A couple of months ago I had the pleasure of visiting the owner of what is probably the largest police helmet plate and badge collection in the UK.
John Downing started as a police cadet in the Worcestershire Constabulary at the age of 16 years in 1951, then in 1953 spent 2 years as a Corporal in the RAF Police leaving on 09 September 1955. He returned to the Worcestershire Constabulary serving in Bromsgrove and Stourbridge, with a Secondment to MIDCRO to put the Worcestershire Criminal Records into those of the Regions Records.
He left the police in 1969 to start his own travel agency, building the company up until he needed a staff of 9 dealing mainly with countries that other travel agents found to difficult, such as Libya, Mongolia, Montenegro etc. When he was in the police he got to know Doctor Anne Elizabeth REECE who claimed to be Colonel Gaddafi’s third wife. When John started the travel agency she was one of his first clients She never needed a visa when he booked her to Libya (and visas were needed) also if Gaddafi went anywhere in the world they would have a booking from Anne.
Whilst liaising with individuals in Libya he was able to obtain the rare Tripolitania badge and several Libyan police badges.
Amongst his amazing collection, some of the most poignant badges are those from the Culion Leper Colony, which was a former leprosarium located on Culion, an island in the Palawan province of the Philippines. It was established by the US government in order to rid leprosy from the Philippine islands through the only method known at the time: isolating all existing cases and gradually phasing out the disease from the population. In addition to segregating the disease from the rest of the population, the island was later established in order to offer a better opportunity for people afflicted with leprosy to receive adequate care and modern treatments (Source: Wikipedia).
The above Culion badges were kindly sent to John by Sefrenie I Sayson (a police sergeant, who was himself a Leper). John had sent him a gramophone player and a hundred records which he was informed brought a lot of happiness to the sergeant and many other Lepers, but after about four years he sadly succumbed to the disease.
Another exquisite item from John's collection with a tragic backstory is a wooden carving on the Shanghai Municipal police, carved by a convict just before he was executed. This was given to John by a retired superintendent from the long disbanded police force that was made up of contingents of officers from the UK, Germany, France etc.