This film is part of Free

Man in the Street

A wonderful, and often comic, peep into police training as the war gets underway; after having their chests measured, they learn how to control traffic and deal with dead bodies.

Training film/TV programme 1940 30 mins Silent

From the collection of:

Logo for Yorkshire Film Archive


“Britain need not despair while she produces such splendid specimens of manhood”, so declares this fascinating film of police recruitment and training in West Yorkshire at the beginning of the WWII. The new tasks of the police, with Britain now at war, are evident as, alongside crime solving, there is now training in anti-gas and respirator drill; while practising giving traffic signals, and collecting pay, are glorious to behold.

With the outbreak of war, young police officers volunteered for military service and reservists returned to their units. Police numbers therefore fell, from 60,000 to 43,000 by 1943. Yet although recruitment was important, there was an age limit of between 20 and 25, height had to be at least 5’ 10”, and chest measurement at least 36”. As well as their usual duties, the police now had extra ones of enforcing the blackout, assisting the rescue services with bombing raids, checking on enemy aliens in the country and pursuing army deserters. Although some women are seen in the film, despite the shortages the number of women officers hardly rose – from 300 women police to just 385 by 1944 (with thanks to the OU).