ALL THINGS CONSIDERED: Ex-soldier joins London police
Born in 1925 in Croydon, England, Ed Pearson volunteered to join the British Royal Air Force at the age of 16 and during World War II served in India and Burma. His blog continues here.
I felt ill at ease after returning to England from my wartime stint in the Far East. While it was nice to go to a few greyhound races with friends and take advantage of one month discharge pay, lack of employment was a worrying thought. I was constantly pondering, "What now?"
My resume was sparse seeing as my education had abruptly ended after the Germans bombed my school, and while I had a fair bit of RAF experience, there wasn’t any call for rear air gunners in post-war London.
I was suitably attired for job interviews, having been provided with a natty pinstriped suit and a new pair of shoes at the demobbing centre, but had no idea where to apply.
There were openings in the Palestinian police force, which sounded right up my alley, but when I went down to apply I was told, "You just got home! You don't want to go back overseas. Why not consider the London police?" Hmm, there’s a thought. Why not?
I knew I was good at emergency response. In fact, just prior to shipping off for home shores I’d been in the operations room with a flying officer closing up shop when a message came in that a Dutch transport plane was having engine trouble in our area.
Problem was, our airfield was no longer in use, we had no equipment on the runway and were in a jungle in the middle of Ceylon with nothing closer than 50 miles in any direction.
Still, we sprang into action and searched for anything to light the way. With headlights ablaze, I drove the operations jeep up and down while the flying officer hurriedly placed portable lamps at intervals to make an acceptable marked runway.
The pilot made a great landing; excellent pilots, those Dutch. The best was yet to come when the passengers disembarked. They were army reserves on their way to a small position in the Indian Ocean. Did I mention the females? Beautiful girls, dewy-eyed from their adventure and appreciative of their rescue. But I digress.
After sleeping on it, I announced at the breakfast table the next morning my intention to apply to the London Metropolitan Police Force. Presumably my family didn’t consider me policeman material since their reaction was to fall about laughing, which only made me more determined.
Feeling my chances were good considering I was young, fit and eager, I headed off to the recruitment centre in high spirits, but my confidence waned when I noticed the other applicants were also young and fit ex-servicemen.
I was also somewhat nervous about meeting the height requirement, which was 5 feet 10 inches back in 1947, but scraped over that hurdle and was then sent off to appear before the police selection committee.
In retrospect, I may not have made the best first impression when the senior officer asked why I’d decided to seek a career in the police force. Luckily my flippant response that it didn't look like awfully hard work didn't squash my chances.
A more junior member of the committee warned me that most single men would be stationed to London’s seedy east-end because they needed a few "thief catchers." That suited me just fine as I was still fuming over having had my coveted raincoat and other personal items stolen from me at the demob centre as soon as I’d landed home!
After a bit of a nerve-wracking wait I got the okay. It was satisfying to go home and tell the family I'd been readily accepted and would soon be headed off to Hendon Police College to prepare for what ended up being a 35-year career in law enforcement.
My siblings teased me by suggesting I’d look silly wearing a bobby’s helmet because it resembled an upside-down pudding bowl. This resulted in a family nickname of “Puddin’head” which unfortunately persisted. The girl next door even got in on the act and after 66 years of marriage more often than not still calls me “Pud.”