War reserve constable

This should not be confused with a Special Constable, which was a voluntary British police officer, that existed alongside the War Reserve Constable.

Example of a WRC uniform epaulette

War reserve constable (or WRC, war reserve police constable, WRPC) was a voluntary role within the ranks of the British police forces. As suggested by the title, the role was as a voluntary police constable during the war. War reserve constables were sworn in under the Special Constables Act 1923, and had the full powers of a police officer.


The War Reserve Police was introduced in 1939 and at the height of World War II in 1944 there were 17,000 war reserve constables.[1] The rank was dissolved on 31 December 1948, causing 686 officers to be discharged from service, and the remainder being recruited for service as a regular or special constable.[2]

Most officers were aged between 25-55 and undertook twelve hours of unpaid annual training. [3]

Despite British police traditionally being unarmed, during the war officers were armed with Canadian Ross rifles for protection from enemy action, enemy sabotage and to assist with the armed forces.

Duties of a WRC included the usual activities of a constable, as well as:

  • enforcing blackouts,
  • combating black market activity,
  • assisting in evacuations and air raids
  • and capturing deserting soldiers.[4]

Regular police officers were supported by 39,500 male auxiliary officers on full-time service (War Reserve Constables) as well as thousands of Special Constables.[5]

Uniform and EquipmentEdit

Uniform and equipment was the same as a regular constable, with the exception of uniform epaulettes which were detailed WRC above the collar number and divisional sign. During the war officers wore named Brodie helmets, with "W. R. Police" or "POLICE" marked on the front, instead of traditional police headgear. However, peaked caps were sometimes worn.[6]

The traditional police whistle was worn, as well as the police duty cuff-band.[7]

Notable war reserve constablesEdit

  • Jack Avery, a war reserve constable who was stabbed to death in Hyde Park in 1940. There is a plaque near this place to commemorate him.[8]
  • John Christie was accepted as a WRC after authorities failed to check his background (he had an extensive criminal record). He later went on to be a notorious serial killer in London, and was hanged in 1953 for his crimes. However this was after Timothy Evans was hanged for two of the murders, possibly causing a major miscarriage of justice.
  • Archie Sexton, a professional boxer who was awarded the George Medal for his services in the War Reserve.
  • Arthur Bacon, ex-professional footballer, was killed in an air raid on Derby on July 27th 1942 while serving as a War Reserve Officer. He is commemorated at Chesterfield FC, and had also played for Derby, Manchester City, Reading and Coventry.

War reserve officers killed in the line of dutyEdit

A total of three war reserve constables, listed below, were killed in the line of duty during WWII.

Women's Auxiliary Police Corps (WAPC)Edit

The WAPC was set up in 1939 and was similar to the WRC, except only some of its members were attested as constables. At most, there were 5,000 full-time WAPCs, including 500 attested WAPC constables.[9] This was the first step towards allowing women to join the UK's special constabularies, which they had still been unable to do in 1939.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Emsley, Clive; Waterfield, Terry. "Police at War: Second World War". The Open University. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  2. ^ "War Reserve Constables: Oral Answers to Questions in the House of Commons". They Work For You. 3 February 1949. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  3. ^ Brayley, Martin J (2005). The British Home Front 1939-1945. Osprey. p. 52. ISBN 978-1-84176-661-4.
  4. ^ Townsend, Paul (10 November 2012). "War Reserve Constable - Metropolitan Police, 1942". Flickr. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  5. ^ Brayley, Martin J (2005). The British Home Front 1939-1945. Osprey. p. 52. ISBN 978-1-84176-661-4.
  6. ^ "Metropolitan Police, War Reserve Police Constable, Bennett Morgan, 'A' or Whitehall Division. 1939-1945". 20 February 2010.
  7. ^ https://www.flickr.com/photos/brizzlebornandbred/8172128981
  8. ^ "Book of Remembrance, 1900s". Metropolitan Police Service. 2015. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  9. ^ Brayley, Martin J (2005). The British Home Front 1939-1945. Osprey. pp. 52, 53. ISBN 978-1-84176-661-4.