Women Police and Women's Auxiliary Police Corps (WAPC)

Although women had been involved in the policing of Britain during the First World War as Women Police Volunteers (WPV) and later as the Women Police Service (WPS) and the Women’s Auxiliary Service (WAS), their integration into mainstream policing in the inter-war period suffered a number of setbacks.

 In 1920 the Baird Committee (its Chairman, John Baird, was then Parliamentary Under - Secretary of State at the Home Office) reviewed the whole question of the employment of policewomen in peacetime, and concluded that the experience of the war had proved their value in undertaking police duties. And yet subsequent progress was hampered by a general indifference on the part of policy makers.  Despite recommendations that women police should be attested as constables, action in this area remained haphazard across the country throughout the 1920s and 1930s.

When the first 25 police women appeared on the streets of London in February 1919 they were required to patrol in pairs, followed at a distance by two male officers who were instructed to go to their aid if they got into trouble. Gradually police women managed to achieve recognition among their male counterparts for being better able to deal with cases involving women and girls.

The National Council of Women (whose initiative in the First World War had provided the women police patrols from whom some of the earliest police women were recruited) complained in early 1939 that the Government's recently published National Service Handbook had no plans for enrolling women as special constables. Subsequently a Women's Auxiliary Police Corps (WAPC) was established in August 1939, for women between the ages of 18 -55. 

When war was declared in 1939, married women were allowed to rejoin the Metropolitan Police. In the early part of the war police women’s duties were restricted but gradually expanded to encompass the whole range of law enforcement. Women Police dealt with refugees, evacuees, and enemy aliens. They took their turn on duty at air raids. Some officers were posted to duties at the Internment Camp for enemy aliens on the Isle of Man.

By the end of the war WAPC numbers had risen significantly to 3,700 and there were over 400 regular women police.

This page was added by Malin Lundin on 19/11/2011.

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