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Lifestory Showcase - Greenshields

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  Contributor: Archie GreenshieldsView/Add comments

Archie Greenshields, born in 1921, joined the Police Force in 1946, his first town to patrol, being Littlehampton. He lived there with his wife, Barbara and soon after had a baby daughter, Julia, followed by twin daughters, Jane and Barbara. After Littlehampton Archie was moved to Rustington, and then to Worthing and from there to Petworth, of which he remembers: -

At the beginning of May 1960 we moved to Downview Road in Petworth, a small close just on the outskirts of the town and off the Midhurst Road. The house, no. 8, was semi-detached and stood in a close of (I think) 15 houses, with just the one detached, which Superintendent Doney occupied, and two garages for the patrol cars that operated from Petworth.

We found the houses to be similar in style to those that we had left behind, and from the rear garden you had a view of the town and the hill in which the Police station stood. Our neighbours and the other residents were very friendly.

Most of our furnishings could be retained and positioned in much the same places as at Roedean Road (Worthing). The previous occupier had been some sort of a gardener, so there was a certain amount of produce left. The town was small and within only a short walking distance, but we would soon find there would be a difference, both in choice and cost. Again, I had the usual three days to prepare for the move, and move in, before reporting for duty.

Our twin daughters were able to attend the small primary school in East Street, but poor Julia was to have a bus journey to and from Chichester High School, where it was arranged for her to be transferred to. She did this daily without a murmur the whole time we were at Petworth, even though it added more than an hour to each side of her school day too.

I reported to the Police Station at 9 a.m. the second day after the move and was interviewed by Doney. I had known of him from his time at Worthing, and was fully aware of what kind of individual he was. There was seldom a good word said in his favour and I only expected the worst from the very beginning. He introduced himself quite unnecessarily and immediately asked me if I had heard what Downview Road was referred to as, and enlightened me that it was known as Belson Alley.

I was to forget this and consider myself privileged to live in a nice, happy community. I was warned, again unnecessarily, that he was a hard taskmaster and expected good work and results. I quickly discovered that the happy atmosphere he hoped existed did not, and the complement of constables spent most of their time with an eye open, ready to avoid his presence.

The duties followed the same pattern as was normal throughout the force, except that instead of a section of nearly twenty, now there were only two sergeants and eight constables to police the small town throughout the day and night. A constable would patrol the town, and another manned the police station front desk. Of course there were the administrative staff on duty throughout the day as well as numerous country detachment men on patrol. Those attached to the town had their duties, which were so arranged, that good cover was given overall.

An Inspector also supervised this vast rural division, which covered Pulborough and up to the boundaries of the Horsham Division. Midhurst Sub-Division was similarly staffed and came under Doney's command.

Night duty was totally different to that at Worthing, and my first experience was exceedingly boring, and I found little nightlife whatsoever. After the street lights had gone out, soon after the last bus had been driven into the garage, hardly anyone was seen. The very few shops there were could be looked at time and time again, and you almost hoped a crime of some sort would be committed to relieve the inactivity.

I must say that during the spring nights, I would linger longer than I ought, in order to listen to the nightingales singing their hearts out from woods and thickets near the corner of Hampers Green.

The twins very soon discovered new playmates, there were other young girls living in the road for them to make friends with. However, Julia missed her friends I'm sure. At least there was lovely countryside all around us and Petworth Park was only a few short steps away, where deer could be seen and it's lake attracted many water birds.

Julia became very friendly with a Miss Beaufoy who had organised a youth club, which Julia joined. Miss Beaufoy was a wonderful woman, who really worked hard and also contributed considerable finances to ensure the club was a success. After the Petworth cinema closed down, she eventually purchased it and arranged for it to be converted into a swimming pool for the youngsters, but that was to occur after we left Petworth.

Before many months had elapsed, relations between the lower ranks and the Superintendent became unbearable. He began to make life difficult for almost everyone under his command and many of us were beginning to feel the strain, our families suffering as a result. On more than one occasion I fell foul of him, but obstinately refused to buckle under his stupid whims.

He once passed out, through a sergeant, orders for me to remove a motorised cycle from a stable, where it did no harm to anyone and was certainly in no one's way. Once again I incurred his wrath by refusing until he moved his boat out of the same stable.

There was also the incident of the bill posting to advertise a Grand Ball that had nothing to do with the Police, being purely a private affair. He passed instructions down through the same sergeant, for me to post them round shops in the town, which somehow I neglected to do and they subsequently disappeared. He asked for a list of places where I had posted them and was told if he looked in the shops he would see where, but that I was not prepared to submit a list for something that was not Police business.

The final incident, which illustrated to all that he must have been close to being completely unbalanced, (which most suspected anyway) was when he instructed all the residents in Downview Road to remain behind after a Pay Parade and General Meeting and attend in his office.

Here he commenced to harangue us all regarding our children, whom he thought were a complete nuisance and were beginning to give the area a bad name. He instructed us to deny them the privilege of playing in the road, which included roller skating, skipping, hopscotch, or ball games of any sort.

You can imagine how our wives, who took decided umbrage, received this and within hours almost, letters of complaint were forwarded to the Chief Constable. Barbara is proud and treasures her reply and the victory over oppression that was obtained.

The very strange thing is that his wife was a charming lady and liked by all, and even stranger still was that the man was quite sympathetic and gentlemanly towards any wife whose husband was ill at any time. To think too, he was a sidesman at the Parish Church, but woe betide any man that fell foul of him between the time he left a service and arriving at the Police station, which was always his practice.

A clue perhaps to his behaviour, might be that, before very many months, we learned that his wife was discovered to be suffering from cancer and she died after a long illness.

Many years later, after I finally retired from the Police, having taken up employment with the County Council Surveyor's Department, Mr Doney died also. A friend of ours showed me his obituary, which appeared in his Church magazine. Both Barbara and I believed at first we were not reading about the same man that we had known, for the piece was so adulatory and praiseworthy. I told my friend that a leopard does not change its spots and my opinion of the man was unchanged.

As a result of boundary changes within the set up of the West Sussex Constabulary, a massive reorganisation took place in the autumn of 1962.

Our home was to be given to a Chief Inspector, and I was given orders to move to Bognor Regis at the beginning of October. Once again our family were forced to leave an area that the girls had settled into, but it affected Barbara the most, who dearly loved the countryside with all its beauty.

The reorganisation affected other families in the road, who also had to make way for the new intake. I remember PC 'Reg' Nicholls remarking to me when we received the first indication of our fate. 'It's all right for you, Archie, you have escaped. I have just changed cells!' The move then came at just the right time for me, I do believe that it might not have been very soon when I would have been forced to request a transfer.
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