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Arthur Young (police officer)

Sir Arthur in 1966

Colonel Sir Arthur Edwin Young KBE CMG CVO OStJ KPM (15 February 1907 – 20 January 1979) was a British police officer. He was Commissioner of Police of the City of London from 1950 to 1971 and was also the first head of the Royal Ulster Constabulary to be styled Chief Constable. Young was instrumental in the creation of the post of Chief Inspector of Constabulary. In the early 1950s, he played a crucial role in policing decolonisation in the British Empire. During the 1960s, he led the way in modernising British police recruitment and in improving the training of senior officers.

Early life and educationEdit

Young was born at 55 Chamberlayne Road, Eastleigh, Hampshire, the third of four children of Edwin Young (1878–1936), a builder and contractor, and his wife Gertrude Mary (née Brown; 1880–1945); both of his elder siblings died in childhood. He attended Mayville Preparatory School, Southsea from 1912 to 1915 and then Portsmouth Grammar School from 1915 to 1924, where he showed no particular academic aptitude but very much enjoyed the Officers' Training Corps; when in later life he returned to present prizes, he told the pupils that his parents would have been very surprised to see him in the hall on speech day because he had never come close to winning any school award.[citation needed]

Aged sixteen, he left to join the Portsmouth Borough Police, against his family's wishes. His mother and grandmother never approved of his career choice, seeing the police as unsuitable for a young man from an aspiring middle-class family; indeed, when his maternal aunt Emma Brown married Superintendent Samuel Bowles of the Hampshire Constabulary, she made him resign.[citation needed]


Portsmouth Borough/City PoliceEdit

Young's father's business partner Alderman Sir John Henry Corke (1850–1927), who served as Mayor of Portsmouth from 1912 to 1915, helped to smooth the way for Young by securing him an initial placement in the Chief Constable's office (the post of Cadet Clerk was specially created for him) in December 1924. On the advice of Thomas Davies, the Chief Constable, he first took a course in business and accountancy.

Appointed a Constable in May 1925, he became the Coroner's Officer in April 1932. In June 1932, aged 25, he became the youngest Detective Sergeant in the United Kingdom, serving with the Northern Division CID. During his time there, he led investigations into murder, blackmail, fraud and arson. He headed the enquiries into the UK's first case of manslaughter arising from the use of an aeroplane. Simultaneously, he began to take an ever more prominent involvement in the many royal visits to Portsmouth; when Haile Selassie visited the dockyard in September 1937, he acted as his personal escort and French interpreter. During these years, Young was also entrusted with what he later cryptically termed "enquiries concerning the activities of subversive persons and propaganda, and also with other matters affecting state security". It was also during these years that he acquired his passion for ever better police equipment and his personal love of new gadgets.

Young was promoted to Inspector in June 1937 and appointed to Portsmouth's Southern Division. In Eastney and Southsea, he gained his first taste of the complexity of the problems created by traffic, of measures to be taken for its efficient control and of the need to promote road safety. A keen motorist (who progressed from a motorcycle to a series of fast cars), he took a pragmatic approach.

Leamington Spa Borough PoliceEdit

Young had risen moderately quickly and he was marked out for further advancement. His energy, tact and ability made that obvious. Nevertheless, as a non-Hendon graduate and a non-public schoolboy, his promotion over the next dozen years was meteoric for the 1930s and 1940s. Young wanted to head his own force and after one unsuccessful attempt (for the chief constableship of the Isle of Wight Constabulary), he became Acting Chief Constable of Leamington Spa Borough Police in September 1938, aged 31, at a salary of £500 per annum. One year later, he was appointed to the permanent post of Chief Constable. As such, he was one of the youngest men ever to become a Chief Constable. In his first nine months in Leamington he secured an increase of twelve in the force's tiny establishment of forty-five, the first increase since 1915.

He reorganised the borough's fire brigade, and, among other police innovations, set up twelve of the then new "police pillars", a network of two-way microphone handsets across the borough enabling the public to contact police stations and civil defence posts directly. The base of the pillar contained first aid equipment while, a Leamington innovation, a flashing red light on the top called up policemen on patrol. From Leamington onwards, Young possessed a marked capacity to persuade his police authority to increase its capital spending and a marked inclination to find technological help for the policeman. Seconded under the aegis of the Home Office for six months in November 1940 to Coventry after its blitz to run the city's police because the Chief Constable was fully occupied as Civil Defence Controller, he introduced there the "good neighbour scheme" for bombed out civilians that he had trialled in Leamington and which was later adopted nationally by the Home Office.

Birmingham City PoliceEdit

Leamington's was a very small force and for a year his command was only "acting" so, from the start, Young was looking for a permanent as well as a larger command. After several unsuccessful applications (the East Riding of Yorkshire Constabulary in 1939, Portsmouth City Police in 1940, Oxford City Police in 1940), in September 1941 he was selected from a short-list of six as Senior Assistant Chief Constable of Birmingham City Police, then the second-largest police force in the UK; the salary was £1,000 p.a. His particular responsibilities - training and communications - played to his strengths. It was in Birmingham that he began to experiment with police training. Learning by example and by demonstration is common now, but in 1941 it raised eyebrows and caught the approving eye of the Home Office. He also made Birmingham the foremost British force in the use of police wireless by establishing in 1942 a "duplex" ultra high-frequency two-way radio telephone system linking every police station and every police car.

Wartime serviceEdit

The war overtook Young's career again in February 1943 when he was one of a number of chief constables seconded to the War Office's Civil Affairs Training Centre and attended the first course for senior officers. Before the course was finished, he was transferred to the instructing staff and in June 1943 he was appointed the first commandant of the new Police Civil Affairs Training Centre at Peel House in London (gazetted with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel) and charged with the task of setting up the training school for policemen and provost officers who would maintain law and order in Axis territory as it was liberated by advancing Allied forces. Barely was that centre up and running and its first students through their course when Young found himself a Colonel and moved from the classroom in July 1943 to be Senior British Police Officer in the Mediterranean Theatre, stationed in North Africa awaiting the invasion of Sicily.

Ashore on day two of the invasion, Young became Director of Public Safety in the first functioning Allied military government - the Allied Control Commission for Italy. In December 1943 he was given the additional role of Director of Security, responsible directly to the Commander-in-Chief for hunting saboteurs and enemy agents as well as the removal of fascist officials from public offices. In Italy, Young now commanded not just British officers but the 120,000 men of the entire Italian police and had responsibility for all Italian prisons, fire brigades and civil defence. The models Young developed in Italy were later applied across Allied occupied Europe in 1944–1945, but his proudest achievement was the restoration and reorganisation of the Carabinieri, with whom he maintained an association for the rest of his life. He fell in love with Italy, returning regularly and frequently holidaying in Positano and visiting his wartime friend Colonel Alfredo "Freddy" Zanchino of the Carabinieri.

Hertfordshire ConstabularyEdit

Appointed Chief Constable of Hertfordshire Constabulary in 1944 (but released from the army only in April 1945), Young now commanded an establishment of 515 at a salary of £1,290. Still aged only 38, he had twenty-one years of experience of small, medium and large city and borough forces. From Hertfordshire, he set the pace in revitalising long-debilitated county police forces, pushing his police authority to fund major expenditure on officers' pay and conditions. Police housing was one of the outstanding issues of the time. Young persuaded his police authority to fund a building programme that in six years would provide a police house for every married man in the county force; the design and equipping of these houses was agreed between the county architects and a "housing committee", recruited through the county Police Federation, not only of men of all ranks but, at Young's insistence, of officers' wives. In 1946, he wrote:

"I hold the view that the police organisation is not a police force but a police service, which offers to the right individual not merely a job but all the advantages of a professional career. I believe in doing everything reasonably possible by way of improving the conditions and amenities for all ranks of the service, and in particular in delegating both authority and responsibility to officers according to their rank. Having done this I am prepared to accept nothing but the highest standard of service by way of return."

At the same time, he persuaded his authority to fund major capital spending to sustain modern police efficiency. The Home Office authorised Hertfordshire to be the first force after the war to introduce a wireless system, one which Young adapted for rural circumstance from his Birmingham model. To make it as effective as possible, the Home Office accepted his proposal that the wireless network needed to be set up for a larger area than one county so the neighbouring county force of Bedfordshire was added. Almost simultaneously, Young was appointed by the Home Office to a committee chaired by Sir Percy Sillitoe, Chief Constable of Kent, to consider the wireless needs of all forces. Young's action plan for the co-ordination and standardisation of all inter-force communications was rapidly accepted.

His Hertfordshire years also saw the beginnings of a professional relationship with James Callaghan. They already knew each other from Portsmouth, where their mothers had both worked at Agnes Weston's Sailors Rest; Callaghan had tried unsuccessfully to court his sister, Eileen. Callaghan was now a junior minister at the Ministry of Transport. They met up with each other again on a road safety committee and became working allies to extend speed restrictions and improve road markings; cat's eyes were perhaps the most significant fruit of their labours. They worked together again when Callaghan was Home Secretary and it was Callaghan who selected Young to go to Ulster in 1969 to implement the Hunt Report.

Metropolitan PoliceEdit

Hertfordshire showed that Young wanted to be a chief police officer who made things happen. Ever ambitious, he applied unsuccessfully to be chief constable of Kent in 1946, but his next job was offered to him. So impressed was Home Secretary James Chuter Ede with the young Chief Constable of Hertfordshire that in 1947 he appointed Young to the vacant post of Assistant Commissioner "D" of the Metropolitan Police in London, in charge of organisation, recruitment, training and communications. To bring in an outsider to such a rank in the Met was unprecedented. The Home Secretary realised that the nation's police forces were wedded to obsolete methods and needed the invigorating shake-up that the young chief constable had already delivered in Hertfordshire; Scotland Yard must not be left out. Things, however, did not go well. The Commissioner, Sir Harold Scott, tolerated him (although he was an outsider too), but senior colleagues cold-shouldered him. Within "D" Department, Young delivered all the Home Secretary had hoped for, a success that only alienated the hierarchy even further.

City of London PoliceEdit

The first former constable to be appointed Commissioner of Police of the City of London, in March 1950, Young entrenched there his reputation as "the policeman's policeman". Improved pay and conditions and professional standards remained his constant pre-occupations. The police under his command found him forceful but gracious, intolerant of failings in himself as well as others. In all his forces, he was renowned for his popularity with all ranks under his command.

Young came to love the City of London. He relished command of a force small enough to know every constable well. He enjoyed the City's rich social life too, and he much valued the invitation to join the Goldsmiths Company. The police needed to recruit and with considerable success he set about making service more attractive. Pay and allowances were increased, housing modernised, and catering improved. Uniforms were made more comfortable and practical. At another level, he pushed through changes in career structures. He engineered a national recruitment revolution in the British police, running command courses and seeing through a fast-track entry scheme to attract graduates - and for many years he was director of extended interviews for the Senior Command Course that he had founded.

These and other changes were designed to facilitate the promotion of talent. Young realised that the police could no longer rely on habits little changed for a century. He fought for the recruitment and promotion of women. He resisted the well-ingrained tradition of parachuting senior officers from the armed forces into police commands; and only with great reluctance did he give in to the demand from the Hertfordshire police committee that he use his wartime military rank. He sternly opposed Lord Trenchard's officer-class philosophy as wholly inappropriate for the British police service. Rather, he was wedded to Sir Robert Peel's intention that the police be "filled from the bottom up". The young man whose own family had thought that being a policeman was far from suitable dedicated his own long career to making the police a respected and attractive profession. Young's lobby of the 1960 Royal Commission on the Police overcame Home Office objections to a strengthened police inspectorate, although Sir Charles Cunningham blocked Young's selection as inaugural Chief Inspector of Constabulary.

Royal Ulster ConstabularyEdit

In November 1969 (until 1970) Young was seconded to be the last Inspector-General and the first Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. James Callaghan, then Home Secretary, sent him to implement the Hunt Report, which introduced the standard British rank system for police officers in Northern Ireland and disbanded the controversial Ulster Special Constabulary.

Other positionsEdit

He chaired the Police Council for the UK, the Association of Chief Police Officers training centres committee and the education committee of the National Police Fund. He was a governor of the Police College and of Atlantic College, and a member of the committees of the Police Advisory Board, the National Police Fund, the Royal Humane Society, the National Rifle Association, the National Scout Council, and the Thames Group Hospitals. He was President of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) in 1962.

Colonial police reformsEdit

One distinctive feature of Young's career was as a police reformer in colonial hotspots. Young was sent on four such missions. First came a short period in the Gold Coast in 1950 preparing the blueprint for the role of the police as the colony was being prepared to become the first British territory in Africa to be granted independence. Then in 1952–1953, Young was seconded to the Federation of Malaya to be Commissioner of Police during the Emergency. In 1954, Young was asked to undertake a second secondment in the UK's troubled colonies - this time in Kenya as Commissioner of Police during Mau Mau. However he resigned after less than eight months, allegedly because he disapproved of the way in which some of the rebels were mistreated.[1]

Personal lifeEdit

Brought up in a household with strong Anglican evangelical beliefs (the family attended St Jude's, Southsea for matins and evensong every Sunday as well as week-day meetings), experiencing Portsmouth's slums and docks as a young constable had an effect on Young. Guided by his curate, the Reverend Frederick Dillistone, later Dean of Liverpool, he decided that he must seek ordination. The Bishop of Portsmouth, Neville Lovett, however, rejected his application to attend theological college, telling him at interview that "policemen do not become priests". Although later in life Young would drift away from regular worship, the impact of Portsmouth on his world-view never shifted. Shocked by the poverty and injustice which he discovered, Young became a staunch Christian socialist and, very rare for a chief constable, a lifelong Labour Party voter. Throughout his career, he sought out contact with clergymen and in the later 1960s, encouraged by the Bishop of London, again considered Anglican ordination.

Young married three times. On 11 April 1939, at Boarhunt parish church, Hampshire, he married Ivy Ada May Hammond (born 20 December 1909), a nurse from the Royal Portsmouth Hospital whom he had courted for years - custom then dictated lengthy engagements and police pay then was very low. She died of cancer on 14 September 1956. They had one son, Christopher John Young, born in 1941. Young married Mrs Margaret Furnival Homan, née Dolphin, in 1957. The marriage fell apart quickly and they separated. She committed suicide in Malta in 1966. On 16 April 1970, he married Mrs Ileen Fryer Turner (née Rayner, born 19 April 1914), whom he had known since she was his police driver in Birmingham during the war and who at one time had been the mistress of his great friend Sir Edward Dodd, Chief Constable of Birmingham and later Chief Inspector of Constabulary. She died on 31 December 2002.

Thrice widowed, Young died at St Thomas's Hospital, London, on 20 January 1979. After cremation his ashes were scattered at Beachy Head.


Young's career made him the most decorated policeman of his era. Young was awarded the King's Police Medal (KPM) in the 1952 New Year Honours.[2] The following year, he was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in the 1953 Coronation Honours "for services as Commissioner of Police, Federation of Malaya."[3] and was further appointed a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO) in the 1962 Birthday Honours.[4] He was knighted in the 1965 Birthday Honours,[5] and was formally conferred with his knighthood by the Queen at Buckingham Palace on 16 November of that year.[6] For his work in Northern Ireland he was again knighted as a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in the 1971 New Year Honours.[7]





  1. ^ Editorial (13 April 2011). "Taking on the Boss: The quiet whistleblowers on events in Kenya deserve praise". The Times. Retrieved 13 April 2011.
  2. ^ "No. 39421". The London Gazette (Supplement). 28 December 1951. p. 34.
  3. ^ "No. 39863". The London Gazette (Supplement). 26 May 1953. p. 2945.
  4. ^ "No. 42683". The London Gazette (Supplement). 25 May 1962. p. 4311.
  5. ^ "No. 43667". The London Gazette (Supplement). 4 June 1965. p. 5471.
  6. ^ "No. 43819". The London Gazette. 19 November 1965. p. 10841.
  7. ^ "No. 45262". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 1970. p. 7.
  8. ^ L'Harmattan web site (in French)
Police appointments
Preceded by
John Hanlon
Chief Constable of Leamington Spa
Succeeded by
Charles Martin
Preceded by
Senior Assistant Chief Constable of Birmingham
Succeeded by
Edward Dodd
Preceded by
Abel Camp (acting)
Chief Constable of Hertfordshire
Succeeded by
Albert Wilcox
Preceded by
Philip Margetson
Assistant Commissioner "D", Metropolitan Police
Succeeded by
John Rymer-Jones
Preceded by
Sir Hugh Turnbull
Commissioner of the City of London Police
Succeeded by
James Page
Preceded by
Anthony Peacock
Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary
Succeeded by
Graham Shillington