In a sombre ceremony of remembrance, wreaths were laid at a memorial to the fallen officers situated at Forest Gate police station on Romford Road in the north of the borough, in the east of London. Attended by local dignitaries and serving police personnel, the memorial, known as the Operation Valour stone, commemorates the 23 police officers who gave their lives for their country in WWI. The officers were members of the old ‘K Division’ which was made up of policemen from what is now Newham and the neighbouring boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Redbridge, and Barking and Dagenham. The Forest Gate memorial established by Operation Valour was laid a year ago.
The K Division of the Metropolitan Police, the police force that covers most of London, was established in the wake of the Metropolitan Police Act 1829 which was the beginnings of a city-wide policing service. Over the next seventeen years, new divisions were created, of which the K Division covered the old county borough of West Ham. The other divisions were also assigned alphabetical letters, with A (Westminster), B (Chelsea), C (Mayfair and Soho), D (Marylebone), E (Holborn), F (Kensington), G (Kings Cross), H (Stepney), L (Lambeth), M (Southwark), N (Islington), P (Peckham), R (Greenwich), S (Hampstead), T (Hammersmith) and V (Wandsworth). These were then followed by extra divisions added in 1865, W covering Clapham, X for Willesden, Y for Holloway and J for Bethnal Green.
As with many other occupations and millions of other men during the First World War, policemen were conscripted to fight against the enemy and many never returned from the battlefields of Belgium and France.
At the ceremony, wreaths were laid by the borough of Newham’s police commissioner Cmdr. Tony Nash, the deputy mayor Cllr. Lester Hudson, council member for Forest Gate Cllr. Unmesh Desai, who is also the Cabinet member for crime and anti-social behaviour and representing the police themselves, PC Imran Uddin, the youngest serving officer in Newham.
Out of the 281 police from the K Division who enlisted to fight, 22 died in combat. The 23rd officer was killed by an explosion at a munitions factory in Newham’s southern district of Silvertown in 1917.
At the ceremony, Cllr. Hudson said: “This memorial stone allows residents (of Newham) to pay their respects as well as giving officers a strong everyday connection to their fallen colleagues”, the Newham Mag quoted.
The Operation Valour memorial, which is carved from simple white marble, bears two inscriptions, one of which reads: “The Glorious Dead – ‘K’ Division’ – The Great War – 1914-1918” and then lists the names and ranks of the fallen police officers in alphabetical order of surname. It was laid last year (2014) as part of celebrations to mark the 100th anniversary of the beginning of hostilities in 1914.