My Day's Work

by Detective Constable J. R. KIGHTLEY


Many and varied are the experiences on this job of mine; I am often told that I have a “Bobby’s” job, and so I have in the real sense.

I am a detective on the London and North Eastern Railway, stationed at a one time famous fishing port somewhere in England. In these hard times we have all realised that fish is more of a luxury than ever before, but despite all their difficulties steam trawlers are still to be found hauling in the harvest of the sea. Much of my time is taken up as a result of the actions of men engaged in this particular industry. In every walk of life there is found the man who is out to take advantage of others.

Let us remember that at all times the primary object of an efficient Police is the prevention of crime. Suspicious. actions play an important part in Police work. I have in mind an incident which took place some time ago. After various complaints of the larceny of packages of fish from railway wagons, observation was kept at certain places. One afternoon a man was seen carrying two new boxes bound with wire, and was walking from a spot where fish vans were being loaded. His actions aroused the curiosity of a Police Officer; the man persisted in looking round from whence he had come, and was carrying the. boxes in such a manner as if attempting to hide them from view; finally the route he took was not a familiar one for the time of the day. He was followed and seen to place the two boxes in an office and then ascend to an overhead loft. On being questioned by a Police Officer the man was unable to give a satisfactory account. When enquiries were made it was discovered that the two boxes (which contained ‘kippers) had been stolen from a Railway van.

On board the sturdy vessels that go down to the sea and trawl for the live cod and haddocks we find the man who will steal property of the ship’s crew. A frequent crime is that of stealing sea clothing. A recent loss was reported in which it appeared a trawlerman left a pair of new sea boots in his bunk when the trawler docked. A day or two later the owner went on board to collect his boots only to find, someone had taken the new boots and left an old pair in place. Enquiries were made which resulted in the missing sea boots being found in the washhouse of a member of the crew of the same vessel.

It is an essential thing to have a good knowledge of the structure of all types of sea-going vessels from the small motor craft to large cargo vessels. It is not uncommon for a Policeman to be called to an injured man on board a ship, and I must stress the important part that First-Aid plays in such cases. Many lives have been saved by the prompt action of the Policeman on these Docks.

An additional job of work for the Police in these times is the pilferage of Naval Stores. At this Port, as at others, we find Naval Craft docking and taking aboard such stores as foodstuffs, oil, requirements for the vessel’s upkeep and other paraphernalia. There is at all times food in plenty on board many vessels, and any person so minded has ample opportunity to take away anything he can carry, such as tea, sugar, tins of milk, paint, tools and the like, and it is often very difficult to bring these offenders to justice.

The lot of the average Policeman has been made much harder by the recent application of new legislation involved in Defence Regulations; these have indeed given the “Bobby” plenty of work to do.

Black-Out Regulations have given the would-be thief more opportunity to pursue his shady work. It is true that Black-Out offers the Policeman certain protection against being seen by the thief, but common sense tells us the boot fits the other foot also. To ” Play on our own ground,” as the football enthusiasts say, is an advantage. If the Policeman knows his ground thoroughly he can carry out his duty with confidence in spite of Black-Out Regulations.

Station Staffs cannot always be in attendance at one particular spot on the Station, as they have many different jobs to perform, and this leads to parcels, etc., being stolen during the hours of darkness. In dealing with the modern criminal the Police have a better educated man to deal with than in the days of Charlie Peace, although for his day Charley was a clever chap.

In addition to the persistent thief, the Police have much trouble with the man who, although not of the former type, is inclined at times to take advantage of public neglect or in many cases of implicit trust placed in him by his employer. I have in mind a case which happened some time ago when I had the unpleasant task of apprehending two youths who were employed by a Fish Merchant. The youths were in receipt of good wages and were entrusted at the end of the day to pack away the fish and lock up. However, they betrayed their trust by disposing of a quantity of fish for a negligible value.

And so the work of Police carries on in spite of many obstacles.

I will close’ this humble article hoping that, by it, you have understood and appreciate more the work performed by the men who are said to have “Bobbies’ ” jobs.


Extract from the London & North Eastern Railway Magazine, 1941.
Text from the L&NER Magazine DVD. © Great Eastern Railway Society


Webmaster’s note:
John Kightley had a long career as a transport police officer serving over 35 years (1937 – 1973), having previously joined the railway in 1931. His retirement, in the rank of Chief Superintendent, was recorded by this article in the BTP Journal.

“Gone, But Not Forgotten” might aptly be said of Chief Superintendent J. R. Kightley of Leeds  who recently retired. “ J.K.” was very much a “ character” of many roles — an astute Detective;  Deputy Commandant at the School; wit; poet; a man of strongly held religious beliefs; Federationist;  a doughty fighter in any cause he felt to be right; a friend, good and true, to anybody who  was prepared to put something into the job. He was all these things and more.

Joining the London and North Eastern Railway Police pre-war, he received his early training in School and in the rough and tumble of everyday duty. He served in many places in our far-flung  jurisdiction, and left his mark at each. Going to Leicester as Superintendent in 1960 he, in turn,  later commanded the Grimsby, Sheffield and Leeds Divisions. At Sheffield he led the investigation into the Connington derailment which culminated in him obtaining and executing a warrant  for the arrest of the signalman on charges of manslaughter.

Good luck “ J.K.” we hope that you and your wife enjoy a long and richly deserved retirement.

Extract from British Transport Police Journal, issue 99 (Spring 1973)
Text and photo from BTP Journal DVD ©BTPHG