Wilfred Charles Darton was born on the 29th April 1891 at Cottered and baptised there on the 21st June 1891.
His father, Walter William Darton, married his mother, Sarah Ann King, in 1878 at Royston. They had seven children all born in Cottered:
1. Alice born in 1879.
2. Annie Maud born in 1882.
3. Walter Edward born in 1884.
4. Rose born in 1886.
5. Lucy born in 1888.
6. Wilfred Charles.
7. Frederick John born in 1894 possibly Private 17768 Beds and Herts Regiment.
During the 1881 census the family were living at 7, Brook End, Cottered and Wilfred’s father was working as an agricultural labourer. By the 1891 census they had moved and were living at Great Osbornes, Cottered and Wilfred’s father was now employed as a Farm Bailiff.
In the 1901 census the family are only shown as living in Cottered. Wilfred’s father was employed as a horse keeper on a farm, but he died in 1910. During the 1911 census the family are still living at Cottered, but they have split up. Wilfred’s mother and his brothers, Walter and Frederick are living together whilst Wilfred, who was working as an agricultural labourer, was living with his sister Rose and her husband and daughter.
Little is known about Wilfred’s life during the next three years except that he worked as an agricultural labourer for a Mr. T.J. Slick of Cottered and then he applied to join the Hertford County Constabulary.
Wilfred was examined by the Police Surgeon Lovell Drage on the 26th February 1914 who signed 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.
His Hertford County Constabulary Form 3 Record Sheet has survived and shows: Wilfred Charles Darton was Appointed as Constable 150 on the 9th March 1914.
Age on joining; 22 4/12 years. Place and date of birth: Cottered 29th April 1891. Height: 5 feet 9 inches. Chest: 36 – 37 inches. Complexion: Fresh. Eyes: Grey. Hair: Brown.
He said he could ride a pedal cycle but could not swim. He gave his religion as Church of England and his next of kin as his mother Sarah Ann Darton.
He started his Probationer training at R Division at Headquarters at Hatfield earning £1/4/6 per week. On the 20th June 1914 he was Attested when he was Approved of and Sworn in before Frederick W. Amour J.P. and R. Cecil Peake J.P. at Hatfield.
On the same day having completed his training he was taken onto the Roster and transferred from R Division at Headquarters to F Division at Hertford.
General Order 34 of the 4th March 1915 instructed Wilfred that he would be transferred from F Division at Hertford to F Division at Welwyn on the 5th March 1915.
General Order 69 of the 25th April 1915 informed Wilfred that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £1/4/6 to £1/5/8 per week from the 25th March 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 Wilfred, 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.
His Police Service Record shows that from the 9th March 1916 Wilfred received an increase in pay from £1/5/8 to £1/6/10 per week.
A Minor Blemish.
Wilfred was admonished by the Chief Constable on the 30th September 1915 for making a false written report to Supt. Reed.
General Order 5 of the 22nd January 1917 was entitled Police Constables (Naval and Military Service) Act 1914 Police (Emergency Provisions) Act 1915 Enlistment in H.M. Forces: Consequent upon the demand for men of military age for service in H.M. Army the Standing Joint Committee have reconsidered the strength at which it is necessary to maintain the force and have authorised that a further 20 members shall be released for Army Service. Five of these have been accepted provisionally by the Army Council for service in the Military Mounted Police. Further instructions with regard to these men will be issued as soon as received.
In accordance with the resolution of the Standing Committee dated 5th January 1917 the Deputy Chief Constable hereby gives the necessary consent as required by the above Acts to a further fifteen Constables for the purpose of enlisting in H.M. Army. Wilfred was included in this group. The Constables enumerated will be released from the Police Service as from Thursday 1st February 1917 inclusive and will be paid up to and including the 31st January 1917.
General Order 8 of the 25th January 1917 referred to Order 5/1917 and announced that the same fifteen Constables who were being released for military service were being granted leave of absence on 30th and 31st January 1917.
Army Service During The War.
Wilfred’s Army Service Record has survived and from this and his Medal Index Card and Medal Roll we know the following:
Wilfred was sent Army Form B2512A – Notice to be given to a man at the time of his offering to join the Army dated 9th December 1915. It recorded: Name: Wilfred Charles Darton. “You are required to attend forthwith or at 4.30 o’clock on the 9th Day of December at Hertford for the purpose of appearing before the Justice to be attested for His Majesty’s Army, in which you have expressed your willingness to serve.”
Wilfred in fact enlisted on the 10th December 1915 at Watford and on the 11th 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 Gas Work Cottages, Welwyn Herts. his age as 24 years 8 months and his trade as a Policeman. He said he was not married and had not previously served in the Military.
His description on enlistment was recorded as: Apparent age: 24 years 8 months. Height: 5 feet 10 inches. Chest: 37 ½ inches expansion 3 inches. He gave his next of kin as his mother Sarah Ann Darton, Cottered near Buntingford, Herts.
His Medical History Army Form B178 recorded that he was examined at Bedford on the 2nd February 1917 and it noted the same information as his description on enlisting with the addition of his weight which was 176 lbs.
Wilfred was mobilised at Watford on the 2nd February 1917 and the following day posted as Gunner 205956 to the Royal Horse Artillery Depot at Woolwich. Of the fifteen men who were mobilised at the same time as Wilfred one joined the Grenadier Guards and two others joined the Military Foot Police. The remaining twelve became artillery men. They were 205951 Harry Wallman, 205952 William Hussey, 205953 Joseph Wallen, 205954 Arthur Mansfield, 205981 Stephen Burch, 205982 Thomas Kempthorne, 205983 William Cripps, 205985 Alban Freeman, 205986 Herbert Trussell, 205987 Albert Emery and 205988 Henry Camp. Other than during their initial training there is nothing to say that they went on to serve together.
On the 16th February 1917 he was posted to R Battery, Royal Horse Artillery.
In March 1917 during their training there was an outbreak of Rubella at the Woolwich Depot. On the 13th March Wilfred was admitted to the Auxiliary Hospital, Woolwich where he remained for twelve days being treated for Rubella. Of the twelve men who were mobilised the Army Service Records of ten of them have survived. As well as Wilfred’s record one other record, which belongs to Thomas Kempthorne, shows that he was hospitalised for two weeks with the disease. Additionally, Alban Freeman died of fever on the 7th March which was almost certainly due to the same cause.
General Order 54 of the 23rd June 1917 was entitled The Police Reservists (allowances) Act 1914. Reference order no/. 183 1915.
At a meeting of the Standing Joint Committee held at Hatfield on 15th June 1917 six allowances were granted to the dependents of unmarried Constables who have enlisted in H.M. Army for the period of the war. Wilfred’s mother, Sarah A. Darton, was granted a weekly allowance of 8 shillings from the 1st February 1917.
On the 23rd August 1917 Wilfred was posted as part of the British Expeditionary Force to France. On the 28th September 1917 he joined the Armoured Column 3rd Brigade, Royal Horse Artillery. On the 3rd October 1917 he joined E Battery, Royal Horse Artillery.
On the 3rd September 1918 he was granted two weeks leave to the UK via Boulogne. On the 31st December 1918 he returned to the UK aboard the SS Lydia proceeding to Shorncliffe for demobilisation and on the 28th January 1919, he was transferred to Class Z Army Reserve on Demobilisation at Woolwich.
His Statement as to Disability Army Form Z 22 recorded: Unit: E Battery. Regiment: Royal Horse Artillery. Regt. No.: 205956. Rank: Gunner. Name: Wilfred Charles Darton. Permanent address: Gas Work Cottages, Welwyn, Herts. Age last birthday: 27. First joined for duty: 1st February 1917. Place of examination: Juslenville. Date 24th December 1918. I do not claim to be suffering from a disability due to my Military Service – signed W. Darton. In what Countries have you served: France. In what capacity: Gunner. What is name and address of your last employer before joining Army: Chief Constable Hatfield Herts. What was the Industrial Group occupation before joining the Army: 35. Occupation: Policeman.
His Protection Certificate and Certificate of Identity Army Form Z11 recorded: Name: William Charles Darton. Regt. No.: 205956. Rank: Gunner. Record office: Woolwich. Unit: E Battery. Regt.: Royal Horse Artillery. Pay Office: Blackheath. Address for pay: Gas Work Cottages, Welwyn, Herts. Theatre of War: France. Year born: 1891. Medical category: A. Place of re-joining in emergency: Catterick. Granted 28 day furlough. Date issued: 31st December 1918 at Shorncliffe.
He was awarded the British War and Victory medals
Like every other soldier Wilfred 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. The date of his re-joining the Police would have coincided with the end of his period of leave.
Re-joining The Police.
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. Walter was shown as PC 150 Darton W.C. posted to F Division at Welwyn on £2/7/0 per week from the 13th January 1919. Each officer had to be formally re-attested and the Superintendents concerned had to report to this Chief Constable when this had been done with the date and place of attestation and before whom taken.
General Order 75 of 21st March 1919 informed Wilfred that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £2/7/0 to £2/8/0 per week from the 9th March 1919.
Wilfred married Gertrude Biswell on the 24th March 1920 at Waddesdon. They had four children:
1. Vera Elsie born in1920 at Hitchin.
2. Stanley Wilfred born in 1922 at Hatfield – later served as PC 188 in Hertfordshire Constabulary
3. Stella Mary born in 1924 at Hertford.
4. Roy born in 1926 at Hertford.
On the 1st April 1919 Wilfred received a pay increase from £2/8/0 to £4/0/0 per week as part of a national pay increase. The following General Orders all informed Wilfred he would receive an increase of pay on the 9th March of the year shown:
General Order 50 of the 12th March 1920 from £4/0/0 to £4/2/0 per week.
General Order 36 of the 10th 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.
Promotion To Sergeant A Pay Rise And A Transfer.
General Order 61 of the 30th March 1923 informed Wilfred that he would be promoted on the 30th March 1923 to be Acting Sergeant. He also received an increase in pay from £4/8/0 to £5/0/0 per week. General Order 63 of the 3rd April 1923 instructed Wilfred that he would be transferred on the 11th April 1923 from B Division at Welwyn to B Division at Hertford and to occupy the house vacated by PS 295 Huckle. The Electoral Rolls of 1923 to1926 list Wilfred Charles Darton as living at 37, Ware Road, Hertford.
General Order 71 of the 17th April 1924 announced the confirmation of Wilfred’s promotion to the substantive rank of Police Sergeant from the 30th March 1924. He also received an increase in pay from £5/0/0 to £5/2/6 per week.
General Order 75 of the 7th May 1925 informed Wilfred that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £5/2/6 to £5/5/0 per week from the 30th March 1925.
Wilfred attended a week long course of instruction for Police Sergeants at Headquarters Hatfield starting at 9.00 a.m. on Monday 1st February 1926.
General Order 67 of the 16th May 1926 informed Wilfred that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £5/5/0 to £5/7/6 per week from the 30th March 1926.
General Order 16 of the 22nd January 1927 instructed Wilfred that from the 3rd February 1927 he was being transferred from B Division at Hertford to C Division at Watford and to occupy the house being vacated by ex-Sergeant Mead. The Electoral Rolls of 1927 to 1930 list Wilfred Darton as living at King Street Police Station, Watford.
On the 30th March 1927 Wilfred received an increase in pay from £5/7/6 to £5/10/0 per week and on the 30th March 1928 from £5/10/0 to £5/12/6 per week.
For 82 days from the 5th December 1928 until the 24th February 1929 Wilfred was off sick with Appendicitis.
Wilfred was commended by the Chairman of Hertford Bench after Alfred John Thurman, Herbert Thurman, Arthur William Thurman and Arthur Ashton were committed for trial on the 15th September 1933. At the Herts Quarter Sessions on the 2nd October 1933 they were convicted for Garage Breaking and Larceny. Vide Order 122/1933.
Retirement And Life After The Police.
Wilfred retired on the 27th June 1934 on account of ill health and received a pension of £117/6/5 per annum.
In the 1939 Register Wilfred a Wholesale Meat Department Checker, Gertrude and their family were recorded as living at 34, Queens Avenue, Watford.
Wilfred Charles Darton, a retired Police Sergeant of 34, Queens Avenue, Watford, died on the 3rd July 1957 at the Peace Memorial Hospital, Watford.