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Lethal cold threatens Ukrainian war victims

Gathorne Hardy Cheyne – Chief Constable of Orkney Constabulary from 1944 to 1959


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Photograph taken in 1941 when he was Inspector and (DCC)

Wilson Colin Campbell was an Inspector in Falkirk in Central Scotland, and Gathorne Hardy Cheyne was a Constable in the Argyllshire Constabulary, stationed at Lochgilphead, when in 1938 they became “the first two police officers” for the Orkney Islands – at least according to the popular press of the time.

Now (along with Zetland, otherwise known as the Shetland Islands) despite being specifically excluded from the requirements of the Police (Scotland) Act of 1857 to establish a police force, the County of Orkney did so anyway in 1858. Orkney and Shetland are two substantial Island groups lying to the north of the Scottish Mainland.

Because however it was not an official (“Home Office”) police force, the “Orkney Constabulary” was not subject to Government Inspection nor could it receive the Government Police Grant. Despite a proposal the then new Superintendent of Police for Orkney in 1898, to seek such inclusion, the matter was not proceeded with and the Orkney force continued on in its own independent way. The threat of imminent war however focused the minds of Government in 1938, especially in view of the Islands’ strategic location, their importance as a naval base for the North Atlantic and North Sea and of course proximity to Scandinavia – and as history shows, the Germans soon invaded Norway and there was always the potential for attack and invasion from that direction.

So it was therefore that on 21st December 1937 that an Order in Counsel was granted in order to finally include Orkney under the 1857 Act with effect from 15th January 1938. The existing officers of the Orkney constabulary were however sworn in as members of the “private County council force” and it would be necessary to have the existing officers all qualify as Constables under the Police Acts.

The Scottish Office therefore had to arrange the appointment of a new (the Island’s first) Chief Constable, which would require to be someone from the Scottish Mainland already qualified as a police officer. The choice was Inspector Wilson Colin Campbell of Falkirk (Stirlingshire Constabulary), who travelled by plane with PC Cheyne to Kirkwall to take over command of the force on Saturday 15th January 1938.

The previous day had marked the final date of service of Superintendent John Muir Tulloch of the old Orkney Force, who had by then no less than 44 years service. Mr Tulloch had joined the Force aged 28 on 1 April 1894, and was promoted to Sergeant (the only supervisory rank other than the Superintendent who was Chief Officer) from 1 April 1899, five years to the day from his appointment as a Constable. Despite that promotion, Mr Tulloch was not awarded the Superintendent’s post when it came vacant in 1900, one of the Constables (PC Atkin) being made Superintendent instead, and when Supt Atkin was replaced in 1907 again Sgt Tulloch was passed over and a more junior Constable, Robert Wood, (probably taken on to fill PC Atkin’s vacancy in 1907) appointed. It was only when Supt Wood died in service in 1927 that Mr Tulloch finally got the top job! It would seem that Superintendent Tulloch did not fill the vacancy for a Sergeant (perhaps due to his own treatment while in the rank?), and it was only when Gathorne Cheyne arrived in 1938 that the rank was restored!

Given Orkney’s strategic importance to the war effort, one is left wondering why action to make the County have a “home Office” police force was not taken prior to – or during – or indeed immediately after the First World War. Of course the possibility of invasion was more likely by 1938 as Germany annexed its neighbours and was ‘just across the sea’ in Norway, and so Orkney was likely to be on the receiving end soon after hostilities began. And on the receiving end it certainly was! On the night of Friday 13 October 1939 a German submarine sneaked into Scapa Flow and sank HMS Royal Oak with the loss of 833 men. On the following Tuesday (17th) Luftwaffe bombers attacked Naval craft at Lyness, Hoy. During both Wars Orkney was virtually one big Military base, with considerable installations. The Admiralty Constabulary (the civil Police Force which protected Royal Navy bases) had a detachment at Lyness Naval Base on the island of Hoy during the period.

Chief Constable Campbell was accompanied on that famous plane trip by PC Cheyne from Lochgilphead, who he had appointed as Deputy Chief Constable. The National Press reported that until the existing Orkney officers had been suitably attested, Messrs Campbell and Cheyne would technically be the only police officers on Orkney.

As part of the transition Mr Cheyne became Police Sergeant, and was appointed Deputy Chief Constable.

While not necessarily the "only" police in Orkney on the 15th January 1938, they would likely have been the only officers to wear the Scottish Constabulary crest (cap badge) on that date – up until then the Orkney Police had worn their own badge!

Wilson Colin Campbell took up the Chief Constable’s position aged 43 (born 12.5.1894) and served in that position until 1944 when he moved to Stranraer to take up the Chief Constable’s post in Wigtownshire. He went from what had been the northernmost official force to almost the southernmost!

In the New Years Honours List, published in January 1941, Mr Campbell was awarded the OBE.

Colin Campbell, as he was known, had been born at Elgin in Morayshire and had joined the Stirlingshire force in 1912, being first stationed at Bannockburn, before joining the Army at the outbreak of the First World War. He served in the Seaforth Highlanders, rejoining the force in due course, and rose through the ranks to be Inspector at Falkirk when selected for the Orkney post.

When the Orkney force became a ‘Scottish Office’ force in 1938, the authorised establishment was adjusted – upwards, one assumes (but what it had been immediately before is not known) – and became:
1 Chief Constable; 1 Sergeant (Deputy Chief Constable) and 9 Constables (Total 11) – albeit it was reported that 2 First Police War Reserve Constables and 9 Police War Reserves had been appointed and called up for full-time duty on 1.9.39, so in effect the force had doubled in strength overnight due to the declaration of war.

Deputy Chief Constable Cheyne was promoted to Temporary Inspector on 15/5/1940, and another officer promoted to Sergeant in his stead. As ARP Instructor and Police Inspector, Mr Cheyne was awarded the BEM (British Empire Medal) in 1943. When Mr Campbell moved south to his new post, Inspector Cheyne became the second Chief Constable of Orkney on 19/6/44. He was then aged 40 (born 21/5/04), and had been appointed a Constable in the Argyllshire Constabulary on 17/12/28, so he had gone to Orkney with 10 years Police Service and then attained the rank of Chief Constable with 16 years Service.

Mr Cheyne, who was also awarded the OBE by Her Majesty in 1955, remained in office for almost 15 years, having attained over 30 years police service. He retired on 15.5.59, exactly 19 years from his promotion to Inspector and 6 days before reaching 55 years of age. He died the following year.

The next appointment of Chief Constable for Orkney, the third, would also be the last, as the force merged with Zetland and Caithness in 1969 to form the (first) Northern Constabulary, which in turn merged with the Constabularies of Inverness and Ross & Sutherland on 16/5/1975 to create the current (not for much longer) Northern Constabulary.

Mr Campbell would be last Chief constable of Wigtownshire, which was on 15th February 1948 merged with the Constabularies of Dumfriesshire and Kirkcudbrightshire to form the present Dumfries & Galloway Constabulary. He retired from the service on the amalgamation date, and like Mr Cheyne he sadly did not long enjoy his well-earned retirement. Mr Campbell died suddenly on 25th August 1948.

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