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Edinburgh

Police Boxes

Recollections

After I added some photos of Edinburgh Police Boxes to the web site, a few people sent me their recollections of Police Boxes in Edinburgh.

See below.

 

Recollections

1.

Tony Ivanov
Bo'ness, West Lothian, Scotland

Canongate

2.

George T Smith
Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

-  Police Boxes in Use

3.

Neil  Lawrence
Colinton, Edinburgh

-  Police Box Dump

4.

George T Smith
Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Photos

-  Photos and Recollections

5.

George T Smith
Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Torphichen Street and Corstorphine

6.

David Legge
Colinton, Edinburgh

Henderson Street, Leith

7.

George T Smith
Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Further Research

-  Blue Lamps

8.

Peter Stubbs
Edinburgh

Sky Lantern

9.

George T Smith
Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Interiors

10.

Peter Stubbs
Edinburgh

Photos of Interiors

-  Community Policing

-  Boxes Open

11.

Trish

Ebenezer MacRae

12.

Alan Watson

Prototype Police Box

13.

Neil  Lawrence
Colinton, Edinburgh

-  Police Box Dump

14.

John C White
Thames, Coromandel Peninsula,
New Zealand

-  Police Box at Belhaven Terrace

15.

Ian Smith
Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland

Sirens on Police Boxes

16.

Gus Coutts
Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland

Sirens on Police Boxes

17.

Simon Capaldi
Sheriffhall, Midlothian, Scotland

Sirens on Police Boxes

18.

Allan Dodds
Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England

Sirens on Police Boxes

19.

John B
Powmill, Perth & Kinross, Scotland

Sirens

-  Police Boxes + Elsewhere

-  Testing

-  New System,1960s

-  Testing again

-  Upgrade, 1980s

-  Decommissioned:  1990s

-  Use by Fire Brigade

-  Celebrating New Year (No)

-  Timekeeping (No)

-  Accidental Sounding, 1986

20.

Allan Dodds
Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England

Sirens on Police Boxes

21.

John B
Powmill, Perth & Kinross, Scotland

Sirens

-  Police Boxes + Elsewhere

Sir Raid Sirens

-  Accidental Sounding, 1986

 

Recollections

1.

Tony Ivanov

Bo'ness, West Lothian, Scotland

Thank you to Tony Ivanov who wrote:

Canongate Police Box

   Police Box on the corner of Canongate and Cranston Street, beside the Edinburgh School of English ©

"The police box on the north side of the Canongate is remembered well by me.

As a child, I used to live at Chessel's Court which is just down a little and on the opposite side of the road I remember, on a least one occasion, being taken inside this box by the local policeman only to have my 'lugs skelped' for doing something I shouldn't have.  If I'd told my parents I would have had another 'skelp' for having done something wrong in the first place.

I'm not saying I approve of this but maybe it wouldn't do some youngsters any harm to receive this short sharp method of punishment when caught misbehaving."

Tony Ivanov, Bo'ness, West Lothian, Scotland:  October 7, 2010

Recollections

2.

George T Smith

Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Thank you to George Smith who wrote:

Police Boxes In Use

"The Police Boxes were an assurance of prompt help in days when domestic phones were much less common.

Although the boxes were a constant part of the street furniture in my youth, I was never bad enough to see the inside.

I always understood them to be a useful facility for the beat policemanI am surprised no former policemen have made comments so far.

My brother, a former sergeant  who now lives in Italy, says they were a useful stopping places on a cold night, but I think they had some more formal purpose.  I have asked him for any  comments or anecdotes he has, and have referred him to your site."

Questions

"When were they made obsolete?  What reason was given? Are there still beat bobbies?

We seldom see police on foot in the local streets here in Canada, though occasionally one sees a pair on bicycles wearing crash helmets sweat shirts  and cargo shorts. Canada has an informal dress code of course."

George T Smith, Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada:  October 8 + 10, 2010

Reply

Hi George:

-  I believe that the Police Boxes were phased out around 1970, when the police were issued with personal radios.

-  I frequently see Police 'on foot' around the centre of Edinburgh.  They are a less common site around the suburbs.

-  I remember reading, a year or two ago, that there were plans for the police to start using the box in the Grassmarket again.  There can sometimes be rowdy behaviour in the Grassmarket on Saturday evenings.

Foot of West Bow from the Grassmarket ©

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:  October 10, 2010

Recollections

3.

Neil Lawrence

Fountainbridge, Edinburgh

Thank you to Neil Lawrence who wrote:

Police Box Dump

"I have been following with interest the various pictures of the old Edinburgh Police Boxes on the EdinPhoto site.

I grew up at Shandon and one of our favourite alternative playgrounds was the 'Police Box Dump'.  We used to climb over into the North Merchiston Cemetery at the disused gents toilets that used to be situated at the main gate to the Caledonian Brewery

Once in the Cemetery we jumped over another wall at the far side which took us into the area now occupied by Gorgie Farm.

This was the 'Police Box Dump' – so named because there were about 20 old Police Boxes in various states of disrepair, stored in the centre of the area. It was great for games when you were aged 14 or 15 (in about 1976/77).

Corporation Ash Depot

This area had formerly been the Corporation ash depot, where ashes from everybody’s fires were loaded onto waiting railway wagons.  The roadways were ramped to allow carts to dump waste ash straight into open topped wagons.

My wife’s Grandad worked there 'till the 1940s, when he was killed there after being kicked in the head by one of his work horses in 1946. Here is a picture of Robert Porteous holding the horse. He was killed by the horseI assume the flags and horse brasses might have been a celebration of the end of he war in 1945, but I might be wrong).

Robert was survived by his 5 children and beloved wife Alison Melville Porteous who died in 1994, my wife shares he name.

This  photograph was taken in what is Gorgie Farm.  The cottages in the foreground are demolished now.  I remember playing in their ruins in the early 1970s. The tenements in the background are the current tenements in Newton Street, just off Gorgie Road."

Neil Lawrence, Fountainbridge, Edinburgh:  October 13, 2010

Gorgie Farm

Thank you to Neil Lawrence for telling me about the history of this site at Gorgie.  The site was once a Corporation Ash Depot and subsequently became, Gorgie Farm.

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:  October 16, 2010

Recollections

4.

George T Smith

Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Photos

Here are some recent photos of Police Boxes still standing in the streets of Edinburgh.   None of these is being used for its original purpose.

George Smith wrote:

Photos and Recollections

"In these days of police with mobile phones and Bluetooth-type radios it is difficult to imagine what the function of a police box was.

A few photos of the interior, and a glance at the exterior emergency phone system (a flap to the left of the door containing a red speaker) might be helpful.

It might also get some retired policeman to write a brief description of their use, together with a few anecdotes from either a policeman or felons/drunks."

George T Smith, Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada:
December 22, 2010

Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of the interiors of police boxes with their original furnishings and equipment.  Perhaps somebody else might be able to email me with a photo, or a few memories of the boxes.

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:  December 30, 2010

Recollections

5.

George T Smith

Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

George Smith wrote again and added:

Torphichen Street and Corstorphine

"My brother was  a policeman from 1958 until his retirement, at Torphichen Street and Corstorphine Police Stations.  I'll ask if he has any recollections about the interiors of 'Poliss Boaxes'  and of the uses to which they were put.  I think they were still in active use when he started.

I always believed they were a convenient place for beat bobbies to brew up tea, apart from possible use as a holding cell for drunks and other minor miscreants.

I recall a hand basin on the back wall and some sort of desk surface, no doubt for completion of log sheets, at our local box.  It was on the 'Tram Island' at the junction of Gorgie Road and Balgreen Avenue."

George T Smith, Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada:  December 31, 2010

Recollections

6.

David Legge

Colinton, Edinburgh

Thank you to David Legge who wrote:

Henderson Gardens

"I joined Edinburgh City Police in 1972 and was stationed in Leith. My first 'regular' beat was Box 2 at Henderson Gardens, opposite Deponio's? Chip Shop.  This box had a wartime early warning siren on top that was tested every year."

Parties

"Each 'polis' had a 'box key' which you kept on the end of his whistle chain, along with your 'Metropolitan' whistle.  The box comfortably seated two, but I have enjoyed parties in the box with five of us drinking 'bull', the drained wood alcohol from the empty barrels of whisky in the Docks."

Fire, Phone, Sink

"A one-bar electric fire kept us warm in winter, usually with a recovered cast out oil filled heater supplementing. There was a telephone which took you through to the Leith Police Station Operator or to another of the twelve police boxes that covered 'D' Division (Leith). Each shift had twelve officers, one on at each box, sometimes doubled up with new recruits.  This whole area is now covered by 2 or 4 officers in vehicles.

A sink provided water for drinking and by standing on the stool and bench, one could manage a pee in the sink. A bottle of strong disinfectant was always at hand."

Communications

"The 'civvie driver' delivered all our mail daily.  On each eight-hour shift, you got at least one visit from your Section Sgt. and maybe the Inspector.  We used the two-piece Pye blue radios, ala Z cars and we changed the batteries each shift when we went into the station for our 'piece'.

On the night-shift, which was 9.45pm until 6am, you carried  round a battery hand lamp and the beat keys and reference book which gave you access to properties to check the security and contact the owners if something was amiss."

Crimes

"On Tuesdays, the 'Stolen Car List' came out and, armed with this, you had to check your entire beat for dumped, stolen cars.

Each complaint received was recorded in the Box Complaint Book and dealt with and answered in 14 days.

You signed on in the Box Journal, did a 'half-hourly turn' then 'hourly turns' after that. All your beat was covered and you knew everything that was happening. If a property was discovered broken into after you had been on nightshift, you were phoned at your house and roused from your sleep to explain how you missed the crime!

Wonderful memories."

David Legge (Ex PC 96 - D), Colinton, Edinburgh:  July 5, 2011

Recollections

7.

George T Smith

Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Research

Thank you to George Smith telling me about a Canadian contributor to the Tardisbuilders web site.  The contributor's name is "Starcross".

Here are some of the facts "Starcross" has discovered.

-  there were 142 boxes installed in Edinburgh

-  the boxes appear to have been made at Caron Ironworks

-  in other locations (i.e. not Edinburgh) they were made of concrete

-  in all UK locations they were painted blue - except in Glasgow where they were painted red.

More Photos

Please click this Tardisbuilders link to see:

blueprints of an Edinburgh police box.

-  photos of some Edinburgh police boxes, interior and exterior.

-  a press photo of the formal inauguration of the Edinburgh Police Box system on May 25, 1933.

-  a press photo from 1962 showing the original police box in the Grassmarket, complete with siren on top.

-  recollections about the use and testing of sirens on boxes, up to the early-1990s.

-  a photo of the remote 'sky lantern' for the Hunter Square box mounted on the corner of North Bridge and the Royal Mile.  These lanterns were normally mounted on top of the boxes.

Acknowledgement:  George T Smith,Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada:
 July 11, 2011

 

Recollections

8.

Peter Stubbs

Edinburgh

Sky Lantern

In 'Recollections 7', George T Smith gives a link to a web site with various photos relating to police boxes, including one of the 'sky lantern' on the corner of North Bridge and High Street, for the police box nearby.

This sky lantern is still in place.  I took a couple of photos of it recently.  Please click on the thumbnail images below to see them:

Sky Lantern on the corner of North Bridge and High Street for the Police Box at Hunter Square ©            Sky Lantern on the corner of North Bridge and High Street for the Police Box at Hunter Square ©

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:  July 26, 2011

Recollections

9.

George T Smith

Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

George Smith wrote:

Interiors

"I have always been curious about the interior of police boxes and wonder if the sale procedure will give you an opportunity to photograph an interior.

I always imagined that there would have been some sort of tea- making device, an oversized ashtray, sink and/or toilet facility and no doubt some sort of hold-fast for hand cuffed criminals awaiting the Black Maria.

I imagine my curiosity is shared by many others."

George T Smith, Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada:  May , 2012

 

Recollections

10.

Peter Stubbs

Edinburgh

Photos of Interiors?

Thanks, George, for your message.  I'll try to photograph an interior to add to the web site.  It might not be during the sales process, as boxes are only being opened by special arrangement for potential purchasers.

However, this recent article in the Evening News - under the heading 'Thinking Inside the Box'  - suggests that there may be other opportunities.

Here is an extract from the article, which incidentally had the heading

'Thinking Inside the Box' !

Community Policing

"Three Police Boxes in East Edinburgh are set to be reopened for the first time in years in a bid to boost the force's links with the community.

The boxes in Duddingston Road West, Jock's Lodge and Craigentinny Road will be refurbished and used to host surgeries where residents can meet with officers to discuss problems with crime and other issues."

[Edinburgh Evening News, May 18, 2012, p.7]

Boxes Open

It is planned to open these boxes for just a few hours each week, at set times for each box.  I hope the refurbishment mentioned will not have taken away too many of the original fittings in these boxes.

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:  May 24, 2010

 

Recollections

11.

Trish

Thank you to Trish, a descendant of Ebenezer MacRae, for sending the message below to me.

Trish wrote:

Ebebezer MacRae

"Ebenezer MacRae was my grandfather.  I'd have loved to have been able to buy one of these Police Boxes.  As it was, I was able to get a lot of pleasure from reading so much about them on the EdinPhoto site."

Trish:  June 2, 2012

Ebenezer MacRae

Ebenezer James MacRae (1881-1951) was Edinburgh City Architect .from 1925 until 1946 *

He was responsible for many public buildings (housing, schools etc) as well as the unique and classical style of Police Box installed throughout Edinburgh in the 1930s.

* Source:  Biographical details on Scottish Architects web site

 

Recollections

12.

Alan Watson

Edinburgh

Thank you to Alan Watson who wrote:

Prototype Box

"I joined The Edinburgh City Architect's Department (as it was then called) in the early 1970's and was given to understand that the prototype police box, a wooden mock-up, was still being kept on their premises in the High Street."

Alan Watson, Edinburgh:  June 2, 2012

Where is the Prototype Box now?

It appears that the prototype box mentioned above may not have survived.  I have contacted staff at Edinburgh City Archives and at Edinburgh City Museums.  Both tell me that this box is not in their collection, and that they cannot recall having seen it elsewhere

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:  June 7, 2012

Recollections

13.

Neil Lawrence

Fountainbridge, Edinburgh

Thank you to Neil Lawrence who wrote with more information about Edinburgh Police Boxes, following the sale of some of the boxes earlier this year.

Neil wrote:

Applications to move Police Boxes

"Following the recent sale of various Police Boxes around the city earlier this year, there have been applications to have some of the boxes relocated to the George Square / Buccleuch Place area.

It's interesting to see that these have been refused.  The Thomson's, who are applying for permission to move these boxes, successfully had one moved to George Square in the early 2000s.

I was surprised that the planning applications didn't mention the original location that the boxes would have been moved from.

Neil Lawrence, Fountainbridge, Edinburgh:  November 2, 2012

 

Recollections

14.

John C White

Thames, Coromandel Peninsula. New Zealand

Thank you to John C White who wrote from New Zealand about the Police Box at Belhaven Terrace that he used to work in:

Belhaven Terrace, Morningside - Police Box ©

John wrote:

1958-69

'C' Division

"I joined Edinburgh City Police in January 1958 and left in mid- 1969 to emigrate to New Zealand with my wife and children.

I was in ‘C’ Division, West End.  During that period I worked all beats and Mobile Patrols of the Division.  Mostly, from early- 1960s, I worked on the 4th Section Mobile Patrol covering everything south of Stenhouse and Calder Roads to Juniper Green, Colinton, Oxgangs, Fairmilehead and Morningside.

'18' Beat

"In between driving duties for the Patrol, I worked '18' Beat, Morningside, from Box 34. (Bellhaven Terrace).  It was during this time that the Sub Station at Oxgangs Road, was opened and I was one of the first to work from it.

The Police Box

"People often asked what went on in a police box. Well, it was:

a parading point

a reporting point and

a communications point (prior to personal radios)

a place to eat ones’ piece and have a cuppa.

In those days the boxes were painted battleship grey. It was joked that the paint was war surplus from the Royal Navy."

Inside the Box

"The Box was outfitted with:

a desk and drawer, for various report forms, and VA Books (vehicular Accident)

a shelf, above the desk, for the Eastlight file,  holding The Chief Constable's Memos, Variation sheets, Crime reports etc.

 electric kettle, tea pot, tin mug and a tea towel that was changed weekly when the box cleaner did his rounds.

a sink and cold water tap.

-  a one-bar electric fire, bolted high on the back wall.  It was of very little effect in winter.

-  a telephone just inside the door that burred when it rang.  A light on the top of the cabinet also flashed when the telephone rang.  That could be seen outside, especially at night.

 Probably the most important item in the box was the journal in which one had to record ones foot patrols and any incidents that were being dealt with on route.

This was for safety and enabled you to be found by the Sergeant or Inspector as well as safety.  Prisoners were seldom detained in the box as it was safer outside. 

Community Policing

"When community policing came along in 1967 the boxes were seldom used.  I worked from home as a lived in Morningside, calling into Oxgangs Station to recharge my radio batteries and get all the up to date information required."

The Police

"I had many friends in the force and it was a sad day for me when I left.  However my wife and I felt that we could make a better life for ourselves and children here in New Zealand, so 45 years ago we arrived here.

I never joined the police here. I retired 18 years ago.

I must admit being a policeman was , in my opinion, the best job I ever had and hardly a day goes by that I don’t think about the old days."

John C White, Thames (an old gold mining town 60 miles south of Auckland)
Coromandel Peninsula. New Zealand:  August 7, 2014

 

Recollections

15.

Ian Smith

Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland

Thank you to Ian Smith who wrote:

Sirens

on

Police Boxes

"Sirens on top of the Edinburgh Police Boxes continued to be blown at odd times to prove that they were in working order, in case they were needed during the Cold War.

The sirens were also used as 'time keepers' for factories and the docks.  They were blown to sound out lunch time at noon, then again at 1pm, double checked by the 'One o' Clock Gun'.

They were also blown at Hogmanay to celebrate the New Year."

Ian Smith, Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland:  October 15, 2014

 

Recollections

16.

Gus Coutts

Duddingston, Edinburgh

Thank you to Gus Coutts who wrote:

Sirens

on

Police Boxes

"My recollection of the Air Raid Sirens on Police Boxes is that they were removed after the end of WW2 but re-installed once the Cold War really got going, around the time of The Korean War.

I'm pretty sure that the sirens were not used by factories and the docks for time keeping or at New Year.  That would have defeated the whole purpose of Air Raid Sirens.

The factories and docks had their own sirens which had a much less scary tone."

Gus Coutts, Duddingston, Edinburgh:  October 17, 2014

 

Recollections

17.

Simon Capaldi

Sheriffhall, Midlothian, Scotland

Thank you to Simon Capaldi who wrote:

Police Sirens

"I seem to remember that all Edinburgh sirens went off simultaneously in the mid 1980s.  It was a mistake but at the time they were meant to warn of nuclear attack.

It was mid afternoon as I heard the Magdala Crescent siren scream."

Simon Capaldi, Sheriffhall, Midlothian, Scotland, October 18, 2014

 

Recollections

18.

Allan Dodds

Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England

Thank you to Simon Capaldi who wrote:

Police Sirens

"I think that Ian Smith may have been right when he said that air raid sirens were used by factories for time-keeping and marking lunch breaks after the War.

 lived just along the road from Morrison & Gibb the printers in Tanfield and I remember the siren going off every day at 12.00 noon to mark the lunch break. It went off again at 12.30 to mark the end of the break.

An MP asked a question in the House in 1946.

The question suggests to me that air raid sirens were used by factories and that people didn't like them one little bit."

House of Commons Question

1946

"John Rankin Glasgow (Tradeston) asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware that the siren is still being used in works and factories for assembly and dismissal purposes; and if, in view of its disturbing effect on public morale, he will take immediate steps to prohibit its further use."

Allan Dodds, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England:  October 18, 2014

 

Recollections

19.

John B

Powmill, Perth & Kinross, Scotland

Thank you to John B who wrote about the sirens on Police Boxes.  I've included most of John's comments below.

John B wrote:

Edinburgh

Air Raid Sirens

On Police Boxes and Elsewhere

"Air raid sirens in Edinburgh were mostly sited on police boxes probably because, unlike the police boxes in other areas, the Edinburgh police boxes were large enough to accommodate the siren on the roof and control equipment inside, and the need to negotiate wayleaves with owners of privately-owned buildings would be avoided.

However, some sirens in Edinburgh were sited on buildings, including:

Police Headquarters in High Street

Gayfield Square Police Station;

Portobello Baths

-  Leith Docks (2 sirens)

a housing block in Pennywell

St David’s Primary School (after the police box at Crewe Toll was demolished when a lorry collided with it about 1960)

Wardie Primary School (after the police box in Boswall Green was removed).

I recall that the sirens were replaced about 1971-72, the new machines having smaller motor casings."

Testing the Sirens

"In the post-war era, air raid sirens were tested routinely by sounding the 'All Clear' signal.  I remember only two of these tests in the period about 1958 to 1960.  The tests were publicised in advance in the local press. 

Much later I read about these tests in an Edinburgh police instruction book, issued in 1959.  From what I recall of that document, the tests were meant to be carried out twice each year.  I assume the testing regime would be a national standard.  Maybe some of your contributors could confirm how often the tests were actually made."

New Signalling System

1960s

"In the early-1960s, the old remote signaling system which operated the sirens was replaced with the Carrier Line Broadcast System.  The Carrier Control Point at Police Headquarters in Edinburgh controlled warning points in Edinburgh, Midlothian and Peeblesshire, the exact boundary being determined by telephone exchange areas."

Testing the Sirens on the New System

"The Carrier system allowed signalling to be tested without activation of the sirens.  This 'silent test' was carried out twice annually.  On the day of the test, each siren point was visited by a police officer to verify that an illuminated push-button was lit on the carrier receiver equipment, after which the lamp was extinguished by pushing the button."

Equipment Upgraded Again

1980s

"The upgraded carrier equipment installed at siren points in the 1980s was self-testing, dispensing with the need for the silent test.  To verify that the sirens themselves were working, a 'flick test' was made monthly, at no particular time.  The siren point was visited and the local control box switch pushed just long enough to hear the siren motor turning. 

With sirens mounted on buildings, it was necessary to let the siren build up to full speed so that it could be heard from the position of the local control switch, and anyone in the vicinity would also hear those tests."

Sirens Decommissioned

1990s

"I assume that the flick test was still being carried out until the entire system was decommissioned in the early-1990s."

Sirens used by the Fire Department

"In rural areas some air raid sirens were also used to summon retained firefighters in the days before radio pagers, and for that purpose the siren was activated by a separate signalling system controlled by the Fire Service."

Sirens not used to celebrate New Year

"I do not think that the air raid sirens were ever used to celebrate New Year.  It was customary for works’ and ships’ sirens to be sounded at New Year.  The UK pattern of air raid siren has a distinctive tone (in fact two tones as the impellers at either end of the siren produce two different frequencies) which I don’t recall hearing at New Year, although I always heard other sirens at that time."

Sirens not used for Timekeeping

"Similarly, I cannot imagine that the air raid sirens were ever used for timekeeping.  The Parliamentary question quoted in Recollections 18 above does not specifically mention the use of air raid sirens.

Many industrial premises did have their own works siren for timekeeping. The one I remember well was at Granton Gas Works. Their siren produced a constant tone, and not the gradually rising note associated with motor powered sirens.

Of the two air raid sirens in Leith Docks, one was sited on the main building of Robb’s shipyard, which had its own separate siren for works timekeeping. 

It would not be possible to activate an individual air raid siren remotely, and the idea that police officers would be employed in visiting siren points routinely to activate sirens locally for timekeeping is inconceivable, quite apart from the obvious confusion that might have been caused."

Accidental Sounding of Sirens

1986

"I recall the incident in 1986 when the sirens in the Edinburgh Carrier Area sounded the red (attack) warning about 8:00am.  It was a weekday and I was still in bed at the time,  not in the afternoon as mentioned by another contributor.  The incident is mentioned in this brief report in the Glasgow Herald:

This event occurred not long after the upgrade to the Carrier system and installation of new signalling equipment. 

Activation of the sirens would require a key to be turned in a locking switch, then a switch to be pushed upwards.  The system would then generate a priming signal followed by the activation signal..

Without the precise design details of the electronics, it is difficult to assess the probability that a system fault could result in the production of the required signals.

Cause of Accidental Sounding not known

1986

I've e-mailed a former Post Office engineer who worked on the carrier system and has created this RingBell web site on the subject.  I've asked him if he believes that the Edinburgh incident might have been the result of a system fault, but he felt unable to comment, so long after the event.  (British Telecom investigated at the time but found no fault.)

John B, Powmill, Perth & Kinross, Scotland:  November 3, 2014

   

Recollections

20

Allan Dodds

Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England

Thank you to Allan Dodds who wrote, after reading Recollections 19 above:

Police Sirens

"Wow! More information about sirens than one really needs!"

Morrison & Gibbs

"By the way, the works siren at Morrison & Gibbs was identical to the air raid siren on the Police box at Canonmills.  That's why people didn't like it, leading to the parliamentary question.

When I go on holiday to Soriano nel Cimino in Italy, every day they still sound the all-clear on the air raid siren at 5.00pm to indicate that siesta time is over!"

Allan Dodds, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England:  October 18, 2014

 

Recollections

21.

John B

Powmill, Perth & Kinross, Scotland

Thank you to John B for writing again in connection with the 'false alarm' siren that sounded in Edinburgh in 1986, as mentioned in his Recollections 19 above.

John B wrote:

Air Raid Sirens

Accidental Sounding - Edinburgh - 1986

"I've just received an e-mail from Steve, keeper of the RingBell website that I mentioned in my Recollections 19 above.

Here is an extract from the email that he sent to me. It adds some information about the possible cause of the unexplained activation of the sirens in the Edinburgh area in 1986."

Faults with the Sirens

"I have only recently obtained copies of a monthly 'System News Letter' sent  to staff installing the 'New' WB1400 during the eighties.

Reading through these, it is apparent there was a fault that could cause the sirens to sound without any human intervention or a security key.

I am assuming the fault was triggered by induced voltages when other equipment within the police station was used.

Such occurrences may have been widespread and may account for some of the other incidents you mention not just the one in Edinburgh."

Extract from an email from Steve to John B:  July 20, 2015.

John B, Powmill, Perth & Kinross, Scotland:  July 20, 2015

 

Police Boxes

Background  +  Police Boxes for Sale

List + Photos of Police Boxes

 

Recollections  -  More Pages

Recollections  -   Contributors

  

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