Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Article - First female on the beat (Worksop)

AS Worksop’s first police woman Eileen Hebb had to deal with a fair bit of prejudice - mainly from her colleagues.

Most of the problems began when she started courting a fellow police officer, something which was frowned on back in the 1950s.

Eileen, now 82, was one of only 15 police women in Notts when she arrived in Worksop in 1953.

She said: “When I started courting Frank, they didn’t like it. They were going to split us up by sending him to Arnold and me to Carlton but in the end he left the force and took another job.”

At five foot four, Eileen wasn’t the biggest police officer on the beat either.

But it didn’t deter her from tackling the same jobs as the men.

“I did everything the men did except nights, although they would call me out at night if there was an indecent assault or something where they needed a woman present,” said Eileen, of Long Lane, Carlton.

Originally from Mansfield, she went to police college there in 1952 at the age of 21, after convincing her dad it was what she wanted to do.

“My dad asked me if I was sure I knew what I was doing by joining the police and I said yes, so off I went.”

She spent three months there with 14 other women who were then assigned to stations around Notts.

Eileen - whose maiden name was Armstrong - went first to West Bridgford for six months, and from there to Carlton near Nottingham for a further six months, which was where she says she had the only really frightening experience of her police career.

“They had old air raid shelters in the streets and one night I saw a policeman heading to a shelter. I asked him what was going on and he said something was happening in the shelter and he told me to go home.”

“The next day I discovered he was in hospital after being hit over the head with a cricket bat. His face looked awful when I saw him.”

Eileen then moved to Worksop where she earned £5 a week, while her husband Frank earned £6. Her uniform was navy blue and consisted of a skirt, jacket, hat and a handbag, the strap of which was secured through an epaulette.

She was assigned the number 13, which never worried her because she wasn’t superstitious.

She particularly remembers one inspector who she says was resentful of her and made her walk all the way to Shireoaks and back.

Eileen remembers stopping a drunken cyclist who was weaving all over the road outside the police station on Potter Street, who got the shock of his life when he was hauled in by a woman.

She also recalls directing traffic and seeing a police officer watching her.

“I didn’t know what he was doing but he turned out to be the superintendent who was carrying out an inspection. When he saw me later he said ‘Armstrong, you did a good job out there’.”

After getting married and becoming a mother, Eileen left the force and ran a grocery store on Sandy Lane with Frank for ten years.

She then took up a job as a store detective for the former Co-op on Eastgate. “I had two fights in the street with shoplifters but I told them that I paid for my shopping so why shouldn’t they?” she said.

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