Spencer, Charles, 271, Police Constable.

Paul Watts

Charles Spencer Re-joining The Police
Herts Police Historical Society

Early Life.

Charles Spencer was born on the 6th May 1892 at Sandon and baptised on the 20th December 1896 at Throcking.

His father, Thomas A. Spencer a Farm Bailiff, married his mother, Sarah Ann Buckingham, on the 21st May 1877. They had ten children:

  1. Anne born in 1878 at Ware.
  2. Emely born in 1879 Ware.
  3. John born in 1885 at Ware.
  4. Arthur Thomas born in 1887 at Ware.
  5. Althaea Jane born in 1889 at Sandon.
  6. Charles.
  7. Kate born in 1894 at Sandon.
  8. May born in 1896 at Throcking.
  9. Daisy born in 1899 at Throcking.
  10. Alice born in 1902 at Aspenden.

During the 1881 census the family were living at Westmill Road Cottages, Ware. By the 1891 census they were living at Hyde Hall, Mill End, Sandon but the 1892 Great Munden School Roll for Charles shows they were living at Grange End, Great Munden.

In 1896 the Cottered School Roll records them as living at Throcking but by the time of the 1901 census they had moved again and were living at Buttermilk Hall, Aspenden, Buntingford. The 1911 census records that they had continued to move and were now living at Alswick Hall, Layston, Buntingford. Charles was employed as a farm labourer.

Little is known about Charles’ life for the next three years other than he was employed as a labourer by Mr. J.R. Russell of The Bury, Westmill, Buntingford. Then he applied to join the Hertford County Constabulary.

As part of that process Charles underwent a Medical examination on the 10th August 1914 by the Force Surgeon at Police Headquarters at Hatfield to check that he was fit enough for Police duties. He would also have had an interview and been told to wait for a date of Appointment.

Police Service.

Charles’ Form 3 Hertford County Constabulary Record Sheet has survived and shows that he was Appointed as Constable 271 on the 12th October 1914 on £1/4/6 per week. It also recorded that he said he was born on the 4th May 1892 (every other record show the 6th May) at Mill End, Sandon. His height was 5 feet 9 inches, chest 35 ½ – 37 ½ inches, complexion fresh, eyes blue and hair fair. He said he could ride a pedal cycle but could not swim.

He underwent his Probationer training at Police Headquarters at Hatfield. At the completion of his training he was Attested on the 20th January 1915 and taken on to the Roster and posted to a Division. On the 22nd January he was posted to G Division at Hatfield.

General Order 14 of 21st January 1915 confirmed Charles posting by announcing that he was one of 22 Recruit Constables who had been brought on the Roster for duty and were being transferred from Headquarters. He was shown as PC 271 Spencer C. posted to G Division at Hatfield from the 22nd January 1915. There was an additional comment against his name of “WRD Augmentation” which meant that his recruitment was an augmentation to the Force to allow the implementation of the Weekly Rest Day.

On the 11th May 1915 he passed his Ambulance certificate, an important qualification which entitled him to wear a badge on his lower left tunic sleeve to show he was trained in basic First Aid.

No Dog Licence.

Published on the 28th August 1915 in the Hertfordshire Mercury (Abridged): At Hatfield Petty Sessions Florence Goodey (63), a boarding school manageress, at Hatfield, was summoned for keeping a dog without a licence. She wrote a letter stating that she was ill. PC Spencer stated that when he called and asked the defendant for her licence for a white fox terrier she had in the yard, she said she had not taken one out but would do so at once. In answer to the Magistrates, the Constable stated that he had seen the dog there for the past three months as well as several others. A fine of 5 shillings was imposed.

Unprovoked Assault.

Published on the 30th October 1915 in the Hertfordshire Mercury (Abridged): At a special court at Hatfield last week George Salmon, labourer, of no fixed abode, was charged with assaulting George William Jeffs, stockman, of Symonds Hyde, and also with assaulting George Maddox, gamekeeper to the Marquess of Salisbury, on the previous Saturday night. The prisoner pleaded ‘guilty under provocation’ to the first charge, and ‘not guilty’ to the second. George William Jeffs, the complainant in the first case, who appeared with evidence of violence about his face and nose, said he had been in Hatfield shopping on Saturday evening, and was returning home when he met the prisoner in Green Lane, and he came across the road to him, and without any provocation struck him twice. He did not even speak to the prisoner before this happened. He believed the prisoner was quite sober at the time. Mr Lloyd, “Did you hit him back?”  The complainant, “No sir, I had no chance he knocked me silly,” William Catlin said he was walking along the road when he saw the prisoner strike the complainant, knocking him into the middle of the road. He did not hear Jeffs speak to the prisoner before the blows were struck. In regard to the second charge, George Maddox, the complainant, said he was at home at Brooks Wood Cottage when he heard sounds of voices. He went out on his bicycle, and could then see the complainant, Jeffs, lying beside the road and the prisoner standing by him. He at first thought the man was drunk, but as he was passing the prisoner he flew at him, and struck him in the mouth, and knocked him off his bicycle into the ditch. He also seized him by the collar and tried to throttle him. He seized the prisoner by the wrists, and he then started to bite him. He hit him on the chest and spat in his face. Eventually the complainant succeeded in overpowering him and threw him on to the ground, where he held him until the police arrived. The prisoner asked the witness if he did not attempt to garrotte him, which the witness denied. In answer to the Chairman, the witness said he did not know what made the prisoner behave like that. He could not say if he had any provocation. The witness, Catlin, proved seeing the prisoner strike the keeper, knocking him off his bicycle, and endeavouring to throttle him. A witness named Giddins gave corroborative evidence. PC Spencer proved finding the complainant Jeffs, lying on the ground, bleeding from the mouth and nose. He found the prisoner a little way off, being held down by the gamekeeper. He took him in charge and accompanied him to the police station. The prisoner told the Justices that he believed the men had been following him and he had simply tried to scare them off. The Magistrates decided to commit the prisoner to gaol for a month, in order that he might be placed under the care of the Medical Officer of the prison, with a request that he should report upon his medical condition.

Expired Driving Licence.

Published on the 30th October 1915 in the Hertfordshire Mercury: At Hatfield Petty Sessions on Monday, John James Leonard, of 2, Kingswood Road, Penge was charged with driving a motorcycle without a licence. The defendant did not appear but wrote asking to be excused as he was engaged on making shells for the Government. PC Charles Spencer stated that on September 20 he saw the defendant driving from the direction of London at a very fast speed. He stopped him and examined his licence, which he found was dated August 18, 1914, and should have been renewed on August 18, 1915. The Chairman said it was not a very serious case and as the defendant had a good record, he would only be ordered to pay the costs of 5 shillings.

Dangerous Van Driver.

Published on the 30th October 1915 in the Hertfordshire Mercury: At Hatfield Petty Sessions on Monday, Sidney Arthur Merryweather, of 14, Arthur Street, Battersea was charged with driving a motorcar in a manner dangerous to the public at Hatfield on September 21. He pleaded guilty. PC Spencer said that on the day in question he was on duty in New Town when he saw a motor van coming from Hatfield towards St. Albans at a very dangerous speed within the 10 mile limit. There was another motorcar about 50 yards in front and on reaching the witness the defendant had overtaken this car and was trying to pass. There were several children and vehicles in the road at the time and it was very dangerous to be about when the defendant’s van was being driven so rapidly. The defendant, “I admit I was driving over 10 miles an hour, but I had just come round the corner at the Gun Public House, so that I could not have been going at more than 12 miles an hour.” The Chairman, “This is the kind of thing that causes more accidents than anything else. You will be fined £4 and you must be more careful, or else you will get it hotter.” The defendant said he could not pay the money. Asked by the Bench as to where he was employed, he said he was a driver for the London and Provincial Carrying Company. He was allowed a fortnight to pay.

General Order 175 of the 7th November 1915 informed Charles that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £1/4/6 to £1/5/8 per week from the 12th October 1915.

A Hopeless Drunk.

Published on the 4th December 1915 in the Hertfordshire Mercury: At Hatfield Petty Sessions on Monday, Walter Overton, platelayer, of Gracemead Cottages, was summoned for being drunk and incapable at Hatfield on November 21. His wife appeared on his behalf and explained that he could not get off from his work. PC Spencer stated that at 8.10 p.m. on Sunday, November 21, he saw the defendant on Pond Hill helplessly drunk, he could not speak, or walk, or stand, and the witness had to get a stretcher to carry him home. Supt. Sullivan said that the defendant was quite a respectable man and he was afraid that this charge might have a serious effect in regard to his employment on the railway. The Chairman said that having regard to what Supt. Sullivan had said the Magistrates were inclined to take a lenient view of the case. They would not convict the defendant, but he must pay the costs, 4 shillings.

Soldier Thief.

Published on the 22nd January 1916 in the Hertfordshire Mercury: James Arnott of the 12th East Surrey Regiment was charged with stealing three blankets and a tea cosy, value 15s 6d. He had originally given his name to the court as James Harrison. The prisoner had come to Glebe Cottages, Hatfield, on 12th January asking for board and lodging for three days. This was agreed. He had breakfast, slept till noon, went out, and returned at 10 p.m. He had supper and went to bed. Mrs. Roberts, however, the wife of the owner, heard him moving around his room. She came out of her room, asked him to be quiet, and then returned to her bed.  5 or 10 minutes later she heard someone going downstairs. On going down, she found that the prisoner had left the house. She went for the police. On returning home, she found that three blankets, and one tea cosy, were missing. She later identified the man then held at the police station. PC Spencer said that, on investigating after the receipt of information, he had gone to Hertford railway station where he had seen the defendant approximately 100 yards north of the platform, talking to a guard. He told the defendant that he was investigating the matter of stolen blankets and, on searching the defendant, the Constable found not just the three blankets but also 2 gentlemen’s watches, 1 ladies’ watch, a pair of ladies’ shoes, 4 latchkeys, 1 magnifying glass, 1 pair of spectacles, 1 razor, 1 x £1 note, 5 x 10s notes, and 7s 1d in cash. The prisoner had smelt strongly of drink. The magistrates remanded the prisoner in custody.


Charles married Joyce Savage on the 18th March 1916 at Hatfield. They had five children:

  1. May Beatrice born in 1916 at Hatfield.
  2. Charles James born in 1918 at Hatfield.
  3. Ruth Irene born in 1921 at Hatfield.
  4. Arthur John born in 1923 at Hatfield.
  5. William Richard born in 1926 at Ware.

Drunken Soldier Absent Without Leave.

Published on the 16th September 1916 in the Hertfordshire Mercury: At Hatfield Petty Sessions on Monday, Edward George Sautier, a soldier, was charged with stealing a bottle of rum and a bottle of orange bitters, and also with being an absentee from the Army. Miss Wilson, manageress of a refreshment room at Hatfield Station, said that the defendant, on 6th September, had been in having a drink at the bar at about 4 p.m. She had left the bar at about 4.45 p.m. and when returning at about 5 p.m. had noticed that two bottles were missing from the bar. She valued them at 16 shillings. Reuben Randal Larkin, a wounded Australian soldier, said that on 6th September, he had seen the defendant in Hertford Road, Hatfield. He had come up to Larkin, shaken his hand, and had asked him to have a drink. The defendant had produced some rum and some orange bitters. PC Spencer gave evidence of arrest. The defendant pleaded not guilty but said that he had been drinking heavily for a week. He said that, as far as his memory served him, the bottles had been given to him by two unknown soldiers. He said that he had been drinking beer all day, seldom drank spirits, and that was why he was giving it away. He said his Regiment was going to France in about a week’s time, but he did admit to being an absentee. The Chairman of the Bench said that it was a great pity that the defendant should be, “Fooling around like this.”  He would be remanded to await an escort back to his Regiment and would be put under the care of a probation officer.

General Order 126 of the 26th November 1916 informed Charles that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £1/5/8 to £1/6/10 per week from the 12th October 1916.

General Order 47 of the 14th June 1917 was a list of 16 Constables, including Charles, who had signified their desire to sit the examination for promotion from Second Class to First Class Constable. The necessary examination papers were prepared and forwarded to the Superintendents concerned. The examination was held in accordance with the rules laid down in Order 192/1915.

General Order 68 of the 6th August 1917 announced the result of the Examination for Promotion from Second Class to First Class Constable. Charles was not one of those that qualified. He would have had to re-sit the exam but the record of when has not survived.

General Order 94 of the 4th November 1917 informed Charles that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £1/6/10 to £1/7/5 per week from the 12th October 1917.

Army Service During The War.

Charles’ Army Service Record has partially survived and from this we know the following: Charles enlisted on the 10th December 1915 at Hitchin and on the 11th December 1915, he was transferred to Section B Army Reserve and returned to his Police duties. This was part of what was known as the Derby Scheme. Thousands of men around the country including dozens of Hertfordshire Police Officers enlisted under the scheme. The Hertfordshire Officers mainly enlisted between the 9th and the 11th December 1915. Every Section B Reservist was issued with an individually numbered Khaki Armlet with a red Crown displayed on it which was to be worn on the upper left arm to demonstrate they were a Reservist and were waiting to be mobilised.

The following was recorded: He gave his address as 14, Glebe Cottages, Hatfield his age as 23 years 7 months and his trade as Police Constable. He was not married at this time and he had no previous Military service.

His description on enlistment was recorded as: Apparent age: 23 years 7 months. Height: 5 feet 9 ½ inches. Chest: 37 inches 2 inch expansion. Identifying marks: Scar left side chest and both hips. Right elbow unreadable. He said his religion was Church of England and his next of kin as his father Thomas Spencer of Alswick Hall, Buntingford, Herts.

On the 23rd April 1918 Charles was one of fifteen Hertford County Constabulary Police Constables who were Mobilised at the same time. Five joined the Coldstream Guards and ten, including Charles as Guardsman 32194, joined the Grenadier Guards. They were given consecutive Army Service numbers. The others were 32193 William Sturman, 32195 Horace Human, 32196 James Childs, 32197 Frederick Futter, 32198 George Reed, 32199 Thomas Abrathat, 32200 George Cooling, 32201 Leonard Wackett and 32202 George Berry.

Other than perhaps their initial training there is no evidence to show that they served together. The end of the war arrived before Charles could be posted overseas and consequently, he did not receive any medals.

Like every other soldier Charles would have been granted 28 days leave on his demobilisation and he would have used this time to apply to re-join the Police. He would have had to have undergone a Medical Examination by the Force Surgeon to ensure that he was still fit enough for Police duties. Having passed this, he would have been re-Appointed on the day following the date of the end of his leave period.

Re-joining The Police.

General Order 5 of 6th January 1919 listed 13 Police Soldiers who having been released from H.M. Army were re-appointed to the Force with effect from the dates shown. Charles was shown as PC 271 Spence C. of G Division at Hatfield on 2nd January 1919 on £2/7/0 per week. Each officer had to be formerly re-attested. Superintendents concerned had to report to the Chief Constable when this has been done, showing the date and place of Attestation and before whom taken. The 1919 to 1924 Electoral Rolls lists Charles and Joyce Spencer as living at 28, Glebe Cottages, Hatfield.

The following General Orders all informed William he would receive an increase of pay on the 12th October of the year shown:                                                                                                                                                                             General Order 235 of the 4th December 1919 from £3/18/0 to £4/0/0 per week.                                                    General Order 171 of the 19th October 1921 from £4/2/0 to £4/4/0 per week.                                                          General Order 131 of the 18th October 1922 from £4/4/0 to £4/6/0 per week.                                                          General Order 183 of the 5th November 1923 from £4/6/0 to £4/8/0 per week.


General Order 39 of the 1st March 1924 instructed Charles that from the 7th March 1924 he would be transferred from B Division at Hatfield to A Division at Ware and to occupy the house vacated by Constable 218 Offord. The 1924 to 1930 Electoral Rolls list Charles and Joyce Spencer as living at Watton Road, Ware.

General Order 168 of the 25th October 1924 informed Charles that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £4/8/0 to £4/10/0 per week from the 12th October 1924.

Funeral Of PC Saunders.

Published on the 13th February 1926 in the Hertfordshire Mercury: The funeral of PC Saunders took place at Little Hadham Church, on January 30th. The church was crowded. Superintendent Wright, of Bishop’s Stortford, made the police arrangements  for the funeral. Following the mourning coaches were 21 Constables of the Bishop’s Stortford or ‘A’ Division, Superintendent Wright, Inspector Herbert (Ware) and Sergeant Downing (Much Hadham ) were the police officers in charge. When the cortege reached the church the police lined either side of the road and formed a guard of honour for the procession to pass through into the church. Six Constables, PC Gillett, PC Barker,  PC D.H. Gillett, PC Hill, PC Spencer and PC Skeggs acted as bearers. The Rev. C. Dale-Williams, the Rector, officiated. Among those present were some members of the local branch of the British Legion, as well as members of the Police Force, Mr. W. Hastings representing the Much Hadham Men’s Institute, of which the deceased was a member. Among the tributes of affection were wreaths from the ‘A’ or Bishop’s Stortford Divisio, from his old comrades, from the Hadham branch of the British Legion and from Much Hadham Men’s Institute. It was a very impressive funeral and on all sides the greatest respect to the memory of the deceased who had so worthily served his country and county both as a soldier and a very efficient member of the Herts County Constabulary.

The General Strike.

General Order 62 of the 4th May 1926 concerned the Emergency Regulations of 1926 and instructions for 50 Hertfordshire Police Officers, made up of three Inspectors, seven Sergeants and 40 Constables, to be on standby should the Secretary of State call upon the County Force to draft men elsewhere at short notice. These included officers from A,B,C, D and E Divisions. Orders for equipment and clothing would be issued if and when necessary, but the men were advised that they would require some sort of haversack. Charles was one of the Constables named in the list but there is no evidence that he was ever mobilised.

No Insurance.

Published on the 30th January 1931 in the Hertfordshire Mercury: Walter J. Thurlow, of the Royal Navy, was summonsed for driving a motorcycle without a driving licence at Ware, on January 5 and with driving a motorcycle without being insured against third party risks. PC Spencer said he stopped the defendant in Ware High Street at 1.15 a.m. and the man told him that he had left his driving licence and his certificate of insurance at his barracks. The Chairman said that defendant would be fined 7s. 6d. for driving without a licence and  7s. 6d. for not being insured against third party risks, which meant he could not take out a driving licence for 12 months .

Retirement Almost.

General Order 116 of the 16th August 1939 announced the retirements on Pension of one Police Sergeant and six Constables. Having all submitted applications to resign their respective appointments in the Hertford County Constabulary on 11th October 1939, on pension, the resignations had been accepted. Charles was one of the Constables. They would all be paid up to and including the 11th October 1939, and their names struck off the establishment of the Force on that date.

Of course, before he had a chance to retire World War 2 started and the 1939 Register records Police Constable Charles Spencer and his family as living at 106, Watton Road, Ware.

Charles remained at Ware finally retiring on the 3rd September 1941 on medical grounds. He received his full pension of £160/15/6 per annum as he had completed his service

Charles Spencer of 106, Watton Road, Ware died on the 4th February 1962 at St. Joseph’s Hospice, Hackney, London. The funeral was held at St. Mary’s Church Ware at 3.00 p.m. on Thursday the 8th February 1962.

This page was added on 02/06/2020.

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  • I was very interested to read all the details of Charles Spencer. His uncle Alfred was my great-grandfather. These country Hertfordshire folk certainly produced many Spencers – there must be hundreds of them. Charles’ father was one of 12 children and he fathered 10 himself! Church, police and military records are extremely well-documented, so for family historians it is great.

    By Penelope Spencer Whitney (14/08/2020)