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History Girls − 100 years of women in West Midlands Police

29/01/2017

West Midlands Police has issued one its more unusual appeals for information − to find the identity of three female officers who joined Birmingham City Police almost 100 years ago!

2017 marks the centenary since the first women signed up to become police officers in the West Midlands #WMPWomen100.

Rebecca Lipscombe, who was aged 60 at the time, and 54-year-old Evelyn Miles (originally lock-up matrons) were the WPC pioneers when they were appointed as officers in April 1917. 

The number of women officers swelled to 11 by January 1919 − overseen by WPC Miles who was promoted to Sergeant − but no more were recruited to the uniformed Women Police Department until 1931.

An image unearthed from the West Midlands Police vaults − thought to have been taken in 1919 − is believed to be the first photograph team of the WPC unit. 

Police historians have used archive files and officer records to identify most of the women in the picture − but the identity of three WPCs remains a mystery.

Corinne Brazier − who has compiled a book with Inspector Steve Rice to mark the #WMPWomen100 centenary − said: “Police files on WPCs Malenda Shawe, Mary Dwelly, Elsie Chapman and Lizzie May Peers did not survive the test of time. 

“WPC Chapman spent much of her time as a court matron and the others didn’t stay with the force for long. We believe three of these four women are the ones that have yet to be identified from our archive photo… but we’ve not been able to match names with faces.

“We’d really love to complete the picture and identify these three women. I’d love to hear from anyone who believes they may be descendants of our pioneering WPCs or anyone who has old photographs or information on our early police women.

“A hundred years of women in policing is a major milestone in West Midlands Police history… these women paved the way for the many female officers we see in the force today."

There are currently 2,133 female officers working in West Midlands Police - which amounts for almost a third of the total - and includes Deputy Chief Constable Louisa Rolfe, Assistant Chief Constable Michele Larmour, plus neighbourhood police Commanders and unit heads.

To contact Corinne email c.brazier@west-midlands.pnn.police.uk