William James Stapleton was born on the 23rd March in 1884 at Stratford, West Ham.
His father, William Cornelius Stapleton, married his mother, Hannah Holmes in 1882 at West Ham. They had four sons, who were all born in Stratford, before he died in 1890 at West Ham. They were William James, John Harman born in 1885, David Cornelius born in 1887 and Francis George born in 1889.
Hannah married William’s step-father, John Saunders, on the 17th November 1895 at West Ham. They had three sons all half brothers to William. They were again all born in Stratford. The eldest was Henry Ernest Saunders born in 1896, then Edward Joseph Saunders born in 1904 and died in 1908 and finally Edward Samuel Saunders born in 1909.
During the 1891 census living at 23, Lucas Road, Stratford are Hannah, his mother a laundress, William and his three brothers.
In the 1901 census still living at the same address are his step-father John Saunders, his mother and his brothers. William is not recorded in the 1901 census.
Nothing has changed by the 1911 census the family are still living at 23, Lucas Road, Stratford but William has left home and joined the Army.
Early Army Service.
His Army Service Record has survived and shows the following:
He enlisted on the 28th January 1903 at London as Gunner 14280 in the Royal Garrison Artillery for short service of three years in the Colours and nine in the Reserve.
He said he was born in Stratford, London and was aged 18 years 10 months, his trade was a Pawnbrokers Assistant, he was not an apprentice, was not married, had never been sentenced to imprisonment and was not in the Military.
He stated his next of kin was his mother, younger brothers John, David and George of 23, Lucas Road, Stratford. Later his wife Margaret of Benskin Road, Watford was added.
On the same day he was medically examined and the following recorded:
Apparent age: 18 years 0 months. Height: 5 feet 10 ¼ inches. Weight: 129lbs. Chest: 33 inches. Expanded: 35 ½ inches. Complexion: Pale. Eyes: Grey. Hair: Brown. Identifying marks: Scar left elbow, mole left cheek, scar back of left hand.
He said his Religion was Church of England.
On the 29th January 1903 he joined at Dover at the No. 1 Depot, Royal Garrison Artillery.
On the 21st February 1903 he was posted as Gunner to the 31st Company, Royal Garrison Artillery. On the 1st December 1904 he was awarded a 3rd Class Certificate of Education and on the 28th January 1905, he was granted his 1st Good Conduct Badge. On the 25th September 1905 he was awarded a 2nd Class Certificate of Education.
On the 27th January 1906 he was transferred to the Army Reserve having completed his first period of service. His Army Reserve period expired on the 27th January 1915.
On leaving the Army William worked as a labourer for Messrs. Cook and Co. of Bow, London (Soap Manufacturers) and then later applied to join the Police.
His Form 3 Police Service Record has survived and shows the following information:
He said he was born on the 23rd March 1884 at Stratford. His height was 5 feet 10 inches, his chest was 36 inches, his complexion pale, his eyes grey and his hair was dark brown. He said that he could both ride a pedal cycle and swim.
On the 18th July 1908 William was Medically examined by the Force Surgeon to make sure he was fit enough for Police duties, but he had a long time to wait before he started his Probationary Training on the 28th January 1909 at C Division at Watford. All training was undertaken on Divisions as opposed to Headquarters at this time. He was Attested on the 30th March 1909 at Watford and finally Appointed Constable 69 on the 8th April 1909 and then remained at Watford.
General Order 14 of the 8th May 1909 reiterated his appointment by announcing that PC Stapleton 69 C was appointed on 23/11 per week from 8th April. General Order 33 of the 9th November 1909 informed William that he would receive an increased rate of pay from 23/11 to 25/8 per week from 21st October 1909.
A few days later General Order 35 of the 15th November announced that PC Stapleton 69 C having been reported for being under the influence of drink when parading for duty on the night of 7th November 1909 was fined one days’ pay 3/8.
In December 1909 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 2 of 13th January 1910 gave instructions to dozens of Police officers in connection with the General Election of January 1910. Voting was carried out over several days and schedules were drawn up detailing where and when officers would perform duty. The following excerpt refers to William.
Herts Constabulary, General Election, January 1910.
Return of Officers and Men detailed for duty in the Northern or Hitchin Division on Friday 21st January 1910.
Div. Rank No. Name Station Place for Duty
C PC 69 Stapleton W J Watford Hitchin
Return of Officers and Men detailed for duty in the Western or Watford Division 27th January 1910.
Div. Rank No. Name Station Place for Duty
C PC 69 Stapleton W J Watford Callow Land
In the 1911 census Police Constable William James Stapleton, age 26 and born at Stratford as living at Callow Land Police Station, St. Albans Road, Watford. General Order 16 of the 24th May 1911 informed William that he would receive an increased rate of pay from 25/8 to 26/10 from 4th May 1911.
William married Margaret Holmes on the 18th June 1911 at Stratford. They had a daughter, Dorothy Margaret, born in 1912 at Watford.
William James Stapleton s listed in the Electoral Rolls of 1913 and 1914 as living at 21, Acme Road, Watford.
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. William is shown as PC 69 Stapleton W.J. C Division recalled to the Royal Garrison Artillery on the 4th August 1914.
Amy Service During The War.
On the 5th August 1914 William was Mobilised at Newhaven and the following day he was posted to the 31st Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery. On the 21st August he landed in France.
On the 1st October 1914 he was Appointed Acting Bombardier in the Field and on the 5th March the following year he was Appointed Bombardier.
On the 9th January 1916 he was transferred to Base in preparation for his discharge and ten days later he was Attached to No. 2 Depot, Royal Garrison Artillery and left France. On the 27th January he was discharged at Gosport on termination of his first period of engagement.
Army Form B268 Proceedings on Discharge records:
Bombardier 14280 William James Stapleton 31st Heavy Battery attached No. 2 Depot, Royal Garrison Artillery. Date place of discharge: 27th January 1916 Port Brockhurst, Gosport. Description: Age: 31 Years 10 months. Height 5 feet 11 ½ inches. Chest: 38 inches. Expansion: 2 inches. Complexion: Fresh. Eyes: Grey. Hair: Brown. Trade: Pawnbrokers Assistant. Distinguishing marks: Scar left elbow mole left cheek scar back of left hand. Address: 32, Benskin Road, Watford, Herts. Reason for discharge: Termination of his 1st period of engagement. Military character: Very Good. Character awarded in accordance with Kings Regulations: Sober and reliable man. How many Good Conduct Badges: One. Likely to receive more before discharge: No. Campaigns Medals: Expeditionary Force France 21st August 1914 to 19th January 1916 equals 1 year 152 days. Certificate of Education: 2nd Class 25th September 1905. Statement of Service: Service towards engagement to 27th January 1916 equals 13 years.
He was awarded the 1914 Star, British war and Victory medals.
Like every other soldier William would have been given 28 days leave when he was demobilised. He would have used this time to arrange his re-appointment to the Police. As part of that process he would have had to have another Medical with the Force Surgeon to ensure he was still fit enough for Police duties. The date of his re-appointment would have coincided with the end of his leave.
Re-joining The Police.
General Order 8 of 29th January 1916 announced that Reserve Police Constable 69 C Division, Stapleton W.J. on return from Active Service in the Army, was re-appointed as a Constable as from the 28th January 1916 inclusive, at £1 10s 4d per week.
General Order 102 of 28th August 1916 instructed William that he would be transferred from C Division at Watford to G Division at St. Albans on the 4th September 1916. General Order 30 of the 26th April 1917 informed him that he would receive an increased rate of pay from 30/4 to 30/11 per week from 8th April 1917.
General Order 67 of 21st April 1920 instructed William that he would be transferred from G Division at St. Albans to D Division at Hemel Hempstead, to occupy the house to be vacated by PS 225 Titmuss on 26th April 1920. The Electoral Rolls of 1920 to 1923 list William and Margaret as living at 13, Christchurch Road, Hemel Hempstead.
Promotion To Sergeant.
General Order 75 of the 28th April 1920 announced that William would be promoted to be an Acting Sergeant from the 1st May 1920.
William attended a week long course of instruction for Police Sergeants at Headquarters at Hatfield starting on 20th June 1921.
General Order 86 of the 25th May 1921 informed William that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £5/0/0 to £5/2/6 per week from the 1st May 1921 and the very next Order, 87 of the same date, confirmed that William would be promoted to the substantive rank of Sergeant from the 1st May 1921.
General Order 82 of the 28th June 1922 notified William that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £5/2/6 to £5/5/0 per week from the 1st May 1922.
On the 7th November 1922 the Chief Constable cautioned William, he being the Divisional Sergeant Clerk, for neglecting to complete some entries in the Divisional Charge Book and in the Divisional Reference Book.
General Order 9 of the 18th January 1923 instructed William that he would be transferred from D Division at Hemel Hempstead to A Division at Ware on the 29th January 1923. The 1923 to 1928 Electoral Rolls record William and Margaret living at 6, Trinity Road, Ware.
Mutual Aid To Norfolk Police.
General Order 68 of 11th April 1923 instructed one Inspector, two Sergeants and 17 Constables to assist with dealing with a strike by Agricultural Workers in Norfolk.
William was one of the two Sergeants detailed for duty from 11th April 1923. They were issued with the following instructions:
“The detachment will proceed by nearest rail route to Cambridge arriving G.N. Railway 10.41 a.m. and G.E. Railway 11.38 a.m. On arrival at Cambridge Railway Station Inspr. H. Wright will call the roll, take charge of the detachment and proceed leaving Cambridge G.E Railway at 11.45 a.m. arriving at 4.12 p.m. On arrival at Holt the Inspector will march the detachment to the Police Station and report to Superintendent Levi Collyer. Superintendents will make arrangements for the above officers to reach Cambridge on Wednesday 11th April 1923 by the time stated. Dress: Great coat, Cloth Jacket, 2nd Trousers, 2nd Cloth Helmet, Leggings and usual appointments. Railway fares may be advanced if required and an account for same will be rendered to Headquarters for repayment”.
General Order 84 of 26th April 1923 was an update on the mutual aid given with regard to the strike of Agricultural Workers in Norfolk.
“Reference Order No. 68/1923.
The members of the detachment of the Hertford County Constabulary having returned to their respective stations the Chief Constable has much pleasure in publishing for general information the following extract from a letter received from the Chief Constable of the County of Norfolk, under date 23rd April 1923:
Begins: “On behalf of the Norfolk Police Authority, and myself, I would wish to thank you most sincerely for so kindly and quickly coming to our help. As the result of your timely aid the intimidation and hindering of workers was at once stopped. I need hardly say that your men behaved themselves at all times in an exemplary manner and carried out all the duties they were asked to perform to my entire satisfaction. Every effort was made to make them as comfortable as possible under the circumstances and I hope that they will carry back a happy memory of their short tour of duty in Norfolk.” Ends. The Chief Constable endorses the remarks of the Chief Constable of Norfolk and is gratified that the members of the Detachment maintained the high standard and upheld the reputation of the Hertford County Constabulary”.
General Order 102 of the 25th May 1923 and General Order 88 of the 23rd May 1924 informed William that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £5/5/0 to £5/7/6 per week from the 1st May 1923 and from £5/7/6 to £5/10/0 from the 1st May 1924 respectively.
Hertford County Constabulary Police Federation Elections of the 17th October 1924
for the Election of Members to Serve on Branch Boards resulted in Inspectors, Sergeants and Constables being elected for every Division. Sergeant 69 William James Stapleton was chosen to represent A Division.
General Order 75 of the 7th May 1925 informed William that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £5/10/0 to £5/12/6 from the 1st May 1925.
William attended another week long course of instruction for Police Sergeants at Headquarters at Hatfield starting on Monday 1st February 1926.
The General Strike.
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 and D Divisions and it would appear to qualify to be amongst the 20 you needed to have a motor bicycle available. William was not one of the top 20 as his entry shows that he neither owned nor had access to a motorcycle.
There is no record of William being called upon in connection with the General Strike.
General Order 12 of the 19th January 1927 announced the successful candidates for the Examination for Promotion from Police Sergeant to Inspector. William was one of five Sergeants who passed the exam. There is no record of him being promoted to Inspector though.
On the 13th June 1929 William was transferred from A Division at Ware to F Division at Welwyn.
Retirement And Life After The Police.
On the 7th April 1934 William retired as a Sergeant on the completion of his 25 years’ service on a pension of £181/17/0 per annum. He gave his address as Abbotsley, 48, Great North Road, Stanborough, Welwyn Garden City.
In the 1939 Register listed as living at Abbotsley, Great North Road, Hatfield are William, shown as a retired Police Sergeant, Margaret and their daughter Dorothy.
William James Stapleton of Abbotsley, 48, Great North Road, Stanborough, Welwyn Garden died on the 28th December 1962 at St. Albans City Hospital.