John Markwell was born on the 26th June 1891 at 21, Marylebone Road, London and was baptised on the 9th August 1891 at St. Mark, Westminster. At that time his mother, Sarah Markwell, gave her address as 157, Marylebone Road which was the address of the St. Marylebone Female Protection Society. The society, founded in 1838, sought to reclaim young women from all parts of the country who had, by one false step, fallen from the path of virtue. They were cared for in their trouble if expecting to become mothers; and after suitable training, were placed in service, where needful help was given them in supporting their infants, lest, through want, they should fall again. This was the more necessary from the extreme youth of many of the applicants, which prevents their earning sufficient to maintain their infants.
During the 1891 census John’s mother was employed as a servant and living at Court Field, Broxbourne working in the household of the Raincock family. By the 1901 census John and his mother had returned to the family home and were living at Half Acres, Bishop Stortford with his grandmother, uncles and aunts.
John’s mother could not be found in the 1911 census, but he was living at Elm Road, Bishops Stortford with an uncle and two aunts and was employed as a gardener.
Early Army Service.
His Army Service Record has not survived but from his Police Service Record we know that John enlisted in 1909 in the 1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment and served four years before being discharged on the 15th April 1913. At this time this was a Territorial Force which allowed John to remain in his employment as a gardener for a William Smith of Bishops Stortford. Then he applied to join the Hertford County Constabulary.
As part of the process of applying to join the Police George underwent a medical examination on the 19th November 1913 by the Force Surgeon at Police Headquarters at Hatfield, to ensure he was fit enough for Police duties. He would also have been interviewed and then told to wait for a date of Appointment.
John’s Hertford County Constabulary Form 3 Police Service Record has survived and shows the following: He said he was born in London on the 26th June 1891, his height was 5 feet 9 ½ inches, chest 36 inches, complexion dark, eyes brown and his hair black. He said he could ride a pedal cycle but could not swim. He later gave his next of kin as his wife Gertrude Markwell.
John was Appointed as Constable 307 on the 1st December 1913 and started his Probationer training at Police Headquarters on £1/4/6 per week. He was Attested on the 23rd February 1914 at Hatfield and on completion of his training he was taken on to the Roll and posted to C Division at Watford on the 26th February 1914.
A Minor Blemish.
On the 5th August 1914, the Chief Constable fined John 10 shillings and severely reprimanded him for being under influence of drink and unable to attend on duty.
In September 1914 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.
General Order 32 of the 27th February 1915 informed John that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £1/4/6 to £1/5/8 per week from the 5th February 1915.
The outbreak of the war saw a wave of xenophobia sweep the nation and many Germans nationals who were considered a threat to the nation were sent to internment camps for the duration of the war. Libury Hall, Great Munden, Ware became the county’s largest internment camp. Prior to the war the manor house had been converted into a German Industrial and Farm Colony to provide work and housing for unemployed and destitute German men. It was therefore a logical move that it should be expanded and during the course of the war 566 men of ages 60-90 were interned in the camp. The pre-war director W. Müller remained in charge of Libury Hall under the supervision of a British commandant and an armed police guard. The police were housed in a farm cottage on the site. (Source Herts At War website)
John was delegated to act as one of the armed guard. However, General Order 63 of 15th April 1915 announced that as the Military Authorities had undertaken to provide a Military Guard at the German Farm Colony, the Police Officers would resume normal duty and return to their respective stations on 15th April 1915. John was shown as: PC 307 Markwell J. C Division Little Watford.
General Order 151 of the 9th October 1915 announced the following: Police Constable 307 C John Markwell and 108 D Corrie G. Stanford having submitted applications to resign their appointments as Constables in the Hertford County Constabulary, the resignations are accepted and will take effect as under: PC 307 Markwell J. 2nd November 1915. PC 108 Stanford C.G. 3rd November 1915. The Constables will be paid up to and including the dates set forth their respective names and will be struck off the strength of the establishment as from those dates.
There was no reference that they had left to join the Military or whether they had the consent of the Chief Constable to do so, a factor critical as to whether any Military service would count towards their Police pensionable service. Whereas John did in enlist no Military record has been found for Stanford.
Army Service During The War.
John’s Army Service Record has not survived but from his Police Service Record, his Medal Roll Index Card and Medal Roll we know that he enlisted as Lance Corporal P/2346 in the Military Mounted Police and served for 3 years 8 months before being discharged on the 9th July 1919. His Medal Roll shows that he served in the Egyptian theatre of war between the 29th February 1916 and the 11th November 1918. This is clearly only an administrative date as many of the Hertfordshire Police soldiers who were in the Military Police have the same date, yet they all served for much longer.
He was awarded the British War and Victory medals.
Certainly, John was home in June 1919 as he got married.
John married a widow, Gertrude Johnson nee Humbles, on the 28th June 1919 at Watford. They had no children. Gertrude’s first husband had been Hertford County Constabulary Constable 177 William Arthur Johnson who she married in 1903 at St. Albans. He died in 1913 at Watford but they had four children:
- Doris Maud Johnson born in 1904 at Redbourn. She married Hertford County Constabulary Constable 44 Walter W. Oliver 44 in 1931 at Watford. He retired as an Inspector.
- Nora Winifred Johnson born in 1906 at Watford.
- Stanley William Johnson born in 1909 at Watford.
- Gertie Mary Johnson born in 1911 at Watford.
Like every other soldier John 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 on the 2nd July 1919 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 146 of the 5th July 1919 announced John’s re-appointment to the Force: The undermentioned having been released from HM Army is re-appointed to the Force with effect from the date shown, inclusive: PC 307 Markwell J. station Watford C Division from 10th July 1919 at £2/8/0 per week This officer must be formerly re-attested. The Superintendent concerned will report to this office when this has been done showing viz: Date and place of Attestation and before whom taken.
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
General Order 248 of the 18th December 1919 informed John that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £4/0/0 to £4/2/0 per week from the 1st December 1919.
The 1920 Electoral Roll list John and Gertrude Markwell as living at 83, Cecil Street, Watford.
Change Of Address.
General Order 120 of the 16th July 1920 instructed John that from the 22nd July 1920 he was to occupy the house being vacated by PS 144 Downing at Watford. The 1920 to 1926 Electoral Rolls reveal that this was 15, St. Marys Road, Watford.
The following General Orders all informed Frederick he would receive an increase of pay on the 1st December of the year shown: General Order 3 of the 5th January 1921 from £4/2/0 to £4/4/0 per week. General Order 199 of the 10th December 1921 from £4/4/0 to £4/6/0 per week. General Order 167 of the 13th December 1922 from £4/6/0 to £4/8/0 per week. General Order 200 of the 10th December 1923 from £4/8/0 to £4/10/0 per week.
General Order 6 of the 14th January 1926 instructed John that from the 25th January 1926 he was being transferred from C Division at Watford to D Division at Wilstone and to occupy the cottage being vacated by Constable 75 Cobb. The 1926 to 1930 Electoral Rolls record John and Gertrude Markwell as living at Wilstone.
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. John was one of the Constables named in the list.
General Order 117 of 29th August 1926 concerned the Emergency Regulations 1926 and instructions for 50 Hertfordshire Police Officers to be on standby should the Secretary of State call upon the County Force to draft men elsewhere. The first 20 named would be required to proceed at 8 hours’ notice or less. These included officers from A,B,C, D and E Divisions and it would appear to qualify to be amongst the 20 you needed to have a motor bicycle available. John was not one of the first twenty named as he did not have a motor bicycle.
General Order 140 of 18th October 1926 declared: EMERGENCY REGULATIONS 1926. The following detachment of the Hertford County Constabulary is detailed for duty in the County of Derby as from 19th October 1926, inclusive: There then follows a list of one Inspector, three Sergeants and 47 Constables which included PC 307 Markwell J. of D Division at Wilstone. The detachment will proceed by nearest railway route to St Pancras, London Midland & Scottish Railway, reporting on the main departure platform at 2 p.m., when Inspector Digby will parade the party and call the roll. The detachment will proceed by the 2.25 p.m. train to Derby. On arrival at Derby, Inspector Digby will report to the representative of the Chief Constable of the Derby County Constabulary who will meet the train and provide omnibus transport to Ripley about 10 miles distant.
Dress: Greatcoats, cape, cloth jacket, 2nd cloth trousers, 1925 issue helmet, leggings, truncheons and handcuffs, woollen gloves, lamps, whistles and chains. Divisional Superintendents will advance Railway fares if required and an account for same will be rendered to Headquarters Office for repayment. Inspector Digby will render a daily report direct to the Chief Constable’s Office each day, showing state of health of all members of the detachment and any matters of interest which may occur.
General Order 157 of 14th November 1926 THE EMERGENCY POWERS ACT, 1926. THE EMERGENCY REGULATIONS, 1926. COAL STRIKE: The Chief Constable is gratified to learn that the services of the detachment of the Hertford County Constabulary added temporarily to the Derby County Constabulary, were satisfactory, and he has much pleasure in publishing the following extract from a letter received from the Chief Constable of Derbyshire, under date 11th November 1926: Begins: “The detachment has done very good work and I will be grateful if you will be kind enough to convey to them my warm thanks for their services. I may say that Inspector Digby did very good work indeed and was of great assistance to my Ilkeston Superintendent. Will you also give him my personal thanks”. Ends.
If this letter from the Derbyshire Chief Constable seems a bit luke warm it transpires 10 of the Hertfordshire Constables suffered food poisoning after eating food which was supplied to them on behalf of the Derbyshire Police Authority. The Hertfordshire Force Surgeon said that their illness should be classed as an injury on duty and the Chief Constable agreed and said no one should suffer any stoppages from their pay. John was not one of those who suffered from the food poisoning.
Cycling Without Lights.
Published on the 27th January 1927 in the Bucks Herald: James Chandler, labourer. Station Road, Marston. was summoned for riding a bicycle without a light, at Tring Rural, on December 30th. He did not appear. PC John Markwell said that while on duty at Long Marston he saw defendant riding a bicycle without light, at 5.30 p.m. The Chairman, “There seems to have been lot of trouble in his house, according to letter we have received. It will be sufficient if defendant pays the costs 4s.”
Shotgun Used In Suicide.
(Abridged) Published on the 28th September 1934 in the Bucks Herald under the headline Puttenham Man’s Suicide, Newspaper Boys Shocking Discovery: An inquest on the deceased was held at the Parish Room Tuesday by the Divisional Coroner, Colonel Lovell F. Smeathman. He heard evidence from the paperboy on finding the deceased, Mrs. Daisy Edith Chapman, a cousin of the deceased by marriage gave evidence of identification. Dr. C. E. O’Keeffe, Tring, said he attended deceased a year ago for depression, rheumatism and gastritis. He had been a heavy drinker but had knocked it off lately, and this was calculated to cause depression. Moreover, he lived alone. On Saturday he was called to the deceased and saw him dead in a chair on the veranda of his house. Part of his head had been blown away and between his legs was a double barrelled sporting gun. He had no doubt the wound was self-inflicted.
PC Markwell. Wilstone, said he found the deceased as described by Dr. O’Keeffe, and saw the double barrelled gun between deceased’s legs, and found one discharged cartridge and one live one. It suggested that deceased pressed the muzzle of the gun in his neck and held it there with one hand, then leaned forward and pressed the trigger with the other hand. Replying to the Coroner, witness said he knew deceased to a very nervy man, who seemed to think someone was after him. He knew deceased to be a heavy drinker, but not outside. The Coroner, returning a verdict of “Suicide while temporarily of unsound mind, said there was ample evidence to show that deceased was not in a normal state of mind.”
(Abridged) Published on the 9th July 1937 in the Buckinghamshire Examiner under the headline Drowning Fatality, The Body of Mr. James Long, Found In Wilstone Reservoir, With Deceased’s Car Close By: A Coroner’s Inquiry was opened into the circumstances of the fatality at Tring on Thursday. The Coroner, Lieutenant Colonel Lovel F. Smeathman, retuned a verdict in accordance with medical evidence that deceased died from asphyxia from drowning, there being no evidence to show how he got into the water.
Police Constable Markwell said he received information at 4.40 on Sunday that a grey Standard car was stationary on the roadside. He proceeded to the spot, and in the car he found a cheque book, cash, papers relating to business transactions, a waistcoat, raincoat, cap, umbrella, and towel. Inquiries were made by the Amersham Police, and it was ascertained that Mr. Long was missing. On Monday he received instructions, and in company with other officers he commenced dragging operations, and recovered the clothed body at 12.15 p.m. It was in the North corner, and 13 ft. from the corner in 11 ft. of water. The Coroner: Is this corner where the wall is? Witness: Yes. Continuing. the Constable said he searched the clothing and found a lot of correspondence relating to business matters. The Coroner closely questioned witness regarding the nature of the place, and witness explained that anyone falling in at that spot would have to go at least 25 yards to get out. The slight injuries mentioned by the doctor could have been caused by the dragging apparatus. There were no marks on the top of the bank, and no signs of a struggle. In reply to Mr. J. E. Francis, the constable agreed that it would be easy to trip up at the top and fall in. Having returned the verdict he expressed the opinion that the evidence pointed to accidental death, with no evidence whatever that deceased took his own life, the Coroner expressed his deepest sympathy with the bereaved relatives.
Published on the 17th September 1937 in the Buckinghamshire Examiner under the headline: Found In Wilstone Reservoir. Yesterday (Thursday) morning the body of a Chesham man was recovered from Wilstone Reservoir, Tring, by Police Sergeant Mansfield (Tring) and Police Constable Markwell. The body was that of Mr. Ashley Cooper, aged 53, of Manor Road, Pond Park. The body was found at the road end of the reservoir. Mr. Cooper had been away from home since Wednesday, and as he was unwell some anxiety was felt in relation to him.
(Abridged) Published on the 24th September 1937 in the Buckinghamshire Examiner under the headline Pain And Fear Cause Man To End His Life: Colonel Lovell Smeathman, Coroner for the District, made a very sympathetic reference at the inquest held on Friday at Tring on the body of Ashley Cooper, aged 53, of Manor Road, Pond Park, whose body was recovered from Wilstone Reservoir, Tring on Thursday in last week. He remarked that a period of intense pain, and a fear of having to r-enter a mental institution had combined to cause deceased to end his life.
Police Constable Markwell deposed to finding the body in the reservoir, at the north-west end. He recovered it and life then appeared to be extinct. He found the letters produced in the mackintosh. The body appeared to have been in the water eight or ten hours. The coat was at the top of a footpath leading from the Aston Clinton-Ivinghoe road to the top of the reservoir bank. The body was in the water at a point immediately in front of the coat, and at a place where it would be impossible for anyone but a swimmer to get out again, owing to the steepness of the side of the reservoir just there.
Retirement And Life After The Police.
John retired as a Constable on the 30th November 1938 on completion of his 25 years’ service on a pension of £149/10/5 per annum.
The 1939 Register records John Markwell, a County Court Bailiff, as living at Lyndale, Mount Pleasant Lane, Bricket Wood, St Albans with his family.
John’s Police Service Record shows that between the 21st October 1939 and the 31st December 1945 he served in Hertfordshire Police War Reserve, but no other details have survived.
John Markwell died on the 12th September 1969 at Watford. His funeral was held at 2.45 p.m. on Wednesday the 17th September 1969 at Garston Crematorium.