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H Division Sgt Josiah Cox Melen 'Flying Brigade'

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  • H Division Sgt Josiah Cox Melen 'Flying Brigade'

    I recently came across this obituary of Josiah H Melen, a sergeant of H Division at the time of the Whitechapel Murders in 1888.
    The obituary made mention that Melen, at the time of the murders, was in charge of a group of plain clothes detectives trying to catch the murderer and doing their surveilance work in slippered feet. Another newspaper report specifically calls this surveillance team the 'Flying Brigade'

    I am really interested in learning more about this Flying Brigade but haven't been able to find much information on it. Has anyone else has come across it before? I did read a Ph. D. thesis on Metropolitan Policing from the University of Huddersfield and the creation of the criminal classes that describes a similar group called a flying brigade who were made up of ten men commanded directly from Scotland Yard and not at divisional level and deployed wherever they were needed. Their main task was undercover surveilance work. I will put a link to the thesis below because it is an interesting piece.
    Melen's pension record shows that he was definitely in H Division in 1888 and I have been able to find mentions of him on cases in the newspapers, confirming he was a station sergeant.

    Here are the obituary and a further report plus a link to the thesis:

    West Middlesex Gazette - Saturday 10 July 1937
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    Middlesex County Times - Saturday 02 February 1895
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    THE METROPOLITAN POLICE. 1850 Ė 1914;
    TARGETING, HARASSMENT AND THE CREATION OF A CRIMINAL CLASS.
    By TERENCE GEORGE STANFORD SEPTEMBER 2007
    http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/id/eprint/7...&embedded=true

  • #2
    Itís not a term Iím familiar with Debs.

    I suspect they may be akin to the teams who would be drafted out to rural major crimes (think of Road Hill House and Whicher) however these were purely investigative teams as opposed to surveillance teams.

    Flying Brigades or Columns were small military teams sent out for various reasons and as the police used a lot of military terminology, itís possible the name come from the army.

    Pure speculation on my part.

    Iíve sent you a FB message btw.

    Monty

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    • #3
      Excellent find, Debs....I don't recall reading about the Flying Brigade before...
      xxxxxxxx
      To Join JTR Forums :
      Contact Howard@jtrforums.com

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Monty View Post
        It’s not a term I’m familiar with Debs.

        I suspect they may be akin to the teams who would be drafted out to rural major crimes (think of Road Hill House and Whicher) however these were purely investigative teams as opposed to surveillance teams.

        Flying Brigades or Columns were small military teams sent out for various reasons and as the police used a lot of military terminology, it’s possible the name come from the army.

        Pure speculation on my part.

        I’ve sent you a FB message btw.

        Monty

        Thanks, Neil. I've just been on and replied.
        Stanford does give a brief history of the surveilance teams in his thesis, particularly them targetting Whitechapel in earlier years in order to keep the criminal classes in check.
        The thesis is a really interesting read in itself, I think you will enjoy it.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Debra Arif View Post
          Thanks, Neil. I've just been on and replied.
          Stanford does give a brief history of the surveilance teams in his thesis, particularly them targetting Whitechapel in earlier years in order to keep the criminal classes in check.
          The thesis is a really interesting read in itself, I think you will enjoy it.
          Very much. Is there a link?

          As I mentioned to you privately, SY had specialist teams which focused on specific crimes such as banking fraud, extortion etc. I suspect this surveillance team would use men from different division who had a bent for such work, with the reason they wouldnít be recognised by the local villainy.

          Itís all very interesting. Thank you for sharing.

          Monty

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Monty View Post
            Very much. Is there a link?

            As I mentioned to you privately, SY had specialist teams which focused on specific crimes such as banking fraud, extortion etc. I suspect this surveillance team would use men from different division who had a bent for such work, with the reason they wouldnít be recognised by the local villainy.

            Itís all very interesting. Thank you for sharing.

            Monty
            There's a link on the very bottom of my post, Neil. Perhaps you will be able to make more sense of the set up. I think watch theft is mentioned in the earlier groups set up so it sounds similar to what you are describing.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Howard Brown View Post
              Excellent find, Debs....I don't recall reading about the Flying Brigade before...
              xxxxxxxx
              Thanks, How. No, there doesn't seem to be much out there about a flying brigade being used at the time, although it might have been mentioned but not in those terms. It reminds me of Stephen White's story of seeing a suspicious man while watching an alley for 5 night (something like that) it's always been a puzzle what he was doing and it has been suggested the surveilance was for another reason (political groups)other than watching random alleyways in the hope of catching the murderer but here Melen seems to have been used in the same way?

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              • #8
                Thanks for the interesting piece of new info Debra.

                I had a quick search and "Flying Brigade" seems to have been a catch-all term in many walks of life for commando like activities.

                But, I did find this directly related snippet in the Yorkshire Evening Post - Friday 22 July 1898
                Attached Files
                Thanks for your time,
                dusty miller

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                • #9
                  Hard to read unfortunately, but a more detailed obit.
                  Attached Files
                  Thanks for your time,
                  dusty miller

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                  • #10
                    Thanks, Dusty. That is very interesting about Masey.
                    Standford's thesis does mention an earlier use of a flying brigade at Scotland in 1870's, specifically used to target certain criminals but Masey is apparently contemporary with Melen's too.

                    I did find mention of the Flying Brigade in the context of being a fore runner of the Flying Squad. This was in the book 'Triumphs of detection; a book about detectives'by Dilnot, George. I couldn't see a publication date on the book, perhaps the interwar years. Dilnot talks of the formation of a Flying Brigade some '30 year earlier' whose orders were taken directly from Scotland Yard. I was able to date this particular group to the early 1900s by mention of a couple of the criminals names that they credited with capturing.

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