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History of Met Women Police Officers

PRIOR TO 1919

Two things were instrumental to the grudging acceptance of Women Police in the second decade of the 20th Century:  Concern over the slave traffic and the advent of the First World War.

'....................the strength of Police forces fell rapidly as men of all ranks left to join the Colours.  Everywhere problems of order and decency in public places cried out for an urgent solution' wrote Dorothy Peto, the first Woman Police Staff Officer in her dairies.

Faced with conditions which offered both a challenge and an opportunity, two separate schemes for the organisation and employment of women on police duties were promptly launched.   Women's movements abstained from their militant activities to help the war effort.

In 1914 Nina Boyle advertised in 'The Vote' for women to offer themselves as 'Specials' , when Sir Edward Ward called on the nation for special constables.   She called for recruits to work part time as 'Women Volunteer Police' (WVP)  Sir Edward declared only men were suitable, Nina Boyle ignored him and carried on recruiting.  Mean  while Miss Margaret Damer Dawson, a suffragette - was 'Head of Transport' of a committee formed by Chelsea people, who greeted and helped Belgian refugees escaping from the Germans, she had been involved in an incident whereby a couple of the refugees had been 'spirited' away by 'white slavers, she needed a group of women in uniform - women police in fact.  She had commenced recruiting 'women police' in September 1914. When she learnt of Nina Boyles plans, they decided to join forces and Nina became her deputy. They became the 'Women Police Volunteers'  (WPV).  In February  1915 - Damer Dawson and Boyle fell out over the WPV being used to police a curfew enforced against women.  A vote was taken, Boyle was defeated.  Damer Dawson decided to drop the name 'Women Police Volunteers' and reformed the group as the 'Women Police Service' WPS.  Later they became the Women's Auxiliary Service (WAS).

The Met.'s future Women Police had their foundation in the second scheme proposed by the National Union of Women Workers, known from 1918 as the National Council for Women.  In 1914 they had been approached by Scotland Yard and asked to set up women patrols in the Metropolitan Police area, they were known as Voluntary Women Patrols (VWP).  Their task was to work among the women and girls who were coming to London in increasing numbers to hang around the various army camps, parks, recruiting stations and railway terminals.

A special Women's Patrol Committee was formed by the National Union in London and within a few months more than 500 voluntary patrols had enrolled, the movement gradually spreading throughout the country and proving to be of invaluable help.  The National Union of Women Patrols Committee received a subsidy of £400 in 1917 to carry out its patrol work in the Metropolitan area.  Records show that 2,338 women were working as patrols in 92 different areas.  The Union trained the women and then sent them out under their auspices or lent them to Chief Constables.  Between 4,000 and 5,000 women passed through their hands.

Mrs Sofia Stanley was appointed Supervisor of 'Special Patrols', there were 37 Special Patrols in London at the beginning of 1917, working two nights a week.  By the end of 1917 London had 55 full time Special Patrols.  But there was confusion and conflict in the different approaches that arose between the two groups - the WPS being more militant.
In 1918 women aged 30 and over were given the Vote for the first time.  By the end of 1918 the Home Secretary had ordered the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police to recruit women into the police force.

Interestingly in 1916 women had for the first time in history been employed as typists in New Scotland Yard, taking the place on male officers.  The Daily Express asked a Scotland Yard official if women would ever be employed as police constables?   'No, not even if the war lasts fifty years' was the reply.

1918

23rd December - Police Orders sets out the qualifications and conditions for the new 'Metropolitan Police Women Patrols'.

The Monday after Christmas the first group of women began training at Beak Street Section House.  

1919

Women Police established in London when the first Metropolitan Police Women Patrols came into service on 17th February.

Establishment 110. Strength 110. The first batch were recruited from the' Special Patrols', although many in the second batch were from the WPS. 

Mrs Sofia Stanley, Superintendent in charge. Assisted by Mrs Elinor Robinson.

The first three sergeants made immediately - were Grace Russell, Patty Alliot and Lilian Wyles.

London was divided into three and each was given a section.

They had a contract for a year, as an experiment.  But no power of arrest.  

Women 25 - 38 years of age, not under 5'4".

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1922

The Geddes Axe - Establishment cut by Parliament from 112 to 20. (29 June)

  • Mr. Shortt M.P. said in the House of Commons that Policemen's wives could do Women Police Work.
  • Lady Astor retorted Police did not choose their wives for patrolling streets or escorting prisoners.
  • Mrs Stanley no longer has a role from 21.11.1922.
  • Insp Grace Dixon in charge of A4 (women's dept)

1923

Women first attested and given power of arrest. They were to be sworn in as constables'

Establishment increased to 50.  Insp Betha Clayden is senior female officer.

1924

Bridgeman Departmental Committee on the Employment of Policewomen

1927

General Order issued, women must resign if they marry, but did not apploy to those alread married.

1928

Women over 21, given right to vote.

The Savidge Affair - involves Insp Llian Wyles re statement in a sex offence

1929

Centenary Parade in Hyde Park.

Establishment 50. Strength 47 uniform and 2 CID.

The Home Secretary gave authority for 100 women but that was not reached until 1938.

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1930

Miss Dorothy Peto OBE. appointed staff officer for Women Police. (Began duty 11th April)

Insp Clayden retires

Lilian Wyles joins CID, perfoming detective role in cases around women and children.

1931

New Conditions of Service were introduced which required women officers to resign on marriage.

Uniform modified; collar and tie introduced and shorter skirts.

Refreshment period cut to 30 minutes.

1932

Miss Peto appointed Superintendent in charge of A.4. Branch.

1933

Introduction of Children and Young Persons Act 1933. All reports on juveniles were channelled through A.4. and the A.4. index on juveniles was started.

1934

Hendon Police College

1935

The Royal Jubilee Review in Hyde Park - Women not allowed to march but put by Royal Box.

Silver Jubilee of George V. The Mall was closed - except for school children. Women Police used for the first time on a ceremonial.

1936

Women Police attached to each Juvenile Court and to the Juvenile Bus service.

Pembridge Hall Section House opened.

1937

The Coronation of George VI.

Women Police were authorised to take fingerprints.

1938

Wandsworth Section House opened for women.

1939

Outbreak of World War II. Married women allowed to rejoin.

Establishment 153. Strength 128 uniform and 8 CID.

Women Police dealt with refugees, evacuees, and enemy aliens.

They took their turn on duty at air raids.

Officers were posted to duties at the Internment Camp for enemy aliens on the Isle of Man.

HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH visited Pembridge Hall Section House.

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1941

An unexploded shell hit Pembridge Hall.

Assistant Commissioner George Abiss donated the Lady Abiss Trophy for the Annual First Aid Competition.

1942

Members of the Women's Auxiliary Police Corps were attested.

Women Police Section of the M.P.A.A. was formed.

1944

WPC 128 Bertha Massey Gleghorn was V1 bomb whilst on duty at Tottenham Court Road on 19 June 1944.  She was aged 33 and was the first women police officer to be killed whilst on duty.

Women Police were involved on duty in many air raid incidents.

Pembridge Hall was damaged by incendiary bombs.

1946

Miss Elizabeth Bather, OBE. appointed Superintendent in charge of A.4 Branch. (ex group Captain in WAAF, aged 41).

Superintendent Peto retired.

The marriage bar removed.

New style 'Bather' uniform introduced and worn until 1968.

Women Police allowed to take part in VE Parade.

1947

Princess Elizabeth's wedding to Philip Mountbatten.

W.P.S. (CID.) Alberta Watts was the first woman officer to be awarded the Kings Police Medal for Gallantry, for courage and re-channelled resource in a case of robbery with violence.

Swimming, tennis, shooting, hockey, athletics and choir sections formed within the Women Police Section of the M.P.A.A.

1948

Women admitted to the Police Federation.

The age limit was lowered to 20 as an experiment.

18 Pembridge Square was acquired as an additional house to Pembridge Hall Section House.

Peto House in Aybrook Street, named after Miss Peto and Replaced Wandsworth Section House for women in training.

1949

Superintendent Bather promoted to Chief Superintendent.

Cricket and Walking women sections formed in the Women Police Section of M.W.P.A.

Establishment 338.

Strength 235 uniform and 21 CID.

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1950

Introduction of Women Specials.

1951

Metropolitan Women Police Sports Club formed.

Netball section formed.

1952

George VI died.

Women Police first took part in Nijmegen Marches.

1953

Coronation of Elizabeth II.

Police Council established; election of Federation women advisers.

First Aid Competition for Grace Lucas Trophy introduced.

1954

CID attachments for women introduced.

Nylon stockings introduced.

26th January - women police to wear Divisional letters on shoulder straps (epaulettes) in place of MP.

1955

Awards of the George Medal to W.P.S. Ethel Bush and W.P.C. Kathleen Parrott for courage whilst engaged on observation during an investigation into sex offences.

1956

The Dixon Committee recommended an increase in Women Police establishment to 656.

1957

Women Police manned first casualty bureau after the Lewisham rail crash.

Women Officers served with the British Police Unit in Cyprus.

1958

Badminton Section of Women Police Sports Club formed.

1959

Street Offences Act introduced. A4.Central Index of Prostitutes formed.

W.D.C.s appointed to Flying Squad.

Establishment 575:   Strength 429 Uniform and 49 CID.

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196

Chief Superintendent Bather retired.

Women Police employed on Vellocette lightweight motor cycles in outlying areas on 4 subdivisions

Triumph 'Tigress 'Scooters trial (uniform and plain clothes).

1961

Superintendent Winifred Barker promoted Chief Superintendent in charge of A.4. Branch.

Police Federation Act 1961 gave Women Police full representative and voting rights.

Introduction of the National First Aid Competition.

1962

Age limit to join reduced to 19 years. 

Working Party Report on Met Women Police (inc Supt Shirley Becke) reveals their duties to be: :

  • Patrolling - varied by district
  • escorting women, children and young persons
  • custody of women priosners in hospital and stations
  • taking fingerprints
  • Juvenile and Matrimonial court officers
  • Court Inspector at Croydon
  • Enquiries re missing females, young persons, etc
  • observations on crime, brothels, betting, licensing etc
  • police raids where children and women may be found
  • school crossings
  • deporting women aliens
  • divisional short hand writers
  • statement takers in indecency cases
  • execution warrants re deserters and absentees from Women's Services
  • Lecture outside organisations
  • CID and aids to CID
  • Central index of Prostitutes
  • training school

Establishment:

  • 1 Chief Supt
  • 4 Superintendets and 1 in CID
  • 4 Chief Inspectors
  • 11 Inspectors and 3 in CID
  • 51 Sergeants and 11 in CID
  • 454 constables

7 and half hours parol duty, 1 hour for refreshment.       1 women officer (minimum) on division on night duty.

1964

Award of the George Medal to W.P.C. Margaret Cleland for courage in rescuing a know deranged man and his child from a roof .  

6 women attached to Lambeth Traffic Garage - drove Morris Garage 'B' sports car.

1966

Chief Superintendent Barker retired.

Superintendent Shirley Becke promoted Chief Superintendent in charge of A.4. Branch.

1967

Jennifer Hilton takes up Bramshill Scholarship to Manchester University

1968

New style uniform designed by Norman Hartnell introduced.

First black woman police offcer - Sislin Fay Allen.

1969

Chief Superintendent Becke became the first woman Commander.

Establishment 629:  Strength 515 uniform and 77 CID.

Juvenile Bureaux introduced staffing by both sexes.

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1970

Women appointed to Mounted Branch.

1971

Women appointed dog handlers.

1972

Women appointed to Traffic Division.

New style 'Surrey' uniform introduced.

Sislin Fay Allen resigns

1973

Integration. Equal opportunities. A.4. disbanded.

Separate establishments abolished. Commander Becke appointed to Inspectorate.

1974

Equal pay. Commander Daphne Skillern appointed to take charge of C.O. Branch.

1975

Girl Cadets introduced.

1976

First Woman Chief Superintendent appointed to take charge of a subdivision.

The Metropolitan Women Police Association formed by Chief Superintendent Greta Drinkwater.

1978

A First Aid team of women of the Metropolitan Police win the Grand Prior First Aid trophy a competition against leading teams from the commercial world.

New style uniforms introduced, with 'Butcher Boy' hat. (Reverted to 'Surrey' hat in 1979).

Lord Edmund Davis Report into police pay.

1979

60th Anniversary reception and Reunion Dinner of women in Metropolitan Police, attended by HM Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.

Strength on 1st January 1979 - 1498.

5000th woman joined the service on 19th February - 60 years after the first group left training class.

1980

Establishment:        2074 - 1952 in uniform and 119 in CID

High rank divide:

Chief Superintendents:            1 woman....................130 men

Superintendents:                       3 women....................127 men

Ch. Inspectors:                          5 women....................257 men

Inspectors:                                 14 women..................893 men

Detective CS:                             3 women.....................87 men

DCI:                                             4 women.....................167 men

DI:                                                6 women.....................327 men

DS:                                              16 women...................1037 men

DC:                                              90 women...................1431 men

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1983

WPC Jane Arbuthnot killed with others by IRA bomb at Harrods

1984

WPC Yvonne Fletcher killed whilst policing a demonstration outside the Libyan Embassy.

Jennifer Hilton Acting DAC, responsible of Equal Ops, Race and Gender

Establishment:  2484 (2307 uniform and 174 CID).

1985

New style uniforms introduced, with reinforced Bowler hat.

1986

Women issued with shorter truncheons. To be worn with skirts or trousers provided with truncheon  pockets.  If wearing a skirt not incorporating a truncheon pocket, to be carried in their handbags. 

1988

Jennifer Hilton responsible for Met Police Training 

Women no longer precluded from becoming authorised firearms officers.

1989

22 women trained as AFO's

1990

Jennifer Hilton retires and made a life peer - Baroness Hilton of Egardon QPM.  The fist career Met Police officer to be ennobled.  Active in the Howard League

1993

8th January - last time women were given separate warrant nos. from the men.

Early details - information from The British Policewoman - Her Story by Joan Lock'

Other details are from 'Metropolitan Woman Police Association' archives.

1997

WPC Nina McKay stabbed to death, whilst performing duty as a TSG officer at Forest Gate.

2001

Rape Investigation victim support in Sapphire Teams

Cressida Dick appointed Commander in the Diversity Directorate

2002

Engender - Met Police action plan to empower women in Met Police

Female Officers may now wear the muslim headdress 'hijab'

Commissioner's women's focus group set up

2003

Met Police unveil the new female Met Vest

Sharron Kerr - first woman in charge of the Flying Squad

Janet Williams - Commander of Special Branch

First National Senior Police Women's Conference.  Commissioner praises role of women police officers

2004

WDC Georgina Shanley wins £200,00 for bullying ordeal

2005

Central London tube bombs on 7 July.  PC Liz Kenworthy awarded MBE for saving lives of 2 injured passengers.

2006

Cressida Dick appointed Deputy Asst Commissioner in Specialist Operations

2011

Cressida Dick appointed Asst Commissioner in Specialist Crime Directorate.

2014

As of June 2014, these are the current senior ranking women in the Met Police:

Asst Comm. Cressida Dick                                 Specialist Operations

DAC Fiona Taylor                                               Directorate of Professionalism

DAC Helen Ball                                                   Senior National Co-ordinator Counter Terrorism Policing

DAC Patricia Gallan                                            Specialist Operations Headquarters

DAC Maxine De Brunner                                     Specialist Crime & Operations: Intelligence, Tasking &&Operations

Commander Alison Newcomb                            Area Commander Central

Commander Christine Jones                              Area Commander North

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News & Events

MPS Sports Club - autumn lunch meetings

Meet friends for coffee and a chatter at your local MPS Sports Club

See more here »

MWPA anniversary lunch update

10 September 2016

See more here »