Brice, Joseph, 96 and 242, Police Constable.

Paul Watts

PC Joseph Brice
Hertfordshire Mercury

Early Life.

Joseph Brice was born on the 13th December 1891 at East Barnet and was baptised there on the 16th February 1898.

His father, William Brice a general labourer, married Elizabeth Herbert in 1877 at Ampthill. They had two sons both born at Campton:
1. Charles Henry born in 1880.
2. Arthur John born in 1882.
Sadly, Elizabeth died in 1884 at Campton. Joseph’s father then married his mother, Elizabeth Palmer in 1886 at Biggleswade. They had three sons:
1. Ernest born in 1886 at Campton.
2. Harry born in 1889 at Campton.
3. Joseph.

During the 1891 census the family are recorded as living at Woolton’s Cottages, East Barnet Road, East Barnet. By the time of the 1901 census the family had moved and were now listed as living at Jacksons Cottages 5, Cat Hill, East Barnet. In the 1911 census they are shown as living at what is assumed to be the same address. Joseph was employed as a Messenger.

Little is known about Joseph’s life over the following three years other than he was employed as a Plant Packer by William Cutbush and Son of High Barnet. Then he applied to join the Hertford County Constabulary. As part of that process he underwent a medical examination by the Force Surgeon at Police Headquarters, Hatfield on the 26th February 1914 to determine if he was fit enough for Police duties.

Police Service.

Joseph’s Hertford County Constabulary Form 3 Police Service Record Sheet has survived and shows the following:

He said he was born on the 13th December 1891 at East Barnet. His height was recorded as being 5 feet 10 inches, chest 35 – 37 inches, complexion fresh, eyes brown, hair brown and distinctive marks as a mole on his left cheek. He said he could both ride a pedal cycle and swim, that his religion was Church of England and his next of kin was his mother Elizabeth Brice of Cat Hill, East Barnet.

Joseph was Appointed as Constable 96 on the 9th March 1914 and started his Probationary Training at R Division Police Headquarters at Hatfield. He was in the 8th Class with instructors Sergeant 57 Cousins and Constable 280 Sharp.

At the completion of his training Joseph was Attested on the 20th June 1914 and posted the same day to E Division at Hitchin.

On the 6th December 1914 Joseph 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 45 of the 26th March 1915 informed Joseph that he would receive an increased rate of pay from 24/6 to 25/8 per week from the 9th March 1915.

General Order 102 of the 21st June 1915 was entitled Police Constables (Naval and Military Service) Act 1914, Police (Emergency Provisions) Act 1915 and said:
The undermentioned Police Constables being desirous of enlisting in H.M. Army for the period of the war, the Deputy Chief Constable hereby gives the necessary consent, as required by the above Acts.
1. PC 298 Smith G. E Division
2. PC 96 Brice J. E Division
The Constables will be permitted to join the Army at once and will be paid up to and including the date prior to that on which they commence to draw Army Pay.
The Superintendent E Division will report to Headquarters the date on which the Constables are enlisted in the Army, and the Constables will be struck off the strength of the establishment of the Force as from that date.

General Order 118 of the 21st July 1915 is a list of 96 officers which included the Chief Constable, 43 Constables who were Army reservists who were recalled and 50 Constables and 2 Sergeants who volunteered for military service. Joseph is shown as PC 96 Brice J. E Div. who enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps on the 23rd June 1915 with PC 298 Smith.

Army Service During The War.

Joseph’s Army Service Record has not survived but from the brief details on his Medal Roll Index Card and Medal Roll we know that Joseph joined the Royal Army Medical Corps as Private 60565. His Police Service Record shows he served in Sicily between the 6th December 1915 and the 28th March 1916 and then in France between the 28th March 1916 and the 1st January 1919 when he was demobilised. His Medal Roll Index Card and Medal Roll show he was only awarded the British War and Victory medals however, his Police Service Record states he also received the 1914-15 Star and based on his service in Sicily he would have qualified for it.

Re-joining The Police.

Like every other soldier Joseph was given 28 days leave when he was demobilised, and he used this time to arrange his re-joining of the Police. This would have involved a Medical Examination to ensure he was still fit enough for the duties of a Constable. He was re-examined on the 13th January 1919 and found to be fit and subsequently General Order 15 of 14th January 1919 announced that nine Police Soldiers, having been released from H.M. Army, would be re-appointed to the Force. Joseph was shown as PC 242 Brice J. A Division at Hoddesdon on £2/7/0 per week from the 13th January 1919.

Each officer had to be formally re-attested. The Superintendents concerned had to report to Headquarters when this had been done, Joseph was re-attested on the 15th January 1919.

Something of note in this Order is the change in his Warrant or Collar Number from 96 to 242. Prior to the outbreak of war, it was fairly common to issue the same Warrant Number to more than one individual providing they were posted to different Divisions so that the Divisional letter would differentiate between them. No record of an Order instructing that this should end and that Warrant Numbers should become unique has been found, but it was obviously issued simply by the fact of the number of returning Constables who were not given their old number, as someone else was already using it, and were issued with a new one.

General Order 75 of the 21st March 1919 informed Joseph would receive an increased rate of pay from £2/7/0 to £2/8/0 per week from the 9th March 1919.

Marriage.

Joseph married Ethel Burr on the 2nd June 1919 at Hitchin. They had two sons:
1. Derek Sidney Joseph born in 1920 at Hitchin.
2. Peter Douglas born in 1923 at Hitchin.

The Electoral Rolls of 1919 to 1927 list Joseph and Ethel Brice as living at 151, Lord Street, Hoddesdon.

The following four General Orders informed Joseph that from the 9th March of each year he would receive an increase of pay as shown.
General Order 50 of the 12th March 1920 from £4/0/0 to £4/2/0 per week.
General Order 42 of the 21st March 1921 from £4/2/0 to £4/4/0 per week.
General Order 43 of the 31st March 1922 from £4/4/0 to £4/6/0 per week.
General Order 50 of the 17th March 1923 from £4/6/0 to £4/8/0 per week.

Commendation.

General Order 175 of the 21st October 1923 announced that Joseph had been commended by the Chief Constable: The actions of Constable Brice 242 B Division in effecting the arrest of Henry James King on a charge of shopbreaking has been brought to the notice of the Chief Constable. The reports in the case show the Constable to have been alert and observant. The Chief Constable hereby commends Constable Brice and directs that an appropriate entry be made on his record sheet.

General Order 59 of the 5th April 1924 informed Joseph that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £4/8/0 to £4/10/0 per week from the 9th March 1924.

Killed In A Motorcycle Accident.

On the 12th June 1927 Joseph Brice, aged 34 of 151, Lord Street, Hoddesdon, a Police Constable of Herts. Constabulary died at the Letchworth Hospital of a fracture of the skull due to being accidently knocked off the pillion of a motorcycle. The informant on his death certificate was F. Rickman Shillitoe Coroner for Hitchin District following an Inquest held on the 14th June 1927.

The following was published on the 18th June 1927 in the Hertfordshire Mercury under the headline Hoddesdon Police Officer. Tragic Death On Holiday. A Popular Constable:

A popular member of the Hertfordshire Police, Police Constable Joseph Brice, of Hoddesdon, died in Letchworth Hospital on Sunday morning from injuries received in a collision between a motorcycle on which he was riding pillion and another motorcycle at the junction of Pixmore Way and Baldock Road, Letchworth, on Saturday evening.

Brice, with his wife and two children, had been staying at Holwell near Hitchin, on his annual leave. On Saturday he went to a cricket match on the Letchworth Recreation Ground with his brother-in-law, Reginald Charles Burr, of Holwell, travelling on the pillion of Burr’s motorcycle. They were returning after the match and had travelled barely two hundred yards when the accident happened.

Brice who was 34, had been in the force some 12 years and took a keen interest in football and other sports.

The Inquest.

The Inquest was held at the Letchworth Hospital on Tuesday evening by Mr. F.R. Shillitoe, Coroner for North Herts. Mr. Sharpe was foreman of the jury. Mr. G. Passingham represented the Chief Constable and Mr. H.M. Heckford represented Castle, the driver of the other motorcycle.

Frank Dudley Burr, bricklayer, Council Cottages, Holwell said Brice was his brother-in-law. He was staying at Holwell with the witness’ mother on his annual leave. At 2.30 on Saturday Brice left Holwell on the pillion of his brother’s motorcycle to go to a cricket match at Letchworth. Brice had been used to riding pillion. Witness saw them at Letchworth at the cricket match. Brice and his brother left about 5.45 p.m. Witness later heard that his brother and Brice had had an accident and went to Letchworth Hospital. He saw his brother, who said he had had an accident, but he could not say how it happened. Witness’ brother was an experienced driver. To Mr. Passingham witness said his brother told him someone had run into him.

Cyril George Castle (20), 85 Jackman’s Place, Letchworth, who was wheeled into the room in a hospital chair, said he had been riding a motorcycle for about two and a half months. On Saturday he was driving from Letchworth to Baldock. He travelled along Pixmore Way at about 25 miles an hour. He slowed down to 15 to 20 miles an hour on reaching the Baldock Road and sounded his horn once. He noticed no other traffic about, but as he turned around the corner, he saw another motorcycle coming along on his left. He did not put on his brakes but attempted to cross in front of the other motorcycle. The approaching motorcycle hit him in the middle and he was thrown off. There was no other traffic about.

A juryman asked if he was quite certain the other motorcyclist was on the offside and not on the crown of the road? Witness replied he was quite sure. Witness was two feet from the kerb as he went round the corner. He could not apply the brakes because the other motorcyclist was on him before he could do it. To Mr. Passingham he said he had a steering damper on the handlebar, and he admitted that that would only allow him to take a wide turn, though he denied turning wide at this corner. To Mr. Heckford witness said he did reach the crown of the road.

Reginald Charles Burr, builder’s labourer, of Rands Cottage, Holwell said that Brice had often ridden on the pillion of his motorcycle. On Saturday they went to a cricket match on the Letchworth Recreation Ground. Deceased was about 12 or 13 stone in weight, but the motorcycle was quite capable of carrying them both. They were travelling along the Baldock – Hitchin Road at about 15 to 20 miles an hour. A motorcycle came dashing out of Pixmore at a rather fast pace and though they were on the left hand side of the road the other motorcyclist came across in front of them. Witness applied his brakes and shut off his engine, but they collided, and they were thrown off. He had been driving for about 3 or 4 years. To a juryman witness said they were travelling 4 or 5 feet from the kerb. They were going to Hitchin.

Victor Chapman, greengrocer, 16 Paddock Close, Letchworth, said that on Saturday he was near the Hospital when he heard a crash. He came to the corner, and saw a man lying on the south side of the Baldock Road. Castle was just being put on a stretcher. Burr’s motorcycle was on the north side of the road.

Maurice Charles Sidney Hunt, manager of Letchworth Printers Ltd., said that he heard a crash. He went to the Hospital for a stretcher. PC Elkins, Letchworth, who went to the scene of the accident, spoke of the damage to the motorcycles.

Dr. W.L. Hector, of Letchworth said that Brice was suffering from severe concussion and was unconscious. He got worse and died early Sunday morning from fracture of the skull and laceration of the brain. He probably was thrown off on to his head.

The Coroner said the evidence of the two riders was contradictory, but it seemed to him they were both on the crown of the road. The accident emphasised the dangers of riding pillion. The jury returned a verdict of “Accidental death,” and the foreman (Mr. Sharpe) said they would like to express a warning to Castle to take more care when turning corners.

The Coroner expressed sympathy with the relatives. Deceased was a much respected officer. He was stationed at Hitchin at one time. He felt great sympathy with the family in his sudden and unfortunate end.
Mr. Passingham, on behalf of the Chief Constable and Police Officers, expressed sympathy with the widow and relatives in this unfortunate accident. Brice was a much respected member of the force for some years, and the Officers and men much regretted this accident. Mr. H.M. Heckford, on behalf of Castle, desired to join in the same expression.
Joseph’s Police Service Record shows that although he died whilst serving as a Police Constable it not whilst on duty. A pension was awarded to his widow of £20 and £10 for each child until they reached 16th birthday.

This page was added on 21/04/2020.

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