Members of Bexhill Museum Association heard how women volunteers helped to police the county during World War 1 when they met recently.
The lecture was given by Derek Oakensen of the Old Police Cells Museum, Brighton.
The background to the innovation of introducing women police officers was of six police forces and police authorities
There was also more than one women’s organisation involved.
The first was the Women Police Volunteers in Brighton who were in service during 1914 and 1915, soon to be joined by the Women Patrol. This organisation was started by the National Union of Women Workers.
Formed in 1914 they were active until about 1923.
Non-uniformed, they were liked by police authorities and deployed in Chichester, Worthing, Brighton, Hove, Eastbourne, East Grinstead and Hastings.
Another organisation was the Women Police Service formed in 1915. This service was uniformed with a very clear rank structure. In 1920 they were renamed the Womens’ Auxiliary Service. The service operated nationwide, particularly in munitions factories.
The first Sussex deployment was to Bexhill where. Later Sussex deployments were to police authorities in Brighton, Hove and West Sussex
The Bexhill experiment involved two policewomen, Inspector Cooke and Sergeant Braddon who started work on the 12th July 1917 and who were actually employed by the local police authority.
There is little mention of them in the Bexhill Chronicle and Bexhill Observer of the period, so that their activities and duties are unclear.
By this time the town was the base of the Canadian Training School and the Canadian Trench Warfare School. There was a case of assault on a girl by a young Canadian soldier. Whilst the details of the occurrence are in the newspapers, no mention is made of any involvement by the policewomen.
The next lecture will be Bexhill Connections with the Battle of Waterloo given by Julian Porter and is on Wednesday, November 18 at 2.30pm at St Augustine’s Church Hall, St Augustine’s Close, off Cooden Drive (and very close to Collington Station if the buses are still disrupted by road works). Admission £4 [£3 museum members] includes refreshments.
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