Durham Peeler Durham Brnch N.A.R.P.O. magazine

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Welcome to the 2175th celebration of the formation of Durham County Constabulary. In this issue you will find historical articles and nostalgia combined with up to date info. Access our blog: www.durhamconstabulary.org f or more topical up to date information


  • Durham PeelerDurham PeelerWINTER 2015

    Durham Branch N.A.R.P.O. Magazine

    175th Anniversary, Durham Constabulary.

  • Front Cover: Portrait of Major James Wemyss of the Scots Greys circa 1826(Appointed as First Chief Constable of Durham County Constabulary 1840-1848)

    Painting in oils on canvas. Artist unknownReprinted by kind permission of the copyright custodians, National Museums of Scotland

    Lieutenant James Wemyss, Royal Scots Greys. Captain J. Pooles Troop at the

    Battle of Waterloo 18th June. 1815. By Jonathan Findlay a former captain in the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. In celebration of the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, the largest re-enactment of this famous battle has been planned and organised over the last few years by the Waterloo 200 Group in conjunction with the Greys & Glory Campaign. Jonathan is the European project manager of this event which was shown world wide on television on Friday, 19th June, 2015 .

    He writes:-James Wemyss was born in Fife, Scotland, on the 14th July 1789, the very day on which the French Revolution saw the storming of the Bastille in Paris. (note. Wemyss is pronounced Weems)

    Wemyss was commissioned into the Royal Scots Greys as a Cornet in 1810 and achieved the rank of Lieutenant by the end of 1812. He went on half pay in 1814 when the Regiment was partially demobilised following Napoleons earlier defeat and exile on Elba.

    By June 1815, James Wemyss was a senior subaltern, earning the rank of Captain one year later and became Major in 1826, prior to leaving the army nine months later.

    At Waterloo, Wemyss led his troop in the final charge of the Greys on that fateful day of 18th June 1815. The day after the battle, he wrote a letter to Marianne Seton, his sister living in Edinburgh. The letter reads as follows:

    The Field of Battle June 19th 1815

    My Dear Sister,I am happy to inform you that we have had a famous battle and licked the enemy heartily I am one of six officers only that remained upon the field to the last and am happy to say unhurt although I have had two horses shot under me and balls about several parts of my dress. Our Regt. has suffered very severely. We have only about twenty six men including officers remaining on the field.Your affectionate Brother, James WemyssThe letter continues on the reverse (being the actual cover of the aide-memoire):

    An officer who is going to Brussels will enclose this.

    Four days later, he wrote another letter to Marianne, containing a more detailed account of the battle: I may however tell you that our Brigade charged the enemy with the utmost bravery . we took a great number of Guns. I myself aparted in disabling some of them as we broke through two lines of the French and took an immense number of prisoners. The old Greys had also the glory of capturing the French Eagle & the Royals who are brigaded with us took another and they were the only two taken upon that day. In the very heat of the charge when I was in the midst of hundreds of the enemys infantry my very first charger who was a very great friend and favourite was shot under me. I found myself then in rather an awkward scrape for many of the infantry quite near to me were chopping away as fast as they could. I would inevitably have gone to spoil but for one of our men who caught hold of a French horse which I immediately mounted and had at them again In the charge our Brigadier General Ponsonby our Col. Hamilton and some senior officers of our Regt. were killed and a great many more wounded. I had another horse wounded under me and during the charge a fellow stuck a bayonet into my cape without hurting me and a ball hit my sabretache.

  • The Waterloo medal was the first ever medal campaign issued by the British Army, given to every soldier regardless of their rank or role. It was awarded to all soldiers present at the Battle of Waterloo and the actions during the two previous days.

    Having sold Carriston, his home in Fife, Wemyss married and moved to the City of Durham where, from 1839 to his sudden death in 1848, he served as the citys first Chief Constable.

    Having successfully established the local police force and quelled the pitmens strike (in 1844), Wemyss became highly respected in the region and known as the Gallant Major.

    His death in 1848 could have been avoided had passers-by alerted the authorities sooner. The Gallant Major had been out for a stroll near Langley Bridge where he suffered from heat-stroke. Without receiving the proper attention and first-aid, he was left outside in the rain overnight. He was eventually identified and carried to his house in the morning, but died upon arrival. Ironically, this was the same year in which France revolted again, bringing an end to the Orleans monarchy and leading to the formation of the French Second Republic, presided over by none other than Louis Napoleon, nephew and heir of Napoleon Bonaparte.

    The account of Wemyss death in the Durham Chronicle read as follows:

    SUDDEN DEATH OF MAJOR JAMES WEMYSS LATE OF THE SCOTS GREYSThe inhabitants of this city were startled early on Sunday, the 1st instant, by a report that this respected gentleman had been found dead in a field near Langley, about two miles from this city. The report was so far true that Major James Wemyss had been found at an early hour in a state of insensibility, and only survived his being brought home a few minutes. Major Wemyss was appointed to the command of the Durham rural police at its first establishment in this country, nine years ago, and during the whole of that period has given the utmost satisfaction to all classes by his mild and steady administration of the important powers confided to him. Under his management the force has become highly disciplined, and ranks with the first rural police forces in the kingdom, for the repression and detection of crime and their general good demeanour. Under the trying circumstances of the pitmens strike, their activity, courage, zeal, and forbearance were all equally exhibited, and on that occasion the gallant Major was indefatigable, and rendered important services. To those exertions are in a great measure to be attributed the fact, that no serious disturbance of the peace took place among that excited and inflammable population. Major Wemyss was noted for the same cool courage and collectedness in the army as he has exhibited in this minor department. As senior Captain, it fell to his lot to lead the final charge of the Scots Greys at Waterloo, the result of which was the final overthrow of the power of Napoleon. During the conflict Captain Wemyss had no fewer than three horses shot under him. Though severely wounded in the arm, he bravely led his followers into the midst of the conflict, and so greatly signalised himself that he was promoted to the rank of Major, and rewarded with a pension. In private life Major Wemyss was noted for his kindness of heart and urbanity, and his loss will be greatly felt. He has left a widow and family. Durham Chronicle.

    James Wemyss is to feature in an exhibition in the summer of 2015 at the National War Museum of Scotland to mark the Battle of Waterloo June, 1815.


    Major James Wemyss portrait (circa 1826) was featured in an exhibition in summer, 2015 at the National War Museum of Scotland to mark the Battle of Waterloo ,June 18th 1815.

    I am indebted to our N.A.R.P.O. member, Ivor McMain, an enthusiastic student of Napoleonic Wars history for drawing my attention to the Waterloo 200 website where the personal letters were first published by Jonathan Findlay. Major Findlay kindly agreed to the publication of this important advance on the knowledge of our first Chief Constable, Major James Wemyss in the Durham Peeler magazine.

    Alan S. Watson Editor

  • 175 Years of Policing in Durham County and Still Going StrongA Review by Chief Constable Mike Barton

    As most readers already know, in May this year we celebrated 175 years of Durham Constabulary. The anniversary was marked with a number of events, including of course the opening of our brand new headquarters, a Celebration Service held at Durham Cathedral and Behind The Badge Force Open Day.

    But while its great to honour our past and recognise all those wonderful people who down the years have given such great service to Durham Constabulary, we cant stand still.

    While many recorded crime figures are falling, we have to remember that only 20-25% of police work is directly related to crime. We spend a large amount of our time protecting vulnerable people, dealing with complex issues such as historical sex abuse cases and playing our part in combating extremism.

    The demands on the police are rising and our resources are not keeping pace. And even though we have just had a recruitment campaign to bring in an extra 50 officers, they will basically make up for those who have left over the last twelve months through retirement, ill-health or other reasons.

    So we have to adapt by being smarter, using technology in a creative way and trying to keep one step ahead of the game. For example, we have been doing some excellent work in recent months using GPS tags to track the movements of convicted offenders. The detective sergeant working on this project researched the available equipment and supporting IT systems and found a far more cost-effective version to the one we were originally offered.

    Using the GPS tags saves officers having to make physical checks on the offenders and reduces the chances of them committing crime again, as they know we can pinpoint where they are at any given time. So far this year we estimate over 1,800 hours of officer time have been saved through the use of the tags.

    And we ar