Condemned to Repeat it: Why policing should take its own history seriously.

Delighted that The Police Foundation are holding an event on 13th May 2022 from 10.00-12.00 BST to promote the development and use of police history in research, writing and practice.

You can see further details including the speakers and register to join the discussion at Condemned to repeat it: Why policing should take its own history seriously Registration, Fri 13 May 2022 at 10:00 | Eventbrite

Hope you can make it.

Condemned to repeat it: Why policing should take its own history seriously

Police as Ploughmen 1917-1918: How Britain's policemen helped local populations by temporary release into agriculture

I was delighted to be asked to present a seminar in the British Agricultural History Society's Spring 2021 seminar series. It was part of the Society's Annual General Meeting. The seminar programme for the afternoon can be seen on which includes the abstract for the seminar.

It was a good afternoon

Britain’s police and food supply in World War One


I was delighted to be asked to give a talk to the Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow on 21st October 2020. This is an ancient society in its 219th year with over 800 members.

My talk was recorded and can be found on the Society's website, if you'd like to view it. It's an hour in length with around half an hour for questions at the end. You can watch it on the YouTube video

The talk develops further Chapter 6: Living costs (pages 106-121) in my book "Policing the Home Front, 1914-1918: the control of the British population at war", which is now available in paperback as well as hardback. 


Policing the Home Front 1914-1918: the control of the British population at war


I'm delighted to say that my book "Policing the Home Front 1914-1918: the control of the British population at war" is now available in paperback. You can find the details at It's also in hard back and as an e-book. Below shows the front cover

I hope you enjoy reading it.


Recipes for police wives in First World War Britain


As the food shortages in Britain became more and more severe in early 1917, police wives, through the police weekly popular journal The Police Review and Parade Gossip were provided with vegetarian menus to help cut the escalating cost of food. These foods were said to be plentiful and cheap. However, they were not what humans would normally eat, as mangold-wurzel (the modern name is fodder beet) is normally cattle feed. Below is The Wive's Column which published these recipes.

This is a picture of recipe I when it's cooked.

It was surprising palatable although somewhat fibrous. It's certainly worth a try if you can get hold of one from a friendly local farmer.


Policemen released for agriculture in Scotland in 1917


March 1917 saw severe food shortages across Britain. The country needed to become self-sufficient in crops, particularly corn and potatoes, to feed the population in order to win the war. But farming manpower was sparse due to recruitment into the army and farmers were unwilling to work with novices. In Scotland, Neville Chamberlain, appointed Director of National Service identified 12,000 men in city jobs across Scotland who had previously worked in agriculture. He urgently requested their temporary release to help farmers to plough the fields and plant crops before the end of April, with just 6 weeks to complete the work. He identified policemen as having previously worked in agriculture and galvanised Glasgow Corporation into releasing around 90 of their police force to help on farms. Other local authorities in Scotland also contributed, so that by the end of April around 230 policemen had been released to help farmers, accounting for around 5% of the substitutes into agriculture in Spring 1917.

As a result, agriculture in Scotland was able to increase its production of crops, compared with the harvest of the previous year, as shown below:


1917 quarters

1916 quarters

1917 acreage

1916 acreage
























531,000 tons



Turnips/ swedes

8,053,000 tons

5,897,000 tons




53,000 tons

44,000 tons



*The crop of oats was an all-time record. These significant increases gave hope that the nation would not starve despite continued food shortages. 

But increased manpower was also needed for the harvest. Help came from 2,000 schoolboys, 15,000 soldiers, 500 policemen and other civic employees, so that the number of policemen released into agriculture had doubled by the harvest, and 450 men lent by private employers. 

Further reading

101.      The National Archives [TNA] CAB 24/33/22; [TNA] CAB 24/34/96

          Sixth report of the Board of Agriculture for Scotland for the year ending 31st December 1917. Cd. 9069. Parliamentary Papers.