Much has been said and written about the notorious Miners’ Strike of 1984/85 and you’ll be pleased to know that I have absolutely no intention of commenting on the politics of it, that is for others.
However, it did occur to me that some of you might be interested to hear what it was like for the average Police a Officer sent 100s of miles to Police a potentially violent Picket Line.
So for those that are interested I propose a handful of short blogs on my personal experiences, so if you’re not interested, simply don’t read them. On the other hand if you’d like to share your experiences oop norf, send them to me and I’ll happily post, attributed or anon as you prefer.
Each tour of duty for us consisted of 6 straight days away from home followed by a day of Special Leave on the Sunday. If you were fortunate/unfortunate enough to have a Rest Day during the 6 days you were away, tough, you had to put up with being paid for 16 hours at time and a half and losing your Rest Day, unless you opted for the Time of in Lieu option (nobody did).
So my very first foray saw me billeted at RAF Newton, not far from Nottingham. I was used to basic conditions having survived Hendon Training College, but this brought basic to a whole new level. 500 burly cops and their kit in one aircraft hangar, sleeping on camp beds and not very many communal showers or toilets.
Out of necessity grew banter and camaraderie. I don’t recall anybody fighting for a place in the shower queue and the banter that developed in those confines was World Class.
Fortunately for us our indoctrination was gentle. 6 days of long hours and I don’t remember seeing a single striking miner at whichever pit we were at, I don’t even remember its name, but the evenings, oh what fun. Not being ex Services I had never experienced the NAAFI, the prices were ridiculous, something like 10 pence for a shot of brandy or Scotch.
The days were dangerous in a totally different way. We had nothing to do except guard a pit where there was no friction, and there’s nothing more dangerous than a bored copper.
When we went for breakfast it seemed like we were always being fed immediately after a Force with nice shiny spikes on their helmets (I think that was Leicestershire, maybe someone can remind me). Well, what better place was there to park your Granny Smith than on one of those spiky helmets? They didn’t seem terribly amused by it though.
A lot of the other Forces were forming up and marching everywhere, very smart. Wel, the Met don’t march unless they have to. The Met formed up in three ranks and ‘Minced’ in formation. Our corporate sense of humour not best appreciated by the Counties Supervisors, they didn’t really see the funny side of it.
The afore-mentioned NAAFI was the scene of just two controversies, indoor rugby against the Air Force, and somebody attaching an I’ve Met a The Met sticker to the portrait of The Queen. RAF brass not amused either.
But the highlight of the very first week was when one of the lads opened his kitbag and found that his son had packed a Teddy Bear him. Inevitably, poor Teddy was kidnapped and every day his owner received a Ransom Note with a different set of instructions, ending with one final instruction to bring the ransom (I’ve long since forgotten what that was) to the graveyard next to the Feeding Marquee. The local Chief Inspector took a very dim view of assignations in graveyards and it was all a bit of an anti-climax after that.
But this was only Week 1, if we thought they were all going to be like this we were in for a shock.