A Brief History of the London Transport Police (Part 2)

Alf Peedle’s LPTB Warrant Card

Alf Peedle’s LPTB Warrant Card

Some personal recollections by Alfred C PEEDLE, MCIT,  a London Transport Police Officer from 1934 to 1974.

Continued from Part 1


In 1947 the British Transport Commission was set up by Parliament with its first offices at 55 Broadway, Westminster, and the Commission became responsible for all public transport in the U.K., with the exception of taxi-cabs and air services. The Commission appointed a Chief Police Officer, who with a clerical assistant and secretary sought to co-ordinate the four main line police forces: Southern, Great Western, London Midland and Scottish and London and North Eastern, which Force had its Headquarters at both London and York.

However, although the London Transport police were re-sworn as British Transport Commission Constables, as were all the special constables employed by London Transport, they remained under the control of Percy SMITH, who reported direct to the new London Transport Executive.

The Executive remained the Paymaster and Quartermaster for the London Transport Police.

Percy SMITH was appointed Chief of Police by the Executive. Richard James BOOTH, who eventually retired as Chief of Police in Scotland, assisted him. Two Chief Inspectors were appointed in charge of each division, I was given the South Division, and James SMITH the North.

During the next ten years, rumours abounded that the London Transport Constables were to be ‘taken over’ by the main line police, and this caused many promising youngsters to leave and join the Metropolitan or County Police. In fact it was not until 1st December 1958 that the London Transport Police were merged with the Commission Police, the four main line forces having been brought together under the command of Arthur Charles WEST, former Chief Constable of Portsmouth, who had been appointed Chief Constable eventually reporting to a Police Committee on which London Transport Executive, and later the Board, was represented.

At this time several senior police officers from the Metropolitan and other Forces joined the Commission’s Force.

On the 1st December 1958, Percy SMITH, having been awarded the Queen’s Police Medal, retired. Dickie BOOTH moved to Bristol, then became Assistant Chief of Police, Eastern Area at Peterborough. I was appointed Superintendent in charge of the London Transport unit reporting directly to the Chief Constable, who then had an office at Marylebone, and on behalf of the Chief Constable to the London Transport Executive. For discipline the London Transport officers came under Chief of Police, Southern Area, Jessie LAWRENCE, who had been Chief Constable of Reading.

I had strong support from the Chief Constable and the London Transport Executive. The Police unit at first consisted of 113 Police Officers and 10 civilian staff. It enjoyed all the support services available to London Transport Departments. Transport, cars and vans were provided and paid for by the Executive. The Solicitor’s office provided legal advice and representation and the London Transport Payrolls Officer continued to deal with police salaries. All these services are even today provided direct by the London Underground Company

The Ticket Inspectors continued to assist in policing crowds at special events, however from December 1958 no further London Transport staff were sworn in as special constables.

Closer relations were established with the Metropolitan and City of London Police Forces, also with the forces in Essex, Kent, Surrey, Thames Valley and Hertfordshire, where London Transport had premises and provided a passenger transport service. Although not having the official approval of the Chief Constable, I continued the previous close working arrangements with the Travelling Ticket Inspectors and their chief, Harry SPANSWICK. These officials were later based at Lambeth North, above the police accommodation.

Harry SPANSWICK was an expert in the detection of fraud and theft by passengers, and by staff, such as ticket collectors and booking office clerks. With Detective Chief Inspector Tommy HANCOCK and the detective staff, he cleared up many cases of fraud, theft and false accounting.

The London Transport Police unit continued to provide a police service to all departments of the London Transport Executive. Members of the unit attended training courses at the Railway Police Training School at Tadworth, then under the command of Superintendent George EAST, formerly of the Metropolitan Police and commandant of a Home Office Training School, and also the Metropolitan Police Training School for Detectives at Hendon. Senior Officers attended seminars arranged by the Security Services.


It seemed the British Transport Commission was far too large to be effective and was abolished. From the 1st January 1963, London Transport became an autonomous London Transport Board.

The Police division became an Area of the British Transport Police Force and I was appointed Chief of Police. I retired in 1974 as the Assistant Chief Constable in command of the London Transport Board Police then reporting to London Transport and the BTP Chief Constable, then Mr William Owen GAY, a former Great Western Railway policeman, and the last Chief Constable to be appointed having had a full career in railway policing.

Between 1963 and 1974 the London Transport Police unit continued to give good service to London Transport, its staff and passengers. Stealing by staff increased; Ticket Collectors were failing to account for and pay in excess fares collected; bus conductors had ticket machines numbers run through by use of a Wolf Electric Drill, then reset at a lower figure; booking clerks were issuing excess fare tickets at values below the fare paid; and there was the failure of many passengers to pay their correct fares.

One case involved four men travelling from Barking to Oxford Circus. One would buy a ticket to Tottenham Court Road, the others tickets to East Ham. All would travel to Tottenham Court Road where the one holding the valid ticket would pass out through the barrier, buy four tickets to the next station, Oxford Circus, rejoin his companions and all leave the railway at Oxford Circus. A similar method was used on the return journey. If questioned en-route, the men without proper tickets would say they were late and ran for the train without getting tickets. This was just one of the many methods used to avoid payment of fares.

On one evening a special check arranged by the Chief Ticket Inspector, in conjunction with the East Region Revenue Protection Squad supported by LT Police Officers, between Mile End and Barking Stations caught 170 passengers. They were travelling without payment of the proper fare and with intent to avoid payment. All were prosecuted by the LT Police. The Inspectors were satisfied that many offenders had escaped the net because of the numbers involved.

It was a wrongly held view by many of my former colleagues on the Main Line Railways, that the main pre-occupation of the LT Police is the detection and prosecution of passengers for fare avoidance. If one looks at the Chief Constable’s 1972 report, it shows that British Rail Police dealt with 50,856 reported offences, of which 21,364 or 42% were Ticket Fraud, compared to the London Transport Police who had 9,157 cases, of which 6,203 or 67% were Ticket Fraud. But this figure was produced in the main by Travelling Ticket Inspectors (TTIs) who dealt with the issue of summonses and attended court, the police task was merely to check and authorise process, the cases then taken on by the London Transport solicitors – a task now undertaken by the Crown Prosecution Service.

In the same report 7,766 principal indictable offences were recorded as dealt with by L.T. officers of which 2,447 were cleared up. The report states that LT officers cleared up 31.5% of such cases, British Transport Docks officers, 47.3% and British Rail officers 27.6%. The cases dealt with by L.T. officers included 11 of grievous bodily harm with intent – 8 cleared; 8 malicious wounding – 5 cleared; 206 assaults occasioning actual bodily harm – 115 cleared, and 86 assaults on police – 83 cleared. Also that 316 thefts by L.T. staff were reported of which 307 were cleared. Amongst the summary offences dealt with by L.T. officers were 1,024 assaults of which 265 were cleared.


During the late 1960s and early 70s, I was in touch with Chief RAPP of the New York City Rapid Transit Police, which then numbered 3,000 officers, all armed. The Transit system there had suffered murders, rapes and much vandalism, also many robberies. The New York press had compared their situation with that in London.

During October 1972, in company with Eric WEST, Operating Superintendent of the District and Piccadilly Lines, I spent four weeks visiting New York, Toronto, Chicago and Salt Lake City where we attended a conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, of which I was then a member.

We then went to San Francisco. I was able to look at their policing methods, whilst Eric concerned himself with the operating side of the rapid transit railways. When I got back home, I submitted a report, a copy of which is lodged at the National Police Staff College at Bramshill. One of the recommendations was that LT installed a radio system using what the New York Force called a ‘leaky cable’ at stations and in the tunnels and subways – and this has only recently been adopted.

Another strong recommendation was to increase police strength to avoid the panic measures which had been taken in New York when their numbers had been increased to 3,000.


Before the war, as a young girl, our Queen had travelled on the Tube Railways with her sister, and on the 7th March 1969 she returned to open the new Victoria Line at Green Park Station.

This was a most anxious day for us. I had walked the route, Green Park to Oxford Circus then back to Victoria where Her Majesty was to unveil a plaque in the ticket hall area. Commander PERKINS, her personal police officer, had accompanied me, and we had many meetings, both in London and at Windsor.

A dais had been erected on the platform at Green Park for the opening ceremony. Just before the Queen left the Palace, a man with a firearm was arrested in Constitution Hill, then a telephone warning said that a bomb had been put under the dais. Several members of staff and police lifted it, and found nothing.

I was presented to Her Majesty at Green Park, then Commander PERKINS, his assistant and I worked together on protection duties. Detective Inspector Tony HANCOCK took post at the railway control office at Euston where he was able to oversee the royal party’s progress by television. I was very relieved when I saluted the Queen on her safe departure from Victoria Station.


An account such as this does not permit that all the important events are covered, but some do remain very much in my memory.

The first suicide I’d dealt with was in 1935. At that time hardly a day passed without someone falling, or jumping, under a train. One day Station Inspector MACEY dealt with three at Victoria District Line Station. My first case was on the eastbound track at Bank Central Line Station. The man was to have met his wife at the Strand Station to do the Christmas shopping. Some weeks before he had lost his job, so had little money. Being a proud man, he did not tell his family, so purchased a penny ticket at Strand and finished his life at the Bank.

Following many much incidents, London Transport had ‘inverts’ or ‘pits’ made under the tracks, between the running rails, in stations to help with the removal of the injured or dead.

At about the same time a Mrs MEADHURST was battered to death in a compartment of a train a between Baker Street and Wembley Park Stations. The trains were of the slam door stock. A railway inspector was in the next compartment, and heard screams but concluded that youngsters were responsible. A man left the compartment at Wembley Park, went up the stairs to the ‘Way Out’ and was not seen again. He was never brought to justice. I was involved in searching the tracks for the blunt instrument and questioning bus staff at Alperton and Willesden Garage in an effort to trace witnesses to the man leaving the station.

All fatalities on the Underground Railways were investigated by LT Detective Officers in conjunction with the Coroners and their officers, but where crime was suspected then the enquiries were pursued in conjunction with the CID from the Metropolitan and other Police Forces near London.


A complaint in May 1952 occupied much of my time. A young woman on passing through the “Way Out” barrier at Leicester Square Station one evening told the Ticket Collector that she had been blackmailed by two Ticket Inspectors when she was found to be travelling on an out-of-date ticket. She said she had later met the two at Golders Green Station and paid them £5. During the conversation she mentioned Edgware and said she was married to an American Airman.

The Collector did not get her name and address, but subsequently reported the conversation to his Station Master. Two Inspectors had been working at Golders Green and I was instructed to make urgent enquiries. It was arranged for the collector to perform early duty at Edgware and the woman was identified. I interviewed her at her place of work, in the presence of the firms welfare officer and she made a statement. Further enquiries led me to a Public House near the Mansion House where I saw Miss MORRISSY’S father, a potman, where I learned that the five pounds had been borrowed from the landlady, she also having been told the blackmail story. I again saw Miss MORRISSY, with her welfare officer, when she withdrew her previous story, which was merely a device to get the five pounds. The conversation with the Ticket Collector was a ruse to back up her lies. It was decided not to prosecute her.


Over the years there have been a number of train collisions, which have called for police action.

On the 17th May 1938 a collision happened between two trains between Charing Cross and Temple Stations on the District Line. During the night work had been undertaken in connection with the signals and the starter signal on the Eastbound platform had been wrongly wired so that when the first car passed over the block joint, it turned to ‘red’ and after the last car passed over, it returned to ‘green’ giving no protection to the first train from a following one. At about 9 am, there was a block back of trains from Mansion House and the mishap took place. 6 people were killed and 46 injured, 5 being detained in hospital.

On the 31st December 1945, an electric locomotive (No. 19) hauling an Aylesbury train ran into the rear of a Watford train near Northwood Station. There was an electrical fire and three passengers; two of them ladies in the rear ‘ladies only’ compartment were asphyxiated. Two compartments in each of the, last two coaches of the Watford train were smashed owing to ‘telescoping’. My part was to interview and obtain a statement from the attendant at the Croxley Green electrical sub-station where the electricity had been switched back on following the collision.

On 8th April 1933, there was a collision between two eastbound Central Line trains between Stratford and Leyton Stations. The driver of the second train had been told at Stratford that the starter signal had failed. He passed it at danger, told his guard, re-set the trip cock and continued down into the tunnel at such a speed that he was not able to stop before hitting the train ahead. 12 people ware killed and 45 injured. Having been out on enquiries, I arrived at Stratford after the passengers and injured had been detrained and I found Assistant Chief of Police James BOOTH and a leading fireman releasing the bodies. The last was a young lad. One of the problems was the use of rigid stretchers which would not easily pass through the end doors of the cars. I got some consisting of two poles with canvas beds from a local hospital. When I found Jim BOOTH, one of the electrical protective rubber gloves he was wearing had fused itself to his palm after he had clasped a piece of hot metal – it had been just cut by an acetylene torch.


Kings Cross wasn’t the first. Fires have always been a particular problem on the Underground.

Some years ago an escalator fire occurred at Paddington, Bakerloo Line Station. It was during the night-time whilst the station was closed. The structures in the upper booking hall area were completely destroyed.

On another occasion, there was an electrical fire on a Central Line train west of Marble Arch station when one male passenger died of a heart failure, possibly brought on by smoke inhalation.

There was also a major fire at Oxford Circus Station, but by far the most serious to happen in recent times was at Kings Cross Station, and amongst the steps taken to avoid further conflagrations is the total ban on smoking and the more regular inspection for fire risks.


During my almost forty years in the Force, first as a London Transport Officer and later as a British Railways Officer, I was very well supported by my brother officers and by the staff and officials of London Transport. As my first number two, I had Superintendent George COUSINS and following his retirement, Superintendent Thomas HANCOCK. Inspector Arthur HAMILTON looked after the many hundreds of fare evasion cases, and the clerical work was in the capable hands of Jack TIERNEY, Harry COTON, then Mrs BETTLE. My secretary, Mrs Joyce STEVENS saw I did not miss any appointments. There are many others, too many to mention, to whom I am grateful.

by Alfred C. Peedle

Continued from Part 1

The above account was given to me by Mr PEEDLE’s son who retired after many years as a Chief Inspector in the Metropolitan Police.