Late in 1959 I was posted to Newton Aycliffe and sent on a 6 month course to the Police College. At that time, permission was granted for my widowed father-in-law to stay with us and I had asked for a larger house – this was not granted.  On completion of the college course, I was promoted to Inspector and was given a larger house [house number 9] with a garage. Perhaps the fact that I was posted to be the Chief Constable’s Staff Officer had some bearing on this!

The Chief Constable was an Oxford Graduate and ex-Trenchard man who therefore had had direct entry to the rank of Inspector. The Trenchard scheme was a similar system to the Army, but was eventually disbanded after the ‘troops’ wanted all personnel to serve two years on the beat as a constable. Other systems have since been introduced with accelerated promotion, university courses etc.

 I appreciated working for a Chief Constable with a very high IQ and got permission from him to apply for a temporary post with the Regional Mobile Column. This was to deal with terrorist activities and Civil Defence in which I had previous experience.












Inspector H. English – 1st Mobile Police Column 1961


As Divisional Commander of A group, I had a Landrover, driver, two motorcycles and two truckloads of sergeants and constables.

The first task we were given involved a large reservoir in the Dales and fortunately I sent my two motorcyclists ahead to travel round the reservoir. They stopped and arrested two terrorists about to put a pollutant into the water.


After two years as Staff Officer I was posted to Traffic South which did not require a move of house – hurray! The main road was the A1 and I had 24 hours supervision of numerous men and patrol cars. We dealt with major accidents etc. Two involved a train and vehicles. One other, I recall, involved a motorcyclist. After he had arrived in hospital, he asked how his pillion passenger was. We had to go back to the scene and discovered him over the hedge in the field, they both survived.

The twins at this time were coming up to their 11+ examination and it was a great relief to see the post lady holding up two envelopes as she came to the door.

After a few years on Traffic, I was posted to Stockton-on-Tees as Detective Inspector! And house number 10. Never having been in CID, it probably looked a bit odd on Force Orders as did the case of the Detective Inspector who was posted to Road Safety.

House number 10 was in a block of ‘standard police houses’ for constables but I was soon allocated a ‘very senior officer’s house’ which was vacant and which became our house number 11. The intention was that shortly after we would go to house number 12 when a pair of ordinary senior police houses were finished being built.

The twins, by this time, had been to Bishop Auckland Grammar School and then to a new Grammar School at Ferry Hill. My present posting required them to go to Stockton Girls Grammar School, their third in a very short time.

Whilst at Stockton, I was involved in the investigation into the murder of a prostitute, the culprit being arrested very quickly in Yorkshire. Also, I was commended by the Chief Constable regarding the resolution of a complicated case of fraud on which I worked together with the Regional Crime Squad.

After 12 months, I was promoted to Uniform Chief Inspector and posted back to Tyneside at Blayden. The house would have been number 13, but had been unoccupied for some time, needed decorating and had a very overgrown garden. It would also have meant Grammar School number 4 for the twins. It was decided to delay the move for two weeks whilst the property was dealt with.

The Chief Inspector at Billingham, Sub Division decided to retire and take a civilian job that he had been offered. It was decided that I would be posted to Billingham, a sub-division of Stockton without having to move house – hurray – and no change of Grammar School.

Billingham was well known as ICI country, a massive chemical complex and a population of about 25,000 together with Haverton Hill, which leads to the magnificent Transporter Bridge across the Tees to Middlesbrough. The bridge was prominent in the spoof TV programme where a group of ‘Geordies’ from ‘Auf Wiedersen, Pet’ were supposed to dismantle it and rebuild it in America.

Although I personally, was still on 24 hour responsibility, the result of the 8 hours ‘continuous’ duty regulation and the, now, affordability of the motor car meant that officers now were allowed to buy their own house. I bought a small bungalow in Billingham [house number 13] and a slightly larger one later on [number 14].

We had a major incident when a petrol cracking plant caught fire and required 40 fire brigades to put it out. Three men died and the company were averse to me examining the scene.  I pointed out that as Coroner’s Officer, they could not prevent me. They gave me a hard hat. The final problem was a very tall tower leaning at a very precarious angle. I asked them what would happen next. They said ‘We will bring it down using explosives!’ in the middle of this hazardous chemical complex. Needless to say I ensured my car was some distance away and was pointing in the opposite direction. All went well.

I became a founder member of the Billingham Golf Club, before it was built, and we had frequent meetings to decide on development. On completion, I joined and played there when possible, including taking part in friendly matches against local industries.

At this time the Government had decided that all small police forces had to be amalgamated. Middlesbrough, a force of about 300, was expanded to become Teesside Police Force, taking in part of South Durham and part of North Yorkshire police.

Billingham was involved. Durham police officers were given the option to stay or relocate so that they could still be part of Durham County Constabulary.

As this would have meant another Grammar School for the girls, at present doing their ‘O’ levels, I decided to stay. On top of which, Teesside Police being a borough force, the Chief Inspectors would then work an 8 hour tour of duty as opposed to my 24 hour responsibility.

I was sent to be interviewed by the Deputy Chief Constable of the Middlesbrough force and told that because of my Staff Officer background and general experience I would be promoted to Superintendant, at headquarters, which meant going back to 24 hour responsibility. In those days, there were two grades of Superintendant, Grade 2 and Grade 1.    I was to be a Grade 2 Superintendant.

Then Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary and his Staff decided that my post ought to be a Grade 1 rank and the two local senior officers involved in postings tried to adjust the postings to reflect this change.

However the Chief Constable was suddenly taken very ill with meningitis. As a result, two local officers dealing with postings had to deal with the Deputy Chief Constable. He had previously been left out of the picture and was consequently rather peeved.

 “Not on your nelly”, said the Deputy Chief Constable, now Acting Chief Constable, “the postings and ranks shall be as scheduled.” I was in the right place at the right time and went from Chief Inspector to Superintendant Grade 1.

On 1st April 1968, I took up my new post and doubted if the officers concerned could have coped anyway. My telephone was so busy with questions from officers who in the past had access to local senior officers, that I had a light as opposed to a bell installed. It was a long time before they became educated to contact their own Divisional Staff.

Omens. In August 1968, I did not feel very well. My GP was an ex-Czech Olympic swimmer who did sterling work with the youngsters of Billingham and he said I was working too hard. He never even took a urine sample. My blood pressure was up – not surprising – and he told me to have a rest and lie down in the afternoon – where? In police headquarters? He, himself kept a caravan in the garden so as not to be disturbed.

I later went to see him but he was away and one of his colleagues gave me a prescription for some Aldemet. I took one and went to work. At 10.30 am I collapsed at work and was taken home. The specialist who was called out kept saying ‘It’s chemical, John’ to the GP who was also there. This did not surprise me living in the middle of ICI country, which was well known for spewing out powder etc in the middle of the night and which settled on one of the playing fields of their company.

He put me in hospital for a week, with only x-rays as opposed to present day scans, to detect the problem. When I left he told me he had found a problem and diplomatically said ‘There is a cyst on your right kidney’. He said he would get me into a local hospital and if it was not available, he would get me into his Alma Mater, which was in Edinburgh. That is how urgent it was.

The local hospital was ancient and the surgeon removed my right kidney saying ‘I think I have got everything out’. The very virulent cancer, that I later found out was the problem, had miraculously been contained in the kidney. It was, in fact, thanks to Aldemet, which is not supposed to be given to people with kidney problems, that I survived and eventually recovered.

The surgeon did accidentally paralyse my digestive system and should have detected and removed some gall stones that I apparently had. I was sent home after about 10 days, ignorant of my plight, which my wife had to deal with. A dispute with the NHS caused months of delay in removing my gall bladder and I was existing on boiled fish for this time and lost quite a bit of weight. I improved after the removal of the gall stones, but I was still on medication after the removal of the kidney.

I was then posted to South Bank as Deputy Divisional Commander.

 The Division included Redcar sub division where there was a major hotel fire where numerous people died. Most of the clientele were attending a wedding and were from Holland. Our main problem was in identifying the bodies and we had to obtain dental records from their home town in Holland.

At Redcar we had a visit from the Mods and Rockers to the seaside resort, where we were required to supervise the event with numerous personnel and there were a number of arrests for bad behaviour.

I was once detailed to give a talk to some 10/11 year old children at a local school. One bright boy said ‘Why have you got only one button on one sleeve and two silver buttons on the other?’ this was true, but unknown to me. Without a blink of an eye and in true ‘Captain Mainwaring’ [Dad’s Army fame]  I said ‘Yes, I wondered if anyone would spot that, I am sure you will make a good detective when you grow up’. His classmates were very impressed.