THE MINERS STRIKE
by Philip Lawrence (father of Andy Lawrence)
During the miners strike I was a Traffic Sergeant at Hastings, East Sussex. The involvement the traffic division had was to provide drivers for the PSU units which at that time used mainly Ford Transit and Bedford CF carriers supported by Land Rovers and the odd car for the PSU Commanders. In addition to this Traffic drivers travelled up to various locations on a Friday by coach to drive the carriers back whilst the personnel were ferried back by coach. A lot of the time some of the lads would prefer to come back in the carriers instead of the coaches because by the time the coaches had deposited the personnel at various points they felt they could get home quicker by traveling in the carriers. However they were very selective. The Transits and CF vans were quite comfortable and warm but you could not say that for the Land Rovers so whoever drew the short straw and drove them back was usually by himself. I had a couple of journeys back from Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire driving a slow, noisy and cold Land Rover with nobody else to talk to.
The other rather bizarre recollection I have of the strike was at Shorncliffe barracks near Folkestone. The vehicles used there were not brought back at the weekends and had been subjected to damage whilst left there at the weekend, as a result. It was therefore decided to deploy a Traffic Sergeant, two P.Cs and two dog handlers over that period to guard the vehicles and to clean and refuel them. On the Saturday morning we started to clean the vehicles when this Sergeant Major came out and said that cleaning the vehicles was not the sort of job that we should have to do and within minutes we had a load of squaddies cleaning the vehicles for us. This, plus being fed and watered in the Sergeants Mess, all Weekend, made life very comfortable.
The only downside to the strike was that just before I was due for another weekend away, the Brighton bombing took place and we were all deployed within the County filling the gaps where personnel had been drafted into Brighton.
MY PERSONAL MEMORIES FROM THE MINERS STRIKE
by Steve Woodward
MK2 Ford Transit carrier Kent County Constabulary
In 1984, when I was a fit and enthusiastic 25 year old PC (yes I was 25 once!) I was a member of the newly formed Regional Support Group (RSG) which meant that at the first sign of trouble anywhere in the UK we were sent to help out whichever force required it. So in early March 1984, having only just got home after an early turn my phone rang and I was told to pack a bag “you're going to Nottingham”.
“Nottingham, what for?”
“Buggered if I know, but you need to be at HQ by 1830”
General Motors bus Cheshire Constabulary complete with grilles taken at Chilworth camp
So I joined 150 other officers at Winchester where we boarded three coaches and headed north up the M1 to Nottinghamshire. On route we were briefed about the developing situation in the area and to our horror heard on the news that a miner had died during protests in the county. We arrived in Nottingham and during the night got pushed from one place to the next and by about 10am the next morning arrived at Sherwood Lodge; Nottinghamshire Constabulary's HQ. The main car park was jammed solid as were the roads leading into it. There is a crossroads that separates four car parking areas and we were amazed and amused to see a Nottinghamshire Superintendent doing traffic control, trying to direct what looked like hundreds of Police carriers that had all converged on Sherwood Lodge at the same time! And it was at this moment in time that the foundation stones to the Police vehicle hobby as we know it today were laid. Something inside of me went pop as I surveyed the scene. Hundreds of Police vehicles, from cars to carriers, from bikes to horse boxes, in every conceivable colour and type were there. Sadly I didn't have my camera with me, but nonetheless I suddenly realised what a fascinating historical scene was before me. Less than two years later I formed the Police Vehicle Collectors Club that later morphed into the Police Vehicle Enthusiasts Club and of course following the split in 2005 we now have Police Car UK. So, you could say that Arthur Scargill is ultimately responsible for us all getting together. I wonder how he'd feel about that?
MK2 Ford Transit carrier sits next to Surrey Police Mercedes Benz carrier at the Kent coalfield camp
Starting work at 3am isn't easy, especially for people like me who don't do mornings. We drove out of the Spittalgate army base at Grantham and headed west towards Nottingham. It was a dark and very foggy night. We were the last Transit carrier in a convoy of about 50 and progress was slow due to the weather. I always sat in the rear row of seats on the offside. Being a sleepy head meant that within a few minutes of climbing aboard my head was slumped forward onto the seat in front and I was asleep. Some time later my sub conscious woke me up because we had stopped. I looked out the side window. It was still dark and the fog was like pea soup. As I rubbed my eyes I became aware that we were now reversing.
“Where are we?” I enquired.
“On the M1” came the reply.
“But we're reversing” said I “and that means we are now the front carrier and even worse than that I'm right at the front”.
We were actually reversing in lane 3 of the northbound M1 having been instructed (by whom I do not know) to cross the M1 at the previous ECP (emergency crossover point) which we had missed, hence us reversing, to form a solid road block, using the carriers across the southbound M1 to prevent flying pickets, travelling in their hundreds from Yorkshire from entering Nottingham. What? A solid road block? Remember Reading on the M4 a few years earlier? Are they mad? As near panic set in within our carrier I was stunned to see a Traffic motorcyclist travelling south on the northbound carriageway to lead the way! We found the ECP some 200 yards further south and reversed at 90 degrees across the southbound where we thankfully stopped on the hard shoulder. There was much to-ing and fro-ing amongst senior officers and a decision was taken not to use us as a road block. Well hallelujah for that.
Nottinghamshire Police Convoy
We were in a big convoy of personnel carriers heading north towards Orgreave in Yorkshire. Having spent several months in the Nottinghamshire area we were used to dealing with local people who were generally supportive of the Police being there and protecting their men folk. We crossed the 'border' into South Yorkshire and it was like entering a different country. We arrived in a small village with a crossroads controlled by traffic lights. Half the convoy got through the lights and the rest of us got held at red. To our left was a very old fashioned green grocers shop and standing outside were two very old but very large ladies, dressed in grey overcoats and wearing hats. I kid you not but they were two characters taken straight from the pages of a Giles cartoon! They started shouting abuse at the carrier in front of us and then started pelting it with tomatoes and other veg they lifted from the display counter outside the shop. It was hilarious to watch and as we drove off they just turned to each other and carried on their conversation as if nothing had happened!
Ford Sierra staff car City of London Police taken at Chilworth camp
We had a Traffic officer as our driver one week and he was a scouser. Very senior in service and a wily old fox. Now I liked Reg, in particular his great sense of humour. However there were a couple of guys on my section who decided that Reg was to become the butt of all their jokes and jibes for the entire week. And Reg didn't bite once. He just took it all in his stride. Until Friday morning as we returned to our pit after breakfast somewhere. As we drove through the pit gate we usually turned left to park up. Not today. Reg turned right and drove to an area right at the back of the pit, miles from the gate. He then drove our Transit into a lake of thick black coal slurry about 12 inches deep. This stuff was slightly thicker than water, stuck to everything it touched and really didn't smell too good. The lake was about 200 yards across. Reg stopped in the middle, rolled his trousers up to reveal wellington boots, took the keys out of the ignition, smiled and said “I'm having the last laugh this week boys and its down to you lot to decide which one of you piss takers has to wade through this lot to come and get the keys” and with that he walked off towards the pit canteen.
The winter of 84/85 was quite harsh and during one particular week we had a lot of snow, which us southern softies aren't used to. I was my sections driver during this week which meant that I had to get up half an hour earlier than the others in order to go and get the essential supplies of maxpax drinks, hot water and doggy bags to load the carrier with. After grabbing our supplies I trudged through about a foot of fresh snow towards the car park. Upon my arrival I was amused to see that the snow had been so heavy overnight that a large snow drift about six feet high was piled up against the drivers side of the carriers. I found mine and punched a hole through the snow towards the door lock. I inserted the key, unlocked the door and then pulled it as hard as I could. The door opened with a sort of cracking, ripping noise. It was then that I saw that the snow had sort of welded itself to the bodywork and that the noise I heard was in fact a 3 inch wide by 3 foot long length of paint that had been ripped clean off the body, leaving a nice shiny bare metal surface underneath!
MK2 Ford Transit carrier West Midlands Police
And that snow was also responsible for what was arguably the funniest moment of the dispute for me. One evening at the Proteous camp a small but friendly snow ball fight between a few friends erupted into a full scale riot involving 200+ officers armed with riot shields and using barricades which went on for a couple of hours.