Thompson, Herbert William, 56, Police Constable.

Paul Watts

Herbert William Thompson 1919 Luton Riot Duty
Herts Police Historical Society

Early Life.

Herbert William Thompson was born on the 29th June 1888 at Attlebridge, Norfolk.

His father, Simon Thompson an agricultural labourer, a gardener and a horseman on a farm, married his mother, Mary Ann Slipper on the 26th July 1874 at St. Clements, Norwich. They had eleven children:

  1. Walter born in 1874 at Hellesdon.
  2. Emma Jane born in 1876 at Longbridge Deverill, Wiltshire.
  3. Alice Susannah born in 1877 at Hellesdon.
  4. Edith Mary born in 1880 at Felthorpe.
  5. Thomas George born in 1882 at Attlebridge.
  6. Robert John born in 1884 at Attlebridge.
  7. Frederick Simon born in 1886 at Attlebridge.
  8. Herbert William.
  9. Hannah Eliza born in 1890 at Attlebridge.
  10. Ellen May born in 1893 at Taverham.
  11. George born in 1898 at Felthorpe.

During the 1881 census the family were living at Taverham Road, Felthorpe, St. Faiths, Norfolk. There is no trace of the family in the 1891 census. By the time of the 1901 census they were living at Fakenham Road, Taverham, St. Faiths, Norfolk. At the time of the 1911 census they were living at Mill Row, St. Faith’s, Norfolk although Herbert had left home and was employed as a Game Keeper lodging with the Head Game Keeper Laurie Howe, at The Keepers Cottage, Earl’s Wood, Barkway, Royston. He was employed by Mr. Alexander Crossman.

Then he applied to join the Hertford County Constabulary. As part of the process he had a Medical examination on the 7th August 1914 at Police Headquarters Hatfield by the Force Surgeon who issued the following certificate: I hereby certify that I have examined the above candidate as to his health and bodily strength and consider him fit for the Constabulary of this County. Signed: G.A. Upcott Gill Surgeon. He would also have had an interview and told to wait for a date of Appointment.

Police Service.

Herbert’s Hertford County Constabulary Form 3 Record Sheet has survived and shows that he was Appointed as Constable 56 on the 17th August 1914 and the following was recorded: He gave his age on joining as 26 2/12 years, his place and date of birth as Attlebridge, Norfolk on the 29th June 1888. His height as 5 feet 7 ½ inches, chest 36 inches to 38 inches, complexion fresh, eyes blue and his hair dark brown. He said he could both ride a pedal cycle and swim. He gave his religion as Church of England and his next of kin as his father, Simon Thompson of St. Faiths, West Norwich and later his wife Helen Elizabeth.

Herbert underwent his Probationer training at R Division Headquarters at Hatfield on £1/4/6 per week. He was in the 10th Training Class of recruits with Sergeant 57 Cousins and Constable 20 Wright as his instructors. On the 24th August 1914 he was Attested before A. Marchand J.P. and J. Lloyd J.P. at Hatfield. On the completion of his training William was taken onto the Duty Roster and on the 18th September 1914, he was posted to C Division at Watford.


General Order 57 of the 6th April 1915 announced four resignations as follows: The undermentioned Police Constables having submitted applications to resign their appointments as Constables in the Hertfordshire County Constabulary for the purposes of enlisting in HM Army, the resignations are accepted to take effect on 5th April 1915: PC 90 White G.E., PC 323 Aylott E.G., PC 308 Medcalf W.J. The three Constables will be paid up to and including 5th April 1915 and will be struck off the strength of the establishment as from that date.

The undermentioned Police Constable having submitted an application to resign his appointment as a Constable of the Hertfordshire County Constabulary, the resignation is accepted to take effect on date shown. He will be paid up and including the date set forth opposite his name and will be struck off the strength of the establishment as of that date: PC 56 Thompson H.W. – 10th April 1915. If the Constable enlists in the Army before that date, he will be permitted to leave the Force at once and his re-appointment to the Force will be favourably considered at the conclusion of his Military Service.

Army Service During The War.

Herbert’s Army Service Record has survived, albeit it is part of the burnt collection which was damaged in the Blitz in World War 2, and shows he enlisted on the 29th November 1915 at Woolwich in the Army Veterinary Corps as Horse Keeper 13752. Constable 248 William Charles Hull, who he had joined the Police with, enlisted with him and was Horse Keeper 13748. Other than enlisting and doing their initial training together there is no evidence to show they served together.

The following was recorded: He gave his address as St. Faith’s near Norwich, his age as 27 years 5 months, his trade as Police Constable. He said he was not married and had not been in the Military before.

His description on enlistment was recorded as: Apparent age: 27 years 150 days. Height: 5 feet 8 ¼ inches. Chest: 40 inches 3 inch expansion. He gave his next of kin as his father Simon Thompson of St. Faith’s near Norwich.

His Medical History Army Form B178 recorded that he was examined at Woolwich on the 29th November 1915 and it noted the same information as his description on enlisting with the addition that he said he was born at Attlebridge, Norfolk, his weight was 140 lbs. and his physical development was good.

The day after he enlisted, he joined the No. 2 Veterinary Hospital at Woolwich and was granted Corporals pay of 6d per diem.

On the 11th November 1916 he transferred to the Royal Field Artillery 1 ‘C’ Company Reserve Brigade as Private 197240, he was allowed to keep his former rate of pay of ½d per diem and 6d per diem Corporals pay. On the same day he was posted as Gunner to the 38th Reserve Battery.

On the 1st February 1917 he was appointed as Acting Bombardier and, on the 3rd April 1917, he was Appointed Acting Corporal. On the 17th August 1917 he transferred as Gunner 300554 to the Machine Gun Corps at Wareham.

On the 19th August 1917 he was posted as an Acting Corporal at Depot. On the 29th September 1917 he was posted as Acting Corporal to the 37th Reserve Battery and then, on the 4th November 1917 he was posted to the Special Service Company.

On the 3rd January 1918 he was admitted King George V Hospital, Stamford Street, Waterloo, with a cut – the rest of the entry is burnt. However, it must have been fairly serious as he was not discharged until the 1st February 1918.

On the 22nd March 1918 he was posted back to Depot. Two days later he was posted to 14th Battalion, Tank Corps at Bovington and taken on strength as an unpaid Acting Corporal. On the 15th May 1918 14th he was appointed as a paid Acting Corporal. On the 20th May 1918 when at Bloxworth he was reprimanded for: When on active service neglect of duty when in charge of Tanks division guard. On the 18th June 1918 he embarked at Southampton and disembarked the next day at Le Havre France and promoted Corporal in the 14th Battalion.

On the 19th September 1918 he was appointed as a paid Acting Sergeant in the 14th Battalion and then on the same day he was promoted to Sergeant. On the 12th November 1918 he was  sent on a training course however, the details are unreadable.

On the 14th February 1919 he returned to the UK for demobilisation and on the, 17th March 1919, he was transferred to Class Z Army Reserve.

His Statement as to Disability Army Form Z22 recorded: Unit: 14th Battalion. Regt. Or Corps: Tank Corps. Regtl. No.: 300554. Rank: Sergeant. Name: Thompson Herbert William. Address: St. Faith’s near Norwich, Norfolk. Date and cause of Discharge: Unreadable. Age last birthday: Unreadable. First joined for duty date: 29th November 1915. Place: Woolwich. Medical category when joined: A1. I do not claim to be suffering from a disability due to my Military Service. Signed: H.W. Thompson. Date and place of examination: Unreadable.

His Protection Certificate and Certificate of Identity Army Form Z11 recorded: Name: Thompson Herbert William. Regtl. No.: 300554. Rank: Sergeant. Record Office: York Street, Westminster. Unit: 14th Battalion. Regt. Or Corps.: Tank Corps. Pay Office: 91, Prince Consort Road. Address: St. Faith’s near Norwich, Norfolk. Theatre of War: France. Year born: 1888. Medical category: A1. Place for re-joining in case of emergency: Woolwich.  Granted 28 day furlough. Date and Place issued: 16th February 1919 at Thetford.

Herbert was awarded the British War and Victory medals.

Like every other soldier Herbert 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 underwent a Medical Examination by the Force Surgeon on the 10th April 1919 to ensure that he was still fit enough for Police duties. 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 94 of 13th April 1919 announced the re-appointment to the Force of seven men who had been released from H.M. Army. Herbert was shown as PC 56 Thompson H.W. posted to E Division at Hitchin from the 10th April 1919 on £2/3/0 per week. Each officer had to be formally re-attested and the Superintendents concerned had to report when this has been done providing the date and place of attestation and before whom taken. Herbert was awarded an immediate pay increase to £3/10/0 per week as part of a national pay award. He was re-attested on the 12th April 1919.

Hertfordshire Detachment To Luton Re Riots.

Herbert was part of a detachment sent to Luton to help quell rioting between the 20th July and the 5th August 1919.

General Order 177 of the 9th August 1919 announced that the following extract from a letter received from the Head Constable of the Luton Borough Police under date 4th August 1919 was published for information.

“I desire to express to you my high appreciation of the members of your Force on detached duty here for the riot. They proved to be excellent fellows in every way, gave a splendid account of themselves when need arose and conducted themselves in a manner which was credit to any Police Force.”

The Chief Constable is very gratified to have such a good account of the services of the detachment and congratulates Inspector Wright and the Sergeants and Constables. An entry of service on Riot Duty will be made in each man’s record sheet.

To see the whole photograph go to the Mutual Aid category and the article Hertford County Constabulary Assist With Quelling Rioters.

Herbert’s Police Service Record shows he suffered an abrasion to his knee on the 3rd August 1919 which was classed as an injury on duty and serious enough that he was off work for ten days. The circumstances of how he was injured have not survived and it would be speculation to connect it to his riot duty.

General Order 197 of the 8th October 1919 was a very important announcement regarding John’s Army Service: At the meeting of the Joint Standing Committee held on 3rd October 1919, the privileges conferred by the Police Reservists (Allowances) Act 1914 as amended by the Police (pensions) Act 1918 i.e. to permit the period of Army service to account as approved service in the Police Force, were extended to the undermentioned Constables:

No. Rank      Name                      Div     Date               Date              Period                                                                                           & No.                                                Resigned        Re-appt.       to Count                                                                             1    PC 56     Thompson H.W.    E        10/04/1915   10/04/1919   4 yrs. 1 day                                                                         2    PC 307   Markwell J.             C        02/11/1915   10/07/1919   3 yrs. 250 days                                                                   3    PC 328   Smith S.                  C        17/12/1915   22/05/1919   3 yrs. 156 days                                                                 4    PC 294   Wise B.C.                D        06/08/1918   30/01/1919              177 days

Herbert’s Police Service Record was endorsed: Period of Army Service from 11th April 1915 to 9th April 1919 to count as Police Service for pension purposes vide order 197/1919. Despite this, unusually, all of Herbert’s future pay increases were awarded on the 10th April, the date of his re-appointment, rather than the 17th  August which was the date of his original appointment.

On the 1st November 1919 Herbert 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.


General Order 236 of the 4th December 1919 instructed Herbert that he was being transferred from E Division at Hitchin to E Division at Gosmore on the 5th December 1919.

Herbert’s Police Service Record shows he suffered a bruised head and contused eyes on the 6th April 1920 and was off sick for eight days. It was again classed as an injury on duty, but the circumstances have not survived although, it appears he was assaulted.

General Order 71 of the 23rd April 1920 informed Herbert that he would receive an increased rate of pay with from £3/10/0 to £3/12/0 per week from the 10th April 1920.


Herbert married Helen Elizabeth Underwood on the 1st December 1920 at Hitchin. Her birth and death records show her as Ellen Elizabeth born on the 16th May 1899 at Stevenage and she was baptised as Eleanor Elizabeth on the 9th October 1889 at Stevenage. They had two daughters both born in Hitchin:

  1. Doris Ruth born in 1921.
  2. Vera Ellen born in 1923.

The 1921 Electoral Roll lists Herbert William Thompson as living at Gosmore.

Herbert’s Police Service Record shows he suffered another injury on duty on the 15th April 1921 when a bruised thigh and a laceration to a hand kept him off sick for seven days. Once more the circumstances have not survived but it could be that he had been assaulted again.

Herbert’s Police Service Record shows that on the 10th April 1920 he was awarded a pay increase to £3/12/0 and then General Order 68 of the 29th April 1921 informed Herbert that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £3/12/0 to £3/14/0 per week from the 10th April 1921.

The 1922 Electoral Roll lists Herbert William Thompson as living at Vicar’s Grove, St. Ippollitts.

General Order 58 of the 8th May 1922 informed Herbert that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £3/14/0 to £3/16/0 per week from the 10th April 1922.


General Order 61 of the 16th May 1922 instructed Herbert that from the 25th May 1922 he was being transferred from E Division at Gosmore to E Division at Baldock and to occupy the house being vacated by PC 303 Berry. The 1922 to 1924 Electoral Rolls list Herbert William and Helen Elizabeth Thompson as living at 2, Icknield Way North, Baldock.

General Order 76 of the 21st April 1923 and General Order 86 of the 20th May 1924  informed Herbert that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £3/16/0 to £3/18/0 per week from the 10th April 1923 and from £3/18/0 to £4/0/0 from the 10th April 1924, respectively.

Another Transfer.

General Order 143 of the 26th August 1924 instructed Herbert that from the 4th September 1924 he was being transferred from E Division at Baldock to D Division at Great Berkhamsted and to occupy the quarters at Berkhamsted Police Station being vacated by Constable 54 Webb. The 1925 to 1930 Electoral Rolls list Herbert William and Helen Elizabeth Thompson as living at the Police Station, High Street, Great Berkhamsted.

General Order 75 of the 7th May 1925 informed Herbert that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £4/0/0 to £4/2/0 from the 10th April 1925.

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. Herbert was one of the Constables named in the list. There is no record that Herbert was mobilised.

General Order 67 of the 16th May 1926 informed Herbert that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £4/3/0 to £4/4/0 from the 10th April 1926. Then his Police Service Record shows that on the 10th April of the following years he received the following pay increase: 1926 – £4/4/0, 1927 – £4/6/0, 1928 – £4/8/0 and 1929 – £4/10/0.

The Final Transfers.

Herbert’s Police Service Record shows that on the 20th January 1931 he was transferred to E Division at Kimpton and then on the 12th January 1934 to E Division at Letchworth.

A Minor Blemish.

On the 4th February 1938 Hebert paraded late for duty at Letchworth and was cautioned by his Superintendent.

Retirement And Life After The Police.

Herbert retired as a Constable on the 16th August 1939 on completion of his 25 years’ service’

The 1939 Register records that living at 142, Icknield Way, Letchworth are Herbert W. Thompson, a retired Police Constable, and his family.

Herbert’s wife Helen died on the 7th June 1962.

Herbert William Thompson of 142, Icknield Way, Letchworth died on the 23rd April 1980. His funeral was held at St. George’s Church, Norton Way, Letchworth at 11 a.m. on Tuesday 29th April 1980.

This page was added on 27/06/2020.

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