Career Memories 1965 - 1993

by Gil Tyler

All of us have long standing memories of our service time in the British Transport Police, e.g. the people we worked with, the people we met, the locations we served at, the courses we attended, the cases we were involved in, the promotions we achieved and the variety of work we did in each rank. Also the satisfaction of jobs well done the sadness at dealing with fatalities, the light hearted moments and the serious moments.

My Police career started at Cardiff Docks in 1965. At this time a Sergeant and 2 or 3 Constables were on each shift. Patrols were done on foot or if you got in early enough by bicycle! The only police vehicle at this time was a small van used by the Inspector which was formerly used by the docks electricians. The only communication at this time were telephone lodges on the dock estate in which the patrol officers could contact the main gate to let them know your location and everything on the beat was in order.

After 14 months at Cardiff Docks I was transferred to Barry Docks. This was a different kettle of fish where after the station Sergeant went off duty at 5 P.M. each day the duty PC was left on his own to patrol the docks estate (would Health and Safety allow this today?)! We patrolled either on foot or bicycle during hours of darkness or daylight. The nearest assistance were the local police who would help out if you could get in touch with them…. No radios in those days! We were armed with a truncheon, handcuffs, police whistle and a torch for nights. In 1967 I went on a 10 week Dog Training course at Elstree and was the Dog Handler at Barry Docks until 1973. My shift patterns then changed as I worked opposite the station Detective Constable. I enjoyed my time at Barry Docks with “Chan”. A large part of the Barry Dock estate was taken up with a hundred scrapped steam locomotives and was known throughout the country as the Steam Graveyard. This was owned by a local Barry businessman and this site was a haven for the local thieves. Shortly after finishing the dog course we were supplied with a transit van with a cage in the back for the dog.

In 1973 I left Barry after being appointed Detective Constable at Cardiff Docks. Being in C.I.D. was a different world where investigating serious and not so serious offences was a daily challenge. I remained at Cardiff Docks until promoted to Uniform Sergeant in Birmingham, returning to the Cardiff area in 1976.

Q Train

Sergeant Gil Tyler in the cab of a ‘Q’ train.

I started writing this article really to differentiate the jobs I did in my career and really to identify the most memorable. Having worked as a Dog Handler, Detective Constable, Uniform Sergeant District and station and Detective Sergeant it only took me a few moments to realise that the most memorable was when I was the Sergeant in charge of the Cardiff Mobile Support Unit. This position lasted for 3½ years. I could write a book about my time in the MSU, the jobs we went on, the locations we attended in England, Wales and Scotland for numerous reasons. We even ended up in Ostend to escort Liverpool Football fans on the ferry home after the Heysel Stadium Incident. Whilst in the MSU we heard of our London colleagues operating ‘Q’ Trains. These trains were formed and manned by Police to combat trespassing and vandalism in the London area. The South Wales Division Chief Inspector Steve Chapman started arranging our own are ‘Q’ Trains. On these trains we travelled the Welsh Valley Lines and other South Wales locations where problems were frequently reported.

Usually we had a one coach D.M.U. (Diesel Multiple Unit) with me as spotter riding in the cab with the train driver. The photograph below shows CI Chapman with Cardiff MSU, Dog Handler John Mellor with Cardiff and Swansea Officers preparing to leave Llanelli Station for a ‘Q’ Train mission on The Heart of Wales Line. Some of the uniform officers would follow the train on its journey by road transport in support of the officers on the train. They would convey any arrested persons to the local Police Stations.

Although we mostly dealt with trespass, stonethrowing at trains was a problem in some areas. On returning to Cardiff on one of the ‘Q’ Trains a large stone was thrown at the train by some moron from bushes along side the line. This stone broke the window and struck DC Giggs on the head causing a nasty injury which required stitches at the local hospital. The description of the moron was quickly passed by radio to the road teams who arrested him. It showed us all first hand what terrible injuries this sort of incident caused.Cardiff MSU

It will take me a long time to remember and write about the time I spent in the MSU with its extra special duties. There must be many stories to be told by our members, perhaps some of you can find the time to write them down and share with us. Your service history in the BT Police will be of interest to everyone regardless of rank, subject to the responsibilities of the Official Secrets Act.

It would also be interesting to know of officers life after their service in the BT Police ended. What we did when we left the force to start a new career or whether you just retired altogether and enjoyed life with a good pension. In my case after 6 months of relaxation, I worked at Barry Magistrates Court as a Court Usher and a Clerical Officer. This in itself was an eye opener and frustrated me in some of the decisions the courts made. This part of my life lasted almost 12 years, a daily mix of working with the CPS, defence solicitors and meeting the local low life close up. I finally retired in July 2005 although I sometimes ask my wife what the word RETIRE means! With 3 Grandchildren to keep me on my toes, I often wonder myself!


Extract from the January 2012 edition of History Lines (No. 29)