P.C. 147 Stephen "Steve Peterson
I was born in Liverpool, down by the docks; so the song goes anyway. For me the docks were 4 miles away and a place of fascination for a young boy of 5 or 6. My dad, a Police Inspector at the time was posted to “D” for Dock Division and would often take me there and I would look in awe at ships from all over the world and sometimes even get to go aboard. I so wanted to go to sea in those early days. My dad’s father was Swedish, Karl Pettersson, since Anglicised and as a boy had been a seafarer. He became a naturalised British Citizen in 1910.
I was the youngest of three brothers and 12 and 9 years separated me from them. I was known by them as “the mistake” which used to make us all chuckle. Probably not acceptable today. They both said I was spoilt. Probably.
Growing up in 50s post war Liverpool was a dream for me. Importantly sweets had come off ration in 1953 and any spare cash was channelled into gob-stoppers and bubble gum. Aircraft spotting became a great hobby when I was 8 years old and with my like-minded friends we were often seen at Speke Airport. In fact we travelled some long distances; well for those days; to such places as Manchester and Blackpool. No one worried about kids getting abducted and we were free to do pretty much as we liked. In the summer we were out early and back late. When not spotting, it all happened in ‘the street’; cricket, football, rounders. Our cul-de-sac was a haven and there was just one car owner. We made go carts from old prams and in the winter when it usually snowed ice slides the whole length of the road and tea trays for toboggans.
The war was still very much on people’s minds so I think it was quite natural that kids played war a great deal. We had discovered how to make gunpowder and had no problem getting hold of sulphur and salt petre from a local chemist, charcoal was easy and there was also something called Jet-X-Wick, think old cowboy movies when they are lighting fuses to blow up the dynamite! Boys will be boys. Aluminium cigar tubes were wonderful containers for the powder and a small hole in the top for the jetx and voila a great firework or was it more of a bomb? I loved Chemistry at school!
We also made guns out of pieces of bicycle tubing, bent into shape and with a rubber handlebar grip to hold it by. We could launch rockets from them, think Federal Gas Gun, and by tying on those small red Chinese firecrackers that used to be available year round in China Town to the rocket stick, we had amazing but dangerous fun. Gunfight at the OK corral. Air guns and home made bows and arrows were also popular and on the subject of guns, it really wasn’t unusual for dads to have a Luger or a Smith and Wesson 38 in their man draw left over from the war. Bomb sites were everywhere and there would sometimes be great excitement, not sure that’s an appropriate word, when an UXB was found.
So I grew up, went to school and decided I’d be happier being less of a hooligan! Like my Dad and latterly my 2 older brothers I joined the police. I’d grown up with the law, Dad’s many Police colleagues, and the ever present Police Club that buzzed with live music, comedians and sometimes a magician. It was no doubt a natural progression, in the genes, so on 6th Dec 1968, at the age of 19 years and 2 months I was sworn in and became a member of the Liverpool and Bootle Police, number 80E. On the 9th I began my 13 week probationary training at No 1 District Police Training Centre at Bruche near Warrington.
I remember that those 3 months were mostly freezing and turning out for parade every morning at 8a.m. and marching up and down was not for the faint hearted. The daily inspections to make sure your uniform was pristine and shoes bulled became a way of life and the discipline hasn’t left me. Who remembers the collar detached shirts with the stud fasteners? Those awful marks they left on your Adams apple.
After Bruche a 2 week local procedure course I then took up my posting at Walton Road. I turned up half an hour early for my first duty, a 6pm to 2am shift. Except it wasn’t! I was late. It was a match day and duty started at 5pm. Of all things it was also April Fools Day. Not a great start but the Sergeant, Wally Balmer, was a kind soul (and a mate of my Dad’s) so all went well. We marched the 2 miles to Goodison Park and I was positioned on the turnstiles at Gladys Street. Daunting, especially for a supporter of the opposition. Everton beat West Ham 1-0 which kept the trouble down to acceptable levels. A win for the opposition in those days would usually be a precursor for a lot of aggravation.
My three years in Liverpool were flying by and I had now risen to the heights of being a Panda Car driver. They had pretty white roofs which the pollution attacked with a vengeance and they would end up being cleaned with Ajax. I say heights but it was a poisoned chalice really. Before Panda cars the beat bobby would attend calls, usually in his own sweet time, thus avoiding the actual fights-in progress. Now every rubbish call ever invented could be answered in minutes by dispatching a car, ie me! This wasn’t the worst of it though. Liverpool doesn’t always get the best of weather and sitting in a Mini 850 without a heater, in the depth of winter began to have an effect. I’d been reading the Police Review and especially the adverts for overseas postings. Hong Kong was the first to catch my eye and I applied, was interviewed in London and accepted. Then I got cold feet! Bermuda was next and after a very pleasant interview at Tintagel House, London I was offered a post. Am I correct in believing that Bermuda had the arrangement to use the Met facilities as long as they didn’t recruit Met Officers? Anyway warm feet this time and on the 5th November I971 I became PC 147, thrown in at the deep end with the rest of the intake and hiring Mobys from Smatts.
Driving tests were arranged at TCD and I duly turned up on my hire bike to take mine. We were assured that there would be a proper motor cycle available to use. There wasn’t and the examiner asked me what I was going to do about it. Fortunately a local boy saved the day and offered me his bike to take the test on. I should say here that I had never ridden a motorbike but I managed to get it going and do the ride through the cones. Passed. Great test.
After training Dick Naylor and I went off on our new Honda 125s, (thanks to a loan from the Bank Of Butterfield) to our posting in Somerset where we lodged in the Police Barracks. It was a good start and Sylvia the cook made wonderful meals, the bar was open 24/7 and the sea on the doorstep albeit winter. That Spring, Dick purchased a small boat which was good but not good enough for skiing so a few months later he sold it and between us bought an 18 ft cathedral-hulled Chrysler with a 120 hp engine. Police work was gentle and night shifts as much a blessing as rest days. We worked Midnight to 8. I say worked but that’s an overstatement. We slept a lot of it and spent the subsequent free days water skiing and scuba diving, lunching at Lantana. A couple of the waiters there were expert skiers and had put in place a jump. What fun. Not!
With assistance from the wonderful Brian Malpas, the Sandys Parish Constable, we learnt many nautical-type skills, how to catch a lobster with a noose and how to dive for conche. The sun shone, the water was warm and life passed us by. I should mention here the enormous contribution and help given to us by longer serving officers, especially the late Sergeant Neville Phillips. A true gentleman.
September 1972 saw a very dark cloud appear in that blue sky. The Commissioner of Police, George Duckett had been assassinated at his home. His daughter Marcia was also shot and if that wasn’t bad enough, in March the following year the Governor Richard Sharples and his ADC Captain Hugh Sayers were also assassinated at Government House. More murders followed. The Black Beret Cadre had made Bermuda infamous around the word. Terrible times which I don’t wish to dwell on.
It was later in 1972 that Liz and I met at a party. There were always parties. Liz was a radiographer at KEMH and we hit it off immediately.
On 9th August 1974 we were married at St Paul’s in Paget. We had a reception at Riddell’s Bay Golf Club for 90 guests. I’ve included a photo. We went to live at Fairhills lower apartment on S Hill which belonged to the MP and later PM and real estate agent John W.Swan. It had a swimming pool!
I had now moved from Western to Traffic, joining B Watch. We were a tight knit bunch and we worked and played hard. In those days we did 7 days on and 2 off with a 3 day long weekend after the day shift. Mondays after nights was carnage. We would all meet for breakfast in town and immediately after go to the RAF Club which was open to members 24/7. Funnily enough we were all members. At noon we would head off to the PRC or 261 as it was known. There we would drink beer and play dominoes or cribbage until closing at 2pm. Then we would go the Mariners Club, (yes all members), and continue until 5 when we would go home to our poor wives.
EDITORS NOTE - The above photo is a close-up of a larger photo of Operations Traffic Division taken in 1978, CLICK HERE to view this photo in full in our "Hall of Fame" article on the Late Chief Inspector Ernie Moniz.
In November 1976 I had completed my 5 year contract and was the happy recipient of two return tickets to the UK. We didn’t want to go to the UK so we exchanged their value for a six week trip across the US and the Pacific and on to New Zealand where Liz’s twin was living with her family. The trip wouldn’t have been possible without an organiser and Lynn Hall, at the time married to Andy and working at American Airlines in Hamilton, did us proud.
December 1977 saw the appalling riots which are well documented and not for me to comment on here.
EDITORS NOTE - The above photo is a close up of a larger photo taken by Terry Cabral of a group of guys taking a break from riot squad training outside Police Headquarters in 1977 at a time when Bermuda was going through rough times. CLICK HERE to view the full photo.
Over the next few years I moved to work on the radar section with Roger Kendall and later to the MCPS with Boxhead in charge. Loved that job, and my Honda 550 later a 650. It was always a pleasure to go to work. Formal escort duties were a chance to get dressed up in the white tunics and strut around in boots and breeches! Falling off, not uncommon, or doing something silly always resulted in the buying of a case from 261, to be consumed after work. We somehow managed to drink many of them and laugh a lot.
"Boxhead" Foggo showing Liz and Roger Brydon how to fly a kite - 1979
This photo was taken at a kite flying party at Lyn and Andy Hall's with "Boxhead" giving kite flying lessons to the Brydon's. During the day James was spotted sucking at empty Heineken bottles before he was stopped. The next day he didn’t wake up until 11 and told Liz he had a headache! Poor boy.
In 1980 David was born. Unlike James he was early and had to spend some time in the premature unit. Of course he became HW 2.
It was around this time that I had begun to consider our family’s future. We had been more or less evicted from S Hill, JWS wanted it, he said, for a family member, and we had great difficulty finding suitable accommodation elsewhere. The curse of Bermuda I used to think. We ended up in an expensive but small and pokey bungalow in Warwick. I was 31 and at that time would only be eligible to rejoin the police in the UK until I was 33. This seems strange now but in those days you also had to be taller than 5ft 8in no older than 30 and if you were a woman you would probably only be allowed to do jobs that concerned women and or children.
This newspaper cutting shows the winners of a colouring competition held by the Police Service in in 1980, Young James won the under 6 age group at age 3 going on 4. He loved colouring and is today a good artist. I’m not sure Chris Wilcox believed that he had done it all by himself. It was also difficult to shut James up but when he was interviewed by ZBM you couldn’t get a peep out of him!
The Bermuda Government, perhaps in response to the riots and general unrest, had been busy passing laws that affected me and others like me. It was now most unlikely that Liz and I would ever get Bermuda Status so buying a house, changing jobs perhaps or just feeling a genuine part of the community was now just a pipe dream. Security of tenure became a massive issue. A place to live tentative. The law had now provided that Bermudians would have priority for promotion.
This was sadly the last straw and in October 1981, Liz and I departed Bermuda for our new life in the UK with James, then 4 and David 1, christened by the wonderful and very much missed, "Boxhead" Foggo, as "House Wrecker 1" and "House Wrecker 2" !
I was fortunately taken on by Sussex Police in early 1982 and after a probationary year and with the very best of good fortune morphed into a village bobby, a job I adored. A Scouser became a Countryman and over the next 20 years I learned how to combine being a friend, neighbour and policeman to several thousand people without upsetting the apple cart too much.
A rural policeman’s life was quite something. I acquired skills that in hindsight were amazing.
I kept ferrets of all things (Liz was not amused) and most days would see me and a colleague out in the fields (on and off duty!) using them to net and shoot rabbits, which were sold to the local butcher for 2 bob each. The sales made the hobby self-financing. I remember one day, our male ferret (hob) failed to come back after being put into a warren. Fortunately he was wearing a radio collar and we located him some ten feet down. After a bit of digging we could see him but couldn’t reach him. James, 7 at the time came to the rescue and I dangled him head first into the hole and he came back up with a grin, a ferret and a rabbit.
I also learned how to shoot, chop down trees, fly fish and how to keep calm when a lamb didn’t want to be born. I got used to dealing with the many injured deer, badgers and the like. We also kept chickens, well away from the ferrets, and most importantly we got our first dog, Katy, a black Labrador. I read a lot of books and managed to train her as a gun dog. She would go with us to unlikely events like bonfire night and when the fireworks went off, unlike most dogs, she would be looking for something to pick up! She also came out on patrol with me most of the time.
I also learned how to be an amateur mechanic through one of my best friends who is the local garage owner. I spent many years servicing and repairing cars just for the love of doing it. It’s not quite the same now with everything being electronic.
We have quite a lot of personalities living in or around the village and I am privileged to know or to have known most of them.
I was at the garage one Sunday morning intending to change the oil in my own car. However, there was a very large BMW on the ramp and my friend asked me if I could change the exhaust on it as he was busy. It turned out that the car belonged to a new resident, a very famous TV and radio presenter. Later when he turned up to collect his car, and at the same time, an even more famous film star arrived. You couldn’t make this up. My friend then asked if they knew each other which they didn’t so he introduced them! A few years later my friend asked to borrow my relatively new car so he could demo it to the movie star. She actually bought the same model and my grandchildren were thrilled that said lady had sat in mine!
Rural policing came to an end in the late 90s and with it my job. I took on some other rolls which included baby-sitting some notorious criminals who had turned into ‘Supergrasses’. That’s another story. My last 5 years were spent at Gatwick Airport, another dream job for someone who loves aircraft, ie me. We had a briefing one morning and were told that Tom Jones was arriving later. A wag said “it’s not unusual”.
Liz has been my support through all of this. Rural policing isn’t all fun and games and the knocks on the door in the early hours, especially when I was working elsewhere were numerous and all too often tragic or disturbing. She coped very well as did James and David. It can’t have been easy for them to be the local bobby’s children.
CLICK HERE to experience a flight with James in his Typhoon
James and David have grown into wonderful human beings despite the drawback of having me as a father. James is an RAF pilot and was honoured to receive an MBE earlier this year. HW1 MBE! David is a chartered accountant and works for Ricardo Engineering. I am blessed to have a granddaughter and grandson who love coming to stay with us and politely listen to my stories.
I have been retired, as of now, for 17 years. I was going to go into business as a computer repair man/teacher for something to do but sadly a friend invited me to have a game of golf and that was that. I’m not good at it but enjoy the exercise and the camaraderie and I have made many friends.
In recent times I have been in touch with some ex Bermuda MCPS friends, through Houseparty and we chat and mostly laugh on a Thursday afternoon. Wonderful.
We have only returned once in that time when we cruised from New York in late May 2015. The Island is as beautiful as ever. We loved the ferries into St George’s and Hamilton and the buses. We had never been on a bus in our time there and it turned out to be a wonderful way to see the Island. We also walked a lot.
We met some old friends for drinks at Dockyard during our short stay and it was impossible not to notice that we just carried on as if it was still the 1970s
In the intervening years our old apartment on S Hill has been painted red but still remains the same but I couldn’t see if the pool was still there. The traffic is obviously an issue and prices are ridiculous. The most expensive place to live on the planet apparently. That said, it is still an Island Paradise that’s not yet lost.
Published 4th Ocober 2021
EDITORS NOTE - CLICK HERE for an article on our website about the 69 young men and women who joined the Bermuda Police 50 years ago during the year 1971. Steve was in the last batch of overseas recruits for the year who arrived in Bermuda on 4th and 5th November. These were, Robin Glenny, Keith Cassidy, Anthony Smallridge, Kenneth Van Thal, Stephen Taylor, John Headey, Brian Foster, Graham Waring, Mick Brown, Peter Smith, Edward Street, Rodney Fowkes, Barbara Travers, Anthony Ramshaw, Desmond McGarr and Ruth McGarr, Andrew Hall, Richard Naylor, Marjory Amos, Arthur Stewart, Stephen Rollin, Stephen Peterson, Russell Delahaye, and Phil Every.
Of this group, Keith Cassidy and Marje Amos completed their service and still reside here in Bermuda, while Steve Taylor retired as a Sergeant and has since returned to the UK, and Phil Every retired as Chief Inspector but has since sadly died.
6th October 2021
Steve Taylor - comments
MANY thanks Roger for publishing the article from Steve Peterson, who I am still in regular touch with, and who I arranged to meet at the Southport Air Show a couple of years ago with ALL his family, and to watch his older son Flt. Lt. James Peterson flying his aerobatic RAF Tornado in an AMAZING demonstration of skills from both pilot and plane which was the most AMAZING and LOUD Finale of The Air Show.