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History of Met Women Police Officers

Women Policing London 1914 - 2018


Part 1 – 1914 to 1918

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.

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. The Women's Suffragette 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.

Meanwhile 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 Women Patrols organised by the National Union of Women Workers (N.U.W.W.)(Women Police Committee) - now the National Council of Women, were the nucleus of the first Metropolitan Women Police NOT to be confused with the Women Police Volunteers begun by Nina Boyle and Damer Dawson. Later to become the Women Police Service under Damer Dawson and Mary Allen.

June 1914

Deputation of National Council of Women and other women's organisations to the Home Secretary urging the appointment of Women Police

4 Aug 1914

Britain declares war on Germany.


Sir Edward Ward called for 20,000 Specials to sign up. He refused to allow women to become Specials – his reply was that the Home Office had instructed him to raise able-bodied men.

August 1914

The Women Volunteer Police is formed by Nina Boyle. She is joined in Sept. by Margaret Damer Dawson of the Chelsea Head of Transport (they had been rescuing Belgium women and girl refugees from white-slavers at the railway stations). This group wore uniform.

The men objected to the Women Police groups because they said women should not hear or see any objectionable or indecent things - which was why the women were not only not on juries, they were not permitted to stay in court to listen to any indecency cases.

September 1914

October 1914

The second group was the National Union of Women Workers (now National Council of Women) who set up the Women Police Central Patrol Committee at 105 Victoria Street SW1 with Mrs Creighton as President. They wore no uniform beyond a plain dark coat, skirt and hat with the initials N.U.W.W., and an armlet, with the same initials

Voluntary Patrol Committees in each of the principal Boroughs within the Metropolitan Police District; and Mrs Stanley was appointed Patrol Organiser for the whole area, within which she selected and trained Patrol Leaders, enrolled at voluntary patrols, and helped each group to develop their work in accordance with local needs and opportunities.

She was fortunate in having the approval of two successive Police Commissioners, the first of whom was Sir Edward Henry and the second Sir Neville McCready, who succeeded him in 1918.

Their immediate purpose was the raising of a nationwide body of part-time volunteers, somewhat on the lines of the Special Constabulary, for duty in streets and parks, and around military camps. Throughout the First World War, thousands of women from all walks of life put in a two- hour tour of patrol duty, not less than twice a week, all year round, and dealt with stray girls, begging children, tipsy servicemen, amorous couples in public places, and all the other situations incidental to an evening beat in war time.

A small group of women experienced in social or other work was chosen to train as Patrol Organiser and given a fortnights intensive course in London which included to talk by the magistrates clerk, a police officer, police court missionary and others, all bearing on the problems and the limitations which the voluntary patrols were likely to encounter on the streets and in the courts. Within a few months 26 organisers had been appointed.

The local organisation of the patrol movement committees were set up by the local branches of the National Council of Women. More than 500 voluntary patrols enrolled, the movement gradually spreading throughout the country where camps had been set up.

One woman in each area was selected as a Patrol Leader, a Patrol Organiser was sent down from London to help in launching the scheme, train the Patrols and map out their field of work, the local patrol leader then took over the coordination of all the work of the patrols,

They were instructed in Common Law, their objectives, albeit more of a moral policing was achieved by watching and causing ‘embarrassment’. The Voluntary Patrols had no police powers. In their pockets they carried an Authorisation Card signed by the Commissioner stating that the holder was a voluntary patrol, and entitled to call upon the police for aid in time of need.

Early 1915

Nina Boyle and Damer Dawson fall out. Women Police Service is reformed by Margaret Damer Dawson without Nina Boyle. She is Joined by Mary Allen.

28 January 1916

Women typists were employed at Scotland Yard for the first time.

On 28 January women typists "entered the portals of New Scotland Yard for the first time in the history of the Metropolitan Police." The typists were not sworn in as Constables, but they were on the Civil List and took the places of Constables who ordinarily performed clerical work and had joined the forces.

"Is there any possibility of women being employed as Police Constables?" Daily Express representative asked a Scotland Yard official.

"No, not even if the war lasts fifty years," was the reply.

June 1916

July 1916

Sir Edward Henry (Commissioner Metropolitan Police) employed as paid workers eight National Council of Women - Women Patrols to investigate and report on cinemas in the Metropolitan district.

The Commissioner called for reports from Divisional Superintendents on the work of the Voluntary Patrols; and on the Strength of these reports he decided to take advantage of the provisions of the newly passed Police, Factories (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act enabled pay of whole-time policewomen in England to become chargeable to the Police Fund.

The Commissioner invited Mrs Stanley, the London Patrol Organiser to arrange the employment of 30 Patrols on duty officially in Hyde Park, Victoria, King's Cross, and Euston. To be suitable women and arrange training. They were to work 4 hours a day, 6 days a week.. Since Mrs Stanley could not spare the necessary time to run the training course, she invited the cooperation of the Bristol Training School and Miss Peto went up to London to carry through the class instruction, whilst she concentrated on training on the beat.

They were named the Special Patrols, they wore the same dark clothing as the voluntary patrols but their armlets were replaced with blue and white armlet of the regular police.

Classes took place in Great Smith Street, Westminster in a committee room belonging to the National Union of Trained Nurses. The women selected for paid patrol duty attended there in the daytime and went out on street duty in the evenings; to patrol Hyde Park, Piccadilly and railway terminuses.

They did not get the power of arrest - instead they got a constable to escort them through the streets and make any arrests that were necessary.

19 July 1916

Commissioner Sir Edward Richard Henry sent letter to the Home Office for permission to experiment in the part-time employment of women on police duties.

21 January 1917

Letter requesting £400 annual subsidy to cover the costs of the Women Patrols – requested by Commissioner as the Special Patrols.

10 March 1917

1 April 1917

June 1917

24 Sept 1917

October 1917

November 1917

Mrs. Sofia Stanley was appointed Supervisor of Special Patrols, her title being approved as it was not a Police title. When she took over there were 37 Special Patrols in Central London and 29 in the suburbs, most of them working 1 or 2 nights a week. But by the end of the year she had increased the numbers to 55 in Central London and they were working full time.

Two whole-time 'Women Patrols appointed for work in Leicester Square with the Metropolitan Police.

All work done by Women Special Patrols with the Metropolitan Police made whole-time. Forty employed at the rate of 30s. for a 42 hours' week plus 6s. war bonus.
An unlimited number of part-time women employed for miscellaneous duties paid by the day

Letter from Commissioner informing NUWW he will pay Mrs Stanley 42s. a week

Four Women Patrols and a Patrol Leader employee with the Metropolitan Police at Holton Heath Cordite Factory at the cost of the Admiralty.

Nine Women Patrols with Patrol Leader employed at Woolwich Arsenal with Metropolitan Police at the cost of the War Office.

31 Oct 1917

Letter requesting that Commissioner pays for overcoats for the special Patrols

March 1918

The Commissioner asked Mrs Stanley to supply him with regular monthly reports on the work of her patrols. She produced efficient area by area assessments. She told how her patrols warned couples of unseemly behaviour in Hyde Park in suggestive attitudes. No resentment seems to have been shown to them

Summer 1918

During the summer the Home Office and the Ministry of Munitions began discussing the feasibility of appointing Home Office controlled women police patrols. A committee was set up.

30 August 1918

30th August 1918 the Committees papers were sent to the Commissioner at Scotland Yard insisting that something be done urgently. But at that time the Commissioner had more pressing worries than women - his men were out on strike and columns of them were marching down Whitehall.

11,000 officers of the Metropolitan Police and City of London Police went on strike while Sir Edward Richard Henry was on leave. Commissioner resigns.

4 Sept 1918

New commissioner appointed – Lt. Gen. Sir Cecil Macready.

2 Oct 1918

Commissioner submits his proposals for women officers in the Met. to the Secretary of State. Home Office.

3 Oct 1918

Daily Mail “A force of Women police is to be created for London - officially recognised - under the control of the Commissioner and subject to the same discipline as the men. This is another break through by women of that long line of positions that were assumed only to be fitting for men.

'Women are likely to be firm and efficient constables .... Our urban life will be cleaner by the presence of the woman constable. In the woman constables dealing with the minor male offender against the law, she is likely to less lenient than the policeman, and to be less inclined to 'look the other way' Man is apt to be merciful with man - and woman. Women will not be cajoled. When a woman has a sense of duty, she is inflexible”.

9 Oct 1918

Secretary of State generally approves proposals and asks for full details.

18 Oct 1918

Commissioner submits details of proposed ‘experimental formation of a body of Women Police’ – Strengths, Pay and conditions.

11 Nov 1918

Armistice signed - WWI ends. Men return wanting employment.

Many women for the first during WWI came out of Domestic service into a wide range of jobs.

14 Nov 1918

Letter form the Secretary of State. Home Office, approving ‘experimental formation of a body of Women Police’.

16 Nov 1918

Commissioner writes to the Women Patrol Committee of the National Union of Women Worker informing them that the Secretary of State has sanctioned the formation of a body of women patrols under his direct control and terminating his existing arrangement of paying the N.U.W.W. to provide patrols. Also offering Mrs Stanley the post of Superintendent of the new body.

16 Nov 1918

He invited Mrs Carden 0BE who was the Hon. Sec. of the Central N.C.W. Patrol Committee, to sit on the selection board for the appointment of women recruits at New Scotland Yard.

21 Nov 1918

Letter from NUWW informing Commissioner that Mrs Stanley accepts post of Superintendent.

22 Nov 1918

Police Orders – Informs officers – the Secretary of State has sanctioned the formation of a body of women patrols under his direct control.

23 December 1918

Police Order setting out terms and Conditions of Women Patrols. The new body was to be designated the Women Police Patrol Division with authorised strength of

1 Superintendent(Mrs Stanley)

1 Assistant Superintendent

10 Patrol Leaders for Sergeant duties

100 Police Patrols

Pay was low and no pension rights were given. Their contracts were to be on a yearly ‘experimental’ basis, after a 3 month probation period - but they were not to be called women police - McCready objected to that - they were to be call Metropolitan Women Police Patrols - they were not sworn in, nor were they given the power of arrest. The only real difference now was that instead of being employed by an outside body – the NUWW - they were employed by the Commissioner.

The first women were recruited from the' Special Patrols', although many in the second batch were from the Women Police Service.

30 December 1918

The first Metropolitan Police women’s patrols began their training. (Monday after Christmas).

The recruits entered the training school at Beak Street - 2 weeks later they transferred to Peel House where they were taught police duty, first aid and foot drill.

The training was over five weeks on the same lines as the male recruits. The Superintendent in charge reported that they proved to be good pupils.

Mrs Sofia Stanley, was made Superintendent A.4.(Women Police) Dept. in charge. Assisted by Mrs Elinor Robinson.

Compiled from MWPA Timeline and various documents and histories. Sioban Clark, Archivist MWPA

Part 2 is currently being amended as more archive documents are catalogued. Unfortunately since 1990’s records and information on women’s history remain buried in the Met. computer. The information below will be updated in due course.


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. 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".


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)


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.


Bridgeman Departmental Committee on the Employment of Policewomen


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


Women over 21, given right to vote.

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


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


Hendon Police College


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.


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

Pembridge Hall Section House opened.


The Coronation of George VI.

Women Police were authorised to take fingerprints.


Wandsworth Section House opened for women.


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.


An unexploded shell hit Pembridge Hall.

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


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

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

[Back to top]


Introduction of Women Specials.


Metropolitan Women Police Sports Club formed.

Netball section formed.


George VI died.

Women Police first took part in Nijmegen Marches.


Coronation of Elizabeth II.

Police Council established; election of Federation women advisers.

First Aid Competition for Grace Lucas Trophy introduced.


CID attachments for women introduced.

Nylon stockings introduced.

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


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.


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


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

Women Officers served with the British Police Unit in Cyprus.


Badminton Section of Women Police Sports Club formed.


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.alsio


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).


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.


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


  • 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.


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.


Chief Superintendent Barker retired.

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


Jennifer Hilton takes up Bramshill Scholarship to Manchester University


New style uniform designed by Norman Hartnell introduced.

First black woman police offcer - Sislin Fay Allen.


Chief Superintendent Becke became the first woman Commander.

Establishment 629: Strength 515 uniform and 77 CID.

Juvenile Bureaux introduced staffing by both sexes.

[Back to top]


Women appointed to Mounted Branch.


Women appointed dog handlers.


Women appointed to Traffic Division.

New style 'Surrey' uniform introduced.

Sislin Fay Allen resigns


Integration. Equal opportunities. A.4. disbanded.

Separate establishments abolished. Commander Becke appointed to Inspectorate.


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


Girl Cadets introduced.


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

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


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.


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.


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

[Back to top]


WPC Jane Arbuthnot killed with others by IRA bomb at Harrods


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).


New style uniforms introduced, with reinforced Bowler hat.


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.


Jennifer Hilton responsible for Met Police Training

Women no longer precluded from becoming authorised firearms officers.


22 women trained as AFO's


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


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.


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


Rape Investigation victim support in Sapphire Teams

Cressida Dick appointed Commander in the Diversity Directorate


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


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


WDC Georgina Shanley wins £200,00 for bullying ordeal


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


Cressida Dick appointed Deputy Asst Commissioner in Specialist Operations


Cressida Dick appointed Asst Commissioner in Specialist Crime Directorate.


Current senior ranking women in the Met Police:

Commissioner Cressida Dick

AC Pat Gallan

AC Helen Ball

DAC Lucy D'Orsi

DAC Fiona Taylor

DAC Alison Newcomb

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