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Scotland Yard's Ghost Squad (ePub)

The Secret Weapon Against Post-War Crime

P&S History > True Crime

By Dick Kirby
Imprint: Wharncliffe True Crime
File Size: 2.2 MB (.epub)
Pages: 240
Illustrations: 8pp B & W plates
ISBN: 9781844683666
Published: 15th June 2011


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When the Second World War ended, England was bombed-out and starving, with practically every saleable commodity rationed. It was the age of austerity and criminal opportunity. Thieves broke into warehouses, hi-jacked lorries and ransacked railway yards to feed the black market; others stole, recycled or forged ration coupons. Scotland Yard was 6,000 men under strength but something dramatic had to be done – and it was.

Four of the Yard’s best informed detectives were summoned to form the Special Duties Squad, which became widely known as the Ghost Squad. They were told: ‘Go out into the underworld. Gather your informants. Do whatever is necessary to ensure that the gangs are smashed up. We will never ask you to divulge your sources of information. But remember – you must succeed.’

They did. Divisional Detective Inspector Jack Capstick, a brilliant thief-taker and informant runner, Detective Inspector Henry Clark, who knew the south London villains as few other detectives did and in addition, possessed a punch ‘like the kick of a mule’ and Detective Sergeants Matt Brinnand and John Gosling, who topped the Flying Squad war-time arrests, set about their task using informants, undercover officers and their own unsurpassed ability. In under four years, they arrested 789 criminals, solved 1,506 cases and recovered stolen property valued at £250,000 – or £10 million by today’s standards.

The Ghost Squad was a one-off. How the four officers accomplished this feat is divulged in this thrilling book, using hitherto unseen official documents and conversations from people who were there.

An excellent book by an experienced author who was able to add a personal touch to this historical narrative, giving it life and ensuring an enthralling read. This is a book which will appeal to many providing a lesson in criminal history and policing while opening up a secret set of operations which should not be forgotten.

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Crime Traveller - Fiona Guy

In this book Dick Kirby presents the story of a little known task force created to deal with growing post war crime. He once again proves himself the current chronicler of the CID.

Police History Society Newsletter

Dick Kirby, who is a bit on the prolific side at the moment, provides a brisk and entertaining history of this unique group of men. It's thoroughly recommended.


"You must succeed" were three words given to four of Scotland Yard's best informed detectives, aka the "Ghost Squad", who were assigned the demanding task of penetrating the underworld which was post-war Britain and the numerous gangs who thrived there. This enthralling tail sums up just how four of Britain's best ever, and possibly most successful, detectives managed to wade their way through a swamp of looters and black market feeders to achieve the seemingly impossibly feat of recovering a doomed Britain from the depths of disaster. Kirby, an ex-scotland yard officer himself, follows the footsteps of the police during this time, from the war years to the gathering of the unique squad and also provides a detailed account of the often crude methods used to achieve information on potential criminals, and the successes achieved throughout their years in operation. As well as a gripping read it clearly highlights the work of the forces in a formal way, providing a factual story littered with intriguing twists and turns.

Gavin Race

This book offers an interesting and lesser known story about what life was like in Britain during World War Two. The book recounts the newly released information concerning the infamous Ghost Squad, who were responsible for bringing down the amount of crime that had arose during the Second World War. Dick Kirby, an ex-police officer himself, tells a story fit for a Hollywood film about four of Britain's best detectives summoned to tackle organised crime and succeeding with astonishing results. The book recounts the glory days of the Ghost Squad during and after World War Two where the detectives solved break ins, stopped high jacked lorries and foiled ration coupon scams to keep Britain under control. In another Police detective book Kirby uses a variety of sources to make his point using both, previously unseen, written and oral sources to create an interesting, if slightly laboured rendition of the best British detectives at work during a troublesome time. The book sheds light on the murky past of Scotland yard and more importantly shows Britain in a completely different light to the 'Keep calm and carry on' attitude shown by the press at the time. Kirby shows that Britain was not all united but that some people were looking to take advantage of the absence of authority during the war and that Scotland yard responded with great success.

Jack Ridgill

Another ‘Dick Kirby Special’ that tells some wonderful stories about how Scotland Yard responded to London’s crime problems after World War Two.

History by the Yard

A former Romford detective has written a novel on a little-known police unit who helped smash the post-Second World War black-market in London - including one officer who lived in Havering.

Scotland Yard’s Ghost Squad, by Dick Kirby, charts the history of the secret unit tasked with stopping thieves hi-jacking goods lorries, ransacking railways, and forging ration coupons.

Det Insps Jack Capstick and Henry Clark, and Det Sgts Matt Brinnand and John Gosling were ordered to infiltrate London’s underworld and obliterate these gangs by “any means necessary”.

Amazingly, the four arrested 789 criminals, solved more than 1,500 cases and recovered stolen goods, worth around £10 million today.

Romford Recorder

A new book by Dick Kirby is a delight to the criminologist and historian alike, and this one is no exception. It charts the life of the post-war detectives in the Special Duties Squad which infiltrated the criminal gangs and sent their informers into this dangerous underworld. Violent thieves hi-jacked lorries and ransacked railway yards, stealing anything which wasn’t tied down.

Dick Kirby has recaptured the spirit of the post-war era and pays tribute to the detectives who formed the Ghost Squad and made it into a force to be reckoned with. In under four years they arrested 789 criminals, solved 1506 cases and recovered stolen property valued at £250,000 - £10 million by today’s standards. Their successes live on in this wonderfully detailed and deferential book.

Tangled Web

Scotland Yard's Ghost Squad is the fascinating true story of a talented squad of gang-busting detectives who were there when special deeds were essential. Dick Kirby has walked the walk himself during his career with the Metropolitan Police and knows how to bring his coppers to life on the page.

Joseph Wambaugh
 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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