Today, 30th September, we join in with celebrating National Sporting Heritage Day 2015 by adding this post, which highlights just a small sample of the wonderful sporting heritage of Devon & Cornwall Police and the constituent forces that formed it.
Push Ball Game – May 5th 1927
Push Ball was invented in America in the 1890s as an alternative to American football (the inventor reportedly believed that it would interest spectators more and introduce ‘much merriment’!) A history of the game, published in 1907 (which you can find here in digitised form), reports that the earliest version of the push ball was made from a wooden frame with a leather outer cover. Played for the first time in the UK in 1902, it required two teams of eight to push a 6-ft diameter ball under their opposition’s crossbar (or throw it over for more points).
In the Historic Collections of Devon & Cornwall Police, we hold a photograph of two opposing Push Ball teams. From information written in ink on the photograph we understand the the two teams to be ‘Trams V. Police’, and the game played on 5th May 1927 at a recreation ground (perhaps a police recreation ground) in Torquay. In 1927, the police force in Torquay was the county constabulary, Devon County Constabulary. As the photograph donor has provided us with the names of all of the police team, we can cross reference this with documents in our archive pertaining to the county force and confirm that all were serving officers at the time; furthermore, all were in their twenties when the photo was taken! As well as identifying the Push Ball police team, the donor also recorded the score: a 4-0 win to the police team.
Devonport Borough Police Tug-of-war Team – 1908
Left is a black and white photographic print held within the Historic Collections of Devon & Cornwall Police. The subject is a group portrait of the Devonport Borough Police Tug-of-War team taken in 1908, posing with a rope and trophy (although we have no accompanying information saying so, we assume the team were victorious due to the presence of the trophy). The team of eight are wearing white tops and dark belted trousers; every man appears to be wearing a mustache. With them is the Chief Constable of Devonport, J. Matters, who is sat in the middle of the team wearing a straw boater. J. Matters served as Chief Constable for Devonport Borough Police from 1893 – 1908, and this photograph may be the first and last image we have of him. The captain of the team is sat next to Matters, Police Constable 78 Sandy, wearing full uniform and carrying his helmet and white gloves.
Printed on the mount below the image are the names of the team:
F. Pryor; A. Heath; F. Drake; W. Bully; W. Davey; J. Matters [Chief Constable of Devonport Borough Police]; P. Sandy [Captain] [PC 78]; W. Harper; N. Holberton; W. Heath.
See the below image for a possible reappearance of the team captain, PC Sandy, in a later tug of war team for a different police force…
Tug of War Trophy – 1921
The Pring Challenge Cup, left, was presented to Plymouth Borough Police in 1921. Presented by Mr. W. G. Pring, Publican and Manager of the Prince of Wales Hotel on Russell Street, Plymouth, it was the prize in an annual tug of war championship. This championship was only open to the Navy, Army, Royal Marines, Territorials, Metropolitan Police and Civil Police who had seen service in the First World War (see Peter Hinchliffe’s article on researching police officers who served in WWI). The two shields on the base of the trophy give us the names, and some of the shoulder numbers, of the winning Plymouth Borough team, as well as the statement ‘1921 Won Outright by Plymouth Borough Police’.
The winning team consisted of the following personnel: PC Argent; PC Cove; PC Williams; PC Read; PC Fisher; PC 17 Hill; PC Carter; PC 146 Hill; PC Rogers; PC Bezzell; PC Lush; Insptr. Sandy, Capt.
Note the name of the captain of this team: Sandy. The previous photograph depicted Devonport Borough Police, which was taken over by Plymouth Borough Police in 1914. We know from cross-referencing with personnel records that Sandy was promoted to Inspector before the takeover of Devonport Borough. Feasibly, Inspector Sandy could have led both the 1908 Devonport and the 1921 Plymouth Borough tug-of-war teams to victory.
This is just a small handful of our historic records; sport remains a pivotal part of police culture and the living heritage of Devon & Cornwall Police. If you have any images to add to our collection, or would like to know more about those included in this post, please contact us.