Preparation For The Allied Landing In Normandy

Two years after the evacuation from Dunkirk in May 1940, the army had been sufficiently re-equipped for the war cabinet to begin preparing for the long needed western front invasion of the European mainland. Improving communications in the South-East of England was an essential requirement.

On 1st April 1943 City of Canterbury Constabulary was temporarily amalgamated with Kent County Constabulary, along with each of the other borough police forces in Kent, to improve preparations for the build up to the allied landing in Normandy for the invasion of Europe. Temporary amalgamations of borough police forces with their county force also occurred through South-East England, to improve vital communications.

The war cabinet made the temporary amalgamation arrangements under powers contained in the Defence Regulations 1942.

On 1st March 1943, one month before temporary amalgamation day for the remaining nine Borough police forces with Kent County Constabulary, Sir Percy Sillitoe became Chief Constable of Kent, after twelve years as Chief Constable of the City of Glasgow Police, the oldest police force in the world, established in 1800.

Whilst in Glasgow Sir Percy Sillitoe introduced: the Sillitoe Tartan, the black and white chequered hat band worn today by police officers; mandatory retirement after thirty years police service; and civilian support staff. He also first introduced radio communication between headquarters and vehicles.

The tartan design of the chequered hat band worn by police officers was based on that on the Glengarry bonnet worn by Scottish army regiments.

Sir Percy Sillitoe was knighted in 1942 and invited to become Chief Constable of Kent, following the suicide of Captain J. A. Davison MC.

Each of the former Borough police force Chief Constables was given the option of transferring to Kent County Constabulary with a subordinated rank and five did. Four became Assistant Chief Constables and one became a Divisional Superintendent.  Transfer was an alternative to retirement on an increased pension, which the other former Chief Constables had accepted.

Folkestone Borough Chief Constable R.C.M. Jenkins accepted the position of Assistant Chief Constable of Kent commanding Number Three District, comprising Ashford, Canterbury, Folkestone and Margate Divisions.

Dover Borough Chief Constable Marshall H. Bolt accepted the position of Assistant Chief Constable commanding Number One District, comprising Maidstone, Malling, Sevenoaks, Tonbridge, and Tunbridge Divisions.

Rochester Borough Chief Constable Kenneth Horwood accepted the position of Assistant Chief Constable commanding Number Two District, comprising Chatham, Dartford, Swale, Rochester and Gravesend Divisions.

Margate Borough Chief Constable William Palmer accepted the position of Assistant Chief Constable commanding Number Four District, comprising Wingham, Ramsgate and Dover Divisions.

The fifth Borough Chief Constable who transferred on amalgamation was possibly Chief Inspector Beslee, who was acting Chief Constable of Maidstone in 1943 and subsequently commanded Maidstone Division with the rank of Divisional Superintendent.

Four former Borough Chief Constables chose not transfer over to Kent County Constabulary on amalgamation in 1943 and retired instead: George T. Hall of Canterbury; Samuel Butler of Ramsgate; Keith Webster of Gravesend; and Guy Carlton of Tunbridge Wells.

Chief Constable To Chief Spy Catcher

In November 1945 Sir Percy Sillito received a letter from Sir Alexander Maxwell, Permanent Under Secretary of State for the Home Department, asking if he would allow himself to be considered as a candidate for the post of Director-General of the Security Service. The cold war between the western allies and soviet countries was escalating and concerns had been raised about espionage within the senior levels of the Security Service.

Sir Percy Sillito was subsequently appointed Director-General of the Security Service by Prime Minister Clement Attlee and took up his new post on 1st May 1946. During the war years and until long afterwards, the Prime Minister, not the Home Secretary, was the minister to whom the Security Service was directly accountable and reported.

Sir Percy Sillitoe’s successor as Chief Constable of Kent was Major John Ferguson, who in 1943 had been appointed Chief Constable of the Sussex Joint Police Force on the temporary amalgamation of the Sussex county force with the Borough forces.

On 1st November 1945, Major Ferguson returned to the Metropolitan Police as an Assistant Commissioner, before subsequently being appointed Chief Constable of Kent in July 1946. He was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1948 Queen’s Birthday Honours and was knighted in the 1953 Coronation Honours. On 1 July 1955, he was made an Officer of the Order of St John. The Queen’s Police Medal was awarded to him in the 1957 New Year Honours and he retired on 31st October 1958, becoming a Deputy Lieutenant for the County of Kent.

Post War Organisation

Significantly, the Police Act 1946 legislation content reflected the 1943 views expressed of the respective county Chief Constables at the time of the temporary amalgamation of the Borough and County police forces. Sir Percy Sillitoe in Kent wanted to create a permanent amalgamation from the outset and fully integrate the borough forces to provide common standards. Sussex Chief Constable John Ferguson had envisaged Borough police forces being re-established, following the ending of what was only intended to be a temporary amalgamation, as confirmed by the Home Office to Canterbury City Council after they had requested clarification to alleviate their concern about the possibility of the permanent loss of their highly regarded County Borough police force which was considered efficient and effective by H.M. Inspectorate of Constabulary.

On 1st April 1947, each of the former Sussex Borough police forces were restored and continued to be independent police forces until finally amalgamated on 1st January 1968 under the Police Act 1964 provisions, which reduced the number of police forces and introduced the next significant organisational change to policing systems by replacing watch committees with police authorities.

Had John Ferguson been appointed Chief Constable of Kent in 1943, it is likely that not only would the Borough police forces in Kent have been restored in 1947 but that the County of the City and Borough of Canterbury police force might have continued in existence beyond 1964 and at least until the 1974 re-organisation of local government, which abolished the smallest and most significant County Borough in England. Several County Boroughs have subsequently been restored as unitary authorities under 1978 legislation but the County of the City and Borough of Canterbury still awaits restoration.

The immediate effect of Kent County Constabulary taking over policing Canterbury was an increase in the rates payable by householders. City of Canterbury Constabulary had not only been highly regarded but also been better value for money!