September 29th 1938. Neville Chamberlain had returned to England after his visit to Herr Adolf Hitler in Germany and the Brit Prime Minister is waving his paper with his "Peace in our Time" proclamation. In Slough, Buckinghamshire, Hilda, wife of (then) Police Sergeant Sidney Smith, delivers a baby boy. The name decided was William (Bill) and, as it was the first day of the Michaelmas Assizes, his middle name was to be Michael. Bill’s great, happy, much travelled and healthy journey through life was beginning. This is my short story.
I lived first with my folks and my sister, Berys, at Farnham Royal, moving later to Iver, Bucks, when Dad was posted as OIC at that country station but with additional responsibility for the safety of Coppins - the home of the Duke and Duchess of Kent. War came to Britain, security was tight and young Michael, son of the Duke and Duchess, had limited friends but it was felt that I, the policeman’s son, was the same age and no security risk, so we could play together and we became fast friends.
Our home was the old (circa 1880) police station. There was a prison block with ten cells - one of which was assigned to me and my sister during the war because the walls, some six feet thick, were deemed better than any air raid shelter when the bombs fell often in the area. Iver was close to the Spitfire factory at Langley and therefore was a frequent target of the Luftwaffe but their accuracy wasn't always very good. I recall my days at Iver - being taken to see a downed Me 110 just a mile of so from home, being allowed to operate the air raid siren on the roof of the police station after an air raid and another time when dad got me out of bed in the wee hours of 6.6.44. to see the hundreds of aircraft stacked and circling in preparation to head East at dawn on that D-Day morning. I also remember getting in the ‘do’ for transgressions, including scrumping apples from the neighbors orchard, for chatting up German prisoners of war working in the field beyond the bottom of their garden, and for climbing on the ten foot high piles of "dead" incendiary bombs collected in the area and stacked in the old prison yard at the back of the Police Station.
The then policy of moving police officers every five years resulted in my next home being at Denham where my formative years really developed. It was 1948, I had to leave my school and friends in Iver and start over, which at nine years of age was something of a wrench. I became a choir boy and altar server at St. Mary's C of E church, continued to ride my bike to Uxbridge once a week as a Wolf Cub and later a Scout with 1st Uxbridge Scout Group - an originating Group by Baden Powell in 1908 - and as my parents were involved in the Church (Dad a Sidesman and Church Warden and Mum involved with the Mothers Union and Women’s Institute) I gained many friends in the community. At Denham Primary School I sat and passed the "Eleven Plus" exam and moved on, riding the bus daily to and from the Slough Technical School where I enjoyed being a member of the schools rugby team - which managed to win only one game in the three years I participated; a keen cyclist I was also an avid tennis player; me and my buddy, Neville Johnson, won many tennis games.
1955 was a year to remember. Neville and I had diligently planned a trip to "the Continent". In August that year, bikes with panniers loaded with clothing, maps etc, we rode to Lympe on the south coast, boarded an air freighter (a former military York) and flew to Calais in France. Setting off from there, staying at Youth Hostels, we rode for the next thirty days across France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and Holland - tasting for the first time the wines of France and the beer of Germany - and seeing some great places which, for a 16 year old, was enthralling. Back to Calais and a boat ride to Dover and home again to be ready to enter the sixth form at school in September.
Having taken GC examinations, I left school in March, 1956, applied for a position of Police Cadet with the Bucks Constabulary and was accepted and posted to High Wycombe. Dad, meanwhile, had been promoted to Inspector as OIC Amersham so I therefore joined the police family as Dad, an uncle and two cousins were then serving members of a police service. In 1957, that great wind known as the Draft blew across the land and, despite the plea of Superintendent Healey, OIC High Wycombe, to claim police service deferment, I chose to enlist in the Royal Air Force in June 1957. First to RAF Cardington, home of the 101 airships, then on to squarebashing at RAF Wilmslow in Cheshire, continued training at 19 Commission Training Course at RAF Hereford before going to the permanent posting at Headquarters, Technical Training Command, Brampton, Huntingdonshire. There my assignment was to Organization 3 section, and for the next two years in Internal Recruiting, I was part of the IR team which visited many RAF stations in the UK, El Adem in Libya, Simonstown, South Africa, Limasol, Cyprus and Osnabruk in Germany.
What to do when the RAF years were over? Dad knew a former Bermuda policeman then serving with the Bucks Force and I was introduced to him. Noting that Crown Agents in London were advertising in the Police Review for Constables in Bermuda, I decided that across the Atlantic was where I should try. I applied, met the interview board, passed and was accepted. That's another story.
August, 1959. Having been accepted for Police training, l was sent to the Metropolitan Police Training School at Hendon, Middlesex. I had picked up my "battle dress" uniform and cap from a London supplier and was ready to go. Reporting in, I met Bob Stewart, who along with other foreign police trainees - from the Solomon Islands and New Zealand - we joined the 30 strong class of Met coppers to learn how to police London! Having completed the three months of intensive class work, it was time to fly to Bermuda.
On 10 November, 1959 l boarded the BOAC Argonaut turbo prop aircraft and flew west. The first stop was Prestwick in Scotland where Bob came aboard, then on to New York with a brief stop over at Gander, Newfoundland. Change of flights at New York to a PanAm Constellation to arrive at 11 a.m. on November 11th in Bermuda. No-one there to meet us. A call to Police Headquarters revealed that we were not expected for another day! A fellow named George Goddard finally showed up with a Sunbeam Talbot cruiser to drive us to Prospect. We were assigned by 'Red' Hebbard to rooms across from HQ and told to report to "Traffic" for kitting the next day. The Police Club would feed us if we wished.
Both Bob and I were assigned to Hamilton station - he to one shift and me to another. My 'leader' was Inspector Les Burge - a great character who kept an eye on we 'greenies' as we patrolled the city. After a couple of months footing it around Hamilton, Andie Heggie arrived from U.K. and was coupled with me as his famil officer learning beats. Andy, from the Borders of Scotland, had a killer accent which to me was a foreign language; I seldom understood what the heck he was saying. Years later we laughed over our first weeks of friendship as Andy thought I was a really strange one when I would respond to his enquiry with an idiot answer which had no bearing on what he was telling me.
The duty driver was Jimmy Moir and fortune shined on me when Jimmy and Annie took their 90 days out of country leave and as I, the only member of that shift having a driving license, was appointed as the Inspectors driver. Driving a completely unsafe left hand drive Jeep, travelling eight hours a shift with Les Burge was quite the experience. One memorable shift working 4pm to midnight, we paraded on time and the shift motor cyclist, one Sean Sheehan, rolled in and he was visibly somewhat under the weather.
Sean announced that he had had a telegram from Ireland to advise that his wife, Patricia, had given birth to his daughter, Aine, and that at midnight, his home on Frog Lane was open for celebratory drinks to wet the baby’s head. Les Burge recognized that Sean was in no state to work his shift and sent him home for the evening.
At meal break time that evening, I dropped off the Inspector at his home and planned to continue my drive to the Police Club for supper before returning to collect him an hour later. That did not happen as when I approached Prospect, there was a traffic accident which I had to deal with. It was a little over an hour later that, passing up supper, I returned to pick up Inspector Burge and caught crap from him because I was a few minutes late doing so.
Midnight came and everyone hopped on their scooters and headed to Frog Lane. Eric Simpson was chief barman and the drinks flowed. Within the hour, ‘Shaky’ Johnson declared that he was leaving as there were thirteen in the house and he was not getting into trouble with that kind of number. I consumed two rum and cokes on an empty stomach but soon didn't feel too great. I decided I should leave for Prospect Barracks. What happened next was relayed to me by others but I have no doubt of its truth. I left the party, got on my Lambretta scooter, turned on the lights, pulled in the clutch and engaged gear, pushed the bike off the stand while opening the throttle - and fell flat on my face as I had not started the engine. I was polluted!!! I am told that the crash was heard inside and others came out to see me spread-eagled across Frog Lane. Others decided they too should get back to Barracks and when Sean came looking for all those who had left, he saw eight or ten drunken policemen holding each other up in a long line across the road as we made our way up the road to home. The next afternoon shift saw Les Burge berating "you drunken bunch who should be ashamed of yourselves" and having no sympathy for the crew who were all suffering the affects of the previous night.
Other stories coming out of that night included Mrs. Railton awakened by the sound of Bob singing at the top of his voice. When she found him he was still in uniform but sitting in his bath at home taking a dip. Sean’s next door neighbour was fellow Irishman, Bill Bryan. He joined the party of course and after a few drinks decided to play a joke on one of the visitors by taking a scooter and hiding it at the bottom of his own garden. The plot failed when his wife found him, sitting on the scooter which was running but was laying on its side, as was he, in the bushes, and still sitting astride it while declaring that the damn thing had no power as it would not move!!! Enquiries over the years later established that all the drinks that night had been doctored with a couple of shots of Vodka added to each drink with the result that they became time bombs even for hardened drinkers. For my part, I did not touch booze for the next six months.
After my time driving Les Burge, I was assigned as a Parish Constable and given a maroon BSA 350 motorcyle to get around. The bike had a top speed of 25 mph if you really pushed it and it should have been dropped in the ocean years before. The job lasted only six months before someone in their wisdom decided that, with 1500 motorized bikes being stolen per annum and with less than a 30% recovery rate - most being stripped or found in the sea - a task force should be formed. Sounding something like a joke, an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman were chosen to try and stop the numbers rising any further. Sean Sheehan, Eric Simpson and yours truly became Cycle Squad. Given a Triumph 500 each, plus a Morris J4 van and an office next door to Traffic at Prospect, the challenge was in place.
After three weeks, working all sorts of hours, we had no results until on a Sunday we met at the Foot of the Lane at noon. One of us took the South Road, another the Middle Road and the third one over the North Shore Road we drove to the Airport. Having stopped for a coffee there, we returned via the three routes to the Foot of the Lane traffic circle. While there, chatting, a young lad whizzed by on a Cyrus, shiny black with a chrome plated front fender. "I wonder where he got that front fender?" someone said. In a flash, the Triumphs roared off and three coppers chased the lad and stopped him on the East Broadway Extension. "I found it on a garbage tip" was the explanation from the lad. A likely story! "Just come along to the Police Station young man, and we'll check out that story while you wait for us there". At this point, the trio left the lad with the duty Sergeant and then headed to the BAA Field to see a soccer game between the Police and another team.
Heading back to the station, the question was posed to the lad, "Do we tell you what we have found out or will you tell us?" And would you believe it, the lad started to name his accomplices, Sean stayed with him while Eric and I went and brought in those named. The youngsters brought in quickly named others and we went and got them too. By midnight there were 22 in the lockup and over the next three months, a total of three hundred arrests resulted in successfully concluding bike thefts, burglaries, breaking and enterings, and even a bestiality case, all of which were brought before the courts. The bestiality case was one where the lad had had relations with a chicken! (He was labelled a foul f.....) The trio of coppers got a Governor’s Commendation (and five pounds) for our efforts.
College Weeks were a challenge and one memorable arrest was that of a certain Michael Douglas for "Taking and Driving Away" a livery bike that was not his rental. Talking to his movie actor father, Kirk Douglas, by telephone, it was decided that the youth should not be charged but was to be taken directly to the Airport and told to leave Bermuda.
I was the Best Man for Eric Laing - "Wee Ecky" as we knew him - and a great, friendly person he was in my days in Bermuda. The little lad was in Traffic one time when he was sent to a grass fire on the South Shore. He radioed for assistance and Pratt and Smith drove to his location. He was supposed to keep back the onlookers and keep them out of the way of the fire department folk. Wee Ecky had a problem in that he was on a big Triumph motorbike which was too heavy for him to get up on the stand and he could not get off the bike. Just another of Eric’s embarrassing moments! (Editors Note: Sadly, Eric Laing passed away in November 2011 in Arbroath, Scotland.)
Other memories were not so great. The Belco riots in 1965 will long be remembered by any who were present. I will not detail my feelings about what went on there and the aftermath, but suffice it to say the Police were not dealt with or reported on fairly.
Being single, I socialized with Eric who was married to Ida, a Dane, and with Sean who was married to Pat and who was a close friend of Ingrid as they were both hairdressers at the same store. Love bloomed and in April 1962 Ingrid married me at St. Marks in Smiths Parish with Sean, Eric, Dave Garland and Ron Shelley being the Ushers and Derek Selby being my best man. Lis Morrison, another Dane was married to Ian Morrison (later Deputy Commissioner), and she was Ingrid’s maid of honor. Henrik was our first born in 1964.
Eventually I was transferred to CID for six months under Detective Inspector Milton Marsh.
l enjoyed the partnership with Pete Rose of Western CID, however, CID was not my thing and I was subsequently moved to Operations (Traffic) where, after a further six months crewing variously with Bill Pratt, George Garrod and John Williams, I was promoted to Sergeant at Traffic. Two of our shift included Tim Burch, a former school-mate at Slough, and Peter Hawkes, a former neighbor and fellow Bucks Police Cadet when they both lived in Amersham, Bucks. Connel McBurnie was also part of the Traffic team and we are in contact to this day. Mac is now retired from the OPP and lives near Windsor, Ontario.
Learning the foibles of the crews was an experience. One night the cars had left on patrol when a radio message came in that one crew wished to return to Prospect. It transpired that in making up the roster, Bill had not taken into account that one of the pair* hailed originally from Ulster and the other from Eire and they had gotten into an untenable political dispute. Who knew? Bringing in another car, the pair had to be split up so that they could protect the public instead of fighting each other
Several other war stories include the night shift when Smith and Pratt – “double Billing” - were parked watching Harbour Road as dawn rose. On a promontory projecting into the harbour, a couple hugged so close that if they had been squeezed closer they would have passed each other. Pratt recognized the fellow and avered that was not his wife with him. Starting the car, we popped it into top gear and almost silently moved along the Harbor Road until we were within mere feet from the couple, the car was dropped into second gear for a rapid get away, while the loud hailer was used to bellow "Good morning!" to the huggers; the couple came apart so fast that they were both dangerously close to falling in the water but merely saw the back end of a rapidly departing police car. Understandably, no complaint was made by the couple. Another memorable was when, observing traffic at the south traffic circle late one evening, we saw a car cut south the wrong way around the roundabout and head at speed eastbound on the South Road. Given chase, the car reached some 70 mph along the straightaway but finally stopped near St. Marks.
Approaching the car, the driver of the stopped vehicle was invited to get out of the car. The young driver did so, an awful odor was noted and then a large pool of fluid was seen dripping over his shoes onto the roadway. The stopped car was a stolen vehicle. The driver was arrested and placed in the police car which required a good cleaning and airing upon return to Prospect!
The 10 series was used for radio messages. Noting that 10-70’s was not used, we Traffic guys made those ten numbers into a menu. This worked well until Commissioner George Robbins, en route home in the early hours one morning had his radio on but was not logged on. He heard the Controller ask a patrol to pick up a 10-71, a 10-74 and a 10-77. Dropping into Traffic, Robbins asked the desk man, Constable Mike “Budgy” Lohan, what a 10-74 was because there was nothing listed on his info card for this call code. Mike shuddered but advised it was a Cheeseburger. And a 10-71? "Order of fries, Sir". The Commish smiled, advised that it might be advisable to order the nighttime snacks before Patrols left the station rather than using the radio. He then went on his way without further comment.
There was a check of a car in the bushes in the early hours of one morning on the Riddles Bay golf course which resulted in a slight embarrassment when the officers flashlight was shone into the car and the driver window wound down. The constable was told sharply told to "F... off". The off duty police inspector behind the wheel of the car in the bushes never mentioned the incident at any later date but he noticeably gripped his swagger stick more tightly whenever he met that patrol officer on the street.
There are many other stories in the "Naked City" but time and space are limited. The asterisks are used above where the names are known of the officers in question but do not need be shared here.
In 1966, Ingrid and I decided that we did not want our son to grow up in Bermuda and, as l had had a short familiarization course with the Metropolitan Toronto Police Service, we decided that Canada was the place to live. A conversation with former Bermuda Constable Bill McCormick (who was then a Superintendent in MTPS and subsequently Chief of Police there), was the decider. Ingrid went back to Denmark with Henrik while l headed to Torontoto establish a residency with a possible Ontario Provincial Police or Toronto career. But that's another story.
Arriving in Canada on St. Patrick’s Day, l lodged with my cousin at Bramalea, Ontario. Having traded our 1962 Ford Taurus to Jack Straw at Bermuda Motors, arrangements were made to pick up a new car at the Ford of Canada Oakville Assembly plant on arrival in Ontario. My cousin drove me to the plant during his lunch hour and dropped me off well ahead of the 4.30 pm scheduled delivery time. Told the car was in Pre-Delivery, l sat in the lobby, read the ancient magazines, joined a school group on a plant tour and eventually, through boredom, asked the receptionist if there were any good jobs at the Plant. She handed me an employment application which, for something to do, I filled out. Promptly at 4.30, the car arrived, the application was dropped on the receptionists desk and l headed out. Two days later, a call came to the house from Ford to ask if l would attend the Ford Head Office for interview. As there was a six week residency requirement before going to the Police College at Aylmer, taking the interview was something to do. After being offered a choice of two jobs, at far better pay than the Police offered and, of course, a 9 to 5 job, l decided to give it a try while waiting for a call from the police.
Thirty one years later, after rising through the ranks at Ford of Canada, enjoying the fruits of management - travelling a number of times across Canada, visiting frequently the USA with Ford from San Francisco, Atlanta, Dallas, Las Vegas and many other U.S. cities and being accompanied by Ingrid too, plus World Headquarters at Dearborn, Michigan, on a monthly basis and a tour of duty at Koln, Germany, l retired on December 31st 1996.
Having re-upped with the military in the Canadian Air Force Reserve in 1977, l was appointed as a Second Lieutenant, promoted several times after appropriate and applicable training courses (to Lieutenant, Captain and Major) and progressing through that organization I Commanded three different Squadrons before being given the task of advisor and inspector of thirty two Ontario units. Upon retirement from Ford, as a Lieutenant Colonel I was given Command of the Borden Air Training Centre effective January 1st, 1997 where I continued for almost five years until September 2001. The unit, 154 officers/non commissioned and civilian staff and up to 450 trainees at any one time, was heavy duty but I finally moved to the Toronto Detachment until September 2005 when at age 65 it was time for the uniform to be finally hung up for good.
Still in security mode however, l joined the Burlington Crime Prevention Committee and eventually became its Chair for six years. I was then asked to join the Golden Horseshoe Crime Prevention Association - GHCPA involves the eight Police Services from Peel in the East to Halton in the West including Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Ontario Provincial Police, Halton Regional, Haldimand and Brantford, Hamilton Region, Corrections Canada, Canada Post Investigation Service, Ontario Probation Service, McMaster University, Guelph University, Mohawk College Security Services, SPCA and other Crime Prevention Professionals, To keep active, I have also been the GHCPA Hon.Secretary for five years and plus I serve on the Road Safety Strategic Plan Task Force.
For a number of years, Ingrid and I have enjoyed cruising with Lis and Ian Morrison - to Russia, Sweden, Germany and Denmark; thru the Panama Canal and a long one to South America and around the Horn, to the Med and to Greece. Lis is very sadly missed since she left us in 2008. I thoroughly enjoyed a visit with Ian in 2010 and my first time back to Bermuda since 1985. What changes I saw in that 25 year gap. It was great to catch up on and meet some of the "old timers" from the Force too. I was given Hospitality Plus.
Still very happily married to Ingrid after 49 years, our eldest son Henrik is a Lieutenant Colonel with the Canadian Forces (Air Element) at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa (having just completed nine years as Commanding Officer, Canadian Contingent, flying Airborne Warning and Control Systems aircraft (AWACS) with NORAD out of USAF Tinker AFB at Oklahoma City); he is married to Doris and there are two grandchildren, Siena (15) and Conrad (10). Our youngest son, HansChristian, an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer, is employed by Hennessey Industries as their Product Development Manager at LaVerge, Tennessee (near Nashville) and lives with his wife, Chantal, at Murfreesboro, TN. We have put a lot of miles on our car to and from OK and TN in recent years and just love it.
Our multi-background family - Bill (England), Ingrid (Denmark), Henrik (Bermuda), Hans (Canada), Doris (Germany), Chantal (French Canadian), Siena - Langley, Virginia, USA and Conrad, Edmond, Oklahoma - will all be gathered for Christmas 2010 at the Smith house here in Burlington, Ontario. And the beat goes on. We are all favored with good health and look forward to more happy years travelling the world.