As part of this year's Black History Month we tell the story of Ralph Ramadhar, who made history by becoming Birmingham City Police's first non-white officer in 1966.
Ralph met his wife Nell in the late 1950s. They both lived in Trinidad and after an initial brief introduction, they both ended up going (separately) on holiday in Guyana with friends, where they got to know each other better. Ralph quickly won people over with his charisma and charming personality, and upon their return back to Trinidad, he continued to court Nell, much to her father’s concern.
Nell’s father decided he didn’t want his daughter to settle down and marry yet, so encouraged her to travel to England to find work. What he didn’t realise was that he actually pushed the two young adventurers together, and after they eloped to England in 1961 they soon married and had a daughter – Anne-Marie and a son - Michael.
Ralph and Nell shortly after arriving in the UK
Nell commenced a career in nursing upon her arrival in England and Ralph gained employment in telecommunications. They were living in Leamington-Spa at this time and Ralph worked in Rugby. With a young family to look after as well, the 60 mile round trip commute was taking its toll.
It was Nell who spotted the advert for police constables and encouraged Ralph to join. Ironically she hadn’t seen in the news that the Home Office had recently come to a decision that non-white applicants would be accepted. She had to prompt him two more times before he finally completed the application form for the Birmingham City Police. He was called for interview, and Nell recalls that the matter of ethnicity or colour never came up. It wasn’t until he was successfully appointed as a constable that the local press started to show an interest and it became apparent his position was quite a special one. Once people started to hear about the fact that Birmingham had appointed their first black constable, they started to talk. Ralph said that amazement was the reaction of most people and he thankfully experienced no hostility towards him.
One particularly nasty (but thankfully isolated) incident concerned some racist graffiti on their family home, left by a member of the National Front. Ralph and his family were given police protection but Nell says Ralph never wavered in his decision to become a police officer and he took his job very seriously. What surely brought Ralph comfort was the fact that he experienced no negative behaviour from within the police force. He was instantly accepted into the ranks and Nell recalled with a smile that he was such a good person, and very good at his job that it would have been difficult for anyone to pick a fight or hold a grudge with him. That charming personality at work again too no doubt!
Ralph enjoyed his police work and although he was a keen sportsman, unlike many members of the force he did not get involved in team sports. He was too busy concentrating on his career and his work!
By 1973 Ralph achieved promotion to the rank of sergeant. He will go down in history as being the first black sergeant in the whole country. Ralph was commended a total of 28 times during his police career for outstanding police work.
By 1977 Ralph and Nell were getting hom