Swain, William, 148 and 212, Police Constable.

Paul Watts

William Swain Resignation From The Police
Herts Police Historical Society

Early Life.

William Swain was born on the 5th October 1873 at Colney Heath.

His father, James Swain an agricultural labourer, married his mother, Lucy Ann Stevens on the 17th July 1858 at Colney Heath. They had nine children:

  1. Edward born in 1859 at St. Albans.
  2. Alfred born in 1861 at St. Albans.
  3. Elizabeth born in 1863 and died in 1897 at Colney Heath.
  4. Emily born in 1866 at St. Albans.
  5. Nathan born in 1868 at Butterwick, Smallford.
  6. Louisa born in 1871 at Butterwick.
  7. William Swain.
  8. Sidney born in 1877 at Colney Heath.
  9. Susan Ann born in 1881 at Colney Heath.

During the 1861 census the family were living at Sleaps Hyde. By the 1871 census they were living at Butterwick, Smallford. At the time of the 1881 census they had moved again and were living at Colney Heath and they were still there for the 1891 census. William was employed as an agricultural hay binder), Sidney and Susan.

Police Service.

William’s Police Service Record has not survived however, published in the Herts Advertiser on Saturday 23rd November 1895 under the headline: Watford Petty Sessions Tuesday. Present J.F. Watkins (chairman), Messrs. F. Summer-Knyvett, E.J. Slinn, R.W. Henderson and W.T. Coles. A New Constable. William Swain was sworn in as constable for the county of Hertford.

From this we can assume that William was Attested on Tuesday 19th November 1895 and he became Police Constable 148. As it happened in Watford, he was almost certainly stationed in C Division initially.


From the following it is clear that William had been later transferred from C to D Division as General Order 22 of 11th September 1899 instructed him to be transferred as soon as possible after the 1st October 1899 from D Division to R Division Headquarters at Hatfield. It is believed that he performed duty as a Mounted Officer there.


William married Annie Simpkins on the 12th June 1897 at St. Albans. They had five children:

  1. Winifred Gladys born in 1897 at Hatfield.
  2. Lenard born in 1898 at Berkhamsted.
  3. Margaret Vera born in 1901 at Hertford.
  4. Hilda Doris born in 1906 at Colney Heath.
  5. Marjorie Mary born in 1911 at Colney Heath.

On the 5th December 1897, when their daughter Winifred Gladys was baptised at Bishops Hatfield, the family were recorded as living at Hatfield and William was a shown as a Police Constable.

The 1897 to 1899 Electoral Rolls list a William Swain as living in Police Barracks in Hatfield. Following the date and the location of each child’s birth shows when and where William was probably posted.

At the time of their son Leonard’s birth in 1898, but, again on the 18th February 1900 at the time of Leonard’s baptism at Colney Heath, the record shows they were living at Hatfield and William is still a Police Constable.

However, by 1901 William had left the Police apparently for a better occupation.

A New Job.

By the time of the census on the 31st  March 1901 the family were living at Epping Green, Little Berkhamsted and William is shown as being employed as a domestic coachman.

During the 1911 census William appears at two addresses. Firstly, he is shown as living at Dursley Stables, Sandpit Lane, St. Albans with his family and still employed as a domestic coachman. Secondly, he is shown as being a domestic coachman and staying at Gayhurst House, Gayhurst, Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire with his employer, Hubert Frederick Barclay and his wife, who are visiting the Carlile family.

It Pays To Have Friends In High Places.

Lieutenant Colonel Hubert Frederick Barclay married, on the 11th September 1890 at Bishops Hatfield, Edith Noel Daniell the daughter of Henry Smith Daniell Chief Constable of Hertfordshire. In the 1901 census they were living at Epping House, Epping Green, Little Berkhamsted and he was described as a Captain in the Militia and a Brewer. In the Electoral Roll of 1913, they were living at The Old Rectory, Essendon, Herts.

Re-joining The Police.

On the outbreak of the First World War a large number of Hertfordshire Police Officers, who were Army Reservists, were recalled to their Colours. The Chief Constable immediately advertised for new recruits or ex-Constables to re-join as replacements. Although the record has not survived the following General Order makes it very clear that William responded, and he was Appointed as Constable 212 in G or the St. Albans Division for the duration of the War. However, after just a few months he decided to enlist.


General Order 130 of the 17th August 1915 announced William’s resignation as follows: Police Constable 212 William Swain G Division, appointed as a Constable for the duration of the War, having submitted his resignation as a Constable for the purpose of enlisting in the Army, his resignation is accepted to take effect Wednesday 19th August 1915. Police Constable Swain will be paid up to and including 18th August 1915 and will be struck off the strength of the establishment as from that date.

Army Service During The War.

William’s Army Service Record has survived and from this we know the following. A letter dated the 7th August 1915 states: Essendon, Hatfield, Hertfordshire, Lieutenant Colonel Hubert F. Barclay will be very grateful if Captain T.W. Wiffen will see William Swain, he is a very good mechanical chauffeur and was in the Police for ten years and is now with Colonel Barclay.

William enlisted as Private M2/117218 in the Army Service Corps on the 14th August 1915 at St. Albans and the following was recorded: He gave his address as 25, Old London Road, St. Albans, his age as 41 years 10 months and his trade as chauffeur. He said he was married and had never served in the Military before.

His description on enlistment was recorded as: Apparent Age: 41 years 10 months. Height: 5 feet 9 ¼ inches. Chest: 38 ½ inches 2 inch expansion. He said his religion was Church of England and his next of kin was his wife Annie Swain of 25, Old London Road, St. Albans. The particulars of his marriage and children were also recorded.

His Medical History Army Form B178 recorded that he was examined at St. Albans on the 14th August 1915 and it noted the same information as his description on enlisting with the addition that his weight was 164 lbs. and his physical development was very good.

Two days after enlisting William joined the No. 1 Reserve Motor Transport Depot at Grove Park, London. By the 23rd September 1916 he was at No. 2 Depot Company, Bulford Army Camp, Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire and was appointed as an unpaid Acting Corporal. On the 25th November 1916 he was granted the pay of an Acting Corporal. On the 8th June 1917 he was appointed as an unpaid Acting Sergeant and a week later he was appointed as a paid Acting Sergeant. On the 30th August 1919 at the Dispersal Unit at Crystal Palace he was Transferred to Class Z Army Reserve on demobilisation.

His Protection Certificate and certificate of identity Army Form Z11 recorded: Name: William Swain. Regtl. No.: M2/117218. Rank: Acting Sergeant (A/MSS), Record Office: Woolwich, Unit: 10th Mobile Company No. 1 Centre Bulford. Regt.: Royal Army Service Corps Motor Transport, Pay office: Woolwich, Address: 25, Old London Road, St. Albans, Herts, Theatre of War: SC. Born: 1872, Medical category: B1. 28 day furlough granted.

His Statement as to disability Army Form Z22 recorded: Unit: No. 10 Mobilisation Company No. 1 Centre Bulford, Regiment: Royal Army Service Corps Motor Transport, Regtl. No.: M2/117218, Rank: Acting Sergeant (A/MSS), Name: William Swain, Address: 25, Old London Road, St. Albans, Herts, Age last birthday: 46 years, Date first joined: 5th August 1915 at Grove Park, Medical category: A. I do not claim to be suffering from a disability due to my Military service, signed: W. Swain. Examined 31st July 1919 at Bulford.

His Particulars as to Character Army Form W3226 recorded: No.: M2/117218, Name: Swain W., Regiment: Motor Transport Army Service Corps. Period of employment: 11th December 1915 – 30th July 1919, Unit: 2 Depot Company Burford, In charge of light cars – very good.

As William did not serve overseas, he was not awarded any medals.

There is no record that William re-joined the Police.

The 1939 Register records lists William Swain, a motor van driver for the Luton Corporation, Ann Swain and a Grace Swain (believed great niece) as living at 42, Brook Street, Luton.

William Swain died in 1957 at Luton.

This page was added on 30/06/2020.

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