During the whole of my early life at home, including a period in which we lived at a very busy police station in south London, my father’s chief topics of conversation were the police, religion, bribery and corruption (which he saw as rife in all levels in the police force) and freemasonry. The one thing which seemed to worry him most of all was the connexion which he felt existed between freemasonry and corruption, and between freemasonry and self-advancement in the force. In his view there was no room for doubt about these connexions. He used to list all the officers who were masons. He noted the dates of their promotions, whether they had jumped anyone else of equal or greater ability, and all their connexions with other officers in the force.
On many occasions he was invited to join the masons (his two brothers were members) and he used to tell numerous stories of how both police officers and criminals sought favours of him in his pursuance of the detection of crimes. They seemed to assume that – like most other ‘successful’ officers in the Met – he was a mason of some standing. He received masonic handshakes by the score when investigating crimes, and he was offered bribes in the form of money, goods and even the services of women, in order that he might overlook vital pieces of evidence. Of course, not all those attempting bribery were masons but, according to my father, many were.
The most common expressions used by my father in relation to work were ‘he is on the take’, ‘he is taking backhanders’, ‘he is receiving the drop’ and ‘he is on the square’ with being amenable to bribes, corruption and perjury, so often did he use these phases in juxtaposition. Later on in life, when we discussed the position of freemasonry in the force and its connexion with corruption and self-advancement at the expense of others, it became clear that he regarded freemasonry as an evil per se which was to be held responsible for the larger proportion of corruption in the police force.
In 1933 or 1934 Det. Insp. Morrish had to run the Croydon Division while the divisional inspector was off sick. Looking through various registers and record books he became very suspicious of the way crimes were being recorded, so he carried out his own investigation. He concluded that the division’s relatively high success rate for crime clearance was thoroughly bogus, because many crimes were being entered up as something else. A woman would have her handbag snatched, but this would be entered in the register as a case of ‘Lost Property’.(3) Many other entries were far more ingenious.
After a thorough examination of every bit of routine and every crime over a period of several months, my father wrote a report on his findings and sent copies to his bosses: the divisional detective inspector and the area superintendent. As my father did not spare personalities, the facts he revealed militated strongly against both men’s honesty. According to him, both were freemasons.
They met him together in private, sought at first to mollify him and then began to threaten and pressure him. He was told in no uncertain terms that, if he went on investigating the investigators, it could only lead to his own downfall. But he was adamant, and felt he had a duty to society, as well as his own integrity, to pursue the matter. He obviously had rattled his superiors who clearly warned him they would block all possible promotion for him.
I’m afraid they didn’t understand what motivated him. Nothing and no one could ever browbeat him. He forthwith typed out an even fuller report which detailed all the criminal statistics he had investigated, and concluded with an account of his dealings with his superiors including their interview with him and the threats they had made. This 100 page report (which unfortunately he later burnt) he addressed to the Metropolitan Commissioner, Lord Trenchard.
Trenchard was soon paying personal visits to each station in the division, and insisted on seeing the records and documents referred to in Morrish’s report. Eventually Trenchard called him up to his office but, moments before he was due to enter, Deputy Commissioner Norman Kendal tried to divert him. He suggested he need not see the Commissioner, as everything could be put right at this late stage – even his promotion – if he would only withdraw his report
Behind this soft approach my father detected a threat that, if he didn’t withdraw, he could say goodbye to any future advancement. He politely refused and insisted on seeing the Commissioner. Later, as a result of the interview and the report, changes were introduced – in the Croydon Division at least – in the methods of recording and clearing up crime, and the way statistics on crime clearance were prepared.
Very soon afterwards the two superior officers retired. My father was transferred to the training centre at Scotland Yard and began his lecturing career. About six months later, when Lord Trenchard established Hendon Police College, he told my father he was promoting him to chief inspector and making him a senior instructor. When he later met my father at the college, he insisted it was he and no one else who had promoted him. The message, if oblique, seemed quuite clear to my father. I don’t know whether Trenchard, or for that matter Kendal, was a mason or not, but my father always regarded the whole business as an indication that even the Brotherhood could be outwitted on occassions.