- Contributed by
- People in story:
- PC 23. John William Forth
- Location of story:
- Bozeat, Northamptonshire
- Background to story:
- Civilian Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 14 September 2005
PC 23. John William Forth. Taken in 1951 but still in the garb and with the same bike as throughout the war. This was taken for an article in the local paper Wellinborugh News March 16th 1951. Reproduced by kind permission of Northants Evening Telegraph.
A Village Policeman
PC 23. John William Forth
Spy in the Village.
This story is not mine but that of my father, not a war hero or anything like that but just an ordinary bobby going about his beat in the village of Bozeat in Northamptonshire during WW2.
My parents were very lucky to be given a new Police House when they moved to the village in 1936. Incidentally my birth certificate always causes some raised eyebrows as the place of birth is given as Police Station, Bozeat. Living there both my parents, my sister and, from 1943, me, had what could be described as a very comfortable war, if such existed. We lived quite a privileged existence, my father ranking in the village hierarchy alongside the vicar and the school headmaster. Food was grown in the large garden of the house by my father who also kept a couple of pigs in a sty on an old farmstead just outside the village. Apparently two was the requisite number, one for the government and one for us. The growing of food vegetables became a habit for Dad who continued to grow at least one crop of runner beans until his death in 1980. The main industries in the area were agriculture and the manufacture of boots for the army at the three small shoe factories in the village.
My father’s beat covered a fairly wide area around the village. This he covered on his trusty Raleigh cycle that he used throughout his 33 years in the police force. Being in a corner of Northamptonshire bordered to the south by Buckinghamshire and to the east by Bedfordshire he would take all day to travel his patch. He would ride from Castle Ashby to the end of Three Shire Wood and from Stocking Hollow to Wollaston. The total area to be covered being some 16 square miles. At times he had a deadline to ‘make a point’ with his sergeant, failure to do so would incur the wroth of the indomitable Sergeant Cherry.
The story I am about to relate was in the area of Easton Maudit, a small village a few miles west of Bozeat and Yardley Hastings to the southwest and took place on 4th. October 1940. A local farmer had come across a man who could not account for his movements and when questioned failed to identify himself properly. This raised the farmer’s suspicions and so he had ‘escorted’ the said gentleman, on the points of a pitchfork, so my father related, to a neighbour, Walter Penn the Section Leader of the local Home Guard, who then brought him to our home, the police station.
The story is now taken up by my mother who told of a very scared and hungry man who was very polite and was most grateful for the scrambled eggs she cooked for him. Apparently he could not stop playing with the fringe on his scarf and was very nervous. It wasn’t until after he had eaten and in the presence of Inspector Sharman, that my father searched him and found amongst other things, a small pistol. He had made no attempt to use it. He also had a number of identity cards not just the one he had shown to the farmer.
Being a rather lowly cog in the wheels of war-time security my father had contacted his inspector at the Wellingborough Division who duly arrived and arranged for the man who, by now, had admitted that he had been parachuted into England to transmit weather information back to Germany, to be taken into custody. He, handcuffed to my father was taken to his ‘drop-site’ where his radio and other clothing were found. On inspection it was found that he had had a rather embarrassing accident in his flight suit on the way down. The radio was placed in the archive of the Northamptonshire Constabulary at Wooton Hall after the war. As a young teacher in the 60’s I saw it whilst escorting my class on a visit there.
He was then taken away and my parents were left to assume that the worst had happened to “Mr A. Phillipps”, if such was his name, since nothing more was heard of him.
To complete the story I add transcripts of my father’s report to Inspector Sharman along with the statements of the witnesses.
Transcript of the Report to Inspector Sharman
Report re enemy agent arrested at Bozeat, 4th. October 1940
I respectfully beg to report that on Friday the 4th of October 1940 at 1935 hrs I was on duty at my station when Walter Reginald Penn, Farmer of Easton Maudit brought to my station a man whom he said he had brought from Mr Percy Keggin’s, The Lodge, Yardley Hastings. He stated he was not satisfied as to the man’s identity and so had brought him to the police.
The man produced a new identity card in the name of A. Philipps, 20 Grange Road, Southampton, England. It was signed Philipps. A. and dated 20th of May, 1940.
He spoke with a foreign accent and all his clothing appeared new and of foreign origin. He told me he had come from Bedford by bus, and then by bus to Yardley Hastings. He stated he was making for Kettering to get a job, and gave his occupation as waiter.
I immediately informed Inspector Sharman by telephone and kept the man under close observation until Inspector Sharman arrived at 2000hrs.
The man was then searched, and his property, which was all new, was taken in charge of Inspector Sharman.
This man then stated that he had come down by parachute near to a pumping station and had hid his luggage and wireless transmitter under some bushes near there. He said he would find them if he was taken there.
He was then handcuffed and taken to a pumping station at Hollowell Plantation, Easton Maudit from which point he took his bearings. He then took me to some bushes where his property was found in three different places.
He stated he had cut his parachute up and stuffed it in rabbit holes nearby.
This man was then taken to Wellingborough Police Station by Inspector Sharman.
On Saturday the 5th. October 1940 in company with Inspector Sharman and other officers I visited Hollowell Plantation, Easton Maudit and searched the vicinity. I found a portion of the parachute and part of the parachute harness in different rabbit holes, but was unable to find the remainder.
Attached are statements
Walter Reginald Penn (41) farmer of Home Farm, Easton Maudit states:-
I am head Air raid warden and also a Section Leader of the Home Guard at Easton Maudit.
On Friday the 4th. Of October 1940 at about 7pm I received a telephone call from Percy Keggin of The Lodge, Yardley Hastings to say that he had a strange man at his house who wanted a nights lodgings, but couldn’t quite understand him and would I go along and interview him.
I immediately went along to Mr Keggin’s house and took Robert Ingram of Easton Maudit with me. The man produced a new identity card in the name of A. Philipps. The newness of the card aroused my suspicions and I told the man to come with me I would put him right.
I then took him straight to Bozeat Police Station.
(Statement taken down, read over and signed in my pocket book at Easton Maudit at 1045 hrs on the 5th. Of October 1940.) P.C.23
Thomas Leonard Smith (40) Gardener of 116 Yardley Hastings states:-
On Friday the 4th. of October, 1940 at about 6.50pm I went to my buildings on the Grendon Road, Yardley Hastings and as I entered them a strange man met me. He said he was sheltering from the rain.
He then said, ”It is a bit finer now, I think I will be going”. I asked him where he had come from and he couldn’t tell me. Later he said he came from Harpenden to Bedford and then to Yardley Hastings by bus.
I asked him where he was staying and he said, “A mile and half along the road to a farm house”. He could not tell me the name. I said it was very funny if he was staying at a farmhouse and did not know the name and I would go with him to satisfy myself as to his identity.
He showed me his Identity Card, which appeared too new to be genuine.
We walked along the road towards Grendon When Percy Keggin came along in his car. I stopped him and we all got in his car and went nearly to Grendon. We could not find the place where the man said he had stayed and went back to Mr. Keggin’s house, when Mr. Keggin telephoned to Mr. Penn of Easton Maudit. Mr. Penn came along shortly afterwards and took the man with him.
(Statement taken down, read over and signed in my pocket book at Yardley Hastings at 1515 hrs on the 5th. Of October 1940.) P.C.23
Percy George Keggin (35) Farmer of The Lodge, Yardley Hastings states:-
On Friday the 4th of October 1940 at about 6.30pm I was driving my motor car from Yardley Hastings to my home and was near Len Smith’s gateway when I saw Len in front with another man.
Len signalled me to stop and I pulled up. Len said the man was in his hovel and didn’t hardly know what to do with him. I asked the man for his Identity Card and he showed me one in the name of Philipps.
I asked him where he was going and he said he wanted to get to a farm a mile and a half from my house. I told him as it was a wet night I would take him where he wanted to go and he got into my car with Mr. Smith.
We went along the road towards Grendon but could not find the place where he said he wanted to go. We then went back to my house.
I mentioned the names of various farmers to him, but he did not recognise any at first, but later said perhaps it was Mr. Penn of Easton Maudit. He told me he hat left his coat at the farm where he had stayed the night.
I then telephoned Mr. Penn and told him a man was at my house who said he had stayed at his farm last night and would he come and fetch him as it was a wet night.
Mr. Penn came over and I told him I thought the man should be taken to the police. Mr. Penn told me he would take him to the police and he took the man away with him.
(Statement taken down, read over and signed in my pocket book at Yardley Hastings at 1545 hrs on the 5th. Of October 1940.) P.C.23
American Ice Cream!
My only cognisant recollection of that time, being only three years old at the war’s end, was a small aluminium pail that we habitually used to collect blackberries in the autumn. This pail had come from the American Air force station at Poddington and had contained ice cream. My father told the story that in 1944 he had occasion to visit the American base to question a man about an incident in Wollaston. He was taken to the base ‘PX’, equivalent to our NAFFI, and given a meal. Part of the meal included ice cream, something that my father had seen little of in his life and none since the outbreak of hostilities. He was offered some to take home and given a pail full. He said that he raced home with the precious cargo slowly reverting to a liquid state. On his arrival my mother, then and subsequently the superintendent of the Sunday School, a formidable organiser, collected as many children as possible, sat them down and fed them all of the ice cream before it melted, there were no refrigerators in Bozeat at that time. A welcome treat for children deprived of any such delicacies; being only a year old I have no memory of the occasion but my sister, then 8 remembered it well.
John E. Forth
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