Tangled Web UK Review November 2011
The Brave Blue Line: 100 Years of Metropolitan Police Gallantry by
hbk out December 11
Published by Wharncliffe Books
This is former Flying Squad veteran Dick Kirby’s latest wonderfully-evocative
volume of Metropolitan history. Unlike many historians, Kirby recognises the female
contribution, in this case to solving crime. He details the bravery shown by two
WPCs who acted as decoys to trap a rapist on a lonely pathway. One of the officers
was hit over the head with a piece of wood so viciously that she spent weeks in
hospital and the rapist initially escaped. But she and another female decoy had
torn the scarf from his face and memorised his features and he was caught and
sentenced but continued his sexual offending when he was free.
Recidivism is a constant theme within The Brave Blue Line with miscreants attacking
gallant police officers and being jailed, only to assault again – often
even more viciously - when released. One ne’er-do-well even attempted to
blow up the prison van with explosives, promising other prisoners that he planned
to kill a policeman as soon as he got out of jail. Though he shot an officer,
the man thankfully survived.
But it’s not just the boys in blue who are honoured in this book. A civilian
called Ralph Binney, a fifty-six-year-old Royal Naval officer, attempted to stop
a violent raid on a jeweller’s shop in London in 1944. The thieves smashed
into him, stopped, reversed and ran over him again. The unfortunate man’s
clothes became trapped in the car’s suspension and he was dragged, screaming,
for over a mile, the impact shattering his lungs and breaking his ribs. He died
three hours after being admitted to hospital. His friends and colleagues set up
a subscription fund to commemorate his brave deeds, and thereafter the Binney
Medal was given annually to a member of the public who showed outstanding bravery.
Bravery was certainly shown by Princess Ann’s personnel officer, James Wallace
Beaton, when a mentally ill man called Ian Ball attempted to abduct her in 1974.
Beaton was shot several times during the fracas which followed, the perpetrator
having two revolvers, fifty-eight extra rounds of ammunition and handcuffs. He
also had a ransom demand addressed to the Queen. As he attempted to drag Princess
Ann from the backseat of her car, various bystanders intervened and a total of
four men were shot with Ball’s revolver. He was caught and sent to a mental
hospital where he still resides.
On a lighter note, the author tells us where the expression Noddy Patrol originates.
It came about when constables went out on patrol on lightweight Velocette motorcycles.
Saluting an inspector whilst riding obviously wasn’t an option but officers
were required to acknowledge their presence by nodding at them, hence the name.
Beautifully illustrated with photos of both fearless officers and the medals that
they rightly were awarded, this would make an impressive gift for any historical
true crime fan.
Carol Anne Davis
Author of Children Who Kill)
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