James Francis Childs was born on the 27th October 1885 at Great Amwell and baptised on the 14th March 1886 at Little Amwell.
His father, Joseph Childs a general labourer, married his mother, Sarah Ann Berry, on the 17th August 1884 at Edmonton. Sarah already had a daughter, Louisa Berry, born in 1878 at Ware. They had seven further children:
- Ethel Berry born in 1883 at Great Amwell (shown as Childs in the census).
- James Francis (shown as Frank in census).
- Frederick Reginald born in 1887 Great Amwell (shown as Reginald in census).
- Eliza Maud born in 1890 at Little Amwell (shown as Maud in census).
- Cecil born in 1891 at Little Amwell.
- Douglas Joseph born in 1896 at Little Amwell.
- Eileen Myrtle born in 1897 at Little Amwell.
During the 1891 census the James’ mother and the rest of the family were living at 2, Priors Wood Cottages, Church Terrace, Little Amwell. His father though was living at the Townshend Arms, London Road, Little Amwell.
The 1901 census shows them all living at 3, Priors Wood Cottage, Little Amwell which was probably the same address as 1891.
James’ mother died in 1902 and his father died in 1908 both in Amwell.
By the 1911 census James, who is employed as a Blacksmith striker is living at 8, Priors Wood Cottages, Hertford Heath, Little Amwell with his brothers Frederick, Cecil, Douglas and sister Eileen.
Little is known about James’ life over the next three years until he applied to join the Hertford County Constabulary.
James’ Police Service Record has not survived but from other sources we know he was Appointed as Constable 332 on the 12th December 1914 on £1/4/6 per week. He would have undergone his Probationer training at Police Headquarters at Hatfield. At the completion of his training he would have been Attested and taken on to the Roster and he was then posted to E Division at Hitchin.
General Order 14 of 21st January 1915 confirmed James 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 332 Childs J.F. posted to E Division at Hitchin from the 22nd January 1915.
General Order 100 of the 9th June 1915 instructed James that he was being transferred from E Division at Hitchin to D Division at Tring on the 12th June 1915.
A Coal Strike.
General Order 116 of the 17th July 1915 was entitled Glamorganshire Coal Strike and listed a Sergeant and ten Constables, including James, who were instructed to hold themselves in readiness to proceed at short notice for duty in the Admiralty Coal Fields in Glamorganshire. There is no record which shows that they were deployed.
General Order 2 of the 5th January 1916 informed James that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £1/4/6 to £1/5/8 per week from the 12th October 1915.
General Order 101 of the 26th August 1916 instructed James that he was being transferred from D Division at Tring to D Division at Great Berkhamsted on the 30th August 1916. Then General Order 119 of the 4th November 1916 told James that he was on the move again from D Division at Great Berkhamsted to C Division at Watford on the 9th November 1916.
General Order 126 of the 26th November 1916 informed James 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 James, 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. James 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 James 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.
James’ Army Service Record has survived and from this we know the following: James enlisted on the 9th December 1915 at Watford and on the 10th 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 3, Albert Street, Tring, his age as 30 years 2 months and his trade as Police Constable. He said he was not married and had never served in the Military before.
His Description on enlistment was recorded as: Apparent age: 30 years 2 months. Height: 6 feet 1 ½ inches. Chest: 37 inches 2 inch expansion. Distinctive marks: 4 vaccination marks left arm. He gave his next of kin as his sister Miss Ethel Childs of Prior Wood Cottage, Hertford. Wife The Lawn Clarendon Road Watford.
His Medical History Army Form B178 recorded that he was examined at Hertford on the 19th April 1918 and it noted the same information as his description on enlisting with the addition that he said he was born at Great Amwell Herts, his weight was 163 lbs., his hair fair, complexion fresh, eyes grey and his physical development was good.
On the 23rd April 1918 James was one of fifteen Hertford County Constabulary Police Constables who were Mobilised at the same time. Five joined the Coldstream Guards and ten, including James as Guardsman 32196, joined the Grenadier Guards. They were given consecutive Army Service numbers. The others were 32193 William Sturman, 32194 Charles Spencer, 32195 Horace Human, 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.
James married Charlotte Louisa Burrows on the 3rd August 1918 at Holy Trinity Church, Little Amwell. They had a son: Francis J. born in 1919 at Watford.
The end of the war arrived before William could be posted overseas and consequently, he did not receive any medals. On the 9th February 1919 he was transferred to the Army Reserve. On the 6th March 1920 he received his final discharge.
His Statement as to disability Army Form B 22 recorded: Unit: 1st Provisional Battalion. Regiment: Grenadier Guards. Regt. No.: 32196. Rank: Guardsman. Name: James Francis Childs. Address: Priors Wood Cottage, Hertford Heath, Herts. Age last birthday: 33. First joined for duty: 16th April 1918 at Hertford. Category: A1. I do not claim to be suffering from a disability due to my Military service, signed: James F. Childs. Examined: Aldershot 6th January 1919.
Like every other soldier James 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.
General Order 20 of 19th January 1919 was entitled Allowances to wives of Police Soldiers. It announced that the Chief Constable had considered the position of each individual Police Soldier under the new scale of pay and found after taking into consideration the total income of the family from allowances, including the value of the soldier’s food and clothing, that in 16 cases the families were in a worse financial position then they would have been had the man remained in the force. These cases were put before the Standing Joint Committee and they authorised extra payments, with effect from 1st July 1918. PC 332 Childs J.F. C Division was awarded £0/0/5 extra per week with £0/9/11 to be paid retrospectively with the allowances for the week ending 22nd January 1919.
Re-joining The Police.
General Order 23 of 25th January 1919 listed 25 Police Officers who, having been released from H.M. Army, had been re-appointed to the Force. James was shown as: PC 332 Childs J.F. C Division at Watford from the 30th January 1919 on £2/7/0 per week. Each officer had to be formerly re-attested. The Superintendents concerned had to report to Headquarters the date and place of Attestation and before whom taken. The 1919 to 1928 Electoral Rolls list James and Charlotte Childs as living at 15, Durban Road (East), Watford.
The following General Orders all informed William he would receive an increase of pay on the 12th October of the year shown: General Orders 213 of the 17th October 1919 from £3/18/0 to £4/0/0 per week. General Orders 174 of the 20th October 1921 from £4/2/0 to £4/4/0 per week. General Orders 183 of the 5th November 1923 from £4/6/0 to £4/8/0 per week. General Orders 168 of the 25th October 1924 from £4/8/0 to £4/10/0 per week.
The records have not survived but as the 1929 and 1930 Electoral Rolls list James and Charlotte Childs as living at Hertford Heath it is safe to assume that James had been transferred there. Similarly, as the below newspaper articles indicate James must have been transferred to Welwyn Garden City.
Published on the 9th January 1931 in the Hertfordshire Mercury under the headline Theft of a motoring rug: Capt. J. Orton, of British Instructional Films Ltd, figured in a case in which Frederick William Winter, of 130, Broadwater Road, Welwyn Garden City, pleaded not guilty to stealing and receiving a motoring rug on December 19 last. The rug, which was produced in Court, was identified by Capt. Orton as belonging to him. The witness stated that at 9 p.m. on December 19 he left his car outside the Welwyn Theatre in the car park there, and the rug was left on the front seat. He valued it at five guineas. PC Childs, stationed at Welwyn Garden City, said that in consequence of information received he obtained a warrant, and in company with PS Stapleton, searched the house of the prisoner on December 3. The rug was found on a bed lying under the counterpane. When told he would be taken into custody, Winter replied, “I can soon account for the rug. I brought it one night off a tramp near the Stores.” Later Winter was charged with stealing and receiving the rug, and said he was innocent of both charges. In a statement to the Bench, the prisoner denied that he told the witness he had brought it off a tramp. The man, he said was more like a commercial traveller. He had walked home with the rug over his arm and took no steps to hide it, although he had plenty of opportunities if he had wanted to. It was all done in the open. It was only when he had brought it home and discovered it was a very good rug that he had his doubts. Prisoner stated that he had held a Scotland Yard licence as a motor driver, and had been driving for 16 years, and held a clean sheet. A conviction might mean that he would lose it. After retiring, the Court found Winter guilty, and bound him over for 12 months.
Burglars Caught In The Act.
Published on the 18th December 1931 in the Hertfordshire Mercury: A story, amply demonstrating the vigilance and smartness of the Herts Constabulary, was unfolded at an occasional court held at Hatfield on Saturday afternoon when George Sandle, described as a waiter, of 43 Grafton Street, W.1., and Charles Henry Keller, an engineer, giving an address at Tavistock Street, Westbourne Grove, were brought before Mr. J. Gregory, and charged with breaking and entering the shop of Messrs. Underwood, Tinker’s Hill, on the previous night. PC Childs, from Welwyn Garden City, stated that he and PC Mapley, also of Welwyn Garden City, both in plain clothes, were riding pedal cycles up Tinker’s Hill at 10.30. p.m. on the 11th inst., and on coming to Underwood’s shop, saw a stationary motorcar. Both got off their cycles and went to the car where there were two men, Sandle in the driving seat and the other in front of the car and made themselves known as police officers. The car was started by the man outside, who then jumped in and hurriedly drove off in the direction of the Great North Road. Witness turned his light on the rear number plate and saw the index number EB5151. Turning to the shops he found the front door of Underwood’s open. He immediately entered the shop and telephoned Welwyn Police Station. Examining the shop, he found the lock staple had been forced off. It was lying on the floor. On the door there were three marks which appeared to have been made by a file. Later, in consequence of information, he went to Hatfield Police Station where he saw the motorcar, and the men detained, and on searching the car, found behind the cushion of the driver’s seat a file (produced). He returned to the shop and found that the marks on the door post were the same width as the end of the file, and the teeth marks of the file appeared to fit the marks on the door. He also examined the shop next door, belonging to Charles Archer Burkett, and found two marks on the door post which appeared to have been made by the same file.
PC Smith, stationed at Stanborough, said, in consequence of information received at 10. 25 p.m., he went from his cottage to keep observation on the Great North Road. At 10.30, he saw a motor car EB5151 approaching from the direction of Welwyn. In response to his signal the car stopped, and when asked for his driving licence, Sandle said two police officers had just taken particulars of his licences and had also searched the car. Witness told the men he suspected them of breaking into a shop at Tinker’s Hill just previously, and that he should detain them, awaiting enquiries. He brought prisoners in the car to Hatfield Police Station. George Fred Godfrey, living at Stanborough, manager of Underwoods (ironmongers), said he closed the shop about 6. 15 p.m. on Friday. At about 10.30 p.m. he was awakened by PC Childs and went with him to the shop. He was later shown a large half round file, and he pointed out that the marks on the door corresponded exactly with the top of the file. As far as he could find, there was nothing missing. The file did not belong to him. Charles Archer Birkett, owner of the shop next door, gave evidence as to the marks on the door post, which were not there when he left the shop. Supt. Farrow then applied for a remand until Monday. This was granted. Both prisoners asked for bail, but the Superintendent was not satisfied with references offered, and they were removed in custody. The case resumed on Monday, before Mr. J.C. McCowan (in the chair) and Messrs. D Crawford, J.H.S. Smith, J Gregory and E. T. Tingey.
Corroborative evidence was given by PC Mapley, of Welwyn Garden City, and Thomas Carter, a bootmaker of Longcroft Lane, Welwyn Garden City, who stated that he saw a car and two men outside Underwood’s at between 5 and 10 minutes past 10 p.m. There were no other vehicles about. Sergt. Reeves gave evidence as to the marks, and the part of the door post and door corresponding were produced and examined by the Magistrates, with the aid of a microscope. Both prisoners made long statements on oath, Sandle stating that their object in being in the neighbourhood was the purchase of a car in Welwyn Garden City. Keller said he had lived for three years in Welwyn Garden City and was a demonstrator for Airways Hygienic House Cleaning. After brief retirement, both men were committed to stand trial at the next Quarter Sessions at Hertford on January 4. Both made application for bail, which was granted, if to the satisfaction of the Police, Sandle in £100 and one surety of £100, and Keller in £25 and one surety of £25. They were removed in custody.
A Transfer And Retirement.
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. James 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 James Childs and his family as living at 5, New Villas, Ware indicating that he had again been transferred.
Another source shows that although he was initially kept on, he did actually retire on the 13th December 1939, possibly owing to his age as he was 54 then.
James Francis Childs died on the 22nd May 1976 at Derby.