THE GLOBAL HISTORY OF THE ROYAL AIR FORCE POLICE 1 APRIL 1918 - 2018

Its been a long haul and at times quite a challenge but today I can stand proud and say I've done it. The project began way back in April 1993, after I managed to obtain a slim A4 glossy magazine, from Mark Williams, which had been produced to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the RAF Police. The contents were mostly photographs with a brief story of the RAF Police up until that point. Being disappointed with the publication and lack of substance, I closed the magazine and was heard to utter those immortal words, "For Goodness sake, is that it..? I could have done a better job than that..!!"... The rest as they say is history...! Seriously though, up until that point, although the RAF Police had a museum containing lots of artefacts gathered from around the RAF Police world, there was no documented chronological global history of the branch, and although one should never sound one's own trumpet I have to say that if I had not taken on this project, with a great deal of help and encouragement from serving and former members of the branch, then the RAF Police would certainly not have an impressive written history as they celebrate their centenary. Disappointingly, during the period of my research, only two out of ten serving Provost Marshals, actively supported my project and went out of their way to assist me. What is more surprising, is that both were not professional policemen; Air Cdre Jim Uprichard was a pilot and Air Cdre Peter Drissell was a member of the RAF Regiment, and both deserve my sincere admiration and thanks.

In the lead-up to 2018 many authors have been working hard to compile the rather impressive history of the Royal Air Force during its first 100 years but the majority focused on its impressive flying exploits, combat missions and the aircrew. Frustratingly, the professionalism and commitment given by the men and women from a multitude of ground trades, that have worked hard to keep the aircraft flying for the past 100 years, received scant mention. To redress the inbalance my intention was to produce a book, comprising several volumes, which offers readers and historians alike a valuable insight into what this unique branch of the Royal Air Force have achieved during that first century at home and abroad. In addition, I have produced the 'RAF Police Roll of Honour' dedicated to all those who have been killed whilst performing their duty or have died whilst serving in the RAF. Regrettably, records of casualties maintained by the RAF Records Office are not filed under branch or trade and consequently, the task of identifying members of the RAF Police from the vast archive was not at all straightforward.

When this project to record the 'Global History of the RAF Police' began 25 years ago, it seemed that I had embarked on an almost impossible mission. Many before, had promised to take on the job and all but one man failed to deliver. The exception was Gp Capt Patrick Hennessey MBE, who, in the early 1990s, privately published a few hundred copies of 'The Story of the Royal Air Force Police'; an overview of the RAF Police since the start and a description of some of the key characters involved in its formation. Former Provost Marshal, Air Cdre Harold Shephard CBE, was invited to write the foreword to that book and wrote:

'An invitation from Gp Capt Pat Hennessey to write the foreword to a book so dear to my heart was irresistible. I accepted with very real pleasure. For many years I had tried to find an author to write about a remarkable [Provost] Branch of the Royal Air Force which, from the humblest beginnings had grown, in less than a lifetime, into an outstanding professional organisation. Moreover, it developed a unique family spirit which, I dare suggest, has contributed greatly to its ever-high morale.

In Pat Hennessey we struck gold. Already an author of two most readable books about his service career, he fought as a tank commander with the 13/18 Royal Hussars in World War II, landing on the beaches on 'D' Day itself; then served with the Royal Military Police in Africa; joined the RAF Regiment, and finally transferred to the RAF Provost Branch in 1956, from which he did not retire until 1984. Moreover, eloquent with words, fluent with his pen, an avid and dedicated researcher able to tap some excellent 'sources' and with a nice sense of humour, where else could one wish to look? He has done, I believe, full justice to the fascinating history of the [Provost] Branch as well as to its rich tapestry of colourful characters, and I for one, am most grateful.

Readers will see for themselves how the [Provost] Branch evolved from primitive, heavy-handed military style policing, into a true professional body that reflected the changed requirements of a highly technical service, relying so much on good security. In fact, in the mid fifties, this was formally recognised by the adoption of a 'help out, not catch out' approach. This paid rich dividends in its relationship with the rest of the service, and by throwing themselves wholeheartedly into the life of the Royal Air Force, in sport, in socialising and, by no means least in fund-raising for charity, the RAF Police lost forever that old fashioned stigma of the 'Copper as social outcast'. Their criterion was ever, 'Do what is best for the Royal Air Force', and over the years they have stuck to that religiously.

On the occasion of the [Provost] Branch's 25th Anniversary [1972], I wrote: 'Brief though our span of life as an independent Branch, much has been achieved on sure and firm foundations, laid by our far-seeing pre-war and wartime colleagues, a Branch fully integrated within the Royal Air Force, and wholeheartedly dedicated to its service, has been soundly built. No better evidence of its success can exist for us than the happy and trusting relationship we enjoy today with the rest of the service, and the respect in which, I know, the [Provost] Branch is held. Every provost officer and RAF Policeman, past and present, can feel not a little proud in bringing us thus so far so successfully along this road, and I am certain the Royal Air Force can confidently look forward to enjoying ever stronger and more professional support from us in the next twenty-five years. This must be our un-erring aim.'

The [Provost] Branch is already nearing that next milestone and I feel sure that those, having read this book, will better understand why such confidence is so well placed.'

In 1993, whilst serving as an instructor at the Airman's Command School at RAF Hereford, I placed my neck on the chopping block and decided to have a go at writing a credible history of the RAF Police. Indeed, when I embarked on the task, Air Cdre Harold Shephard, who was in retirement and not a well man, wrote a number of encouraging letters to me, and from them it was clear that he fully supported my project. Before he passed away in February 2000, he had been able to read my first published attempt; 'Fiat Justitia – A History of the Royal Air Force Police' and was delighted with my efforts. Following the publication of that first book, I was encouraged to continue to record the global history of the branch during its first 100 years.

Frustratingly, by the end of 2015, hard copies of the twice annual RAF Police journal, Provost Parade, which first appeared in 1947, and were a tremendous source of information, had stopped being published in favour of an electronic version that could be read and downloaded from the internet. However, the following year, anything resembling Provost Parade had only been published on the private RAF Police network which was not accessible to the public, including me. Despite providing an almost constant flow of historical information back to several departments within the branch, including the RAF Police Museum at Southwick Park, my attempts to receive an updated summary of what the RAF Police had been involved in during 2017 and in the period leading up to the centenary, were met with silence. Likewise, my request for an updated establishment of the RAF Police also failed to produce an official response.

Finally, I would like to express my thanks to the many serving and former members of the branch who have contributed a wealth of information which, in turn, has enabled me to record this account of the RAF Police during its first 100 years. Indeed every single officer, warrant officer or NCO who has submitted a report, written an article in a RAF journal, or contacted me with a story, has provided important pieces in the huge jigsaw which is indeed, the Global History of the RAF Police. I would also like the thank the inventor of the world wide web, Sir Timothy Berners-Lee, the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates the founder of Windows for making my gigantic task so much easier. Amongst those who have corroborated, the following individuals, some of whom, are sadly no longer with us, are worthy of special mention:

The late Air Cdre H M Shephard RAF Rtd
Air Cdre J L Uprichard RAF Rtd
Air Cdre C R Morgan RAF Rtd
Air Cdre P J Drissell RAF Rtd
Air Cdre A C P Seymour RAF Rtd
Wg Cdr A J Seabright RAF Rtd
Sqn Ldr John Walton RAF Rtd
Sqn Ldr Peter C Somerville RAF Rtd
The late Sqn Ldr H Hawkhead RAF Rtd
The late Flt Lt Denis Read RAF Rtd
Stephen Cattell
The late Leslie Fox
Michael O’Neill
The late George Murgatroyd
The late Richard Seal
John Law
Stewart McArdle
The late Clive Gilmore
Kenneth Needham
The late John Wood
Jim Henry
John Curtis
The late Jim Bew
The late David Brookman
Bevan Stapleton
Peter Hewing
The late Fred Prestwood
Kenneth C Hart
Brian W Russell

I would also like to thank the following:

Mr Bernard Hart-Hallam for allowing me to use material from his book, Nobody’s Hero (ISBN 1-873203-38-1 published by Woodfield Publishing), regarding his role in the D-Day invasion and the push through into Germany with No 6 RAF Security Section.

Mr Frank Authers BEM for allowing me to use material from his book, A Birds Eye View from the Ground (ISBN 0-9541950-0-0 self published), regarding his 30 year career in the RAF beginning during the early days of World War II.

Sir Hugh Cortazzi GCMG for supplying his papers on the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan and allowing me to use material from them and from his autobiography ‘Japan and Back’ (ISBN 1-901903-20-6 published by Global Oriental).

Mr Tony Paley was allowing me to use extracts from his book ‘The Sparrows’ (ISBN 1-85421-145-5 self published).

Mrs Anne Mugridge for allowing me to use material relating to her late husband; FSgt Frank Mugridge, who served with the RAF SIB in India and Ceylon between 1944 - 1947.

The family of the late Professor Richard A Preston of Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, for allowing me to use material from his research into the RAF Security Services 1939 – 1945.

The family of the late Corporal Norman Wortley (1106860) for allowing me to use material from the diaries he kept of his time in Kenya in 1943.

The family of the late David Spero, who as a RAF Policeman in WWII, survived his ordeal as a Japanese prisoner-of-war.


The Books, in both e-book and hard copies, by Stephen R Davies are available from Amazon.co.uk now. If you go to the Amazon link at www.rafpa.com and order from there you will generate a small amount to keep the RAF Police Associates webpage functioning:


A Global History of the RAF Police (Europe) Volume 1

A Global History of the RAF Police (Dogs) Volume 2

A Global History of the RAF Police (S Africa to Kabul) Volume 3

A Global History of the RAF Police (India to Ascension) Volume 4

A Global History of the RAF Police (The Great Escape Stalag Luft III) Volume 5

RAF Police – Snowdrop Humour

A Concise Global History of the RAF Police

RAF Police – In the Line of Fire

White Cap Two-Five

Fiat Justitia – A History of the Royal Air Force Police

So, who will take on the task of recording the next 100 years of the Royal Air Force Police....? Volunteers one pace forward march...!!


Steve Davies
Obidos, Portugal
1 April 2018



READ MORE AT: https://royalairforcepolice100years.weebly.com/

Comments

  1. Thank you for this information, have just visited an RAF museum set up at a former WWII station and when I asked about RAF Police information was shown the door of the retention cell and that was about it. Very disappointing.

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    1. Frustratingly 'Anonymous' this was the problem. Up until I began my project to research the global history of the RAF Police in its first 100 years, very little was known about this unique branch of the Royal Air Force. Recently, the RAF Museum at Hendon London and the Air Museums at York and Newark have developed dedicated sections relating to the RAF Police. If you are on Facebook you can find out more by joining the RAF Police Global History Group.

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