Rolling Back the Years, Dennis Lyngnane

Rolling Back the Years – From Battleships to Velocette

The Police Service of Dennis Lyngnane

This is an example of a history project we all ought to consider.

Dennis Lyngnane a police officer, who served in the Royal Navy throughout WW2 being bombed and torpedoed. He will agree he was very lucky to have survived unscathed. After the War he joined the Hampshire Constabulary, spending most of his service on the Isle of Wight. All his spare time was taken up with his hobbies, Life Saving, gardening and photography.

Cowplain police station 1988

His life is extremely interesting and on his wife’s insistence he sat down and wrote notes about his various careers, entitled, “Rolling Back the Years.” The intention being for his memoirs to be passed on to his daughter. This was during the last of his many retirement jobs working at Cowplain Police station as a gardener/handyman. His ‘office’ then was in the potting shed, where in his spare time he wrote his notes, which were later typed up and bound.

This extract, with his permission, concerns only his police service and starts in 1948. It follows on from his 12 years service in the Royal Navy which initially included serving on a battleship:-

In the years I have covered of course I have condensed it a great deal (so much happened), so I suppose I was eager for a change and so I left the Navy and joined the Hampshire Constabulary and swapped one uniform for another. The pay was £5 a week!

I spent the first three months at the Police Training School at Cannock in Staffordshire. There were times there I wished I had not left the Navy but at the end of the course I passed out second in the class.

After nine months at Fareham I was posted to the Isle of Wight to Ryde Station. This was just after the Isle of Wight Constabulary amalgamated with the Hampshire Constabulary. They were a long time coming to terms with the Hampshire lot.

It was around this time the end of 1948 beginning of 1949 that we all changed uniforms from the high pinched necked collars which had our PC numbers on, to open necked with shirts, collars and tie and all officers had a large blue notebook about 6” x 3” x ½” and an indelible pencil.

This was so you could not rub out your notes. At the station we either walked or rode our bicycle everywhere, no matter the distance or urgency as there was only one car in the station, a Ford Prefect 1948, and that was for the Inspector who was literally a law unto himself and discipline was very strict.

We had a very nice house in Ryde and that’s where I got into gardening for the first time, as my next door neighbour, an ex-policeman, was secretary to the Ryde Horticultural Society in which I showed flowers and vegetables very soon after, with some success.

I took to this so much that I sought permission from the Superintendent to start an I.O.W. Police Flower & Vegetable Show which flourished and I was Secretary and all that entails (with the help of Joy) of the show for some sixteen years. This started in a small church hall and finished up in two large marquees on Ryde Sea front.

Another thing the Island lacked to my surprise was, there was only one small swimming pool at Newport and no swimming clubs or no Life Guard Clubs, so I placed an advertisement in all the local newspapers that a meeting would be held to form a Life Guards Club. As a result of this I took classes through for their Awards and clubs were set up at all the main seaside towns on the Island, with a lot of success. Culminating in, “The All England Life Guards Competition” being held at Sandown at which I was one of four judges.

I was at Ryde for nine years and then got a posting to Seaview as a Country Beat Officer, which was the village with mostly all landed gentry living. Almost opposite the police house was a flourishing yacht club. On this beat I was on duty 24 hours a day, whether officially on duty or off. There was no help from Ryde Station at all, unless it was a C.l.D. matter.

Those years at Ryde and for some years at Seaview all cars parked in the road had to have their light on back and front and if the Sergeant or Inspector visited you at night and saw cars without lights – Oh Dear!

Then there was a slight relaxation in the law and a small parking tight was introduced which you could clip on the side window with a small white light to the front and a red light to the rear. What a relief it was when later lights were not required, only near a junction.

I dealt with all the things that comes a policeman’s way and a lot more.

One occasion was in the early hours of the morning about 2 a.m. a large seaplane carrying some 45 passengers crashed in thick fog into the side of Calbourne Hill and exploded. Three people survived. I was picked up with others and rushed over to the scene where the hill was a smoldering heap. The Fire Brigade had put out the fire by then. When it had been doused down with water and coot enough we formed two single chains up the side of the hill and with pick-axe and shovel placed each charred remains of the bodies on to a sack and it was passed on down chain and at the bottom loaded onto a lorry and taken to a temporary mortuary. This took some hours and when all the bodies were accounted for from the passenger list we took tea, coffee, soup from a Salvation Army van.

Everyone absolutely shattered but a message came back from the mortuary that one carcass was not of a human body but that of a sheep, so we had to form up again to find that last remains. I had been at the top of the chain amongst the wreckage the whole time. (There was no Stress Counsellors in those days!).

Another time I rescued a young woman who had cut both her wrists and jumped off the end of Cowes Pier and I received the Royal Life Saving Society’s Humane Award (see paper article).

On my 21st year in the job I collected my 10th medal for ‘Long Service and Good Conduct’.

I also had the Island Probationers sent out to Seaview for their seven week Country Beat Training.

At Seaview I started a local photographic club which was very popular with about a hundred members all told.

The last few years at Seaview working arrangements became a little easier as officers from Ryde Station were allowed to come out and deal with some things when I was actually off duty such as sudden deaths or accidents, break-ins etc.

When I was about 39 years old after about four years at Seaview the Chief Inspector rang me up (with whom we both got on well along with his wife) and said, “Den, do you want the good news or the bad?” I said, “The good news”. He said, “Well, you are going to get the first Velocette LE motor bike known as Noddy Bike”. I said, “What’s the bad news?” He said, “If you don’t you wilt have to measure up for a new pair of curtains” (which meant a move). So, I learnt to ride it and in fact missed it when I retired.

PC Ron Foord demonstrates the LE

In the years I have covered of course I have condensed it a very great deal (so much happened!).

It was on my 24th year in the Force that the Police Federation actually managed to
get through that Officers who were in the services during the war got those years to count for pension, so on my 25th year I retired with a 30 years pension.

A big party was arranged by the villagers for us when we left and another at Ryde Station.

There could he lots of stories of things that occurred but I won’t bore you with them as I have once again condensed things.

‘Boring’ is not the word we would use to describe Dennis’s life, we wish we could print more in greater detail.

Cowplain Police Station, where Dennis had his last retirement job. It was soon demolished, before it fell down, when new station opened at Waterlooville. This is rear view where the gardens of the original three police houses had been combined. The overflow portabkabin was for officers locker room.