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Scotland Yard's Flying Squad (Paperback)

100 Years of Crime Fighting

P&S History > British History P&S History > By Century > 20th Century P&S History > True Crime World History > UK & Ireland > England > London

By Dick Kirby
Imprint: Pen & Sword True Crime
Pages: 288
Illustrations: 60 integrated black and white
ISBN: 9781526752178
Published: 17th June 2020


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Since 1919 Scotland Yard’s Flying Squad has been in the forefront of the war against crime. From patrolling London’s streets in horse-drawn wagons, it has progressed to the use of the most sophisticated surveillance and crime-fighting equipment.

Between the Wars, the Squad targeted protection gangs who infested British racecourses and greyhound tracks. The highly effective Ghost Squad was formed to tackle black-marketeering in the aftermath of the Second World War.

As crime figures soared in the 1950s and ‘60s the Flying Squad, as C8 Department was now known became involved in the most serious cases nationwide – The Great Train Robbery, Brink’s Mat, The Millennium Dome and Hatton Garden heists. As always, the Squad concentrated on ambushing and arresting armed robbers in the act as, in police parlance, they ‘went across the pavement’.

Despite many high-profile successes, allegations of corruption have haunted the Flying Squad and after the conviction of officers in 2001 there was a very real possibility of disbandment.

Yet this most famous of police units survived and today continues to fight and be feared by the hardest of criminals.

Drawing on first-hand accounts, Dick Kirby has put together a thrilling book that proves that fact is way better than fiction.

It is a fascinating story about the history of a department that needed to be “more fluid … more streamlined and flexible”. Thoroughly entertaining.

The Law Society Gazette

Kirby tells the stories of their successes, making this book one of his usual page-turners.

The Ripperologist Magazine

Dick Kirby has written a book that true crime aficionados will want to read.

The Washington Times

The author does a good job of collating and summarising the events detailed. All in all, this was an informative read.

Read the full review here

Adventures in Crime Fiction Land

I was curious to know more about the Flying Squad after seeing it mentioned in a book I read previously, and so, I was very pleased to receive Scotland Yard’s Flying Squad by Dick Kirby* for review. I imagined it would be a book on the history of the squad, from its beginning in 1919. It is, but with a twist, as it is a history told through stories of real crimes and how the squad handled it. So, this book is actually amazing! I loved it!

Scotland Yard's Flying Squad by Dick Kirby

I think the best way to show how fascinating this book is by copying a small quote from the book. It’s from the beginning, so it will not spoil the enjoyment of the book if you decide you want to get it and read it for yourself.

This is on page 3:
“…was called “The Mobile Patrol Experiment”, Wensley provided his men with two covered horse-drawn wagons leased from the Great Western Railway. Spyholes were cut into the canvas hoods, interchangeable boards giving the names and addresses of businesses suitable for the areas that they were going to patrol were slotted into the sides of the wagons, and as the horses clip-clopped into Whitehall they were apparently no different from any of the other thousands of wagons in the streets of London…”

It was so interesting to see how criminal behaviour and what they were doing changed over time. I enjoyed seeing the pictures of policemen involved in the squad. As for the stories… they all read like the plot of the next great Netflix/Amazon series.

5/5 stars

Read the full review here

Coffee and Books

As featured on London Branch of the National Association of Retired Police Officers

London Branch of the National Association of Retired Police Officers

I wanted to read this book as I find true crime stories fascinating. I also enjoy learning about different areas of police service and hadn’t know much about the Flying Squad before reading this book and felt it would be an interesting read. I was correct as this book was fascinating.

It explains the cases the flying squad have cracked and the changes in the squad throughout the years, covering 100 years of their service. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in true crime and written from the perspective of the police who are tracking and catching the criminals. It would also interest anyone who wants to learn more about the changes in police work over the years.

Read the full review here

For the Love of Books

If you're interested in real life crime, rather than crime fiction, this book will be right up your street.

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Lost Cousins

Dick Kirby's book on London's Flying Squad evokes memories of The Sweeney, and in more recent times, Lynda La Plante's young Jane Tennison series, in which Jane has just become a member of the Flying Squad. What a job they had to, and still do! Fascinating.

Books Monthly

A comprehensive history of the met police flying squad and a book worthy of anyone's shelf who wants a thorough reference book about the sweeny.
It is an easy yet informative book from an author that prides himself on producing 5 star books.
If you only get one book on the subject then this should be it.

Read the full review here

Amazon Customer, Richard Domoney-Saunders

This impeccably researched offering charts the rise of the Flying Squad through various stories relating to the people and their escapades that made them the most famous crime-fighting unit in the world

Britain’s Gangland Magazine

The Squad has always dealt with the hardest and most violent of criminals and Dick Kirby’s book gives a precious insight into its exploits for over a century; his credible insight allows the reader to get to the heart of these complex investigations

Paul Millen, author of Crime Scene Investigator.

Dick Kirby is a master of recording anecdotal evidence, quick wittedness, use of informants and ‘tricks of the trade’ … highlighting the spirit of perseverance persisting within the Squad, over the years.

London Police Pensioner Magazine

A no-holds-barred illustrated history of the celebrated police unit, written by an ex-Scotland Yard author with unrivaled contacts.

Bookseller 12/7/19

Dick Kirby’s Scotland Yard’s Flying Squad was published to mark 100 years of the life of what is undoubtedly the most renowned sharp-end crime fighting unit, and in just over 200 pages the author describes many of their cases, ranging from their very first operation against a smash-and-grab gang attacking a Pimlico jeweller’s shop to more recent cases such as the Millennium Dome and Hatton Garden robberies. The early newspapers’ descriptions of the Flying Squad’s operations as ‘thrilling’ can be applied throughout Flying Squad history.
What runs through the Squad’s history is the need for robust policing methods to combat violent thieves, the value of advance information about crimes being planned, and the need to turn incomplete pictures of conspiracies into evidence that can be presented at court that will survive blatant and hostile attacks by defence lawyers.
There are many heroes and examples of enormous courage in these pages, from Ted Greeno, whose success at placing bets at racecourses funded rewards for informants, to Jack Capstick, the ‘Ghost Squad’, and a very significant number of officers awarded medals for bravery. They jumped on to the running boards of fast-moving getaway cars and combatted violent gunmen with little or no personal protection.
Often using unconventional methods, Flying Squad officers found themselves stretching the procedures and protocols of normal policing for the perfectly acceptable motivation of bringing to justice the gangs who themselves subverted the law at every opportunity. The concentration on obtaining good evidence that would send armed robbers into prison for many years eventually led to ‘supergrasses’, a spectacularly successful tactic that did not survive many attempts to repeat the success in less appropriate circumstances. It is unfortunate that very senior police officers and other authorities were often in situations of enjoying the reflected glory of great success, but also considering complex counter-allegations against the police without finding a way of definitively backing one side or the other. A few police officers did indeed succumb to taking personal advantage in the difficult world of dealing with serious criminals; the reputational damage caused by their convictions for corruption have made the job of honest policing even more difficult.
The public, not least the innocent bank clerks and other victims who found themselves targeted by violence, should rightly be very thankful for the efforts of those who have served in the Flying Squad, and the courageous team spirit that led them to move in and quell violent situations. This book is certainly an authoritative history of the Flying Squad and is thoroughly recommended.

Alan Moss
 Dick Kirby

About Dick Kirby

Dick Kirby was born in the East End of London and joined the Metropolitan Police in 1967. Half of his twenty-six years’ service was spent with Scotland Yard’s Serious Crime Squad and the Flying Squad.
Kirby contributes to newspapers and magazines on a regular basis, as well as appearing on television and radio. The Guv’nors, The Sweeney, Scotland Yard’s Ghost Squad, Brave Blue Line, Death on the Beat, Scourge of Soho, Scotland Yard’s Flying Squad, London’s Gangs at War, Scotland Yard’s Gangbuster, The Mayfair Mafia, Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad, Racetrack Gangs, IRA Terror on Britain’s Streets, Scotland Yard’s Casebook of Serious Crime, The Brighton Police Scandal and Missing Presumed Murdered are all published under the Wharncliffe True Crime imprint and he has further other published works to his credit. On retirement he lives near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. Kirby can be visited at his website: www.dickkirby.com.

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