Herbert William George Thorpe

Police Constable 24, Sergeant, Inspector, Chief Constable St. Albans City Police

Paul Watts with thanks to Barbara Wrighting

Herbert William George Thorpe

Early Life.

Herbert William George Thorpe was born on the 21st February 1892 at Norwich.

His father was William Thomas Thorpe who enlisted on the 25th May 1880 as Private 4929 in the Coldstream Guards. He served in the Sudan from the 19th February 1885, Egypt from the 9th June 1885 and Cyprus from the 4th July 1885. He transferred to the Army Reserve on the 24th May 1886. He re-enlisted on the 27th November 1914 (aged 53 years) serving at home with the Norfolk Regiment. He transferred to the Royal Defence Corps and later the East Surrey Regiment as Acting Sergeant before he was demobilised on the 1st April 1920.

His father married his mother, Mary Ann Ellen Jane Harrison on the 7th March 1887 at Norwich. They had five children two of whom died before the 1911 census:
1. Victor Hebert William born in 1887 Norwich.
2. Nora Hannah Alice born and died in 1890 at Mitford.
3. Herbert William George
4. Sidney Edward Ernest born and died in 1902 at Norwich.
5. Charles Edward James born in 1905 at Norwich.

During the 1891 census the family were living at Revenue Square, Commercial Road, East Dereham, Mitford, Norfolk. William was working as a Railway Porter. By the time of the 1901 census the family had moved to 19, Black Horse Street, Heigham, Norwich, Norfolk. William was a self-employed Outside Porter. They had two lodgers staying with them one of whom was a Police Constable.

At the time of the 1911 census the family had moved again and were living at 21, Stacy Road, Norwich and William was employed as a Commercial Porter. Herbert had left home and joined the Army.

Early Army Service.

Herbert’s Army Service Record has not survived but we know from other records that on the 19th September 1910 he enlisted as Private 8863 in the 2nd Battalion, Coldstream Guards. As was the norm at this time he probably would have signed up for short service of three years in the Colours followed by nine in the Reserves.

During the 1911 census Private Herbert William Thorpe of the 2nd Battalion, Coldstream Guards is recorded as living at the Malplaquet Barracks, Marlborough Lines, Aldershot.

Nothing else is known about his early Army Service but on leaving he applied to join the St. Albans City Police.

Police Service.

His Police Service Record has also not survived but when the St. Albans City Police merged with the Hertfordshire Constabulary in 1947, the County Force took over responsibility for the administration of their pensions. Consequently, it is thought that Hebert was Appointed on the 1st September 1912 as Police Constable 24 in the St. Albans City Police.

There is a slight issue here in that this was less than two years after he enlisted in the Coldstream Guards which would be very unusual. His enlistment date is recorded on another document and other sources show that his Service Number was one that was issued in 1910. If anything, his date of Appointment to the Police is likely to be incorrect as unfortunately it has not been possible to verify the source information.

Nothing further is known about his Police Service until during the war.

Army Service During The War.

In his book “‘Be Proud’ Hertfordshire and The Great War; An Anthology,” John G.E. Cox wrote about how Hertfordshire heard that War had been declared using the Herts. Advertiser, dated the 8th August 1914 as his source: “For example, four St. Albans City Police Constables re-joined their regiments, PC Atkins to Dunbar to re-join the 1st King’s Dragoons; PC Edwards to Bedford to 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment; PC Thorpe to Chelsea Barracks to the Coldstream Guards; and PC Bass to Woolwich to the Royal Army Service Corps.”

Herbert’s Army Service Record for the period of the Great War has also not survived but from his Medal Roll Index Card, Medal Rolls and his Silver War Badge Roll the following is known. As an Army Reservist Herbert was recalled to the Colours on the 4th August 1914. He landed in France on the 12th August 1914 with the Coldstream Guards as part of the British Expeditionary Force. During the battle of Ypres, he was injured by a gunshot wound to his right arm.

Private 8863 H.W. Thorpe of the Coldstream Guards was listed as wounded in the Casualty List issued by the War Office on the 28th November 1914. He was entitled to wear a “Wound Stripe” as authorised under Army Order 204 of 6th July 1916. The terms of this award having been met by his being named in this list.

He was treated at the Northern Military Hospital in Lincoln. Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School is now an English state secondary school with academy status located in Wragby Road in Lincoln. During the First World War, the building was requisitioned by the War Office to create the 4th Northern General Hospital, a facility for the Royal Army Medical Corps to treat military casualties.

Published in the Hertfordshire Mercury on the 9th January 1915 was Herbert Thorpe, Coldstream Guards reported as being wounded.

Herbert recovered from his wound but on the 15th July 1915, he was discharged from the Army under King’s Regulation 392 (xvi) as he was no longer physically fit for war service. On the 19th February 1917 he was issued with a Silver War Badge number 24751. He was also awarded the 1914 Star and the Victory and British War medals and claimed his Clasp and Roses.

Re-joining The Police.

No records have survived which show when Herbert re-joined the Police, but before he did so he would have had to undergo a Medical Examination to determine whether he was fit enough for Police duties.


Herbert married Sarah Ann Jakes on the 6th February 1916 at St Paul’s, Southwark. At the time of his marriage they were both shown as living at 15, Dauney Buildings, Southwark. This is thought to have been spelled incorrectly in that it should read as Dauncey – in the 1911 census an Agnes Bain lived at 15, Dauncey Buildings, Webber Row, Southwark. It is now known as Dauncey House and is a listed building having been built in c.1905. Herbert probably gave the same address as Sarah to simplify the Banns. His occupation was recorded as a Police Constable, but it does not show where. They had three sons all born in St. Albans, the youngest within a year of their marriage, so in all probability that is where he was working.
1. Victor Alfred William born in 1917 St. Albans.
2. Gordon Willoughby James born in 1920 St. Albans.
3. Leslie Herbert Charles born in 1923 at St. Albans.

Following an order by the Secretary of State, made under the power conferred upon him by Section 3(2) of the Police (Emergency Provisions) Act 1915, the St. Albans City Police Force, for the purposes of control and discipline, were treated as part of the Hertford County Constabulary from 1st June 1916. The St. Albans City Police remained under the control of the County until the end of the war.


The Hertford County Constabulary General Order 126 of the 29th November 1918 announced a resignation:
Police Constable 24 Herbert W. Thorpe, St. Albans City Force, having submitted on 26th November 1918 an application to be permitted to resign his appointment, the resignation is accepted and will take effect on 26th December 1918. Police Constable 24 Thorpe will be paid up to and including 26th December 1918, and his name will be struck off the strength of the establishment of the Force as from that date.

For a brief period, Herbert was Appointed to the London and North West Railway Police. It is not known when Herbert re-joined the St. Albans City Police but as the Electoral Rolls of 1919 to 1930 list Herbert William and Sarah Ann Thorpe as living at 17, Cornwall Road, St. Albans it was probably during 1919.

Herbert appears in a photograph of St. Albans City Police dated 1926 in plain clothes as a Detective Sergeant.

Detective Sergeant Thorpe

A Bigamist.

Published on the 23rd April 1926 in the Mansfield Reporter under the headline – Alleged Bigamy Electrician Sent For Trial at Mansfield.
Bertrand Hasson aged 45 an electrician, of Huntingdon, who was remanded at the Mansfield Court last week on a charge of bigamously marrying Elizabeth Curtis, his wife, Ellen Hasson, being alive, was brought up again on Wednesday.
Herbert gave evidence as to Hasson’s first marriage:
Elizabeth Rolph of Colney Heath, Herts said that she was present at the marriage of Hasson and Ellen Arches on January 22nd, 1918 at the St. Albans Registry Office. Detective Sergeant H.W. Thorpe of the St. Albans Police produced a copy of the marriage certificate that he had made from the register at the St. Albans Registry Office.

Making Off Without Payment.

Published on the 11th November 1926 in the Lancashire Evening Post under the headline – Posed As Wealthy. 18 Year Old Youth Lives On His Wits. Mixed With People Of High Social Status. Many Debts Contracted. Remarkable Police Court Story.
A debonair young fellow of 18, who springing from humble parentage, posed as a man of wealth, insinuated himself into the circles of high society, and according to the Police contrived to live upon his wits, had his career checked at St. Albans Police Court today. He was charged as Ronald Ashley, described as of no fixed abode, and he was sentenced to three months hard labour. He appeared on remand charged with obtaining food and lodging to the value of £1 13s 6d at the Red Lion Hotel, St. Albans and with attempting to commit suicide by taking a quantity of disinfectant which contained 25% pure carbolic acid. According to the evidence for the prosecution, the youth arrived at the hotel stating that he was on his way to Yorkshire and had walked as far as St. Albans from London for exercise. He stated that his chauffeur was bringing his car to take hm on. He spoke of changing a £100 note, but when his bill was presented to him, he asked the proprietress to summon the Police. Detective Sergeant Thorpe found him in bed at the hotel. Accused said that he had taken poison as he was no good to himself or anybody else. When arrested he was penniless and in his possession were found four letters which he had written to his mother, the Coroner, a Mrs. De Groot and the proprietress of the hotel. In each of these communications he announced his intention of taking his life. Accused, who pleaded “Guilty” had no explanation to offer.
Once A Shop Boy.
Detective Sergeant Thorpe said that the accused’s correct name was Alan Hay Fife Dibb, and he was educated at Summerbridge near Harrogate and at Shipley, Yorkshire. He worked as a shop boy for a year and was after employed as an office boy by a Bradford stockbroker for two years. He left that post and went to London, so far as is parents knew, to a stockbroker’s agents office, but it was afterwards found that he did no work and evidently lived on his wits. Whilst in London he resided at fashionable hotels posing as a man of wealth, entertaining and mixing with persons of high social standing and contracting many debts, some for large amounts. In July 1929 accused went to Herne Bay and after staying at the residence of a well-known society lady and at an hotel he was arrested for obtaining food from the hotel by means of false pretences, the pretence being that his chauffeur and car were following.
Posed As An Honourable.
On July 31st, 1926 at Herne Bay Petty Sessions, he was bound over in the sum of £20 for 12 months and placed on probation. After his conviction he returned to his home but had done no work. On October 24th, 1926 his parents provided him with his railway fare to London. He informed them that he wanted to collect moneys that were due to him. He stayed at an hotel posing as the Hon. Ronald Hamilton and stated that he was in receipt of £2000 a year. He remained until the following Saturday incurring a debt of £29 18s 6d. Then he absconded. The company in that case refused to prosecute. “This lad’s ideas, “ declared the Officer, “are undoubtedly above his own station in life and when spoken to he is persistent in is statement that when free he intends to return and get among society people. His parents are in humble circumstances, his father being an acetylene welder earning £2 10s a week”. In reply to the Chairman prisoner agreed that the statement of the Police Officer was correct. Passing Sentence, the Chairman of the bench said accused’s record was terrible, and the justices hoped that he had been ashamed to hear it read.

A Fraudster.

Published in the Dundee Evening Telegraph on the 29th January 1929 under the headline – Engineer’s Story Of Rich Uncle And Estate. Sent For Trial.
Henry Frank Durand, an engineer, who formerly lived at St. Albans, was at St. Albans Police Court committed for trial at the Herts Quarter Sessions on four charges of obtaining sums varying from £1 to £4 by false pretences. It was stated in evidence that accused represented that he had a rich uncle, Sir Henry Durand, who had an estate, with a mansion and several hundred acres and about three farms, at Pinhoe, Devon. The mansion, he said, was let at £2500 a year fully furnished and his uncle had died leaving him the estate, and, in addition, £30,000 in trust, and about £50,000 in stocks and shares. To the four people in St. Albans from whom, it was alleged, he borrowed money he stated that Messrs. Lumley and Lumley, solicitors of Conduit Street, W., were acting on his behalf, but he was having difficulty in getting the estate settled. He asked them to lend him the sums referred to, so that he might go to London to see his solicitors. PC Potter of the Devon Constabulary, said that no gentleman of the name of Sir Henry Durand lived at Pinhoe and Detective Sergeant Thorpe, of St. Albans Police, said accused stated to him, “I want to assist as much as I can. The estate does not exist at Pinhoe. I am not related to Sir Henry Durand. It is not true that I am coming into money under his will and I have not instructed Messrs. Lumley and Lumley to act for me”.

A Burglar Caught With The Goods.

Published in the Buckinghamshire Examiner on the 18th December 1831 under the headline – The House Breaker’s Haul and the Capture at St. Albans.
Chesham Court heard the case against William Preston of no fixed address who was charged with housebreaking at Chesham. Evidence was given by Herbert:
Detective Sergeant Thorpe, St. Albans City Police, said at 8.15 p.m. he kept defendant under observation. At 8.30 p.m. he entered the public bar of a common lodging house in St. Albans and he (witness) entered an adjoining bar of the same house. He saw the man hand the diamond ring produced to the landlord and heard him say, “This ring has been valued at £4 do you want to buy it”. Through the landlord witness obtained possession of the ring and after examination saw the ring placed on the counter in front of the defendant. Witness immediately went to him, took possession of the ring and said, “I am a Police officer. I overheard your conversation that you want to sell this ring, would you care to explain how you came into possession of it?” He said, “Yes, I bought it for 5/- from a man in the Goat lodging house down the street, I am staying there too”. Witness asked, “Who is this man?” He was told, “I don’t know”. Asked to describe him, defendant said he could not do so, and added, “He has gone away. He went this afternoon”. Witness was not satisfied and took the man to St. Albans Police Station. At 92.25 p.m. following a communication with the Chesham Police, defendant was told that he would be detained on a charge of housebreaking at Chesham, witness went to the Goat lodging house St. Albans where he took possession of the £1 note produced. On his return to the Police Station he cautioned the man and said, “This note has been traced to your possession. It is the same number as one stolen from a house at Chesham today”. He replied, “wasn’t there more money than that?” Witness told him that in all 30/- was stolen. The next day (Friday) the man was handed over to the Chesham Police.
Following further evidence Preston was committed for trial at the Quarter Sessions.

Inspector Thorpe

Promotion To Inspector And Acting Chief Constable.

On the resignation of the Mr Nelson Ashton, the St. Albans City Chief Officer of Police, in 1934, the Watch Committee decided to promote Herbert to Inspector and then offer him the post of Acting Chief Constable. He was awarded an annual non-pensionable allowance of £30 on top of his salary as an Inspector.
With the rank came the following responsibilities:
Chief Inspector of Diseases of Animals – salary £6 6/- per annum.
Chief Inspector of Petroleum and Explosives.
Chief Inspector of the Shops Act – salary £20 per annum.
Chief Inspector of Hackney Carriages.
Authorised Officer under the Celluloid and Cinematograph Act.

Herbert was not immediately confirmed as Chief Constable in anticipation of there being a merger with the County Force as there was a Bill before Parliament proposing the amalgamation of smaller forces. The Mayor and the Corporation produced evidence to Parliament that the St. Albans Force was manifestly more efficient than the County Force in that they had a detective department long before the County and that Police Boxes and traffic lights were first installed there. Crime and detection figures were produced which showed that those of the St. Albans Force were much better than the County Force. Exactly what effect this had on the decision of Parliament is not known but the St. Albans Force was not merged at that time.

Confirmed As Chief Constable.

Published in the Illustrated Police News on the 16th August 1934:
Inspector Herbert W. Thorpe has been appointed Chief Constable of St. Albans (Herts) after having been Acting Chief Constable since May 1933.

The 1939 Register lists Herbert (Chief Officer of Police) and Sarah Anne Thorpe with their three sons living at 1, Bricket Road, St. Albans.

Amalgamation And Retirement.

Finally compelled by new legislation Herbert oversaw the amalgamation of the St. Albans City Police into the Hertfordshire Constabulary on the 1st April 1947. At two minutes past midnight he handed the keys to the Police Station over to the county’s Chief Constable, Colonel A.E. Young. In doing so Herbert remarked that the cells were empty, save a number of bottles of whiskey.

Hebert retired on pension on the 1st July 1947 having declined to accept the rank of Superintendent in the County Force.

Herbert William George Thorpe of 5, St. Stephens Avenue, St. Albans died on the 2nd January 1960.

This page was added on 21/03/2020.

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