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Guide reference: Domestic Records Information 52
Last updated: 19 November 2009

1. Why use this guide?

If you haven't already read the introductory guide to Police you should do this first as the information in the introductory guide is not repeated here.

This guide explains how to find police entry books, registers, pension and other useful records relating to staff of the London Metropolitan Police and the Transport Police.

2. Using our catalogue

Our catalogue contains descriptions of our records. You can search it using keywords and dates, and you can restrict your search to certain government departments or record series.

Use our help page to find out how to search our catalogue effectively.

3. Essential information

3.1 Metropolitan Police

The National Archives has a substantial collection of Metropolitan Police staff records, but not all have survived.

When using these records you might come across the following abbreviations in records such as registers of leavers: 

  • RP - resignation permitted
  • RR - required to resign
  • CO - Commissioner's Office

3.2 Railway and Transport Police

The National Archives has administrative records relating to the Railway and Transport Police, but not records relating to its investigation of crime.

Prior to nationalisation, the four railway companies with their own police forces were

  • Great Western Railway Company (GWR)
  • London Midland and Scottish Railway Company (LMS)
  • London and North Eastern Railway Company (LNER)
  • Southern Railway Company (SR)

You can search our catalogue using these company names to find relevant records.
 
The British Transport Police hold records on its officers and staff. You can request information from the British Transport Police historical group.

4. How to search for records

4.1 Metropolitan Police

Records of the Metropolitan Police have the departmental reference MEPO. Other records relating to the police were created by the Home Office and have the department code HO.

Use the advanced search option in our catalogue using relevant keywords such as the name of an officer or a police station, or broader search terms such as 'discipline' or 'promotion'. Limit your search to department codes MEPO and HO.

4.2 Railway and Transport Police

Generally, records from before 1921 have the departmental reference RAIL and those from after 1921 have the reference AN.

Use the advanced search option in our catalogue and use keywords such as 'railway police' or 'transport police'. Limit your search by specifying department references RAIL and/ or AN.

5. Background

5.1 London Metropolitan Police

It might help when searching for records to know that:

  • the Metropolitan Police Act 1829 defined the Metropolitan Police District as an area about 7 miles radius from Charing Cross, London
  • the second Act in 1839 extended this to about a 15 mile radius from Charing Cross and included all of Middlesex
  • in 1869 this area was divided into four districts, each of which had a number of divisions (see below)
  • from 1860 to 1934 the Metropolitan Police also had responsibility for the police of the Royal Dockyards and military stations Portsmouth, Chatham, Devonport, Pembroke and Woolwich
  • from 1914 to 1926 they also had responsibility for Rosyth in Scotland

If you know the division an officer worked in, you can extend your research to include looking at divisional records. Where records mention an officer's division they often use the following letter codes:

  • No. 1 District: G - Finsbury; H - Whitechapel; K - Stepney; N - Islington; and Thames Division
  • No. 2 District: D - Marylebone; E - Holborn; S - Hampstead; X - Paddington; Y - Highgate
  • No. 3 District: A - Whitehall; B - Westminster; C - St. James's; T - Kensington; V - Wandsworth
  • No. 4 District: L - Lambeth; M - Southwark; P - Camberwell; R - Greenwich; W - Clapham
  • F Division - Covent Garden
  • J Division - Bethnal Green - added in 1886
  • Z Division - Croydon - was formed in 1921. Croydon had previously been included in W Division
  • Q Division - Wembley - was formed in 1965. Wembley was previously X Division
  • Division letter codes I, O and U were never used

Maps of the districts and their changing boundaries can be found in record series MEPO 15.

5.2 Railway and Transport Police

It might help when searching for records to know that:

  • following the Railways Act 1921 the four largest railway groups had their own police force controlled by a Chief of Police
  • during the Second World War the railways were run by the Railway Executive Committee, under which was the Police Committee made up of the four Chiefs of Police
  • after the war the railways were nationalised and a national railway police force was established
  • in 1949 the British Transport Commission Police was created - incorporating the old four railway police forces as well as several minor canal and dock forces
  • In 1958 the London Transport Police were absorbed into the British Transport Police

6. Useful record series

6.1 London Metropolitan Police

There are only 46 record series within MEPO. It is worth browsing their descriptions in our catalogue to see what looks useful. You can also use the advanced search option in our catalogue to search

  • by name within MEPO 21 for pension records
  • by name within MEPO 4 for registers of leavers. The content of these files can be downloaded
  • by the term 'King's Police medal' with HO 45 for files relating to the award of the King's Police Medal

Some key record series:

  • MEPO 2/143 - nominal roll of special constables from 1875
  • MEPO 4 - registers, ledgers, certificates of service, deaths in service. Some of these records are available to view online via our catalogue.
  • MEPO 7 - Police orders containing notification of personnel matters including those relating to the Special Constabulary. See also the Police orders website.
  • MEPO 22/2 register of officers under consideration for the King's Police Medal

6.2 Railway and Transport police

Some key record series:

  • RAIL 1172 - pay and conditions
  • AN 174 - pay, conditions and training
  • AN 2 and AN 3 - administration during the Second World War

7. Records in other archives

8. Other police forces

8.1 Local police forces

County and borough police force records might be held by local record offices or in the archives of a specific police force. Use the ARCHON directory to find contact details of local archives, or use the Access to Archives database to search the catalogues of various UK archives.

8.2 City of London police

Contact the London Metropolitan Archives for records of the City of London Police.

8.3 Overseas railway police

The Control Office for Germany and Austria and the Control Commission for Germany (British Element) were responsible for transport in the occupied territories after the war. They were part of the Foreign Office and their records have the department code FO.

You can search our catalogue within the department code FO with keyword phrases such as:

  • "control commission AND railway"
  • "control office AND railway"

Other records on railway policing overseas were created by the Colonial Office, Dominions Office and Foreign Office. Their records have the departmental codes CO, DO and FO respectively.

You can search our catalogue within CO, DO or FO using keywords such as "railway police". 

9. Other sources

The Police orders website has used records held at The National Archives to compile a database of information about officers from 1829 to 1945. You can request a search.

The Metropolitan Police website has a history and archives section.

The Friends of the Metropolitan Police Historical Collection offer advice on tracing police ancestors.

The London Gazette published notifications of awards of the King's Police Medal - search The Gazette website.

10. Further reading

Use our library catalogue to find a recommended book list.

The books are all available in The National Archives' reference library. You may also be able to find them in a local library. You can buy from a wide range of history titles in our bookshop.

Guide reference: Domestic Records Information 52

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