Countdown to armistice (5) - remembering those we lost on the Home Front
During World War II across the West Midlands, 38 police officers lost their lives. Largely due to enemy air raids but also whilst carrying out normal policing work across Birmingham, Coventry and Dudley.
The loss was much smaller during World War I as the threat from the air was not as intense or persistent, and the Zeppelins were the only German aircraft that could reach as far as Birmingham.
The first officer to die during the War in the West Midlands was Special Constable John Watkin Watson, aged 57, of the Wolverhampton Borough Police who collapsed and died of heart failure whilst on patrol on the 23rd May 1915. John had retired from the force as a regular constable a few years previous, after completing 25 years service. The War had led to a much greater call for special constables to fill the gap left by those who had joined the Armed Forces, so John returned to policing to do his bit for his country and sadly died during his first day back with the force. He told his daughter he had been having chest pains and he informed a colleague that he had picked up a cold through lying on a damp bed. Cause of death was recorded as heart failure following pneumonia.
The second officer lost at home during the War was Special Constable George Croydon of the Birmingham City Police. George was accidentally struck by a train whilst on special protection duty at a railway tunnel, aged 54, on the 11th October 1915. George had also answered the call for special constables and was undertaking a particular wartime duty of patrolling areas deemed to be at risk from German Zeppelins.
The Birmingham force lost another officer on 5th February 1916 when 51-year-old First Police Reserve James Henry Goddard was killed when hit by a train at New Street Station. James was carrying out his duty at the tunnel near Worcester Street, when he stepped from a line which had an oncoming train and was knocked down by an engine proceeding in the opposite direction. First Police Reserve officers were normally police officers who had been brought back from retirement into a full time policing role, to support police forces during WWI and WWII. These officers differed from special constables who were part time.
On the 13th October 1916 Birmingham Police lost its final officer at home when 53-year-old First Police Reserve Thomas Reidy was also killed at New Street Station whilst on special protection duty. Around 8pm Sergeant Fahy discovered the body of Thomas whilst completing his rounds. His body was found lying in a four foot gap between the Gloucester and Wolverhampton set of metals, close to the entrance of the Navigation Street tunnel. His face was badly smashed and his leg broken. No foul play was suspected. Thomas had come to Birmingham 12 months prior and was formerly of the Royal Irish Constabulary.
Sadly we don't have photographs of any of these officers so we would be very keen to talk to relatives or anyone who might be able to locate a photograph to help us to remember these officers properly.