by Bob Butcher

Extract from the May 2011 edition of History Lines (No. 21)

One of Arthur West’s innovations was the introduction, in 1961 (?) of security wardens to relieve the police of locking and sealing duties. Apparently in London and Manchester thefts from road vehicles containing bulk loads of parcels being transferred between stations had reached major proportions. Therefore a considerable number of constables were holly or mainly engaged in locking and sealing vans used for that purpose. In London some old hands were quite happy with this undemanding job but the younger ones detested it.

I do not know the rates or conditions of service of these wardens but initially they were paid and administered through the BTP. They wore a different coloured uniform to the police but had no police powers. They would of course, have had the same powers as any other BR employee although I doubt if they were inclined to use them or, indeed were encouraged to do so.

It was decided that the first batch should receive a week’s training at Tadworth. It is doubtful if George East the Commandant or Tom Lucas his deputy were keen on the idea and were certainly hard pressed to devise a suitable curriculum. After all what class room training do you need to be able to lock and seal a van? It fell on me to give them a talk on ‘Streams of Traffic’ although I thought it inadvisable to ask Tom just what he meant. I have to say that it was not my finest hour (it seemed much longer) and it was impossible to detect any signs of interest, or indeed life, in the class.

I think that after a couple of years the wardens were taken over by a railway department and probably withered away finally disappearing when BR got out of the parcels business. Moreover I am uncertain whether wardens took over the work from the police in Manchester. I would add that many police officers were engaged in locking and sealing duties at goods stations other than those of the LMS (London Midland and Scottish Railway). I am uncertain of the ending of that commitment but have an idea that the operating department took it over in the early sixties.

As with the two preceding articles, this is submitted with the intention of recording some aspects of the history of the Force which might otherwise be lost and in the hope that it will encourage others to correct any errors that I have made(after all these things happened a long time ago) and fill in the gaps.