War reserve constable
War reserve constable (or WRC, war reserve police constable, WRPC) was a voluntary role within the ranks of the British police forces. As suggested by the title, the role was as a voluntary police constable during the war. War reserve constables were sworn in under the Special Constables Act 1923, and had the full powers of a police officer.
The War Reserve Police was introduced in 1939 and at the height of World War II in 1944 there were 17,000 war reserve constables. The rank was dissolved on 31 December 1948, causing 686 officers to be discharged from service, and the remainder being recruited for service as a regular or special constable.
Despite British police traditionally being unarmed, during the war officers were armed with Canadian Ross rifles for protection from enemy action, enemy sabotage and to assist with the armed forces.
Duties of a WRC included the usual activities of a constable, as well as enforcing blackouts, combating black market activity, assisting in evacuations and air raids, and capturing deserting soldiers.
Uniform and equipment was the same as a regular constable, with the exception of uniform epaulettes which were detailed WRC above the collar number and divisional sign. During the war officers wore named Brodie helmets instead of traditional police headgear.
Notable war reserve constables
- Jack Avery, a war reserve constable who was stabbed to death in Hyde Park in 1940. There is a plaque near this place to commemorate him.
- John Christie was accepted as a WRC after authorities failed to check his background (he had an extensive criminal record). He later went on to be a notorious serial killer in London, and was hanged in 1953 for his crimes. However this was after Timothy Evans was hanged for two of the murders, possibly causing a major miscarriage of justice.
- Archie Sexton, a professional boxer who was awarded the George Medal for his services in the War Reserve.
War reserve officers killed in the line of duty
A full list of war reserve constables who died in the line of duty can be found here.
- Emsley, Clive; Waterfield, Terry. "Police at War: Second World War". The Open University. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
- "War Reserve Constables: Oral Answers to Questions in the House of Commons". They Work For You. 3 February 1949. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
- Townsend, Paul (10 November 2012). "War Reserve Constable - Metropolitan Police, 1942". Flickr. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
- "Book of Remembrance, 1900s". Metropolitan Police Service. 2015. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
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