Mounted Section

From : The Story of Hertfordshire Police

Neil Osborn

The last Police Horse in Hertfordshire. Constable Thomas Oliver on Belly Ally at Hoddesdon in 1928
The last Police Horse in Hertfordshire. Constable Thomas Oliver on Belly Ally at Hoddesdon in 1928

At the outbreak of World War One, The Mounted Section of the Hertfordshire Police had an establishment of thirteen horses and riders.

They were stationed in the larger towns : Headquarters (2), Hoddesdon (1), Hitchin (2), Royston (1), Ware (1), Watford (2), Hemel Hempstead (1), Berkhamstead (1), Bishop’s Stortford (1), and St Albans (Fleetville) (1).

Shortly after the commencement of hostilities, all the horses were requisitioned into the Army for active service. The majority of the police riders were ex-cavalry men from the Hussars, Dragoon Guards and Lancers, and were in the Army Reserve. Most of them were recalled to the colours. The only horses remaining in the Hertfordshire Police throughout the war years were those used for drawing the rubber-tyred four-wheeled dog-carts of the Superintendents.

After the war, Colonel Law restarted the Mounted Section, but on a much smaller scale. Initially he acquired two horses for Headquarters and later a third for Hitchin. The riders were to be Constables Thomas Oliver and Bradley Lamberth at Headquarters and Archibald Soal at Hitchin.

Unfortunately Soal was thrown from his horse and did not ride again, as he lost his nerve. His successor, who was required to work at Royston, took too much intoxicating drink while on duty on one occasion, and his horse arrived back at the Police Station without him. The officer was dismissed and the horse, which was found to be almost blind, was sold.

This left only two horses and riders, Lamberth with his mount Greig, and Oliver with Benny Ally. Greig was Lieutenant D’Arcy Greig’s charger in the 17th Lancers. The Lieutenant was killed in action and at the same time the horse was injured by shrapnel. Benny Ally was Brigadier-General Benjamin Allison’s charger.

In order to be able to augment this small mounted section in times of need, Law drew up a list of policemen who were experienced riders and equipped them with livery. He was able to call on their services for special events, and on these occasions the horses were hired.

Lamberth and Oliver performed ordinary patrol duties with their horses in the villages surrounding Hatfield. Eventually Oliver and Benny Ally were posted to Hoddesdon. There, Oliver used his horse with considerable effect when dealing with visitors to Rye House, who were known as the “rent dodgers”. This term was applied to them because it was generally felt that they had a day’s outing from London on a Monday in order to evade the rent collector.

When the landlord of the public house at Rye Park was unable to clear his ballroom of the intoxicated customers, Oliver went in with his horse and hustled them out.

The mounted Section continued to work in this way until 1928, when Knight became Chief Constable. Shortly after his appointment an interesting conversation took place between Knight and Oliver on the outskirts of Hertford. The Chief Constable stopped his motor car at the side of the patrolling Constable, and said to his chauffeur “There he is, the life of a country gentleman” . Oliver replied “But not for long now, sir”. At this remark Knight asked him what he meant, and on being told that it was known that he preferred motor cars to horses he did not reply, and went away smiling.  Shortly after this episode the Mounted Section was disbanded. (It might not, therefore, have been for economy reasons entirely that Knight dispensed with the Mounted Section.)

This page was added on 21/07/2016.

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