busiest year since formation with 6 major fires.

1883 Special Irish Branch formed.
1884 A bomb explodes at Scotland Yard planted by the Fenians. The Special Irish Branch are hit.

Damage caused to Scotland Yard and the Rising Sun pub following the Fenian bombing

10 years ago
1885 The strength of the force at this time was 13,319, but statistics show that only 1,383 officers were available for beat duty in the day. The population of London at this time was 5,255,069.

Public outrage at the explosions at the Tower of London and Houses of Parliament. Two men are sentenced to penal servitude for life as a result.

1886 Trafalgar Square riot forces resignation of the Commissioner Sir Edmund Henderson.
1887 Major riot in Trafalgar Square, known as 'Bloody Sunday', the first test for the new Commissioner Sir Charles Warren, appointed the previous year.
1888 Sir Charles Warren resigns after a dispute with the Home Office, and James Monro is appointed Commissioner in his place.

Jack the Ripper murders in the Whitechapel area.

James Monro

Trafalgar Square Demonstration and Riot 1886

This brief riot and subsequent panic caused the resignation of the Commissioner, and is sometimes known as Black Monday.

On Monday 8 February two rival organisations, the London United Workmen's Committee and H.F. Hyndman's revolutionary Social Democratic Federation, gave notice of their intention to hold meetings in the square on the same day. Although it was recognised that they might clash violently, there had been no grave public order problems in London since the Hyde Park Riot in 1866, two years before the Commissioner's appointment, and the Home Secretary was preoccupied with Irish Home Rule.

As a result, neither man ordered serious precautions. The meetings were approved with arrangements for a small force of constables to police the square, and a reserve of 563 men standing by. District Superintendent Robert Walker was appointed to maintain public order, but he was 74 years old and quite unsuitable for such active service. He went in plain clothes to observe the meetings, lost touch with his men and disappeared into the crowd, where he had his pockets picked.

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The meetings passed off without incident, but when the speakers had left the square a crowd of 5000 streamed west along Pall Mall and resumed a more fiery meeting in Hyde Park. A garbled message came to the reserve that there was trouble brewing in The Mall instead of Pall Mall, so they marched away to protect Marlborough House and Buckingham Palace, while a few hundred metres north the mob rushed unhindered along Pall Mall and St James's, smashing club windows as they went.

The meeting in Hyde Park inspired more mayhem, and in the early evening they raged back down Oxford Street breaking shop windows and looting. At Marylebone Lane, Inspector James Cuthbert was routinely parading a Sergeant and 15 constables. When he heard a mob was approaching he marched his men down to Oxford Street, and with a determined baton charge the 17 policemen scattered the crowd and ended the riot.

Two days later in thick fog, Oxford Street traders received word another mob was approaching, and they hastily barricaded their windows and waited for an event that never took place. Scotland Yard was blamed for this panic, and it was claimed (erroneously) that the Commissioner had issued the unnecessary warning. A committee was set up to report on the incidents, and Henderson, realising he was to be made scapegoat, resigned. The circumstances of his going lent appeal to the idea of a more military Commissioner, and he was replaced by Sir Charles Warren.

Bloody Sunday 1887

This riot in Trafalgar Square on 13 November 1887 caused many injuries and some alleged loss of life, and led to a sustained media campaign against the Commissioner.

In the summer of 1887, large numbers of the destitute unemployed began camping in Trafalgar Square. Their presence made the square a centre for political agitation, and by September the Commissioner, Sir Charles Warren, fearing London would again be at the mercy of the mob, asked the Home Secretary to ban all meetings in the square.

Home Secretary Matthews procrastinated throughout October, during which time Warren had to post up to 2000 policemen around the square on weekends to ensure public order. In November Matthews suddenly gave way and allowed Warren to prohibit meetings in and around the square.

The left-wing press, who had previously perceived Warren as a desirable intellectual progressive, perceived this as having been done on his sole authority, and felt it to be unlawful and provocative. A meeting to challenge his order was called for 2.30pm on Sunday 13 November, and Warren responded by expressly prohibiting any procession from entering the square on that day.

Warren stationed his 2000 men and took up a position to oversee events in the square himself, from which he sent reports at intervals to the Home Secretary. By mid afternoon Warren was forced to call in 400 foot soldiers and the Life Guards to relieve the police.

By the end of the day John Burns, the dockers' union leader, was arrested, as was the radical MP R.B. Cunninghame Graham, who had been injured in the fighting, and Charing Cross Hospital was filled with casualties. The left-wing press reported that one or more people had subsequently died of their injuries. Skirmishes continued until December, including a huge brawl in Westminster Abbey. The radicals held regular weekly demonstrations in Trafalgar Square, and Warren's unfortunate policemen were marshalled in for extra weekend duties to control the crowds.

10 years ago

Sir Charles Warren

Sir Charles Warren

Sir Charles Warren, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police 1886 - 1888.

This Punch cartoon was published in November 1886 entitled 'The Bulgarian Question.' The caption reads:

Mr Punch. "Bravo, Sir Charles! You've done capitally with the Dogs and Democrats. Now, how about the burglars?"
Chief Commissioner of Police. "All right, Mr Punch! 'Much has been done, but more remains to do'!

Sir James Monro

Sir James Monro

Sir James Monro, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police 1888 - 1890

10 years ago
1889 The last of the so called "Whitechapel" murders is discovered with the death in Castle Alley on 17 July of Alice McKenzie.
1890 Opening of the new headquarters at the Norman Shaw Building on the Embankment known as New Scotland Yard.

Police strike at Bow Street Police Station.

Sir Edward Bradford is appointed Commissioner after the resignation of James Monro.

Sir Edward Bradford

1891 The Public Carriage and Lost Property Offices move from Great Scotland Yard to the new offices at New Scotland Yard on the 21 March.

A member of staff at the new Lost Property Office

New Scotland Yard

This red and white brick Victorian Gothic building designed by Norman Shaw was located on Victoria Embankment, SW1 adjacent to Cannon Row police station and built specifically to be the new Police Headquarters.

Norman Shaw Building

The Norman Shaw Building of New Scotland Yard on the Embankment

The building was the site of the unsolved Whitehall Mystery (1888) when a woman's torso was concealed in the cellar by night as the building work was in progress. Its main gates provided a background in many police films, and it held the original telephone number Whitehall 1212. However, the offices were cramped and inadequate and relocation was made essential by the 1960s.

New Scotland Yard, Broadway - arial view

The new headquarters in Broadway, 1967

From 1967 the Metropolitan Police Headquarters have been located at 10 Broadway, SW1. This is a plain stainless steel clad office block behind St James's Park Underground Station. Its most famous feature is the revolving sign outside, which performs over 14,000 revolutions every day.

Sir Edward Bradford

Sir Edward Bradford

Sir Edward Bradford, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police 1890 - 1903

10 years ago
1892 Dismissals and rank and pay reductions were common at this point, and the case of Pc379A Best whose resignation on 21 July illustrates how the Metropolitan Police attempted to keep its men in order. He was "in possession of a tea-can, the property of another constable, obliterating the owners number, substituting his own name and number, telling a deliberate falsehood in connection therewith; and considered unfit for the police force."
1893 PC George Cooke, a serving officer, is convicted for murder and hanged.
1894 The Alphonse Bertillon system of identification comes into operation.

Anthropometric measuring devices used in the System

Fingerprint Bureau

Very many books and scientific papers have been published on the subject of Fingerprints, and reference to 'the prints from man's hand' can even be found in the Bible.

The study of the application of fingerprints for useful purposes appears to have started in the latter part of the 17th century when, in 1684, the anatomist Doctor Nehemiah Grew published a paper on the subject which he illustrated with drawings of various fingerprint patterns. About the same period, in Italy, Professor Malpighi was investigating the function of the skin.

It was in 1860 that the use of fingerprints as a reliable means of individual identification really started. Sir William Herschel, an administrator in the province of Bengal, India, appreciated the unique nature of fingerprints and established the principle of their persistence. Fingerprints are formed in full detail before birth and remain unchanged throughout life unless they are affected by a deep seated injury. A method of classifying fingerprints and research in this field was initiated by Sir Francis Galton and Henry Faulds independently at the end of the 19th century.

Anthropometric measuring devices

Anthropometric measuring devices in brass and mounted on wood. Used in the Alphonse Bertillon system of identification

10 years ago

In 1900 a committee was appointed by the Home Secretary under the chairmanship of Lord Belper to enquire into methods of the 'Identification of Criminals by Measurement and Fingerprints'. About this time, Mr. E.R. Henry, later to become Sir Edward Henry, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, published his book, 'The Classification and Use of Fingerprints'. This proposed a method of fingerprint classification and comparison to replace the inaccurate Bertillon anthropometric measurement system, which was then in use, which only partially relied upon fingerprints for identification. Henry was one of sixteen witnesses invited to appear before this committee to explain the system which he had devised. Following the recommendations made by this committee, the Fingerprint Branch at New Scotland Yard was created in July 1901 using the Henry System of Classification.

The Fingerprint Branch at New Scotland Yard, which started with just three people, has expanded over the years and the present Identification Service is now provided by a staff of 600 technical and administrative officers. Today, there are two Fingerprint Bureaux at New Scotland Yard, viz. the National Fingerprint Office (which together with the National Criminal Record Office forms the National Identification Bureau) and the Metropolitan Police Scenes of Crime Branch, which incorporates the Fingerprint, Photographic and Scenes of Crime Examination Services.

The importance of having a National Fingerprint Collection has been recognised by all police forces in the United Kingdom even though they have their own local fingerprint bureaux.

Each day, the fingerprints of people who have been sentenced to a term of imprisonment, and those who have been arrested and charged with other than the most minor offences, are sent to New Scotland Yard for processing. The fingerprints of those who are not subsequently convicted are, of course, destroyed.

One of the primary functions of the National Fingerprint Office is to establish whether the person has a previous record. After a name check has been made, the enquiry fingerprints are compared with the master set of any suggested match. If this proves negative, the fingerprints are coded and the coding transmitted to the Police National Computer at Hendon.

The coding of the enquiry prints is analysed by the computer and only those criminals whose prints could possibly match are listed as respondents on a computer print-out.

Until recently, Identification Officers would make a comparison of the enquiry with the paper fingerprint forms of the respondents, which are all filed in the National Fingerprint Collection, in order to establish whether any computer suggestion was positive.

However, after some years of research and planning, an automatic retrieval system known as the 'Videofile System' was installed and fingerprint comparisons are now made by Identification Officers at Visual Display Units.

These processes, which have eliminated the need for much laborious searching, often result in a rapid reply from the computer indicating that there is no inclusion which matches the coding enquiry fingerprints.

10 years ago

Within the organisation of the Scenes of Crime Branch there operates a field force of 200 Identification Officers and Scenes of Crime Officers who are responsible for examining Scenes of Crime throughout the Metropolitan Police District. Scenes of serious crime are examined for fingerprints by Senior Identification Officers. The function of these officers is to detect and record any finger or palm marks which an offender may have left at the scene. They also retrieve forensic clues, e.g. blood samples, shoe marks, etc., which are then forwarded to the Forensic Science Laboratory for analysis.

Finger and palm marks are sent to the Metropolitan Police Scenes of Crime Branch at New Scotland Yard where, after various elimination and checking procedures, the finger marks are coded for search on either the Police National Computer (Scenes of Crime System) or the Automatic Fingerprint Recognition System (AFR). The suggested possible fingerprint matches may be compared using the Videofile System or by browsing through the actual fingerprint collections. The Automatic Fingerprint Recognition System is a computerised method of matching fingerprints found at scenes of crime with recorded fingerprints of known offenders. The computer lists, in order of probability, any possible fingerprint matches, but does not itself make any 'identical or not identical' decisions. Palm marks are retained for comparison with the palm prints of persons suspected of committing the crime. Final comparisons between crime scene marks and offenders' prints and decisions as to the identity are carried out by Identification Officers.

10 years ago

One of the earliest cases involving the use of fingerprint evidence was in 1905, when a thumb print, left on a cash box at the scene of a murder in Deptford of shopkeepers Mr. & Mrs. Farrow, was identified as belonging to Alfred Stratton, one of two brothers. As a result of this identification they were jointly charged with the crime and subsequently hanged.

Since then, fingerprint identification has played an important role in many major crime investigations, including such cases as the Great Train Robbery in 1963, and the sad case of Lesley Whittle, who was found brutally murdered in a drainage shaft at Kidsgrove in 1975, and the intriguing case of the 'Stockwell Strangler', who was responsible for the murders of eleven pensioners in 1986.

Apart from the technical assistance which is given by Fingerprint Staff in the investigation of crime, positive identification by means of fingerprints has given vital help in cases of serious accidents; for example, train and plane crashes. They have also been valuable in identifying people who have suffered from amnesia.

Like any other major organisation, the Identification Services are always seeking ways of improving the service provided. Although computerisation leads to greater efficiency, it cannot replace the individual expertise of trained Identification Officers and the final decision as to identity which is always made by a qualified Fingerprint Expert.

10 years ago
1895 To join the Metropolitan Police the following qualifications were necessary:

  • to be over 21 and under 27 years of age
  • to stand clear 5ft 9ins without shoes or stockings
  • to be able to read well, write legibly and have a fair knowledge of spelling
  • to be generally intelligent
  • to be free from any bodily complaint

The bodily complaints for which candidates were rejected included; flat foot, stiffness of joints, narrow chest and deformities of the face.

1896 Public Carriage Office and Lost Property Offices amalgamate under the designation 'Public Carriage Branch'.
1897 Metropolitan Police Officers granted a boot allowance instead of being supplied with boots. Police boots at this time were loathed, only Sir Edward Bradford, the Commissioner, believing them suitable.
10 years ago
1898 After a series of assaults and the murder of PC Baldwin in the vicinity of the Kingsland Road, there are calls for the Metropolitan Police to be armed with revolvers.

High rate of suicides amongst officers. This is blamed by certain commentators on harsh discipline and insensitive handling of the men.

As the century draws to a close it is worth noting that the Metropolitan Police on formation in 1829 had a force of about 3,000 men, and by 1899 16,000. The population of London had grown from 1,500,000 to 7 million.

1900 Construction of a new floating police station at Waterloo Pier.

Lord Belper Committee inquire into the best system of identification of possible criminals.

10 years ago
1901 The Fingerprint Bureau commences operation after the findings of the Belper Report. Anthropometric measurements under the Bertillon system are still used, but begin to decline in importance.
1902 The coronation of King Edward VII makes major demands on the police, resulting in 512 police pensioners being recalled for duty. Extra pay, leave and a medal were granted to all serving officers.
1903 Sir Edward Bradford retires as Commissioner to be replaced by Edward Henry.

Sir Edward Henry

Sir Edward Henry

Sir Edward Henry, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police 1903 - 1918

10 years ago
1904 6 new stations buildt at East Ham, Hackney, John Street, Muswell Hill, North Woolwich and Tower Bridge. 1 is near completion and 2 other started. Major works take place on 23 other stations.
1905 An article in Police Review mentions that Pc William Hallett of Y Division, who had retired after 26 years as a mounted officer, had ridden 144,000 miles or more than 5 times around the world in the course of his duty.
1906 The Metropolitan Police at this stage in their history are on duty for 13 days a fortnight and have an additional leave of 10 days.
10 years ago
1907 Clash between the Metropolitan Police and 800 Suffragettes outside the House of Commons on 13 February. Mounted and Foot officers are used to disperse them, and allegations of brutality are made.
1908 Police Review reports "the authorities at Scotland Yard have been seriously discussing the use of dogs as the constable companion and help, and Sir Edward Henry (Commissioner), who regards the innovation sympathetically, considers the only crucial objection to be the sentimental prejudices of the public."
1909 The Tottenham Outrage occurs, in the course of which PC William Tyler and a 10 year old boy are shot dead by anarchists.

Memorial to PC William Tyler

Suffragettes 1905 - 1914

The militant suffragettes, with their campaign to win votes for women which involved breaking windows, chaining themselves to railings and threatening or abusing members of the government, presented an unusual Public Order problem for the Met. They were not, as a rule, dangerously violent, but their activities in damaging property were clearly unlawful, and they frequently employed the publicity of an arrest to draw attention to their grievance.

The Metropolitan Police, described as 'calm' and 'dignified' in 1907 by Maxim Gorky, a Russian novelist, had a reputation for respect and decorous conduct towards the middle and upper classes and gallantry towards women which was difficult to maintain whilst arresting a struggling suffragette. Furthermore, they adopted hunger strike tactics in prison. It was a relief to the police when the suffragettes shelved their activities for the duration of WW1, and many of them enrolled in institutions which ultimately became the Women Police.

10 years ago

Police dogs

Dogs and man have co-operated to perform many tasks over the years in war and peace, for hunting, tracking, guarding, hauling and communicating. Dogs have continually shown that they can provide both valuable assistance and warm companionship.

In 19th century Britain, pet dogs often accompanied police on their patrols. The Hyde Park police station in the 1890's had 'Topper a fox terrier who often joined their patrols. Bloodhounds were brought into the 'Jack the Ripper' case in 1888 as public hysteria mounted, but unfortunately, because of confusion in a test session they were not given a proper chance to show their abilities.

The story on the Continent was quite different. The achievements of trained police dogs in Ghent, Belgium spread to several Continental countries, and by World War I, dogs were being scientifically trained to perform specific military duties, as messengers, guards and sentries The German Shepherd, used extensively by the Germans on the Western Front, attracted considerable attention both in England and the United States.

One puppy, abandoned by the retreating Germans in 1918, was taken by an army sergeant to America. There he became world famous as Rin Tin Tin, starring in 122 Hollywood films, showing the popularity of the breed in England and the world.

Continued success with dogs by Continental police forces in the 1920's and 30's sparked an interest in the Home Office in Britain. An experimental training school was established to examine kinds of training desirable and to show which breeds had greatest aptitude for police work.

Two specialIy trained Labradors were officially introduced to the Metropolitan Police Force in 1938 and were based in South London with the idea of accompanying police on beats in the countrified suburbs. Then, the coming of another World War focused police attention on other priorities. After World War II a small training school was set up at Imber Court in Surrey and more training and experiments were run - including a highly successful test in using dogs to accompany patrols in Hyde Park. On their very first night one of the dogs foiled a purse snatching attempt, and the crime rate in the park plummeted.

10 years ago

The value of the Dog Section was now well established and in 1953 it moved to its present site at Keston, near West Wickham in Kent.

Police dogs play a vital role in the work of the Metropolitan Police, assisting police officers in both routine and specialist work.The first choice of a breed of dog for police work is the German Shepherd. Its characteristic expression gives the impression of sharp vigilance, fidelity, liveliness and watchfulness. The police-bred and trained German Shepherd stays alert to every sight and sound, with nothing escaping its attention it is fearless, with a decided suspicion of strangers, unlike some breeds which are immediately friendly The German Shepherd's highly developed senses are complemented by its high standard of intelligence.

By the time the dogs are born, bred, reared, and finally operational they represent an investment of almost £6,000 in time and money. When this dog is on patrol it is considered one of the Metropolitan Police's most powerful deterrents to crime. Yet these dogs should never be considered vicious. They have been very carefulIy chosen, evaluated and trained to have an even temperament and exert only the force required by any given police situation -to be only as bold and brave as called for by their handler.

As a team, handler and dog are an extremely sensitive command unit with a level of understanding that often seems to go beyond words. Their temperaments have been matched as carefully as possible, and through living together they can often understand each other in a way that defies description Both dogs and handlers have risked, and sometimes lost their lives to protect each other They are a team, and each part of the team has been carefully selected.

A police officer who volunteers to become a dog handler must have completed two years street duty experience as a uniformed Police Constable and with settled home circumstances. Once approved by a board of senior officers, the prospective handler attends a two week suitability course to make sure that he has the ability and temperament to work with dogs. If he completes this course successfully, he is allocated a puppy which is usualIy 12 weeks old. The puppy then goes to live in the handler's home and becomes part of his family, creating that level of trust that is the essence of a good working relationship.

At the time of allocation, handlers are taught about the care of their puppies and problems that can arise; for example, improper discipline in the home, which can break the dog's spirit. Then there are monthly visits at Keston until the puppy is ten months old, to check on development. At ten months, dogs go with their handlers on a five day course to test the dog's ability. FinalIy at twelve months they go on a basic training course. If all goes well at the end of that, the dog will be fulIy schooled as an operational police dog.

10 years ago

The training course at Keston is carefully devised to produce the best results by preparing the dogs for almost every situation they are ikely to face in their normal round of duties. It is training based on praise, starting with obedience exercises -the elementary heel work and introducing the 'sit' and 'down'. The training moves on to tracking, following a ground scent over different types of terrain in varying conditions. The dogs are taught to search different types of places such as open country, wooded areas and buildings for criminals and property, and give tongue or "speak" as soon as they find what they have been seeking. By the end of the final stage the dogs are completely trained in criminal work involving the chase and attack, stand off, chase in the face of stick, gun and other weapons and how to control prisoners and crowds. But at all times the training emphasises only the use of enough force necessary to carry out their police duty.

At the end of 14 weeks the dogs are ready to go on the streets as operational police dogs, though they get continuation training and evaluation every four months, at which time both handler and dog are re-assessed.

They will be assigned to Police Divisional stations throughout the Metropolitan Police District and can expect their duties to vary widely, from keeping soccer hooligans in order to searching for a lost child.

Police dogs

Teddington Sector is also home for our area dogs section, where dogs like Met Pol Sharne work from below is a Photo (6K of the dog section at work searching the Rugby Football Ground at Twickenham before a royal visit.



10 years ago

Tottenham Outrage 1909

PC TylerPC William Tyler and 10-year-old Ralph Joscelyne were murdered and 21 people injured by two "anarchist" robbers trying to escape after a wages snatch. Paul Hefeld and Jacob Lepidus were Latvian immigrants who stole the wages from Schnurrman's rubber factory on the corner of Tottenham High Road and Chesnut Road on 23 January 1909.

The two were armed with pistols, and when the chauffeur-driven car carrying the wages clerk drew up they seized the cash bag and shot at the driver and a passing stoker who tried to restrain Lepidus. The shots brought reserve constables William Tyler and Albert Newman running from the police station, later joined by officers from the nearby section house on bicycles, and thus began the long chase during which the anarchists would fire over 400 rounds at their many pursuers.

At Mitchley Road Mission Hall PC Newman urged the chauffeur to try to run down the gunmen with the wages car. In response, Lepidus and Hefeld shot and injured Newman and the chauffeur, and shot Little Ralph Joscelyne as he ran for the cover of the car. The boy was rushed to hospital but pronounced dead on arrival. Police in the station now smashed open the locked firearms cupboard to bring pistols to the pursuit.

At a railway footbridge leading to Tottenham Marshes, PC Tyler took advantage of the wall cutting off Lepidus and Hefeld's view to race over race ground and catch up with them. 'Come on, give in. The game's up,' he said. Hefeld deliberately shot him in the face at point-blank range. Tyler bled to death in the scullery of a nearby cottage.

The chase became almost farcical as the two men commandeered a tram and forced the conductor to drive it when the driver hid upstairs. The police commandeered a tram going in the opposite direction and made it reverse after them, the occupants of the two trams firing ineffective shots at each other. The conductor got rid of his unwanted passengers by warning them there was a police station round the corner. The gunmen tumbled out and commandeered a parked milk van, immediately wrecking it by cornering too fast. They then stole a parked greengrocers van, but could not force the horse into more than the slowest of ambles because they had omitted to release the break.

10 years ago

The two men then abandoned the van and ran along a path beside Chingford Brook. When the path petered out, leaving them trapped by a high fence, Lepidus scrambled over it. Hefeld was exhausted, and seeing he was about to be arrested, shot himself in the head. He was taken to hospital where he refused to speak until he died three weeks later, with the uninformative remark, "My mother is in Riga." Lepidus, meanwhile, locked himself into the bedroom of a nearby cottage, and used his last bullet to kill himself as officers broke in and fired shots through the door at him.


the funeral procession

PC Tyler's Funeral Procession

A collection of £1,055 was raised for PC Tyler's widow. The King's Police Medal was instituted in recognition of the gallantry of those officers who had pursued the murderous pair. The outrage had considerable influence on public and police perception of immigrants and the international left, and provoked some misplaced public anti-Semitism. This in turn influenced the Siege of Sidney Street.

10 years ago

Siege of Sidney Street - 1911

This gun battle in which troops were brought in to assist the police was unprecedented in the history of the Met. Although the Gardstein gang, (Latvian immigrant burglars), had already killed three policemen and injured two others when fighting their way out of the interrupted Houndsditch robbery, nobody envisaged the two men in 100 Sidney Street opening a gun battle and fighting to the death when they were surrounded with no possibility of escape.

The Metropolitan Police received information that two of the Gardstein gang were sheltering in Mrs Betsy Gershon's flat in Sidney Street. The combined force of Met and City Police cordoned off the area and evacuated other residents. The gunmen had removed Mrs Gershon's skirt and shoes to prevent her from leaving the building, but she was permitted to go downstairs, where the police rescued her.

Inspector F. P. Wensley, commanding the H Division (Whitechapel) police, went with several officers to knock on the door. Receiving no answer he threw pebbles at the window, from which there immediately came a volley of pistol shots, one of which hit Detective Sergeant Ben Leeson. Leeson needed immediate hospital treatment, and since the only way to carry him there out of the line of fire was to take him on the roof, Wensley, unarmed, supervised his removal.

10 years ago

The police were armed with bulldog revolvers, shotguns and rifles fitted with .22 Morris-tube barrels for use on a minature range, but these proved completely inadequate for flushing out the gunmen, whose Mauser pistols were capable of rapid and deadly fire. The Home Secretary Winston Churchill gave permission to send for troops before going himself to Sidney Street to take command.

Twenty one volunteer marksmen of the Scots Guards arrived from the Tower of London. Three were placed on the top floor of a nearby building, from which they could fire accurately into the second storey and attic windows from which the gunmen had been shooting. The gunmen were driven down to the lower floors where they came under fire from more guardsmen positioned in houses across the street.

Churchill arrived just before midday and decided heavier artillery was needed. Before it could arrive, smoke was observed rising from the building, and one of the gunmen emerged from a window, then fell back suddenly, almost certainly having been shot. The rate of fire then slowed considerably.

10 years ago

The building burst into flames, and although the Fire Brigade arrived they were forbidden by Churchill to extinguish the blaze. The last shots from 100 Sidney Street were heard at 2.10pm. Fire gutted the building, and the roof caved in. Firemen were at work to prevent damage to other buildings when a wall collapsed, burying five people, one of whom died in hospital. Two bodies were discovered inside the house, one on the first floor where he had been shot, and the other on the ground floor where he had been overcome by smoke.

The failure of the police marksmen and their equipment was duly noted, and improved firearms were ordered with better training for officers. This was a very rare case of a Home Secretary taking police operational command decisions.

1910 - 1929

Radio Telegraphy used for the first time, resulting in the capture of Doctor Crippen.

The miners strike in South Wales results in many Metropolitan Police officers assisting to maintain law and order.

1910 Miners' Strike

MPS Officers at the 1910 coal strike

Metropolitan Police at Pontypridd S.W. Coal Strike

MPS Officers on the march

Metropolitan Police officers on the march at Pontypridd

This post was modified from its original form on 26 Apr, 16:53
10 years ago
1911 The Siege of Sidney Street results in armed Metropolitan Police officers taking to the streets with the military to deal with armed anarchist criminals.

Assassination attempt on the life of the Commissioner, Sir Edward Henry.

Establishment of the Metropolitan Police Special Constabulary on a permanent basis.

MPS Officers at the S.W.Coal Strike

1913 The Commissioner calls for legislation to be introduced to restrict the trade in pistols following the assassination attempt on his own life.
10 years ago
1914 With the outbreak of war, 24,000 Special Constables are sworn in, and by the end of the year there are 31,000. Annual leave is suspended for the first year of the war.

Women Police founded in this year.

Women Police 1914

1915 London Ambulance Service commences operation, taking over some of the duties originally performed by the Metropolitan Police. However, police in this year convey over 11,000 people to hospital.
1916 The Commissioner Sir Edward Henry signs a Police Order in November stating that any member of the Metropolitan Police renders himself liable to dismissal by joining a union.
Women Police

Margaret Damer Dawson, an anti-white slavery campaigner, and Nina Boyle, a militant suffragette journalist founded the Women Police Service in 1914.

Dawson wanted a uniformed organisation of women to deter pimps and discourage young women from entering prostitution, whilst Boyle wished to take advantage of the war situation to put women temporarily in men's places, with the expectation that their usefulness would lead to their permanent continuation after the war.

The Commissioner, Sir Edward Henry, permitted them to patrol the streets, undertaking rescue work among prostitutes, and issued them with identity cards. The police were asked to render them any necessary assistance, although Henry did not enlist their services to support the Metropolitan Police in any way. The women renamed themselves the Women Police Service (WP, (originally they were the Women Police Volunteers) and adopted the Metropolitan Police ranks of Sergeant and Inspector.

Grantham was the first provincial force to ask the WPS to supply them with occasional policewomen, recognising them as particularly useful for dealing with women and juveniles. In 1915, Grantham swore in Mrs Edith Smith, making her the first proper policewoman in Britain with full powers of arrest.

Women Police Volunteer Service 1914

Women Police Volunteer Service 1914

10 years ago

Lloyd George and Winston Churchill, successive Ministers of Munitions, requested uniformed women officers from the WPS to police women munitions workers in 1915.

The WPS attracted unfavourable attention by its obtrusive policing of prostitutes, harassing the women without acting against their clients, and when Sir Edward Henry was replaced as Commissioner by Sir Nevil Macready, he refused to adopt them as Metropolitan Police aides, preferring the National Council of Women's Special Police Patrols. The Women's Special Police Patrols hat no past association with militant suffragettes, and became the nucleus of the future Women Police. The head of the Patrols, Mrs Stanley, was hostile to the WPS, believing their uniforms and use of Metropolitan Police ranks to mislead the public. Under her instigation the WPS were forced to change their name to the Women's Auxiliary Service (WA in 1921, and to add red flashes to their uniform, distinguishing its members from the Metropolitan Women Police Patrols.

The Baird Committee on Women Police (1920) failed to recommend the WAS play any part in policing London, and although a WAS contingent made valuable contributions to the Royal Irish Constabulary during the Troubles, they were forced to suspend their activities in 1940, and were never revived.

In November 1918, Sir Nevil Macready appointed Mrs Stanley as Superintendent of the Metropolitan Women Police Patrols. 25 women were immediately appointed, all members of the existing Special Patrols, and although they were neither sworn in or given special powers of arrest, they were directly employed by and directly under the orders of Scotland Yard, and their duties were policing.

From 1923 - 30, women police were fully attested and given limited powers of arrest. 1930 - 69, A4 Branch (Women Police) was established under a female Superintendent. In 1969 the Women's Branch was dissolved in anticipation of the Equal Pay Act, although women police were still treated as a separate section of the service. It was not until 1973 that Women Police were integrated directly into the main force.

10 years ago
1915 London Ambulance Service commences operation, taking over some of the duties originally performed by the Metropolitan Police. However, police in this year convey over 11,000 people to hospital.
1916 The Commissioner Sir Edward Henry signs a Police Order in November stating that any member of the Metropolitan Police renders himself liable to dismissal by joining a union.
1917 At this point in WW1, some 2,300 members of the Metropolitan Police were serving in the armed services.
10 years ago
1918 Major strike of Metropolitan Police in search of better pay and conditions, and union recognition. Sir Edward Henry resigns as Commissioner, and is replaced by Sir Nevil Macready.
1919 Macready crushes a further police strike.

Women Police Patrols appointed.

Formation of Flying Squad.

1920 Sir Nevil Macready retires as Commissioner, and is replaced by Brigadier-General Sir William Horwood.
10 years ago

Flying Squad

Originally the 'Mobile Patrol Experiment' (1919 - 1920) the Flying Squad accepted the nickname in about 1921, as a small unit of Branch C1, Central CID. The Flying Squad is concerned with the detection and prevention of armed robbery and related professional crime. The expert drivers are recruited from uniformed police drivers, and given the honorary title of Detective Constable while they serve with the Squad.

The Squad was formed on a one-year experimental basis by Commissioner Sir Nevil McCready in October 1919. Inspector Walter Hambrook was given command of 12 detectives with a roving commission to travel from place to place in the Metropolitan Police District, maintaining surveillance for crime on the streets from a horse-drawn canvas covered Great Western Railway van with spy-holes cut in the side. On seeing known house-breakers or pickpockets they were to leave the van and make arrests if the occasion warrented. They were also employed to frequent known criminal hang-outs in pubs and clubs, maintaining observation on the clientele and collecting information. All members of the Squad were known to have excellent contacts with and knowledge of criminals in their own Divisions. Thus a small group of officers combined to pool their knowledge and enjoy metropolis-wide familiarity with criminals.

The Squad was reorganised and enlarged throughout the 1920s, and in 1929 given an establishment of 40 officers under a Detective Superintendent of C1 Branch. In 1948 it was given independent status as Branch C8. 1978 - 81 it was merged and renamed the 'Central Robbery Squad', although officially accepted as the Flying Squad. (Also nicknamed 'Heavy Mob' and 'the Sweeney'.)

Perhaps the most dangerous part of the Squad's work today is the 'pavement ambush', where armed robbers are arrested in the act of committing a crime. Operation Yamato resulted in an armed robber, Kenny Baker, being shot dead by police in November 1990 at Woodhatch in Surrey, and Operation Char saw two armed robbers killed after they had shot at police when they were trapped trying to rob a post office in Harrow in 1987. However, it is only rarely that police use firearms against bank robbers, more usually relying on speed and surprise.

10 years ago

Specialist Crime Directorate Specialist Crime Directorate (SCD) The Flying Squad Who are we?

In October 1918 Detective Chief Inspector Wensley summoned 12 detectives to New Scotland Yard. DCI Wensley held a meeting that was the launching pad of the “Flying Squad”

The Squad was to become an experimental group that would combat the serious increase in crime and they would have authority to operate anywhere in London. This was the first ‘mobile force’ of detectives; they were given motor vehicles and a covered wagon hired from the Great Western Railway. The mobile group of detectives achieved impressive results and at the end of a trial year were retained as a permanent section. They were issued with two Crossley motorised tenders obtained from the Royal Flying Corps, capable of a top speed of 40mph.

In 1929 the squad were issued with their own fleet of six cars, which included a Lea Francis coupe, Invicta, Lagonda, Railton 4 litre and a Bentley coupe. The improvement in speed and mobility enabled greater results and criminals and the public soon became aware of their success.

Today the Flying Squad is based at New Scotland yard and at four branch offices across London. The squads today are involved in reactive and proactive investigations. They are a highly trained, professional team of detectives with a surveillance and firearms capability.


On 22nd of September 1920 the Daily Mail featured an article by a crime reporter aptly named W.G.T. Crook, outlining the achievements of the new band of mobile detectives. He referred to them as a “flying squad of picked detectives because of their mobility". He is given credit of being the man who christened the “Flying Squad”, as this is the first record of the expression being used.

10 years ago

Famous Flying Squad cases

Detective Chief Superintendent Jack Slipper played a pivotal role in many major investigations over the last 40 years including the investigation into the Great Train Robbery in 1963. Detective Chief Superintendent Jack Slipper

In the early 1970's, Jack Slipper was also involved in the investigation of a robbery at the Bank of America, which netted the criminals £8 million.

Jack Slipper was responsible for the first "Supergrass" trials in this country and the setting up of the Robbery Squad, which gave rise to the current Flying Squad model for the investigation into armed robbery in London.

In July 1948 the squad learned of a plot to steal £250,000 of bullion from a warehouse at Heathrow airport by drugging the guards. Officers replaced the guards and pretended to be drugged, with other officers hiding in the warehouse. When the criminals arrived armed with iron bars, a violent struggle ensued and many officers were left concussed. All of the gang were arrested and received on average 10 years in prison.

In March 2004 some 56 years later a well-organised gang armed with a gun and several knives, attempted to steal over £40 million of gold bullion from a warehouse at Heathrow airport but were arrested by Flying Squad officers supported by firearms officers as they rammed the shutters of the warehouse. Eight men were sentenced to a total of over 67 years.

The 1960’s witnessed, a lengthy operation led by Detective Chief Superintendent Leonard ‘Nipper’ Read which secured the conviction of the Kray brothers, Reginald and Ronald.

The 1970’s and 1980’s saw many successes and high profile investigations, one of these being the £25 million gold heist at Heathrow.

10 years ago

In the 1990’s an armed robbery took place at Barclays Bank in Blackfen, Kent where, for the first time in the mainland UK, a machine gun was used against police, leaving one officer - Michael Stubbs shot in the head. A large number of bullets were fired as the robbers attempted to escape. Two men were later arrested at an address in Eltham, cash and firearms were recovered and both men were later convicted at the Old Bailey.

The new millennium saw another high profile success when the Flying Squad foiled a plot to steal the De Beers Millennium Star diamond from the Millennium Dome. Officers from the Tower Bridge Flying Squad kept a number of people under observation for a number of weeks, the operation was codenamed Operation Magician.

Operation Magician

The conviction of five men at the Old Bailey on Monday 18 February 2002 was the culmination of the story of how the Metropolitan Police Flying Squad foiled an attempt to commit what would have been the world's biggest ever robbery.

Thumbnail image of diamondThe five were arrested in a massive and meticulous police operation on 7 November 2000 as they tried to steal diamonds from the Millennium Dome in Greenwich, south east London.

Armed with smoke bombs, ammonia and a nail gun, the gang crashed into the Dome in a stolen JCB and smashed their way into a high security vault.

Their goal was to steal the De Beers Millennium Diamonds: eleven rare blue stones and the 777 carat flawless Millennium Star. Worth over £200million, the diamonds are second in value only to the Crown Jewels.

Thumbnail image of nailgunThe gang planned to escape by speedboat, moored outside on the River Thames but they were arrested just seconds before snatching the diamonds.

Their audacious plot had been months in the planning, but so too had a Flying Squad operation codenamed Magician. It was the biggest undertaken in the Flying Squad’s history and the judge in the case later made a special point of commending the way it was carried out.

10 years ago

Operation Magician begins

In summer 2000 the Metropolitan Police Flying Squad developed intelligence that pointed to a major armed robbery plot. The location of the heist was unclear, but police knew the identities of some of the robbers. They also knew that the gang was highly organised and would probably be armed.

Over a period of months detectives worked tirelessly to develop the intelligence picture. A major surveillance operation was launched, using officers from the Met’s Directorate of Intelligence. Within weeks police were sure they knew the venue of the robbery - The Millennium Dome in Greenwich. The exact target within the Dome was not yet clear.


On 1 September 2000 three of the suspects, William Cockram, Raymond Betson, and Aldo Ciarrocchi were seen at the venue. Cockram was followed by police as he entered the Dome and went straight to the Money Zone. There he entered the De Beers Millenium Diamond Exhibition and spent some time filming the vault with a camcorder.

10 years ago

Thumbnail image of speedboatCockram then met up with Betson, and the pair videoed the surrounding river and jetty. They were later joined by Ciarrocchi, and police observed them reviewing the earlier recorded footage and studying a plan of the Millennium Dome.

Over the coming weeks the surveillance continued, and further members of the gang were identified. There were more visits to the Dome, and in late September some of the men were spotted testing a speedboat in a harbour in Kent. Detectives thought the gang might use the boat as a getaway. The robbery was getting close.

10 years ago


Thumbnail image of JCB By early October police inquiries had identified another venue linked to the robbery - the Old Coal Yard in Whitehart Road, Plumstead.

The yard housed a disused Railtrack engine shed and it was here that detectives first observed gang members with a yellow JCB mechanical digger, registration L245 AJU. The JCB had been reported stolen some months earlier and would clearly have some role to play in the robbery.

The river

Police could not be sure when or indeed exactly how the robbery would take place. On a number of days in October the gang looked as if they were about to commit the offence. On three separate days they towed a speedboat to Greenwich and placed it in the river opposite the Dome. Other activity on those days tended to indicate that the robbery was close - but strangely it didn’t materialise.

Detectives were sure that there was more to this than merely a loss of nerve on the robbers’ part. They analysed the times and days of the aborted attempts and found that they had something in common  - the tide.

10 years ago

The tide in the River Thames fluctuates on a fortnightly cycle. On each of the days when the robbery was aborted the tide was at its highest possible level. This was vital to the robbers’ escape, since the boat could only be launched on the north side of the Thames when the water was high.

Through studying the patterns of the tide, police were able to predict the optimum times for the robbery to take place. One of these days was 7 November 2001.

The day of the robbery

The Dome - scene of the robbery attempt At 3am on 7 November 2001 approximately 200 officers involved in Operation Magician gathered at the Dome for a dawn briefing. They were prepared for a tactical operation which had been months in the planning and provided contingencies for many different outcomes.

10 years ago

Public safety was the prime consideration, and officers had plans to ensure that the robbers could be arrested quickly and safely at any given stage during the incident.

Amongst those present were 40 specialist firearms officers. Some of these would be hidden behind a secret wall within the Dome. Others were sent into the Dome in disguise. Dressed as cleaners they concealed their guns in black plastic bags and rubbish bins. Surveillance officers disguised as Dome employees also patrolled the area.

A further 60 armed Flying Squad officers were stationed around the Thames and 20 on the river itself. Officers also moved to a number of observation points between the Old Coal Yard in Plumstead and the Dome.

10 years ago

The Dome’s CCTV room was turned into a police control room. It was from here that Det Supt Jon Shatford ran the whole operation. Det Supt Shatford was later personally commended by the judge in the case.

The arrests and after

With the suspects outside the vault safely detained, armed officers moved towards the vault itself. Distraction devices were thrown inside as officers entered and overpowered the pair. As they handcuffed Adams they noticed a strong smell of ammonia and discovered that both he and Cockram were carrying bottles of the substance.

Betson, who remained inside the JCB was also swiftly arrested and handcuffed.

10 years ago

Armour and ammonia

Thumbnail image of items recovered from the gang - click for more and bigger picturesMeanwhile officers on the river moved in to arrest Meredith. Armed officers deployed on three boats left their hiding places and moved towards Millennium Pier. They quickly cut off his escape route, and arrested him. Meredith was carrying a large quantity of petrol – which police believe would have been used to set fire to the boat after the robbery.

A sixth man was arrested on the north side of the river Thames at the Lower Lea Crossing. He was parked in the White Ford Transit van (N770 AHE) which was seen towing the speedboat earlier that morning.

The robbers were taken to different police stations in South East London for questioning. On 8 November, the following day, they were charged.

10 years ago

Conviction and sentence

On 18 February 2002 at the Old Bailey, Adams, Ciarrocchi, Cockram and Betson were convicted of conspiracy to rob and Meredith was convicted of conspireacy to steal. Betson and Cockram were each jailed for 18 years. Adams and Ciarrocchi were each jailed for 15 years and Meredith was jailed for 5 years.

Judge Michael Coombe told them: "You played for very high stakes and you must have known perfectly well what the penalty would be if your enterprise did not succeed."

A sixth man involved in the robbery plot was jailed at the Old Bailey on Wednesday 20 February. Lee Wenham, aged 33, was sentenced to four years in jail after pleading guilty to conspiracy to steal. At the same time he was sentenced to nine years after pleading guilty to an attempted robbery which took place at Ayelsford, in Kent, in June 2000.

10 years ago

The robbers were taken to different police stations in South East London for questioning. On 8 November, the following day, they were charged.

Conviction and sentence

On 18 February 2002 at the Old Bailey, Adams, Ciarrocchi, Cockram and Betson were convicted of conspiracy to rob and Meredith was convicted of conspireacy to steal. Betson and Cockram were each jailed for 18 years. Adams and Ciarrocchi were each jailed for 15 years and Meredith was jailed for 5 years.

Judge Michael Coombe told them: "You played for very high stakes and you must have known perfectly well what the penalty would be if your enterprise did not succeed."

10 years ago

A sixth man involved in the robbery plot was jailed at the Old Bailey on Wednesday 20 February. Lee Wenham, aged 33, was sentenced to four years in jail after pleading guilty to conspiracy to steal. At the same time he was sentenced to nine years after pleading guilty to an attempted robbery which took place at Ayelsford, in Kent, in June 2000.

Lee Wenham had been involved in reconnaisance of the Dome before the raid and had stored the speedboat at his farm in Tonbridge, Kent. In September 2000 he was twice seen in Whitstable harbour testing the speedboat with other conspirators.

Proceedings were dropped against another man, 59-year-old James Wenham, who had been charged with conspiracy to rob in relation to the raid on the Dome.

10 years ago
1921 The Police Pensions Act comes into force, fixing an age limit for each rank at which retirement shall be compulsory.

Z Division formed on the South side of the River Thames.

1922 Commissioner Horwood admits that many of the men taken into the force in 1919 to replace strikers and those in the armed forces have given trouble due to neglecting their beats and drunkenness.

The Commissioner also comments on the growth in consumption of methylated spirits, with 80 convictions this year.

Women Constables reduced to an establishment of 20.

1923 First Cup Final at Wembley leads to major crowd problems, controlled by the Mounted Branch. Billy, the White Horse of Wembley, and his rider Pc George Scorey become a legend.
1924 The Commissioner explains in his Annual Report how the social status of a Metropolitan policeman has been raised due to his conditions of employment.
Billy the White Horse of Wembley, 1923

Possibly the most famous horse in the history of the Metropolitan Police, Billy and Pc George Scorey saved King George V and the first Wembley Cup Final in 1923 when the crowd invaded the pitch.

Scorey led Billy to clear the pitch, and thereafter both were famous, their presence requested at many events.

Billy died in 1930, and Sir Percy Laurie, head of the Mounted Branch, presented Scorey with one of his hooves, polished and mounted.

10 years ago
1925 The Metropolitan Police begin to withdraw from policing dockyards (including Rosyth, Pembroke, Deptford Dockyards) and War Department Stations.

Sir James Olive retires from his position as an Assistant Commissioner after 53 years service.

1926 Attempt to assasinate Commissioner Horwood with poisoned chocolates
1927 Public Carriage Office transfered to Lambeth
1928 Retirement of Brigadier-General Sir William Horwood. Viscount Byng of Vimy appointed new Commissioner.

Viscount Byng of Vimy

Viscount Byng of Vimy
viscount byng

Viscount Byng of Vimy, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police 1928 - 1931

10 years ago
29 Centenery of Metropolitan Police celebrated with a parade in Hyde Park and inspection by HRH the Prince of Wales.

The Police Box system commences on an experimental basis in Richmond and Wood Green.

Officer making a call from a Police Box

Police Boxes

officer making a call from a police box in the 1950sPolice boxes were large blue kiosks topped by electric lights. Each kiosk contained a telephone linked directly to the local sub-divisional police station. Officers from beat patrol could report their whereabouts from them without having to make carefully timed meetings with their Sergeants at fixed points, and the flashing light could indicate to the patrolling officer that he was required to make contact with the station.

The public also had access to the boxes to enable them to contact the police rapidly. Police boxes were installed experimentally in Richmond and Barnes in 1928, and in the following year Superintendent George Abbiss, and Mr G M Trench, the Metropolitan Police Surveyor, visited Manchester and Salford and reported favourably on the installation of boxes across London. They were gradually introduced across the Metropolitan Police District, Commissioners Byng (1928) and Trenchard (1931) installing most of them, so that the chain was effectively complete in 1937.

The interiors of the boxes normally contained, for the use of officers; a stool, a table, brushes and dusters, a fire extinguisher and a small, (often very inadequate,) electric fire.

The earliest boxes were made of wood, and later ones of concrete, which officers complained were still extremely cold.

They played an important part in police work until the mid 1960s, when they were phased out following the introduction of personal radios. In 1997 a replica police box was erected at Earls Court, equipped with closed circuit TV.

10 years ago
1930 Large number of men posted to Motor Patrol work: 4 subdivisional Inspectors, 31 Sergeants, and 324 Constables.
1931 Commissioner Byng retires. Lord Trenchard appointed.
1932 Lord Trenchard abolishes the timed Beat System and sets out his thoughts about the Metropolitan Police Personnel recruitment and promotion system.

Beat Patrol

The basis of the original police system of 1829, the Beat Patrol was adapted from the military Shorncliffe system of small communicating scout patrols.

Under the original arrangements, 8 constables would be paraded and inspected by their Section Sergeant at the station, and then marched formally out to independent positions in the Section from which each would start to patrol a small area of streets following a regular pattern. Details of the beats were kept on numbered cards. In the crowded inner London districts the beat would be about 1 - 1.5 miles in total distance. Rowan's instruction book said 'he should be able to see every part of his beat at least once in ten minutes or a quarter of an hour; and this he will be expected to do.

The inner city beats were timed so it might be assumed that there was always an officer within 15 minutes' walking distance from any point in London. As the newer divisions in the outer suburbs were established, the beats there became longer, since much of the territory was open fields between residential areas. These parts had long been the territory of highwaymen, and lone constables were at sufficient risk to warrant their being armed with cutlasses for the first 20 years of the forces existence. For a few decades after 1870 beat constables in the outer sections were allowed to carry pistols if they wished.

The beat patrol officer was forbidden to talk to colleagues whose beats adjoined his own unless about a necessary matter of duty. He was not allowed to enter pubs or smoke on duty, and during the 19th century there were no arrangements for him to take a refreshment break. Well into the 20th century while gas lighting survived on the streets, officers equipped themselves with metal flasks which could be left discretely next to the burner in a street lamp to provide a refreshing cup of hot tea as the night wore on.

10 years ago

The beat wheel (a wooden spoked wheel of about 2ft diameter with a distance measuring dial - discontinued c. 1930) was used to ensure the lengths of beats were approximately equal. By the 1880s, Commissioner Sir Charles Warren noted that his men were walking up to 20 miles (32km) a night in all weathers with extremely ill made boots whose clumsiness won them a popular reputation for having huge feet, and the nickname of 'flatfoot'. The frequent entry 'worn out', explaining a constables retirement on his record and pension papers, points to the very heavy physical demands the beat patrol made on middle-aged men.

The 'bobby on the beat' has long been the public ideal of policing. The highly visible presence of a uniformed officer guarding the streets offered constant reassurance and the regular patrols were perceived as preventing vandalism and disorder by juveniles, street prostitutes and drunks. However, beat policing is extremely manpower-intensive, and providing full geographical coverage, especially in the scattered outlying Sections, soon proved impossible. Commissioner Sir Harold Scott introduced patrol cars, which enabled officers to cover greater areas more rapidly, and Unit Beat policing tried to combine the rapid response of motorised patrols with the reassurance of home beat officers. By the 1970s it seemed that the bobby on the beat was becoming rare and, since increased mechanical traffic controlled by traffic lights had also virtually eliminated point duty, the public complained that a police officer could never be found when needed. American urban experience was showing the desirability of a return to the original ideal of serving local communities with regular and familiar foot patrols, and so the Home Beat Officer was introduced, especially for housing estates and areas where drug dealing, juvenile disorder and vandalism were prevalent.

Today the beat is patrolled with a good deal of discretion at all levels. Senior Divisional officers will make their own assessment of the best balance between Permanent Beat and Relief officers on their own patch. Personal radios have obviated the need for regular personal reports of untoward occurrences and the modern widespread ownership of telephones has made this method the first resort of the public who wants police assistance.

10 years ago
1933 Trenchard begins his programme for the improvement of Section Houses.
1934 The Metropolitan Police College opens at Hendon.

Metropolitan Police withdraw from Devonport Dockyard, bringing to a close its presence in HM Dockyards.

Opening of the Hendon College with the Prince of Wales meeting officers

1935 Metropolitan Police Forensic Laboratory opened.

Lord Trenchard retires as Commissioner, and Sir Philip Game is appointed in his place.

Section Houses

Section houses were originally used as accommodation for unmarried officers, a product of founding Commissioner Sir Charles Rowan's military background and expectation that the men should be housed conveniently for summoning them to duty as they might be needed. It was originally intended to supply one to each section, but this proved an over-ambitious target.

Until the 1930s, section houses provided extremely spartan accommodation, the only furnishings being a bed, a fold-down table and an upright chair. The rooms were regularly inspected for tidiness. As late as the 1930s, the wash rooms were still only a row of sinks and troughs, with no privacy and no running hot water.

In 1933 the Commissioner Lord Trenchard provided section houses with reasonable comfort and modern conveniences with a range of lounges and gymnasia. Until WWII, roll-calls were taken to ensure that all officers were back at their section house by midnight.

By 1968 some section houses still only provided constables with cubicles in which the walls did not extend to the ceiling, and bedrooms no more than 7ft across containing nothing more than a bed, chest of draws and space for hanging uniforms.

In more recent years the number of section houses has reduced, along with the 'married quarters', and officers are normally expected to find their own accommodation. Some section houses still exist, particularly in central London.

Sir Philip Game

Sir Philip Game

Sir Philip Game, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police 1935 - 1945. He is photographed wearing ceremonial uniform

10 years ago
1936 The Battle of Cable Street involves the Metropolitan Police in street battles with opposing political factions.

Battle of Cable Street

1937 The 999 system is introduced.
1938 Civil Defence starts with the formation of two Reserves in the event of war. The first are retired officers, the second Special Constables.
10 years ago
1939 I.R.A. activity results in 59 explosions in the Metropolitan Police District. 55 people are convicted for these offences.
1940 98 Metropolitan Police officers killed during air raids. Click here to read about the MPS officer murdered in Hyde Park during the war
1941 Air raid bombings continue, and Holloway police station is destroyed. Somers Town, Sydenham and Brixton stations are too badly damaged to be used.

MPS officer murdered in Hyde Park during World War II

Jack William Avery, warrant number 20997, was a War Reserve Constable of the Metropolitan Police. He had joined the force on the 3rd September 1939, and was posted to A Division.

On the 5 July 1940 he was on patrol in Hyde Park near the gun emplacements (anti-aircraft guns). A passer-by, George Ernest Bryant, saw a man lying on his stomach facing towards the guns apparently writing something on a piece of paper. Bryant could not exactly see what the man was writing, but at short intervals he looked up at the guns and then continued writing.

Bryant was only about 12 feet away from him when Constable Avery came up to him and after some brief conversation the officer took the paper away. The man got up and, holding a knife in his right hand, made an effort to stab Avery, who parried the blow. Avery then drew his whistle for assistance and Bryant went to his aid. The man then struck again at Avery and stabbed him in the left thigh. Despite this Avery stood his ground.

At this moment a 29 year old War Reserve Constable, Hyman Krantz, saw Jack Avery endeavouring to pull the prisoner who was kneeling on the ground. He then saw Pc Avery draw his truncheon and blow his whistle.

Krantz was 20 yards away when he saw the man rush at Avery and strike him with the knife. Krantz was about a yard away from the two men when the man turned towards him. Krantz swung his unrolled cape at the man, who rushed again at PC Avery. Avery hit him with his truncheon and the man fell to the ground as though in a faint.

10 years ago

Krantz held the man on the ground with the assistance of Bryant, and removed the knife from his hand. At this moment Station Sergeant Alfred Baker arrived by car and arrested the man and then took him back to the station. In the meantime PC Avery was taken to St Mary's Hospital.

The man was Frank Stephen Cobbett, a 42 year old labourer of no fixed address. When told he would be detained and charged with unlawful and malicious wounding, Cobbett replied "He shouldn't have interfered with me. I was only drawing an almanac near the guns. I knifed him. He hit me with a cane. It's my knife I found it in a dustbin." He was then charged.

At 5.15pm that evening a surgeon at St Mary's Hospital Paddington operated on Avery. At 2.30am the next morning his condition deteriorated. He received a second transfusion, which revived him somewhat, but he collapsed at 8.20am and died 15 minutes later.

On 6 July DI John Swain interviewed Cobbett and informed him that he would be charged with wilful murder. Cobbett said: "You say he's dead! I don't believe it. It seems impossible to me. I didn't wilfully murder the man."

10 years ago

Cobbett was born at Wandsworth on 21st November 1899 and served in the 3rd East Kent Regiment from 12th December 1917 until 15th March 1919. He had seven previous convictions for wilful damage, begging, assault on police and wandering abroad. He was a single man with no occupation and lived on his army pension of 8 shillings a week, which he supplemented by begging. He was described in his report as a "sulky stubborn type of individual of the tramp class, weak mentally, but it is doubtful if he is certifiable."

Cobbett appeared at the Central Criminal Court on the 15th July 1940 and was sentenced to death at the Central Criminal Court on the 22nd July 1940. The Jury recommended mercy and Cobbett successfully appealed against judgment at the Court of Criminal Appeal on 12th August 1940. The sentence was reduced to one of 15 years penal servitude and manslaughter.

10 years ago
1942 Police officers allowed to volunteer for the Armed Forces.
1943 In an attempt to curb housebreaking, the Commissioner Sir Philip Game asks people not to keep furs, saying "they are no doubt warmer, and look nicer than a tweed coat, but a live dog is better than a dead lion."

Sir Philip Game

1944 Looting reaches an all time record.
10 years ago
1945 Sir Philip Game retires and is replaced as Commissioner by Harold Scott.

Sir Harold Scott

1946 The Metropolitan and City Police Company Fraud Department is formed.
1947 Metropolitan Police face a deficiency of 4,730 men as a result of the war.
Sir Harold Scott

Sir Harold Scott

Sir Harold Scott, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police 1945 - 1953, at his desk in New Scotland Yard in the Norman Shaw building

10 years ago
1948 Indictable crime rate falls to 126,000 crimes, but this is still 40% higher than before the war.
1949 Lord Oakseys committee reports on police pay, recommending small increases and London weighting.
1950 The Metropolitan Police Roll of Honour is unveiled at Westminster Abbey by the Queen, displaying the names of officers killed in the 1914-1918 and 1939-1945 wars.
10 years ago
1951 Commissioner Harold Scott introduces training of cadets aged 16 - 18 to become police officers.
1952 The Dixon Report advocates many changes in the Metropolitan Police, including greater civilianisation.
1953 Sir Harold Scott retires, and is replaced as Commissioner by Sir John Nott-Bower.

Sir John Nott-Bower

Sir John Nott-Bower

Sir John Nott-Bower

Sir John Nott-Bower, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police 1953 - 1958. He is photographed in ceremonial uniform in the courtyard of New Scotland Yard, the Norman Shaw building

10 years ago
1954 Serious understaffing problems, with the force consisting of only 16,000 and needing an estimated 4,000 men, mainly Police Constables.
1955 Formation of the Central Traffic Squad, consisting of 100 men.
1956 Flying Squad makes over 1,000 arrests, a record since its formation.
10 years ago
1957 New Information Room opens at New Scotland Yard.
1958 Sir John Nott-Bower retires as Commissioner. He is replaced by Joseph Simpson.
Sir Joseph Simpson

Sir Joseph Simpson

1959 Indictable offences reach over 160,000, the highest recorded to date.
Sir Joseph Simpson

Sir Joseph Simpson

Sir Joseph Simpson, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police 1958 - 1968.

funeral of Sir Joseph Simpson

The funeral cortege assembles outside New Scotland Yard. Note the boots reversed in the saddle of the Commissioner's horse. The officers at the back of the jeep are wearing the Ceremonial or 8 button tunic.

10 years ago
1960 Traffic Wardens introduced.

Criminal Intelligence Section and Stolen Motor Vehicle Investigation branches established.


The Receivers Office moved from Scotland House to new premises at Tintagel House.

The Minicab arrives on the London scene, and the Metropolitan Police obtain 24 convictions for illegal plying for hire.

1962 The rate of indictable crimes for this year reaches an all time high - 214,120.

The series 'Police 5', designed to prevent crime, begins on BBC.

10 years ago
1963 The Commissioner, Joseph Simpson, stresses the need for the Beat system to reduce motorised patrols and deter incidents of crime.

The first computer to be used by the Met (an ICT 1301) was set up in the office of the Receiver for use on pay and crime statistics.

1964 The worst year so far this century for crime, with over a quarter of a million indictable crimes.

Regional Crime Squads formed.

Police face major criticism and complaints as a result of the Challenor Case, in which a policeman was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic and made infamous for planting evidence.

1965 Special Patrol Group formed consisting of 100 officers. It arrested 396 people in its first 9 months of operation.
first members of the Special Patrol Group

First members of the Special Patrol Group 1965

Special Patrol Group

The Special Patrol Group Unit was organised in 1961 to provide a centrally based mobile squad for combating particularly serious crime and other problems which could not be dealt with by local Divisions.

Members of the Special Patrol Group, 1965

The convenient presence of a disciplined, well-organised team brought the group into increased use for the control of demonstrations, where their presence sometimes came to assume unwanted symbolic significance.

10 years ago
1966 The Commissioner's Office and the Receiver's Office are combined.

3 Metropolitan Police officers murdered at Shepherds Bush.

1967 The headquarters is moved from the Norman Shaw Building to a new building in Broadway, just off Victoria Street. The name of New Scotland Yard is retained.
Norwell Roberts joins the Met as the first black police officer. He retired after 30 years service with the rank of Detective Sergeant and received the QPM in 1996.
the revolving sign outside the new building

Revolving sign outside the new building

1968 Sir Joseph Simpson dies in service, and is replaced as Commissioner by John Waldron.
funeral of Sir Joseph Simpson

Sir Joseph Simpson's Funeral

Sir John Waldron

Sir John Waldron

Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police 1968 - 1972

Anguilla 1969

mps officer in Anguilla

Police Constable Joe Kennett carrying out Metropolitan Police duties on the Caribbean island of Anguilla.

officers in Anguilla

Metropolitan Police Officers in Anguilla

10 years ago
1969 MPS officers sent to offer assistance in the Anguilla crisis.

Serious Crime Squad becomes permanent.

pc Joe Kennett in Anguilla

An MPS Officer in Anguilla.

1970 Clear up rate on indictable crimes reaches 28%, the best since 1957.
1971 The Commissioner (John Waldron) in his annual report said "With deep and lasting traditions the Metropolitan Police is an impressive institution by every standard and in any company in the world."
Sir John Waldron

Sir John Waldron

10 years ago
1972 Sir John Waldron is succeeded as Commissioner by Robert Mark.
1973 Robert Mark works to restore the integrity of the Metropolitan Police, and 90 officers leave as a result.

Mark establishes better relations with the media by setting out a policy of openness.

Women police are integrated directly into the force.

1974 The Peel Centre at Hendon is modernised and reopended as the Training School.
training centre

History of the Metropolitan Police Service

Peel Centre, Hendon. View taken shortly after opening in 1974

10 years ago
1975 Robert Mark makes an appeal on television for ethnic recruits.

Balcombe Street and Spaghetti House sieges were both brought to successful conclusions by the Met.

the Spaghetti House

The Spaghetti House

1976 Major riot at Notting Hill Carnival, in which more than 400 officers and civilian staff were injured.
1977 David McNee becomes Commissioner after the retirement of Sir Robert Mark.
Spaghetti House Siege, September 1975

On 28 September 1975, three gunmen led by Franklin Davies, a Nigerian, forced their way into the Spaghetti House restaurant in Knightsbridge, where the managers of the chain assembled weekly to deposit their takings (totalling £13,000 at that time). Nine Italian staff members were taken into the basement, whilst a tenth escaped unobserved and gave the alarm.

the Spaghetti House

The Spaghetti House Police immediately surrounded and cordoned off the area. The gunmen, claiming to represent a 'Black Liberation Front', demanded safe release and an aircraft to fly them abroad. Sir Robert Mark, the Commissioner, in consultation with the Home Office (since foreign nationals were involved) refused.

Attempts were made to conduct hi-tech surveillance without the gunmen's knowledge. Dr Peter Scott gave invaluable psychiatric advice about the mental state of men cooped up under threat in uncomfortable conditions. Radio reporters demoralised the robbers with the insistence their demands would never be met, and the Daily Mail nobly suppressed a hard won scoop at Sir Robert's personal request, concealing the fact that the police had arrested a man they believed to be a confederate of Davies. The police ensured Davies received a false message to the effect that his alleged confederate was being paid for selling information to the newspapers, and this completed his demoralisation. The robbers emerged with their captives unharmed. The siege had lasted six days.

10 years ago
1978 An inquiry into police pay by Lord Edmund-Davies results in higher allowances and better pay to officers.
1979 The Metropolitan Police celebrates its 150th Anniversary.

A new Force Inspectorate is formed, to provide a close and continuing assessment of the efficiency of all units of the force.

1980 Iranian Embassy siege brought to a successful conclusion after co-operation between the Met and the Special Air Service Regiment.

Formation of Metropolitan Air Support Unit with its own Bell 222 helicopter.


Bell 222 Helicopter

Air Support Unit

Eurocopter Twin Squirrel The Metropolitan Police Air Support Unit (ASU) is now part of Central Operations.

We are based at Lippitts Hill, Loughton where helicopter air support has been providing cover to London for almost 25 years.

The unit currently operates three Eurocopter Twin Squirrel helicopters on a 24-hour basis flying on average of over 260 hours per month. The unit's aircraft have flown almost twice as many hours as any other Eurocopter Twin Squirrel anywhere in the world.

The unit is staffed by Eighteen Police Constables, Three Police Sergeants and is supervised on a local level by a Police Inspector (Also know as the Unit Executive Officer - UEO). The unit also consists of various members of police staff including Pilots, Operations Room Staff, Engineers and an Intelligence Officer. The senior management for the entire Operational Support OCU are based at Wapping police station.

Each aircraft is crewed by a pilot and two police officers (Observers) and as an indication of the type of work we do the following figures were recorded in the six months (May-October 2004).

Hours Flown - 1840+ (Day - 1,552 / Night - 288)

Involved in over 410 arrests

26 missing persons located

Over £2.6Million worth of stolen vehicles located

Eurocopter Twin Squirrel

10 years ago
1981 Brixton Riots involve the Metropolitan Police in the largest civil disturbance this century.
Brixton Riots

Brixton Riots

1982 Sir David McNee retires as Commissioner to be replaced by Sir Kenneth Newman.
1983 With the aid of the MPS Policy Committee Sir Kenneth Newman devises a new statement of the Principles of Policing, and in doing so changes the emphasis from the primary objectives of policing established by Richard Mayne and Sir Charles Rowan in 1829.
Brixton Riots, 1981

These were the first serious riots of the 20th century, and the first entailing substantial destruction of property since the formation of the Metropolitan Police.

A serious increase in street robbery in Lambeth caused the District Commander to institute a plainclothes operation known as Operation Swamp 81, which resulted in a significant number of black youths being stopped and searched. This intensified the resentment of a group who already frequently protested against and obstructed police actions on the street.

On Friday 10 April 1981, PC Margottia (L 643) tried to assist a black youth who had been severely stabbed. The young man, thinking he was being arrested, broke away with the encouragement of three other youths. Two more officers caught up with him, gave him first aid and summoned an ambulance by radio. Before it could arrive, a crowd of black youths hustled him out of police protection and took him to St Thomas's Hospital by car.

The policemen who had tried to help the youth had bricks and bottles thrown at them, and four police cars coming to their aid were attacked. The disturbance lasted an hour and a half, during which time 6 people were arrested and 6 police officers injured. In the meantime, false rumours spread that the police officers had refused to help the injured young man, that they had tried to prevent him from being taken for treatment, and even that they had inflicted his injuries themselves.

As a result there was a great deal of tension in the district when the Operation Swamp searches were continued the next day. The riot was triggered by the actions of two young PCs who saw a man putting something in his socks, and searched him on suspicion of carrying drugs. Although he protested that he merely kept his money in his socks for safety, they proceeded to search his car, and walked round it to check the tax disc and licence plates. To the small crowd which had gathered to harass the officers, this appeared as provocative authoritarianism. Violence broke out, eventually centring on Railton Road, where the police only regained control after many buildings and cars had been set alight and the Fire Brigade had been attacked.

10 years ago


299 police were injured, and at least 65 civilians. 61 private vehicles and 56 police vehicles were damaged or destroyed. 28 premises were burned and another 117 damaged and looted. 82 arrests were made. Molotov cocktails were thrown for the first time on mainland Britain. There had been no such event in England in living memory.

Lord Scarman was appointed by the Home Secretary to hold a Public Inquiry. The report concentrated on the policing rather than the underlying causes of the report, but made it clear that the riot was an outburst of violence against the police, and that local community leaders and police should share the blame for the breakdown in communications. It also stated that the police needed to be better organised for riot control, and made clear the extent to which increasing unemployment coupled with discrimination against the black community in a variety of ways were vital contributory factors.

Important practical lessons were learnt from the experience, which were applied in later riots.

10 years ago
1984 PC Jon Gordon lost both legs and part of a hand in the IRA bomb attack on Harrods in 1983. On 10 December 1984 he resumed duty by walking unaided up the steps to his new office.

Whilst policing a demonstration in St James's Square, WPC Yvonne Fletcher was shot in the back and mortally wounded by shots fired from the Libyan People's Bureau. WPC Fletcher's murder led to the creation of the Police Memorial Trust, an organisation dedicated to placing memorials at the locations of fallen officers
1985 Tottenham Riots(also known as 'Broadwater Farm' riot) result in the murder of PC Keith Blakelock.
1986 Identification Parade screens introduced at Clapham police station.

The Police and Criminal Evidence Act comes into force in January.

Mounted Branch celebrates its 150th anniversary.

Broadwater Farm Riot 1985

On 5 October 1985 four police officers went to search the home of Mrs Cynthia Jarrett, near the Broadwater Farm housing estate in Tottenham. Mrs Jarrett's son Floyd was in custody at Tottenham police station having given a false name when found in a car with an inaccurately made out tax disc. The visit caused panic among some of the occupants, and Mrs Jarrett, who had a weak heart, collapsed and died despite the officers' best efforts to revive her.

The next day a small crowd started a demonstration outside the police station and broke its windows. At 3.15pm two Home Beat officers were attacked and seriously injured by a brick-throwing crowd, one of them having his spleen ruptured by a paving stone thrown onto his back when he had fallen. Following a protest meeting where responsible community leaders proposing a motion of complaint were shouted down, a police inspector driving past the estate was attacked and had his car window smashed. A police van answering a 999 call was surrounded, attacked and severely damaged by a mob with machetes, bars and knives.

By the time the first riot control police arrived the mob had put up barriers and prepared petrol bombs. Cordons of police officers in riot gear with long shields were forced to withstand a prolonged attack from rioters, including gunfire, until the estate was restored to order some hours later.

At 9.30pm a fire was seen in a newsagent's on the first floor 'deck' of Tangmere block and attempts to support the firemen trying to put it out led to the murder of PC Blakelock, who was surrounded by masked and balaclava'd rioters armed with sticks, knives and a machete who proceeded to hack him to death. The news of his death spread through the mob and as rain started to fall the violence slowly died out.

The incident resulted in a review of senior officers' training in public order tactics, the introduction of armoured Land Rovers and the preferred tactic of 'early resolution' by faster moving police units with short as well as long shields.

10 years ago
1986 Identification Parade screens introduced at Clapham police station.

The Police and Criminal Evidence Act comes into force in January.

Mounted Branch celebrates its 150th anniversary.

1987 Sir Kenneth Newman retires, and is replaced as Commissioner by Peter Imbert.
Sir Peter Imbert

Sir Peter Imbert

1988 The Commissioner stresses the need for close community liaison between the Police and Consultative Groups to foster the police / public partnership.
Sir Peter Imbert 1988
Sir Peter Imbert

Sir Peter Imbert, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police 1987 - 1993, in ceremonial uniform. He is pictured outside Great Scotland Yard stables.

10 years ago
1989 'Plus Programme' launched to improve the corporate image and quality of the service of the Metropolitan Police. It significantly altered attitudes within the MPS, and included the Statement of Common Purpose and Values.

1990 Riot in Trafalgar Square mirrors the 1887 riot in the same location.
rioters in Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square Riot

1991 Sector Policing introduced, involving a team of officers with a continuing responsibility for the same small community area or sector.  
Trafalgar Square Riot 1990

rioters in Trafalgar Square

10 years ago
1992 First 5 year Corporate Strategy published in February.
1993 Sir Peter Imbert retires, and is replaced as Commissioner by Sir Paul Condon.

Operation Bumblebee introduced on the 1 June and has a considerable impact on burglary in the capital.

The Charter is launched in September, defining the role of the Police and public expectation.

Sir Paul Condon

Sir Paul Condon

1994 Metropolitan Police Service key objectives established for the first time by the Government, plus key performance indicators.
10 years ago
1995 Metropolitan Police Committee formed on 1 April.

Crime Report Information System (CRI introduced. It revolutionises the means of recording crimes.

1996 'The London Beat' published.

The MPS launches its Website at Click here to find out more about this website.

1997 Installation of N.A.F.I.S. the National Automated Fingerprint Identification System.  

10 years ago
1998 The Metropolitan Police launch the Policing Diversity Strategy in response to the majority of issues raised into the Inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawrence. The aim is to provide better protection to ethnic communities from racial and violent crime and demonstrate fairness in every aspect of policing.    
1999 The handling of the Greek Embassy siege demonstrates the professionalism of the Metropolitan Police Service.    
2000 Sir Paul Condon retires and is replaced as Commissioner by Sir John Stevens.
Sir John issues his Policing Pledge for Londoners 

Sir Paul Condon, QPM

Sir Paul Condon

Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police 1993 - 2000.
Behind him is a portrait of Sir Robert Peel.

Sir Paul Condon took up his appointment as Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis on 1st February 1993.

Sir Paul joined the Metropolitan Police in 1967. He served at various stations in the East End including Bethnal Green and Leman Street. He was selected for accelerated promotion in 1970, and between 1972 and 1975 he was a Bramshill Scholar at St. Peter's College, Oxford, where he gained Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees in Jurisprudence.

For three years from 1975 he served as a uniformed inspector in the West End and from 1978 to 1982 was a chief inspector in the Community Relations Branch at New Scotland Yard. During that time he assisted the then Commissioner, Sir David McNee, in his inquiry into the Southall riots of 1979.

Between 1981 and 1982 he served as Superintendent at Bethnal Green. From Autumn 1982 until March 1984 he was the Commissioner's Staff Officer as Superintendent and Chief Superintendent. He then attended the Senior Command Course at the Police Staff College.

Sir Paul then left the Metropolitan Police and joined the Kent Constabulary on promotion as Assistant Chief Constable. During this time he formulated plans for the policing of the Channel Tunnel and was Head of Operations when the Fixed Link Treaty was signed.

In February 1987 he returned to London on promotion as Deputy Assistant Commissioner in charge of West London. In that post he was responsible for policing the 1987 and 1988 Notting Hill Carnivals and was instrumental in formulating the new policing arrangements which emphasised public safety.

He was promoted to Assistant Commissioner, with responsibility for Personnel and Training matters throughout the Metropolitan Police.

10 years ago

He was appointed Chief Constable of Kent in September 1989, and rejoined the Metropolitan Police in 1993 on his appointment as Commissioner. A married man, Sir Paul has a daughter and two sons. His hobbies include swimming and reading. He was awarded the Queen's Police Medal in the 1989 Birthday Honours, and made a Companion of the British Institute of Management in 1992. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in November 1992, and is an Honorary Fellow of St. Peter's College, Oxford.

Sir Paul Condon was knighted in Her Majesty's Birthday Honours in June 1994. He retired as Commissioner in January 2000.

10 years ago
Sir John Stevens, K.St.J ,QPM, DL, LL.D, Hon DCL, M.Phil, CIMgt, FRSA was Commissioner until Feb 2005 Sir John Stevens photograph

Sir John has served for 42 years in the Police Service. He commenced his career in the Metropolitan Police where he was involved in a range of activities from leading successful murder enquiries and leadership of crime squads, commander of the busiest CID office in London to the hunt for a major spy (George Blake). During a second tour at Heathrow Airport as Detective Chief Superintendent he was responsible for the operation which used covert micro optics in both aircraft holds and handling bays, this resulted in the arrest of half of British Airways handlers in one operation. Extensive administration experience was gained in a two-year period as staff officer to the head of London CID.

In 1986 he was appointed Assistant Chief Constable of the Hampshire Constabulary with responsibility for personnel and training. Two and a half years later he was appointed Deputy Chief Constable in the Cambridgeshire Constabulary with responsibility for discipline, policy and strategy, personnel, finance and administration.

In September 1989 he was appointed to enquire into breaches of security by the Security Forces in Northern Ireland known as the 'Stevens Enquiry'. It resulted in 43 convictions and over 800 years imprisonment for those convicted. The subsequent report in 1990 contained over one hundred recommendations for the handling of security documents and information. All of those recommendations were accepted and have been implemented. The enquiry has been praised by the Secretary of State in Northern Ireland, the Police Authority in Northern Ireland, the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Irish Government, amongst others. At the request of the Northern Ireland Authorities, this enquiry continued into 'Stevens II' and now 'Stevens III' and has now resulted in 98 convictions and further recommendations.

10 years ago

In September 1991, he was appointed Chief Constable of Northumbria Police where he implemented a total restructuring of the Force and crime reduction policies, which resulted in an over 42% reduction in crime over five years, results never achieved before in British policing. He was Chairman of the ACPO Crime Prevention Committee, the Behavioural Science Committee and Advisor to the Forensic Science Service. In October 1996 he was appointed to conduct an enquiry into the National Criminal Intelligence Service involving the corrupt misuse of telephone tapping intelligence. As a result he made 98 recommendations, all of which have been accepted by Her Majesty's Government and have been implemented. In September 1996 he was appointed one of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Constabulary with responsibility for the North East, the National Crime Service, the National Criminal Intelligence Service and national responsibility for crime.

Sir John was appointed Deputy Commissioner on 1 May 1998 and led the fight against corruption. He took up his post as Commissioner on 1 February 2000.

He has been Patron of a North East Charity since 1992, which has built schools and care centres for mentally and physically handicapped children. He is also the creator of Convoy 2000, a charity set up to improve the quality of life for Romanian orphans, Aids sufferers and disabled children. He was awarded the 'Star of Romania' by the President of Romania and the Rotary 'Paul Harris Fellowship' for this work. He is Patron of the Greenwich Community Safety Trust, the Northumbria University Community Safety Research Unit and The Security Institute; he is also Patron of the Thessaly Community Centre in Battersea.

10 years ago

He holds an Honours Degree in Law, a Masters Degree in Philosophy, is a Doctor of Law and an Honorary Doctor of Civil Law. He is a Fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge, and was visiting Professor at City University, New York and a member of the directing staff at the Police Staff College, with special responsibilities for legal topics and crime. He assists and advises the South African, Jamaican, Bulgarian, Romanian, Qatar and Greek Governments on policing. He has a wide interest in sport as a spectator and a participant. He holds a multi-engine and single jet pilots licences.

He was knighted in Her Majesty's New Year Honours 2000. He was made Deputy Lieutenant of London in 2001 and a Knight of St John in 2002. Sir John was awarded the Freedom of the City of London 2002. He was also awarded the Queen's Police Medal for distinguished service in 1991 and during his career has been commended on 27 occasions for outstanding detective ability or courage.
10 years ago

2005 Sir Ian Blair becomes Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police

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