Police at Swansea Docks

Swansea Harbour Trust Police Force 1923
Swansea Harbour Trust Police Force 1923

Swansea’s first dock opened in 1851 and the second in 1859. The early years of policing arrangements have not been recorded. Since the 19th century the docks were operated by the Swansea Harbour Trust. When the Great Western Railway (GWR) took control of the South Wales docks in 1922, Swansea Docks were not initially included and remained independent for a short while before joining GWR.

Superintendent David Johnson was in charge of the Swansea Harbour Trust Police Force for at least eight years from 1917. In 1925 he replaced Superintendent David Davies in charge of the GWR Police at Cardiff.

One of the few remaining records is a hard backed exercise book with a white stick-on label marked- “General Orders, Swansea Docks”
The book commenced on 21st December 1917 and warns the staff of the temptations of the festive season with the hope that they shall conduct themselves that no discredit be brought upon them and wish the officers, wives and families a Happy Christmas and a Prosperous New Year. Signed by D.J. Johnson Superintendent. The last entry in the book is dated March 16th 1922. In the book is the pay sheet for week ending 19th August 1913 for the Swansea Harbour Trust Dock Police:

1 Inspector, 3 sergeants, 16 constables

The inspector drew £2
Top Sergeant (2) £1.17s.6d.
Junior £1.15s.0d.
Top P.c. £1.12s.6d.
Junior £1.5s.0d.

The photograph of the force taken in 1923 shows at least fifty officers, a significant increase over the twenty officers of 1913.

After 1923 the policing of the docks was undertaken by GWR police until 1948, the British Transport Commission Police until 1962 and then the British Transport Police until the dedicated police service was withdrawn in April 1985.

In January 1941, the GWR Chief of Police, George Stephens, commended nine officers at Swansea Docks for their coolness, promptitude and resourcefulness in extinguishing fires caused by incenderies during air raids. They were- Sergeant V. Parry, Acting Sergeant Ashwin, Constables Seabury, Byng, Gibbs, Headon, Thomas W.G. and Special Constables I.C. Price and V. Wilmott

Note: When Captain Napier was appointed Chief Constable of the Glamorgan Police in August 1841, he found that a small force was policing Swansea Canal. He suggested it would be appropriate if they came under his control. There is no indication of what became of this force. For more information on Swansea Canal see Swansea Canal

SHT Police Warrant Card for Pc Wm. George Thomas in 1921
SHT Police Warrant Card for Pc Wm. George Thomas in 1921