BTP Terms

This is a Glossary of terms used within BTP and the railway over the years. It is not definitive and if you have any additions, corrections, or find any errors, please use the Contact Form to let us know.

Thanks to Tony Bennett for compiling this list from the large number of contributions submitted by members.

Such was the number of contributions that we have produced two more tables – Railway Terms and Graffiti Terms.

Please Note – These terms are a reflection of police history and culture spanning decades and not necessarily a reflection of today’s terminology.

35 IS REQUIRED AT PLATFORM 2A tannoy anouncement for police required. Each department on the station had its own number. Preston term.
5.3.AA call to a ticket fraud job.
609'sMetropolitan Police previous convictions form - mainly used by London BTP officers. BTP versions (created with a plain paper copier and a bit of headed notepaper) carried the same reference number. Later the official BTP form had a BR number.
A SECTION 5A football disorder arrest.
A82Call sign of the central London vehicle that carried special equipment to deal with unattended items. Staffed by officers from the three London Areas (as they were at the time). Later absorbed into a larger FHQ department.
ACROSS THE PAVEMENT Armed robbery - firearms enabled.
ADVICE GIVENA phrase seen in Summary Offences Books - a wonderfully vague term.??
ANGLESEY DEPORTATIONIf the local Magistrates didn’t like a defendant after being dealt with, BTP officers would be ordered to put them back on the ship to Ireland. Docks term.
AREA SEARCHED NO TRACELineside/scene searched - no sign of offenders.
AUTO/AUTO PHONEInternal London Transport telephone network. These phones were labelled 999 London Transport Police for at least 30 years after the force became part of BTP.
BACK DOOR 30 SECONDSAn imminent arrest is due at the custody entrance any time soon. London Euston term.
BADGER TRAFFICA silver bullion coming up from Southampton. Waterloo term from the 1960's.
BANANA BOATThe Fyffes ship. A Southampton Docks term.
BE THERE PRESENTLYA term used by BTP officers to indicate they will arrive at a location as soon as they were able - really a self mocking phrase.
BOAT PEOPLEA nickname for officers displaced from the docks.
BofE ESCORTSThis involved escorting trucks from the city to Freightliner depots where cash was transferred in containers.
BONGOBooked on Never Goes Out - often whispered of Sergeants.
BRENDAThe call sign of bullion trains (giving rise to the notorious radio transaction, BX BX this is Brenda…).
BULLET TAGUSShort for containers of cash, believed to have been taken from railway telegraphic code.
BUSTLE PUNCHERSomeone indecently assaulting a female, usually on an escalator but also a crowded tube train. 1970's term.
BXCall sign of the FHQ control room.
BX REQUEST TALK THROUGHBX from (call sign) request talk through with mobiles/PRs. (BX had the ability to transfer personal radio messages to other callsigns).
BYE-LAW 17A Railway Bye-law which covered everything from a riot through to wilfully interfering with the comfort or convenience of passengers. Now replaced by Railway Bye-law No 6 which is composed in less forthright terms.
CFW CALLRadio call when there was a concern for the welfare of an officer or member of the public. Officers working on their own were subject to ‘welfare calls’ often made by telephone, especially for district posts.
CIVIL POLICELocal police forces, more used by the industry than by BTP. Implies that BTP were either military or lacked civility.
CLAUSE FORMInternal correspondence between police stations requesting that investigations be made locally, etc.
COUNCIL POLICEHome Office Police Forces.
D FOR PThe practice of offering a discount on goods purchased by police officers. Sometimes a formal and declared arrangement and otherwise a form of corruption.
DIPA pickpocket, especially on the London Underground.
DIP SQUAD A squad of officers dedicated to the detection of DIPS, i.e. the detection of offences of ‘theft from person’. There has been such a squad since before the formation of the LTP, probably extending to the period before the Great War.
DOCK HOUSEBTDB main Offices. Southampton Docks term.
DOUBLE BACKThe point in a roster where there would only be a gap of eight hours between finishing one shift and starting another. For example moving from nights to lates on the same day.
DOUBLE SHUFFLEA person evading their fare by approaching the automatic ticket barriers close behind the person in front and push through before they close. London Underground term.
DUCK SHOVEA job passed on by a less enthusiastic colleague.
ELEPHANTS GRAVEYARDA description of FHQ used by the Sunday Times and in popular use for a while in the London area. A reference to the number of retired officers from Home Department Forces who spent their post twilight years as BTP senior officers.
FINGER OF JUSTICEWhen one couldn't physically restrain - finger pointing into a suspects chest.
FLASH REPORTSOne page reports of parcels missing in transit. In theory each was investigated and crimed.
FOOTBALL CHARTERNormally a whole train booked by a group of football supporters.
FOOTBALL SPECIALA BR train to try and keep supporters off normal trains and generally non-stop point to point.
FOXTROT CHARLIERadio call for Fish & Chips, anyone want any? Birmingham term.
FRAGGLE ROCKBTP Force Headquarters.
GO'sGeneral Orders. Published weekly and providing the definitive listing of who had been suspended, sacked, posted and promoted. Eagerly read by all officers and staff. Part 2 orders, under the title: Crime, Operations and Kindred Matters, included details of new legislation etc. Mainly read by officers seeking promotion.
GREEN MINUTESFrom 1920s onwards agreements between the Force (s) and the Federation were known as Green Minutes. Sacred texts.
GRIPPERA ticket inspector.
GURKHAAn officer who shared with that great regiment a reputation for ‘taking no prisoners’.
GUVNOR OR BOSSInspector or above (if you liked them).
HOOP SEALSThe metal ‘hoop seals’ which were put through the hasps of goods wagons doors, ostensibly to protect valuable cargo contained therin. Some vans even had padlocks so there were duplicate keys held by BR staff at the departure and arrival depots.
IN THE BIN A person in custody.
JDPAn abbreviation for John Dennis Purcell a lovely old Stipendiary Magistrate at Clerkenwell Court. He referred to BTP as “his officers” as many BTP officers were sworn in before him in the 1970’s.
KNIFE AND FORK SQUADThe FHQ CID team that specialised in dining car staff, theft and frauds and also on ship restaurants.
LISBONTravelling Post Office train (TPO) call sign on the Holyhead/Crewe route.
LOCKING AND SEALINGThe checking of metal ‘hoop seals’ which were put through the hasps of goods wagons doors, ostensibly to protect valuable cargo contained therin.
MAIL BAG SQUADMail bag squad.
MARKETINGThe practice of seeking out a public house that held a ‘market licence’ allowing it to open early in the morning thus allowing officers to visit at the conclusion of a night shift for the purposes of debriefing operational activities. Smithfield and Borough Markets in London being such locations.
MICCManagement Information and Communications Centre. FHQ control, although to call it that would have elicited a rebuke.
MOLESOfficers posted to the London Transport Division.
MR BROOKE FROM THE BOND IS IN THE OFFICE TO SEE YOUTanoy anouncement stating the tea is on in the office. Birmingham term.
MR LOCKE’S STAFF ARE REQUIRED AT THE TICKET BARRIERTannoy anouncement for Police required. Crewe term.
OBOccurrence book. Used in other police forces but lasted for a long time in BTP.
OBBThe other boards book. Used to record time spent by officers whose primary duty was to police one part of the jurisdiction e.g. rail, when policing another part e.g. Sealink.
OCSOn company's service. Endorsement required on letters sent via BR mail system.
OLYMPIC TORCHOften whispered of Sergeants who never went out of the office.
ON THE CUSHIONSProbably a railway term but in BTP normally used to describe travelling to a distant location to 'bring back' football fans who had travelled to an away match.
ONE UNDERFatality on the railway, someone run over by a train.
ONE VAGRANT/DRUNK ERECTED AND EJECTEDRemoving a vagrant from the area.
ONWOil on navigable waters. A subject that seemed to come up at Tadworth an awful lot, even after the withdrawal from the docks and of little interest to railway based officers. Docks Term.
OPERATION SOLFIRETerm used by the emergency services including the BTP for a Major Incident involving Southampton Docks, Fawley Oil Refinery and Ships en route to Southampton. SOL refers to The Solent. Local term to the Hampshire area.
PADDY KELLYWords uttered/shouted out by dockers to warn their hard-working colleagues who were smoking in the dock sheds when they spotted a BTP uniform officer approaching. It was an offence under the dock byelaws to smoke there and led to many fines. Hull Docks term
PARIS & MADRIDCall signs used on the TPO’s out of Euston in the 1970’s. There were numerous other call signs allocated to the other services across the country. London Euston term
PAVEMENT ARTIST Someone who specialised in armed robbery.
PINSThe BTP force computer system. Ahead of its time. It stood for Police INformation System.
PLODThe much envied command and control system used by the LTIR, London Transport Information Room and the LT division. Police Logistics and Operations Database.
PR&DForms used to track property. Property Recovered and Disposal Forms. Several sheets of carbon paper were required and there always seemed to be forms left over.
PUGGS HOLEName given to Ebury Bridge Custody, the name actually given to the adjacent sidings. London term.
PUTPerson under train. The abbreviation and main phrase reflecting (1920’s onwards) the presence of a suicide pit at many locations. A phrase used mainly by London Transport to describe persons struck by trains.
PUTTING THE FRIGHTENERS ON Asserting ones authority.
QUICK CHANGE AROUNDThe point in a roster where there would only be a gap of eight hours between finishing one shift and starting another. For example moving from nights to lates on the same day.
RAILA command and control system. Resource Allocation and Incident Logging.
RARTL Division Response and Recovery Team. Later merged as per A82.
RDWRest Day Working. Morale boosting feature on a roster.
RED DEVILArrest report as the template was in red and had to be typed in triplicate.
RED PERILThe arrest sheet which had to be filled in especially overnight ones.
RUMMAGE CREWSTeams of Customs Officers employed searching ships. Southampton Docks term.
SARBUTAn Informant. Birmingham CID term from the 1960's.
SBSpecial Branch. In BTP this title was used to describe CID in the early years of the force. Later the description was used in the traditional police sense.
SELECTSMnemonic employed to remember the areas covered by S55 BTC Act 1949 trespass. Sidings, electrical apparatus used for, or in connection with the railway, lines of railway, embankments, cuttings, tunnels and similar works.
SERVICE TRAINRegular scheduled train with football supporters on board.
SET OF TEETHA police dog.
SKIPPER OR SKIPPolice Sergeant.
SOBSummary Offences Book.
SO'sStanding Orders. A mighty book detailing everything from the preferred method of saluting through to the procedure for sickness absence. Scrapped as too big and bulky and replaced with policies, standard operating procedures and guidance all available electronically and around 50 times larger than the original book of Standing Orders.
SPECIAL MOVEMENTMovement of special trains, people and materials, including the Royal Train, spent fuel flasks etc.
STEVIESReferred to Stevedores. Southampton Docks term.
STIPEAbbreviation for Stipendiary Magistrate, now known as District Judge.
SUPPLEMENTARYAn allowance that in the end became controversial.
TADDERSTadworth BTP training centre
TAXI TOUTSNormally mini cab drivers, sometimes black cabs, who tried to pick off punters before they got to the rank. Generally then charged huge sums, especially from foreign tourists.
TEMPORIESStevedores employed on a as-required basis. Southampton docks term.
THE BONDThe Bonded Store that were goods sheds for wines, spirits, etc. awaiting attention by Customs & Excise. Checking it was always a vital part of a patrolling officers beat because of its vulnerability.
THE CAPE BOAT Term for the Union Castle ships to and from South Africa. Southampton Docks term.
THE CIVICThe City Civic Centre police station in Southampton. Southampton Docks term.
THE COLLEGE OF KNOWLEDGEBTP training school, in particular Tadworth.
THE DAIRYFHQ when at Tavistock Place. The former HQ of Express Dairies.
THE DREAM FACTORYBTP training school.
THE FIFTH EMERGENCY SERVICEDerived from vehicles without blue lights at a time, whilst the AA were advertising themselves as the the fourth emergency service.
THE HOSPITAL RUNA code for an officer to pick up a load of freebie newspapers from the paper trains at Euston some of which were then delivered to the hospital staff at nearby University College Hospital. London Euston term from the 1970’s
THE POOLTerm used for the area opposite 2 Gate where men would stand waiting for a days work. Southampton Docks term.
THE QUEEN'S OWN BUFFET HIGHLANDERSOriginating in a TV sketch in a different form but employed in Force to describe escorting Scottish Regiments when they travelled home from barracks in England. Defending the buffet being the main function of the escorts.
THE RATThe Bell public house in the woods near BTP training centre Tadworth
THE RATTLERLondon Underground train and the policing thereof. A short lived newsletter also carried this title.
THORNY’SReferred to staff employed by Thornycroft Ship Builders. Southampton Docks term.
THREE FAILSA reference to rail staff power of detention in S5 Regulation Railways Act 1889.
THURSDAY CLUBEarly shift finish before long weekend and starting nights (usually ending up in a local P/H from 1500hrs).
TIA call to a ticket job.
TMBTelephone Message book. Used in other forces but lasted for a long time in BTP.
TOM A common prostitute, soliciting or loitering for the purposes of prostitution in public areas of railway land or docks. The origin of the phrase is unclear, this is probably a good thing. The working girls at King’s Cross were always willing to write out their own charge sheets to speed the detention process but they would never include the word ‘common’ as originally required by s1 Street Offences Act 1959. The Act has now been updated (in 2009) and the word and the accompanying gender discrimination has, thankfully, been removed.
TPOTravelling Post Office train introduced after the great train robbery in 1964. Police by BTP officers across the length & breadth of England, Scotland and Wales. BTP ceased policing them in 1973 but Royal Mail continued running them until the last ran in January 2004 when the Post Office switched its transportation of mail to the roads.
TWATransport and Works Act 1992. Only one chapter in one part of this Act is of direct concern to BTP and it relates to offences arising from the consumption of drink or drugs by certain railway staff. Most BTP officers know of the generality of the provision but the detail requires the hasty consultation of textbooks. A set of offences that provoke awe and wonder on arrival at Home Department police stations.
TWOCTaking a vehicle without owners consent
UPSIDE AND DOWNSIDEUPSIDE and DOWNSIDE were the London Platforms at Southampton Central Railway Station. Southampton Docks term.
VAN DRAGGINGFollowing BR parcel delivery drivers for either jump up thieves or drivers involved in stealing parcels.
VOMIT COMET A term used to express the horrors of travelling on the last train from Liverpool Street to the Essex hinterland on a Friday night. Probably in use at other locations.
WARSAWTravelling Post Office train (TPO) call sign on the Holyhead/Crewe route.
WAS IT YOU LETTERA letter sent out to suspects reported by railway staff for minor offences seeking confirmation of identity. A denial normally meant no further action.
WOMBLESUsed to describe Lundon Underground officers as they were ‘underground overground….’, the beginning of The Wombles song. 1970's Term.
WPWith permission - An entry seen in duty books to excuse an early departure of an officer.
WTRQWilful trespass and refuse to quit -S16 Railway Regulation Act 1840.