Some of the records we hold for Wolverhampton Borough Police Force cover the First World War period, and these give us an insight into how the war affected the Force.
Wolverhampton Borough Police Force was in existence from 1849 onwards, when a force was established consisting of twenty five men with Colonel Hogg appointed as Chief Constable. The first police court, barracks, and cells were situated in Garrick Street but were the property of county authorities. The Borough entered into negotiations with the county authorities at Stafford and eventually purchased all of the buildings. Branch police stations opened in the latter part of the century. The headquarters were transferred to the new Town Hall in North Street in 1870.
On 5 August 1914, the Chief Constable’s Report Book, containing his reports to the Wolverhampton Borough Council Watch Committee, lists the names of the men who have been called upon to rejoin their Regiments, following the declaration of War. The Chief Constable stresses that these vacancies need to be filled as a matter of urgency, “as much work will be thrown upon the Police in addition to the ordinary duties.” Other members of the Force have already been recalled from their annual leave. The book also details that 13 of the men are married, and the Chief Constable insists that “it is necessary that their wives and families shall be adequately cared for.” Of the 18 men called up, 4 of them have a “K” in red written next to their names (for “Killed”), 3 of them have a “W” (“wounded”), and 6 have an “S” or “sick”. Assuming that this was kept up to date, only five men appear to have been unscathed.
By 9 August 1916, the situation regarding police constables has reached a critical point, as the Chief Constable bemoans the “depletion of the numbers…by reason of so many members…having joined His Majesty’s Forces.” He therefore requests that the existing Force be temporarily increased “by the constitution of a voluntary and unpaid Force of Special Constables (above Military age or exempt from Military service)”. This plea was accepted.
The Report Book is very detailed in its information about more police constables who join the army, and about those who are wounded or killed in action. The Chief Constable’s handwriting is fairly difficult to read, however, particularly when he uses a thicker fountain pen, so we will post more details in future blog posts.