Lilian Daisy Gale

by Viv Head


gale-articleThe Roll of Honour records at least seventy-two officers have died in the line of duty. Five are known to have been as a result of an act of violence, seven as a result of enemy action, three dock officers have drowned but by far the majority have been as a result of accidents involving trains. Being a railway policeman, especially in the early days, was a dangerous business.

The only female officer known to have been killed on duty was Lilian Daisy Gale who was stationed at Plymouth Docks during World War Two. Lilian Darlington was an articulate, bright young twenty-three year old woman when she married Army Lieutenant Leonard Gale in the early months of the war. Her contribution to the war effort was clerical work at an RAF munitions depot but she was not really cut out for office work and it began to affect her health.

After fifteen months she gave up her job and applied to join the GWR Police at Plymouth Docks; she made a good impression and was taken on in April 1943 as the dock’s first policewoman. Following a month’s training, she was soon out on patrol. It was a job she very much enjoyed and she was always smartly turned out in her neat dark blue uniform with silver buttons and a whistle tucked into her top pocket. She always managed to wear her cap at a jaunty angle – very appropriately since she was stationed at the docks. As well as general patrol, she undertook duties checking permits and ID papers at the main dock gate.

“The job is what you make it” she was fond of saying and she certainly took to it well – adopting the traditional police officer’s stance – feet slightly apart, hands behind her back, working eight-hour shifts, although she did not do night duty. Such was the communication in those war-torn days, that her husband, who was serving overseas, was unaware for many months that he was now married to a policewoman. Asked what she thought he might say when he found out, she said ‘I expect he’ll approve as long as I’m doing my bit.’

As a major Royal Naval Base, Plymouth was a clear target for the Luftwaffe and was subjected to a blitz in the early years of the war. In all, fifty-nine bombing raids took place on the city and more than 1100 civilians were killed. But it wasn’t enemy bombers that took Lilian’s life. On the 6th January 1944, having just celebrated her 26th birthday and with less than one year’s police service, she was on duty at the docks when she was simply standing in the wrong place at the wrong time. Unseeing and unable to hear the approach of a dock locomotive above the noise of the dockside environment, Lilian Gale was knocked down and killed.

Her husband, Lieutenant Leonard Gale survived the war and re-married in 1947.


This article originally appeared in the BTPHG Year Book 2014.

Webmaster’s Note:
Update November 2016: continuing research now records the number of officers killed in the Line of Duty as ninety-six.