Historical Videos

Policing in Devon and Cornwall first started in the 1850’s with the introduction of the Devon County Constabulary and Cornwall County Constabulary. Shown below are a series of video clips that help to show some of the memorial moments of policing in Devon and Cornwall.


Women Police Officers (1970)

In 1970 women police officers were integrated into the police service and shared equal status with their male counterparts.  Since then WPCs have always been in the front line of duty and in 1984 WPC Yvonne Fletcher was shot dead outside the Libyan embassy.

Plymouth City Police Parade (1967)

On the 1 June 1967 the Plymouth City Police amalgamated with the neighbouring county forces to become the Devon & Cornwall Constabulary.  On 12 May 1967 they held a final parade through the centre of Plymouth.

IRA and the Balcombe Street siege (1975) 

After a chase by the police four IRA activists held a couple hostage in their council flat in Balcombe Street.  The siege lasted from 6 December to 12 December 1975 and was broadcast live on television.  Police negotiator Peter Imbert craftily feed misinformation to the BBC which the gang heard on a radio.  They eventually gave themselves up.

Centenary Parade, Torquay (1956)

The Devon County Constabulary was formed in 1856.  In 1956 a centenary celebration was held in Torquay on 12 September.  In this rare silent film we see the Chief Constable Lt Col. Ranulph Bacon and the Lord Lieutenant for Devon The Rt Hon. 5th Earl Fortescue, KG, CB, OBE, MC taking the salute and inspecting the officers.

The Devon Constabulary later joined the Exeter City Police and in 1967 amalgamated to become the Devon & Cornwall Constabulary.

New Scotland Yard introduce the 999 telephone number (1937)

The original New Scotland Yard opened its first information room in 1934 with the infamous telephone number Whitehall 1212.  By 1937 they decided a new emergency number 999 should be introduced, the first such emergency number in the world. Wireless cars followed and sirens were fitted to police vehicle, the original ‘blues and twos’.

Plymouth Road Safety film from 1926

In the mid twenties the Plymouth Police were very concerned about the increase of mechanical vehicles on the streets.  In one year there were 689 accidents in Plymouth with 349 people injured and 5 killed.  A road safety film was commissioned which amongst other things showed the right and wrong way to cross the road and how to get on and off a tramcar safely.

Landmarks in this film are:  Derry’s Clock, Hyde Park Corner, Wolseley Road and Greenbank Hospital.

Detective Training at the Hendon Police College (early 1950s)

Hendon Police College was the brainchild of Lord Trenchard, who was Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis (Met Police) from 1931 to 1935. Trenchard's college was founded upon a modern and scientific approach to training. There were forensic laboratories, detective training facilities, and a police driving school. The college was closed between 1939 and 1949.  We believe this film was made shortly after it reopened.

Awards for Lynmouth Police Heroes  (1953)

The Lynmouth flood disaster took place on 16 August 1952.  In total, 34 people died, with a further 420 made homeless.  The following year three officers from the Devon Constabulary were honoured for their outstanding bravery.

The Great Train Robbery  (1963)

The Great Train Robbery took place on 8 August 1963. In all there were 15 gang members lead by Bruce Reynolds and included Ronald "Buster" Edwards and Ronnie Biggs. The robbery was investigated by Detective Chief Superintendent Jack Slipper, known in the press as "Slipper of the Yard", he became so involved with its aftermath that he continued to hunt many of the escaped robbers in retirement.  Slipper died in 2005 at the age of 81.  Reynolds went on the run after the robbery but was captured and served his time; he wrote his autobiography and makes a living as crime pundit.  Edwards fled to Mexico but later surrendered to the authorities, he became a flower seller outside Waterloo Station on release from prison. He committed suicide in 1994.  Biggs famously lived in exile in Brazil, but unable to meet mounting medical costs after three strokes, voluntarily returned to England and remains in prison.

Policing WW2 with Special Constables  (1940s)

Those police officers that did not enlist for military service were trained in home defence.  New types of crime were being experienced, such as black market racketeering and looting. Special constables were trained to assist and many received awards for their bravery.

New technology and radios in the 60s  (1960s)

The iconic Ford Zephyr police car was equipped with state of the art equipment including telex machines that could transmit photographs. Officers were given radios for the first time. These enable them to stay in touch with the police station. The early radios where referred to as ‘bat phones’ because of the Motorola logo that looks like two wings.

‘Match Up’ – vehicle crime prevention idea from 1991

West Cornwall crime prevention team came up with a novel way to reduce car crime in 1991. Two similar cards with a unique symbol are displayed on the windscreen of a car – simple, if one is missing call the police.

Taken from the first edition of the long running police video magazine programme – Take Ten.

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