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Diary of a Heritage Manager – Happy Birthday West Midlands Police!

Published on | #WeAre50, General

This month marked the exact anniversary of West Midlands Police turning 50. So rather than choose a specific theme to highlight, we’ve taken a look back at the early days of the force and some of the key events that marked its development.

As the clock turned midnight into 1April 1974, police officers across the new West Midlands area found themselves as part of a much bigger force than they had originally joined. Some were promoted into higher ranks in different geographical areas of the force and had to quickly learn the ways of an area that potentially policed in a very different way.

On April 1, 1974, the UK number one single was “Seasons in the Sun” by Terry Jacks. The song held the top spot on the UK Singles Chart for four weeks in March and April 1974.

The United Kingdom was going through a period of political and social change. The country was in the midst of a recession, with high inflation and rising unemployment rates. The government of Prime Minister Edward Heath was facing increasing criticism for its handling of the economy and industrial relations.

One of the major events of April 1974 was the general election held on April 10th. The election resulted in a hung parliament, with no party winning an overall majority.

Another significant event in April 1974 was the introduction of the three-day work week. This was a response to the energy crisis caused by a miners’ strike, which led to a shortage of coal and electricity. The government imposed restrictions on working hours for businesses in order to conserve energy.

There were 31 territorial divisions created across the new force area. Bonus points for anyone who can name them all and a gold star if you remember the letter and number of each one!

There were 5,282 officers in the force (including 309 women) of an establishment of 6,471 by the end of 1974.

This compares to 8,051 officers at the start of April 1974, including 2,861 policewomen. We had one female chief superintendent: Pauline Wren was the highest-ranking female officer.

Chief Superintendent Wren had served with Birmingham City Police since 1950, including a short spell with Leeds City Police, a secondment to the British Police Unit in Cyprus and an 8-year secondment to HMIC to work as staff officer to Assistant Inspector of Constabulary Jean Law, another former Birmingham City officer, returning on the 1 April 1974. Pauline retired on 30 April 1980.

This month we have launched some new items in our shop to commemorate the 50 year anniversary – you can pick up our limited edition challenge coin (which features a map of the force area along with the force lantern) and one of our commemorative pin badges from our shop.