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The Square Mile, its crime and policing history The Square Mile, its crime and policing history

Arthur James Giles was born on 30th January 1894 at Hawkshurst, Kent, to James Giles and his wife, Ellen.  Arthur joined the City of London Police on 3rd September 1914 and was allocated warrant number 7926.

In the early part of 1915, the then Commissioner of the City of London Police, Sir William Nott-Bower, encouraged the single male officers in his force to join the Colours in support of the Great War.  Arthur duly joined the Royal Navy on 12th May 1915 and served until 1918.  His service papers describe him as 6ft ¾” tall, with brown hair, grey eyes and a fresh complexion and a distinguishing mark of a mole on the left side of his chest.  Within a year of his service he is marked out as “POM” or “potential officer material”.

At the conclusion of his military service, Arthur rejoined the City of London Police.

PC Arthur Giles, City of London Police Award: King’s Police Medal for Gallantry Announced, London Gazette, 1st January 1932

 

Circumstances of Award

“Amazing Scenes in the City of London

Heroic Policeman

Animals Pulled up after Hitting Nine Vehicles”

On 13th November 1931, PC Arthur Giles of the City of London Police took up his allocated point duty at a spot that some in the press would later refer to as one of the busiest crossings, not just in the City, but in the whole world – Cannon Street junction with Queen Victoria Street.  His job for the next few hours would be to ensure traffic continued to flow through the City’s streets and pedestrians made their way between it in safety.  Meanwhile, down at St Paul’s Churchyard, a driver parked his miller’s van and left it and the two horses drawing it unattended while he went off to conduct some business in nearby Paternoster Row.

At some point after the driver had left something caused the horses to take fright – and they didn’t just take fright, they took off – galloping at breakneck speed, with the van lurching wildly behind them, in the direction of Cannon Street.  Although we might think of traffic congestion as something particularly modern, the City of the 1930s was not far off being as busy as today – horse drawn vans, buses, trams, motor cars and of course thousands of pedestrians all jostled for their place[1].  So a couple of runaway horses careering down a busy City thoroughfare very quickly created havoc.  Their gallop along Cannon Street resulted in vehicles being damaged and some road users later going into shock.

At the corner of Cannon Street and Queen Victoria Street there stood a cab-rank; the horses now headed straight for it and for the point where PC Giles was stationed.  It is often said that police officers and others in the emergency services run towards things that others run from.  Having seen both horses and the van careering towards him, PC Giles did exactly that – he ran towards them.  Arthur’s courage might well have been supplemented by experience – before joining the City Police he had described his occupation as a “carter, working with horses”, but, given the circumstances, his bravery cannot be questioned.  Arthur grabbed the bridle of the off-side horse and was immediately swept off his feet by the power and speed of the runaways.  Flying hooves and the van’s wheels managed to cause serious damage to the first cab, but Arthur then successfully forced the horses towards the nearside of the rank.  Still they swept him along with them, sandwiching him between their pounding hooves and the cabs.  The second and third cabs escaped harm, but the wings of the fourth were badly damaged and the side of the fifth cab was ripped off.  It was later reported that Arthur had suffered from a sprained shoulder, but it begs the question of how much of that damage was caused by the impact with Arthur’s body rather than with the horses or van?

Whatever his injuries, Arthur kept his grip on the bridle and eventually slowed the animals, stopping them by Queen Street.  There, in something of an anticlimax, the goods on the van were transferred to another vehicle and the horses, by now much calmer, were harnessed to it.  In total the van had collided with four buses, three taxicabs and two private cars and, as today following an accident in the City, it was some while before the resulting congestion eased.

In a further anticlimax, the driver of the van, subsequently interviewed, commented: “This is a mystery to me.  I left the chain on the van, and the horses are usually as quiet as can be”.

In February 1933 PC Giles attended an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace where he received a King’s Police Medal for his action from George V.

PC Arthur Giles retired from the City of London Police on 27th March 1941.  He died aged 83 years old in 1977.

Bibliography

Assorted genealogical records

Farmery, J P (1995).  Police Gallantry, 1st edition. North Manley: Periter and Associates Pty Ltd

“Runaway Horses’ Dash”, The Scotsman, 14 November 1931

Nottingham Evening Post, 13 November 1931

[1] This short clip from British Pathe shows us the assortment of vehicles and people using London’s roads during the early 1930s.  Look out for the City Police pointsman in his white cape on duty at Bank Junction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Ub5_BiUH0U

 

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