From Police Pillars to Ryton Police Training Centre

A few days ago we received an article from George Rose in which he mentioned that while out patrolling the beat as a young P.C. in the Birmingham City Police in Aston (the home of Aston Villa Football Club) he often used to make points outside public telephone kiosks which meant that the Sergeant on duty had the option of making the point in person or calling the kiosk to make contact with the constable on patrol.  

In my own Force, the Staffordshire Police, where I worked from 1961-1964, we had blue police pillars in Bilston where I was serving and we could use these for the same purpose.  If the Sergeant didn’t appear at the scheduled time we could unlock a small door and call the Police Station directly.  These pillars could also be used by members of the public to call the Police in an emergency although I dread to think how many false calls we had!   In those days we did not have radios or mobile phones.

I tried to locate a photo of the police pillars used in the Midlands but found a variety ranging from small posts to walk-in boxes or TARDIS boxes  as they were known in some cities. These were large enough for a police officer to stand inside to write up reports, telephone the Station directly and no doubt to get out of the rain or cold!

I had recently been in touch with Debbie Menzel who has a Facebook page devoted to the Ryton-on-Dunsmore Police Training Centre near Coventry and all those who have passed through it. Debbie also works in the West Midlands Police Museum so I thought she was an ideal person to ask about finding a photo of our old police pillars. Sure enough, she replied almost instantly with this excellent photo of our police pillar just I remembered it.  Many thanks to Debbie.

A constable uses a police pillar to call the station 
Photo courtesy of Debbie Menzel


Getting back to her excellent website, Debbie has literally hundreds of photos of recruits who passed through Ryton, along with their instructors and lots of social activities.  I had sent her some photos of my own time at Ryton in the Spring of 1961, but I think most of the photos on her site have been taken since the 1970’s.

Ryton Police Training Centre in all its glory!

That got me to thinking about all of our Bermuda Police officers recruited in the UK who would have been put through their basic training course at Ryton which was and still is the No 4 District Training Centre.  Those who immediately spring to mind include Maurice “Moby” Pett, George Rose, Terry Heathcote, John “Coco” Eve,  Mick Brown, Mark Allen, Mark Jones, John Freeborough,  Roger Kendall, Raimondo Harrison, John Moore, Frank Smith, the late Damian Willcocks and Bill Buchanan, and many others.

I have written to a few of the guys and heard back from “Moby” and “Coco”.

“Moby” says that during his time at Ryton, No 4 District included what was then Birmingham City, Staffordshire County, Leicestershire and Rutland, Warwickshire, Shropshire, Gloucestershire, and a host of Borough Forces such as Dudley, Wolverhampton and Stoke-on-Trent.  “Moby” also says that during the 1960’s policewomen from many other Forces attended Ryton because some District Training School did not take women recruits.

Debbie Menzel served in the West Midlands Police for over 30 years, mostly in CID, and when she attended Ryton she recalls that recruits came from other Forces such as West Mercia, Bedfordshire, Essex, Norfolk and Cambridge to name just a few.

John “Coco” Eve has just written the following about his time at Ryton:-

“Lovely place. I was there from November 1962 until February 1963. Part of this time the heating broke down with boiler burst during one of the worst winters recorded in the UK. At that time I had a Morris Minor van and after weekends off I picked up three other trainees from herbland and drove to Ryton. Heaters in vehicles were not very efficient and I remember breaking down on a couple of occasions and having to clean out the carburettor. I remember it as a winter of discontent!

The drill instructor, I think his name was Jim Suthers, from Birmingham used every obscenity under the sun during drill, but was alright after a few drinks in the bar. He used to drink with the Staffordshire lads because his own City trainees were mostly cadets who never went to the bar as they were studying. He used to get rather upset at this!”

Ryton's interior had all creature comforts!
The hall stage below was used to enact scenarios where a
trainee would have to deal with an incident of some kind.

Editors note –

·     Coco doesn’t have any photos of his course at Ryton but he remembers there was an official photographer.  Will check with Debbie to see if she has any in her archives.

·     I well remember that dreadful winter in 62-63 when temperatures remained constantly under freezing for 90 consecutive days. I was on the beat in Bilston at that time and wore pyjamas night and day under my uniform when on duty.  That was the reason for me seeking a warmer climate for beat patrol and spending the last 50 years here in warm and sunny Bermuda.

I also have great memories of attending Ryton in the Spring of 1961.  Having spent about 6 months as a police cadet fairly close to my home in North Staffordshire, this was my first venture into independent living.  I guess it was close to being in the armed forces;  having to wash and iron our own clothes, make our own beds, spit and polish our boots,  and being subjected to a daily parade tirade from Jim Suthers every morning  was definitely character building!  I know we lost two recruits in the first week who couldn’t take the discipline  -  or being away from home. 

Ryton Class - Spring 1961
P.C. Roger Sherratt 4th from left on middle row
Staffordshire County Recruits

We also had to organize our lives so we could do the study required, and still manage a social life.  Ryton was definitely “character building”!  I always see it a major turning point in my life.

Ryton Police Training Centre Passing Out Parade - Spring 1961
P.C. Roger Sherratt on back row

The purpose of this article is twofold.  Firstly we want to encourage any of our former colleagues who attended Ryton, to let us know when you were there, and send us any photos you might have of your time there. 

Secondly,  we want to let former *Ryton graduates know about Debbie’s excellent Facebook page, and to let you know that she is happy to invite old “Rytonians”, along with anyone who attended other UK Police Training Centres, to join her Facebook page which has restricted access except by invitation.  Chances are she may have photos of you, or some of your old mates.

Debbie has advised that she also collects photos from other Police training centres such as Bruche, and Ashford. She also collects CID course photos and Driving school photos along with photos of any sort of Police training courses.

17th November

Since writing this article George Rose has kindly submitted the following two excellent photos taken during his training course at Ryton:-

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