Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: July 18, 2019
Webpage updated: July 21, 2019

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When the Royal Dockyard was created the security of the site was under the control of the Head Porter, who lived in a lodge at the main entrance, and a number of Porters, Rounders, Warders and Watchmen.  He held the key of the King's Gate and issued the night's password.  Warders issued the keys for a group of particular buildings and then patrolled the outside of them during the day, before locking the doors and returning the keys to the Head Porter at the end of the working day.

From time to time the country was at War, particularly with the French, and during those periods a Military Guard was also provided at the Royal Dockyard.

On May 20th 1834 the Admiralty disbanded the Porters, Rounders, Warders and Watchmen and created the Dockyard Police Force instead.  This also covered the Royal Naval Hospital and the Royal William Victualling Yard at East Stonehouse.

However, things did not look good for the Dockyard Police Force at Devonport when during an inquiry by Superintendent Mallalieu of the Metropolitan Police, the Chief Constable of the Devonport Borough Police Force stated that according to his records during the past five years there had been 47 cases of stealing and unlawful possession of Government stores of which 28 were detected by his Force and only 19 by the Dockyard Police Force.  Unsurprisingly the Dockyard Police Force was disbanded.

By the authority of the Metropolitan Police Act 1860, which received the Royal Assent on August 28th 1860, the Metropolitan Police Force were empowered to take over duties at Naval Dockyards and other military establishments.  It should be mentioned that they were not employed by the Admiralty but by the Commissioner of the Police of the Metropolis.  Thus at midnight on Saturday October 20th 1860 the Dockyard Police signed off and one minute later, on Sunday October 21st 1860, the Metropolitan Police Force took over the guardianship of the Royal Dockyard and the Keyham Steam Yard.  It is thought that they took over at the Royal Naval Hospital and the Royal William Victualling Yard at East Stonehouse at the same time.  It should be pointed out that justice was swift in those days.  The Admiral-Superintendent was made a Magistrate so that accused workmen could be brought before him on a daily basis and punishment served there and then.

In 1912 the Superintendent of Police, along with the Police Offices and Cells, were situated just inside the Fore Street Gate of South Yard.  There was also a Police Office inside Mutton Cove Gate.  There were Police Office and Police Quarters inside Albert Road Gate, North Yard, along with a Police Office at Saint Levan's Gate and a Police Shelter at North Yard Extension Gate.  The Gun Wharf was still a part of the War Department at that time. 

The Royal Marine Police Force was created by an Order in Council dated Friday October 13th 1922.  It was comprised of former members of the Royal Marine Light Infantry and Royal Marine Artillery, which were officially amalgamated on June 22nd 1923.  They slowly -- very slowly -- took over duties at Royal Dockyards and other establishments from the Metropolitan Police Force.  This change-over at Devonport Royal Dockyard was finalised at midnight on Saturday August 11th/Sunday August 12th 1934.

A War Department Constabulary was formed in 1925.

A Royal Marine Police Special Reserve Force was established in 1939.

In October 1949 the Admiralty Constabulary was founded.

On Wednesday April 1st 1964 the Admiralty, the War Office, and the Air Ministry amalgamated into the Ministry of Defence, bringing the Royal Navy, the British Army and the Royal Air Force under central control.  On Friday October 1st 1971 the Admiralty Constabulary merged with the Army Department Constabulary and the Air Force Department Constabulary to become the Ministry of Defence Police Force.