Fifteen Capel Ladies had an arresting evening at the Suffolk Police Museum for our February outing! The museum is situated at the Suffolk Constabulary HQ at Martlesham Heath, and is open after 6.00 p.m. on Mondays – Fridays by appointment only. We were met on arrival by a team of friendly volunteers – all ex-police personnel – who made us feel very welcome and who escorted us through the exhibits, telling us about life in the police service, showing us things of particular interest, and answering our many questions.
At one point we were allowed to try on some police uniforms and hold truncheons or handcuffs. Police hats have changed a lot during the years since the 1830’s, At first they wore top hats, then these changed to custodian helmets lined with cork and serge or strong felt, however now they have a lining of reinforced plastic, still light to wear but more protective. Most officers today wear flat peaked caps for practical reasons but there are still occasions when more protection is needed and helmets are used. Policewomen have bowler hats with similar lining and covered in the regulation navy blue serge.
There was a huge range of items on display for us to see. One cabinet contained a large collection of fearsome weapons – knuckle dusters, flick knives and daggers which made us shudder! There were riot shields of different sizes which you could hardly lift, and it was incredible to think that, using these, the policeman had to be totally mobile and able to run whilst holding one up! The police issue stab vests were very heavy too, with the added panels of protective padding! We tried different styles of truncheons for size, some wooden, some plastic – and a new lightweight metal one which was telescopic and could be produced at the flick of an arm.
There were press cuttings and displays of past crimes and investigations, amongst many ancient pieces of equipment such as early typewriters and computers, and a fingerprint kit with ink and roller – no longer in use of course in this digital age!
At the end of our tour we were shown to a comfortable coffee lounge where we had some refreshments before thanking our hosts and leaving the building, past a collection box for donations towards the upkeep of the museum and its exhibits. I’m sure we each put in a contribution after a thoroughly worthwhile, informative and enjoyable visit.