In days when the Admiralty ran its own police force

A member of the Admiralty Constabulary  directs traffic at the  Main Gate (now Victory Gate) Portsmouth Dockyard. (John Taylor collection)

A member of the Admiralty Constabulary directs traffic at the Main Gate (now Victory Gate) Portsmouth Dockyard. (John Taylor collection)

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Do you remember those innocent days, before the world became so security-conscious, when the Admiralty Constabulary controlled the gates at Portsmouth Dockyard?

We always knew them as the dockyard police and in winter they were attired in enormous greatcoats with regulation gauntlets adorned with long white sleeves. They always looked smart and officious.

They guarded the Main Gate off The Hard and Unicorn Gate at the top of Unicorn Road and were no doubt on duty at the more minor gates.

At one time royal dockyards were policed by members of the Metropolitan Police, but in 1922 the Admiralty was allowed to form its own police force.

At the end of the Second World War there were three different forces so in 1949 they were all disbanded and the Admiralty Constabulary came into being.

These men, who were trained for police work inside Admiralty establishments had, by an Act of Parliament, the same responsibilities and powers as other police officers, albeit their duties were adapted for their places of work.

Among those duties was the safety of property and the detection of offenders and they were assisted by their own Criminal Investigation Department. They also had specially-trained dogs for the detection of wrongdoers.

Within Portsmouth Dockyard was a well-equipped training centre which recruits attended from all over the country. They lived-in during their training and when they completed it they took up full police duties at their own station.

The Admiralty Constabulary was controlled by a chief constable and staff based in London with superintendents in charge of dockyards with lower ranks in charge of stations according to their size.

The force also maintained a well-trained fire brigade which was always on the alert and ready for any outbreak of fire now matter how small.

With the running down of the dockyard the AP became a different service with different responsibilities and with the terrorist threat becoming more of a reality, in 1987 the Ministry of Defence Police Act came into being. The MDP later joined the MoD Guard service to form the Ministry of Defence Police and Guarding Agency (MDPGA) which is also armed when needs be.

The guarding of naval property is now a different world compared to when a police officer simply waved you through the main gate to visit HMS Victory.

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