Police in Essex during the Great War

At the start of the great War, Essex County Constabulary has about 400 Police Officers of which over a quarter joined the armed forces.

The gap was filled by the recruitment of Special Constables from men who were too old to qualify for Kitchener's New Army.

Recruiting for the new Special Constabulary was brisk and 6,000 men were quickly appointed. This number would grow to 10,000 by the end of the war. This meant that there were more Policemen on duty during the war than in the period before or after.

The new Specials patrolled their locality and enforced regulations such as the blackout and security for war related matters. This often meant boring shifts of checking telegraph poles although it did include questioning any foreigners encountered in case they were spies.

They were provided with an armband and a truncheon and expected to work 4 hour shifts in addition to their normal employment.

As the war progressed they were issued with a police uniform although they were issued with caps rather than helmets.

The remaining regular police continued to enforce the non war regulations and investigate crime although as the skill of the Specials developed they became fully involved in police work.

Even villages were provided with Special Constables after the following Home Office advice.


 Each parish should depend upon 

1/ A Police Constable with protective clothing

2/ Two or three volunteer Special Constables

3/ Three air raid wardens for each 500 people of the population   

4/ A first aid post

5/ Voluntary help from the men of the village      

6/ The trained sense of the village


The success of Special Constables was so great that the experiment was repeated in the Second World War.


  War time Police and Special Constables outside the Police Station at Burnham on Crouch, Essex 1944