Orsam Books

The Non-Clerical Clerical Branch

On 3 February 1890, Commissioner Monro, noting that Section B was being referred to by the Receiver as a 'Special Clerical Section', enquired of the Home Office as to why such a description was being applied.  He wrote:

'I should like to be informed as to the reason for considering the officers of the Criminal Investigation Department in section, or category, (b) as solely as clerical staff.  This is not in accordance with my view of the duties of the Inspectors, Sergeants and Constables who come under (b)' (MEPO 5/65). 

Consequently, on 11 February 1890, Godfrey Lushington wrote to the Receiver as follows:

'I am directed by Mr Secretary Matthews to transmit to you herewith a copy of a letter received from the Commissioner of Police inquiring the reason for considering the officers of the Criminal Investigation Department in Section or Category (b) as solely a Clerical Staff, and I am to request that you will favour the Secretary of State with your observations on the point in question' (MEPO 5/65).

In his response, the Receiver put his 'mistake' down to a reference in an earlier Home Office letter, 'where the expression Special Clerical Duty is used and in replying to this letter instead of pointing out the error we perpetuated it.'  He confirmed that 'Section B is the Special Irish Branch.  Mr Monro is quite right'. (MEPO 5/65)

In response to this, as evidence of the confusion on the topic within Whitehall, Charles Comyn, a clerk at the Receiver's Office, wrote:

'I was always under the impression that Sec. B was the clerical branch, & the HO appears to be of the same opinion' (MEPO 5/65). 

Comyn's confusion is understandable because the reference to Section B as a 'clerical section' was not a one-off error by the Home Office in a single letter which was repeated by the Receiver but a description which, by 1890, as we shall see below, had been applied to Section B time and time again for the past couple of years.  If we investigate the apparent reasons for this we find an interesting story of the Home Office apparently confusing itself as to what it was doing.

As we know, Section B was created in 1887 as an operational unit to combat Fenian activities but the government did not particularly want to broadcast this fact.  As we also know, funding for Section B came 50% from the Treasury which had to be voted by Parliament. There was bound to be objection from Irish members of parliament to a specially funded police unit dedicated to arresting Irishmen (especially as members of Parliament themselves were not immune from arrest) and so, when it came to requesting funding for the newly created Section B (as well as the now established Section C) from the House of Commons, the Home Secretary was not exactly candid as to how the money was being spent.

During the debate on the Special Police Vote on 22 August 1887, in which the Home Office was requesting approval of a budget of £37,000 'to meet with the Expenses of Police engaged on Special Duties, in connection with dynamite outrages', the Home Secretary said:

'I can give the hon. Member for Caithness some idea of the way in which this Vote is made up.  The special protection of Government buildings of various kinds requires the service of 1 inspector, 7 sergeants and 178 constables.  The additional force for the protection of the Houses of Parliament, which was put on some time since, and is maintained during the Session, numbers 2 sergeants and 35 constables.  For other purposes, there are required 1 inspector, 8 sergeants, and 36 constables, and for the purpose of supervising all this machinery there are employed 2 inspectors, 4 sergeants and 22 constables.  The total expenditure for these purposes is £35,760, and we have this year taken a margin of £1,240 in the amount asked for under the present Vote'  (HC Deb 22 August 1887 vol 319 cc1374-519).

We can see from this that the Home Secretary was quite happy to inform the House that there were 223 Metropolitan Police officers engaged in protecting buildings.  That there were large numbers of police officers protecting important buildings, such as the Palace of Westminster itself, was obvious to everyone because they were in uniform and highly visible.   But Mr Matthews was rather more coy about what the other officers to be funded out of the £37,000 were doing.  

When he says that there was 1 inspector, 8 sergeants and 36 constables being employed for 'other purposes', this was, in fact, a reference to Section C whose officers were engaged carrying out watching in plain clothes at ports around the country and abroad. One might then think that the team of 2 inspectors, 4 sergeants and 22 constables employed 'for the purpose of supervising all this machinery'  was some kind of office-bound clerical or administrative team but it was, in fact, unknown to members of parliament, a reference to Section B, otherwise known (internally) as the Special Branch (or Special Irish Branch).  

The numbers weren't even accurate because the Home Secretary was giving the House the officially approved and augmented figures of two inspectors for Section B but we know that there had been a late change in February whereby one of those two inspectors (Littlechild) was removed from Section B and included in the newly created Section D (as a Chief Inspector).

It will also be noted from the Home Secretary's statement to the House that there is no mention at all of Section D (comprising 1 Chief Inspector and 3 Inspectors) and some people will, no doubt, think that this was a deliberate act of deception in order to keep the existence of Section D a great secret.  

I don't think, however, that this is the correct conclusion to draw when one considers the confusion within Whitehall itself about Section D.

The problem was caused by the fact that the agreement for funding Section D was entirely verbal, having been reached in a private conversation between the Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Home Office, Charles Stuart-Wortley, and the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury, Sir Reginald Welby, on 29 January 1887. While it is possible that the reason for this decision being made in a private conversation was due in whole or in part to secrecy it is likely that speed was also an important factor.

It is important to understand that the process of producing an estimate for the Special Police was a long one, which involved Treasury approval, and by 29 January 1887, the Estimate for the 1887-88 budget of £37,000 was already in place.  The Commissioner's application for an augmentation (for Section B) had been made in writing on 2 December 1886.  The Home Office wrote to the Treasury on 10 January 1887 for approval of this augmentation, the cost of which was estimated to be £4,037.7.2 and requested that their Lordships sanction was given 'for the insertion in the Special Police Vote of the sum of £2,018 to cover one half of such cost'.  The Home Office letter also stated:

'Apart from this it is confidently expected that the ordinary expenses of Police on special services will not exceed the sum of £36,000 which appears in the vote for this object last year; and as soon as their Lordship's decision on the proposal now submitted has been received, the estimate for 1887-88 will be at once prepared and forwarded for their consideration' (HO 151/3). 

The reason, incidentally, that the vote was not expected to exceed the previous year's budget of £36,000, despite the addition of the cost of Section B to the Police Vote (or half of it) was because not as many officers for protection of buildings were required in 1887-88 as had been expected to be needed in 1886-87.

Following some further correspondence between the Home Office and the Treasury, in which the Home Office explained (in a letter dated 20 January 1887) that the other half of the funding of Section B would come from the Metropolitan Police Fund, the Treasury agreement to contribute 50% funding to Section B came in a letter dated 26 January 1887 as follows:

'The Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury having had before them your letter of the 20th Instant, stating that it is proposed to divide equally between the Vote for the Special Police and the Metropolitan Police Fund the cost, estimated at £4037.7.2 of the increase of the Police Force rendered necessary by the employment of Police Officers for services connected with Fenianism, I am directed to request that you will convey to Mr Secretary Matthews their Lordships authority for charging to the Special Police Vote a moiety of the above sum, viz £2018.13.2.' (T 13/19).

The Home Office (Leigh Pemberton) in turn wrote to the Commissioner on 27 January 1887 to confirm the Treasury's approval as follows:

'I am directed by the Secretary of State to inform you that the Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury have sanctioned the inclusion in the Special Police Vote of the sum of £2018.13.7 the moiety of the estimated cost of the increase of the Met Police Force rendered necessary by the employment of Police Officers for services connected to Fenianism' (HO 65/55). 

The Receiver was also informed by the Home Office in the same terms.

At this very time, negotiations were ongoing between the Commissioner and the Home Secretary in respect of Monro's role as Secret Agent, with the Home Secretary writing to the Commissioner on 28 January 1887 to confirm that Monro would forward all his reports to the Home Office through the Commissioner in return for which the Commissioner agreed to drop his claim for compensation (HO 144/198/A46998B).

With Monro's role as Secret Agent virtually confirmed, it is likely that it was Monro himself who, on the same day, came up with the idea that now that the Treasury was saving around £2,000 from Jenkinson's salary (albeit that Jenkinson was paid about half of this in 1887 due to his being entitled to six months' salary from the date of his dismissal), this money could fund a small team of officers for him at Scotland Yard, bearing in mind that Jenkinson had his own small army of agents working for him when he was the Secret Agent.  Monro must have mentioned it to Lushington at the Home Office, who spoke to Stuart-Wortley, and this caused Stuart-Wortley to speak Sir Reginald Welby on 29 January 1887.

The problem for the Home Office at this stage though was that they had already confirmed in writing that £36,000 was the final figure for the 1887-88 budget.  I suspect that it was this, rather than any need for secrecy, which was the main reason for the informal nature of the discussion between Stuart-Wortley and Welby.

In any event, the problem seems to have been solved on the basis that (as the Home Secretary informed the House on 22 August 1887) a margin of £1,240 was added to the actual budget figure of £35,760, so that the total budget (or estimate) was now £37,000 and the £640 required to fund Section D for the year could come out of the margin.  Whether this margin would always have existed or was only added specifically to include Section D is rather hard to say but from the internal Home Office papers, as we shall see, it seems to have been a genuine safety net. 

Monro was happy because he now had his special officers but the unusual nature of the new arrangements was not conducive to good administration.  With the Stuart-Wortley/Welby conversation not properly documented in the Home Office and Treasury files, the official documented position was that the 1887-88 budget only included funding for Section B (of 50%) while Section D did not officially exist and was not being officially funded. Further, section B was officially comprised of two inspectors, because this is what the Treasury had agreed to fund, whereas in reality it only had a single inspector attached to it.  

Despite Sir Charles Warren having written to the Home Office on 2 February 1887 to request a reduction of one inspector (without making clear that this was in respect of Section B), and despite the reduction of this officer appearing in Police Orders on 3 February 1887, Lushington of the Home Office wrote to Sir Charles on 16 February 1887 to signify the Home Secretary's authority, 'for the augmentation of the Metropolitan Police Force by the addition from 1st March next, of 2 Inspectors, 4 Sergeants and 20 constables for services connected with Fenianism within the Metropolitan Police District the cost of such augmentation to be paid half from the Special Police Vote and half from the Metropolitan Police Fund.' (HO 144/189/A45281).

So Lushington had, here, missed the fact that Sir Charles now only actually required authority for the augmentation of one inspector not two. 

It is worth noting that correcting this small mistake was not a simple matter.  In fact, Sir Charles Warren compounded the error when he wrote to the Home Office on 15 March 1887 as follows:

'With reference to your letter of 16th ulto. authorizing the augmentation of 2 Inspectors, 4 Sergeants and 20 Constables for services connected within the Metropolitan Police District, in which the classes were not specified, I have to acquaint you for the information of the Secretary of State that the recommendation contained in my letter of 2 December last was for an augmentation of one 1st class and one 2nd class inspector, one 1st and three 3rd class sergeants and sixteen constables, all to be attached to the Criminal Investigation Department, in addition to four constables previously employed. Since my recommendation was submitted changes have taken place in the ranks of those specially employed and this being an augmentation intended for the formation of a Special Branch and the employment of those officers already performing the duties, a slight rearrangement of the classes becomes necessary, and instead of one 1st class and three 3rd class sergeants, there should be one 1st, two 2nd and one 3rd class sergeant.  I have therefore to transmit the accompanying Table and to request that the Secretary of State may be pleased to approve of the apportionment of the officers augmented to the various classes as shown therein.


1 First class inspector

1 Second class inspector

1 First class sergeant

2 Second class sergeants

1 Third class sergeant.

This alteration in the classes of sergeant will only cause an additional expenditure of about £20 per annum from Police Funds and will not affect the amount to be reclaimed from the Special Vote' (HO 144/133/A34848B).

It will be noted from this letter that the one thing the Commissioner is not doing is reducing the number of inspectors in Section B.  In fact, he has not spotted the error and is now compounding it by confirming the existence of two inspectors in Section B.  The Home Office confirmed the Home Secretary's approval to the alteration of classes of sergeants on 23 March 1887 (HO 65/55).

Although a Home Office letter to the Treasury dated 9 January 1888 noted that, in consideration of the formation of 'the special section' (Section D), the Secretary of State directed that (in respect of Section B) 'one of the two additional first class inspectors, to whose pay their Lordships agreed to contribute should not be employed' (itself an error because it was only supposed to be one first class inspector involved), the mistake was not properly identified until as late as 6 October 1888 when Sir Charles wrote the following letter to the Home Office:

'With reference to my letter of the 2nd February 1887, recommending an augmentation of one Chief Inspector and three Second Class Inspectors for employment on special duties in connection with Fenianism, on the understanding that a reduction of one First Class Inspector would be made, which recommendation was approved by the Secretary of State in his letter of the 3rd February 1887, I have to acquaint you for the information of the Secretary of State, that by an inadvertence it was omitted to be stated in my letter what Branch of the Central Office, Criminal Investigation Department, it was intended the reduction of one First Class Inspector should be made. 

When my letter of the 2nd February 1887 was written the Secretary of State had still under his consideration my letter of the 2nd December 1886, recommending certain augmentations to carry on duties in connection with the Irish Branch of the Criminal Investigation Department, and it was intended and should have been stated in my letter of the 2nd February 1887, that the reduction of one First Class Inspector was to be made, not from the then existing strength of the Criminal Investigation Department, but from the augmentation which I had recommended on the 2nd December 1886, but which had not yet up to that date (2nd February 1887) been sanctioned by the Secretary of State. In fact it was actually the transfer of Inspector Littlechild from the Irish Branch and the promotion of him to Chief Inspector.

The authority for the augmentation referred to was received on the 18th February 1887: but as a matter of fact the First Class Inspector has never been appointed, and the vacancy has not up to the present time been filled. 

The consequence is that the working staff of the Criminal Investigation Department at the Central Office has been at the loss of one First Class Inspector ever since the 3rd February 1887, greatly to the detriment of the duties which at the present moment are more precious than ever.

I have therefore to request that the Secretary of State may be pleased to approve of the original intention being carried out, and the number of men authorized for duty in the Irish Branch being reduced by one First Class Inspector, who would be employed in the ordinary duties of the Criminal Investigation Department. This makes no difference in the authorized number as at present' (HO 144/189/A46281).

Although Sir Charles has taken all the blame for this mistake, by admitting to not having made clear in his letter of 2 February 1887 that the number of inspectors in Section B should have been reduced from one to two, the Home Office had understood him perfectly at the time because they informed the Treasury that this was what had been intended in their letter of 9 January 1888 (referred to above).  Indeed, in its reply on 8 November 1888, the Home Office admitted this as follows:

'In reply to your letter of the 6th ultimo I am directed by the Secretary of State to acquaint you that, although not so stated in your letter of the 2nd of February 1887, it has been understood in this Department that the reduction of 1 First Class Inspector consequent on the augmentation of 1 Chief Inspector and 3 Second Class Inspectors sanctioned for special duties by the Home Office letter of February 3rd 1887 was intended to be made from the augmentation of 2 Inspectors, 4 Sergeants and 20 Constables for special clerical duties in the Criminal Investigation Department which was then under consideration and which was subsequently sanctioned by the Home Office letter of February 16th 1887.  

The claims for repayment of one moiety of the cost of this special clerical section have been made in respect of 1 Inspector only, and the Special Police Estimate for 1888-89 forwarded by this Office to the Treasury shows the Clerical staff  as

1 Inspector

4 Sergeants and

20 Constables.  

It is understood from your letter under reply that you desire that the formal sanction of the Secretary of State to this arrangement should be placed on record, and accordingly I am to direct you that Mr Matthews is pleased to direct that the reduction of 1 First Class Inspector authorized by Home Office letter of 3rd February 1887, shall be made from clerical duties sanctioned by letter of 16th February 1887' (HO 65/62).

It may be noted that the Home Office refer throughout this letter to Section B as the clerical section and we will return to this description but, for the moment, the point to note is that it has taken the best part of 21 months to formally resolve the discrepancy regarding the number of inspectors in Section B.  So when the Home Secretary told the House of Commons in August 1887 that the Estimate included two inspectors rather than one, it was undoubtedly due to the fact that the error had not been properly corrected.

The other error made by the Home Secretary was that he used a figure of 22 constables (in Section B) when the correct figure was 20 constables.  This appears to have come from a memorandum by James Monro dated 30 October 1886 in which the augmentation of officers of Section B was originally requested (HO 144/133/A34848).  In that memorandum, Monro had referred to the actual number of officers employed at Central Office operating within the Metropolitan District as '2 inspectors, 4 sergeants and 22 constables' and it seems that, although the actual eventual augmentation was for 1 inspector, 4 sergeants and 20 constables, some Home Office official had taken the original figure provided by Monro and included it in the Home Secretary's briefing note even though a lower number of officers involved would have been more politically advantageous for the Home Secretary when speaking to the House.

The point of having gone through this in such detail is to show that the likely reason for the omission by the Home Secretary of any mention of the Section D officers was not so much due to secrecy but due to the fact that he was giving the House in August 1887 what some Home Office official wrongly believed to be the actual Treasury approved numbers of special police being employed during 1887.

The reason why I think this was all an error is because we can see the confusion in the Home Office when James Monro wrote on 20 September 1887 to ask about the funding for Section D.  As we have seen in the main article, Monro requested in this letter that Section D be funded in the same way as Section B, i.e. 50% by the Treasury and 50% by the Metropolitan Police Fund.  The Home Office was now confronted by the fact that they had no documentary record of how Section D was to be funded and no written approval from the Treasury agreeing to the funding (which was supposed to be 100% by the Treasury).

Monro's letter was forwarded by Charles Murdoch to the Home Office Accounts Department, where an unidentified official noted, on 23 September 1887:

'The Secretary of State having approved of the addition of these Officers, it only remains to obtain the sanction of the Treasury, as in the increase sanctioned on [26 January 1887], the cost being divisible equally between the Metropolitan Police Fund and the Vote for the Secret Police. The probable amount of this cost is not given, and it is impossible at this period of the year to forecast the state of the Vote at the year's end but as half the year is already gone the cost cannot be great, and I conclude will not be more than the vote will bear' (HO 144/189/A46281).

Clearly, this official had fallen into the same error as Monro, believing that Section D would only be fifty per cent funded by the Treasury.

It seems that both Lushington and Stuart-Wortley were out of London at the time that Monro wrote his letter of 20 September 1887 because four days later Monro wrote to Mr Troup at the Home Office as follows (HO 144/189/A46281):

'Can this matter stand over until either Mr Lushington or Mr Stuart-Wortley return.  The arrangements for the employment of these officers [i.e. Section D] was verbal, and I understood so far as my memory goes that Mr Wortley included the amount in the special vote, but I should like to be sure upon the point. The special purpose was distinctly in connection with Fenianism and the Inspector reduced was from the Fenian staff, his place being taken by the Chief Inspector.'  

We can see here that Monro has identified the correct branch for the reduction of the inspector but no-one at the Home Office seems to have noticed at the time that this had never been officially and formally achieved.

Charles Murdoch investigated the matter of the funding of Section D and wrote the following memo to Stuart Wortley on 7 October 1887 (HO 144/189/A46281):

'I find that you arranged verbally with Sir R. Welby to insert £640 in the Vote for Special Police for these men and that this was done (see addition in red ink to estimate in [Home office file]). There will I understand be some difficulty in preventing this Vote from being exceeded,  but that question is brought before you separately.  Meantime, express provision having been made and these men having been approved on this understanding the present application must be allowed. Authorise payment from Special Vote as proposed in this letter, and instruct Receiver, first however obtaining the formal sanction of the Treasury, as their previous sanction to draft half the pay of certain C.I.D. officers to the Special Vote did not include the four inspectors.'

Again, we see another Home Office official believing, on the basis of the Section B funding agreement, that Section D is to be 50% funded by the Treasury only, and is not aware that the correct arrangement is for that section to be 100% funded out of Imperial Funds.

Stuart-Wortley replied to Murdoch two days later (HO 144/189/A46281):

'Being away from town I cannot positively say whether this augmentation had anything to do with the service for which £640 was verbally sanctioned as appears in [Home Office file].  As to that, refer to Mr Lushington.  My strong impression is that the two things are distinct. Refer to Mr Lushington and let me see what he says.' 

It is interesting to note that Stuart-Wortley's first reaction is that the £640 payment had nothing to do with Section D. Considering that he was the man who had personally arranged the Section D funding with the Treasury, this just shows the state of confusion existing within the Home Office over this issue with people relying on their memory of events eight months earlier as to what exactly had happened. 

On his return to the office, and following Stuart-Wortley's instructions, Godfrey Lushington wrote the following memorandum to him on 12 October 1887 (HO 144/189/A46281):

'My recollection of the matter is as follows:

(a) The C.I.D. police employed at the ports are paid for wholly out of Imperial Funds, payable out of the Special Police Vote of £37,000.

(b) The C.I.D. police who are employed within the Metropolitan Police District with reference to Fenianism and who were specially augmented for are paid half £2,020 from Met Police Funds, one half £2,020 from Imperial Funds, the Imperial charge is provided for in the Special Vote of £37,000.

(c) The C.I.D. police now in question were substituted for the private anti-Fenian agents employed by Mr Jenkinson both within and without the Metropolitan Police District.  The private agents had been paid out of SS funds.  When the management was transferred from Mr Jenkinson to Mr Monro, who has the charge of the C.I.D., it was necessary for purposes of administration that the substitutes should belong to the C.I.D. and not be ostensibly distinguished from the other constables of that force. They ought to have been paid as before out of SS funds which are practically Imperial Funds.  But this was impossible, since no account being rendered of SS funds it was impossible that any grant of SS money should be made to the Met Police Fund. So you arranged verbally with Sir R. Welby that the Treasury should pay the £640 out of the Special Police Vote of £37,000, the margin for contingencies having been reduced in order to provide for it.

This is the best of my recollection, I cannot wholly trust to it: but it may [seem] to bring back to you what happened between you and Sir R. Welby.  I do remember that there was no intention to transfer the cost or any part of the cost to the Metropolitan Police Funds. Nor do I know of any reason for such a transfer. I presume that £640 covers the whole cost of the necessary augmentation but I cannot make this out from the papers.   This could be ascertained from Mr Monro.'   

The fact that Lushington is saying here that he cannot necessarily trust his recollection shows that something had gone wrong in the Home Office.

In response to Lushington's memo, Stuart-Wortley noted for Mr Troup's benefit on 16 October:

'Mr Lushington's recollection agrees with mine: Please ascertain from Mr Monro which is the service to which the men mentioned in [Monro's letter of 20 September 1887] belong and whether they are additional to those verbally sanctioned as mentioned in [Home Office letter of 3 February 1887].

Monro was consulted the following day and replied (HO 144/189/A46281):

'The men mentioned in [Monro's letter of 20 September 1887] are the special men included in the Vote, verbally sanctioned as mentioned in [Home office letter of 3 February 1887] .  It would now appear that the whole of their pay should be defrayed from Special Vote, and [Monro's letter of 20 September 1887] should either be cancelled or the reply should be that the whole amount of the pay of these men should be met from Special Vote.'

To this, Charles Murdoch noted on 18 October (HO 144/189/A46281),

'If sanction is given to the whole of this pay being charged to the Vote, I think it should be distinctly stated that for this year at any rate only the actual pay should be claimed and that it should not exceed the sum of £640 taken in the Estimate.  If the commuted rates (including superannuation, substitutes, incidentals etc.) are to be paid as in the case of the men sanctioned [at the ports], the cost will amount to nearly £1,300 and there will be no escaping a supplementary estimate.'

Stuart-Wortley responded to this saying:

'The figure £640 was arrived at by Mr Lushington in consultation with Mr Monro (if I recollect rightly) and, I have no doubt, took into account nothing but the bare pay.  Ask Mr Lushington to suggest the best course to take here, and (as I am away from town) to take any necessary consultations with Mr Monro. Let me know result.'  

With the help of Mr Lushington, therefore, the Home Office officials had finally arrived at the conclusion that the Section D pay was to come entirely from Treasury funds after all. A further short note by Lushington dated 4 November 1887 confirmed the situation (HO 144/189/A46281):

'This year we ask for £640 which was named by Mr Monro and for no more because it would involve a supplemental vote. But next year we must claim from Treasury the whole expenses (including an estimate such as for lodgings etc.) of any constables who may be employed in that year.' 

Lushington subsequently wrote to Sir Reginald Welby at the Treasury on 7 November 1887 as follows (HO 144/189/A46281):

'I am directed by the Secretary of State to request that you will move the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury to sanction the payment of a sum not exceeding £640, for the present financial year from the Vote of the Special Police, in respect of the pay of four Inspectors added to the Criminal Investigation Department for special duty in February last; the sum of £640 having, as a result of the verbal agreement between yourself and Mr Stuart-Wortley been inserted in the Estimate for this purpose.  The sum named will not cover the whole cost of these officers for the year; but the Secretary of State does not propose to ask that the amount actually provided for this service should be exceeded and the remainder of the cost will therefore for the present year fall upon Metropolitan Police Funds.' 

Stuart-Wortley wrote, in addition, on 17 November, a personal letter to Welby reminding him of the details of their conversation at the end of January 1887 (see main article) and, finally, on 3 January 1888 the Treasury provided written confirmation of their agreement to fund Section D in a letter from G. Barrington as follows (HO 144/189/A46281):

'I am directed by the Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 7th November, and I am to acquaint you in reply, for the information of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, that My Lords sanction the payment of a sum not exceeding £640 for the present financial year from the Vote for the Special Police, in respect of the pay of four Inspectors added to the Criminal Investigation Department for special duty in February last.'

So the problem was finally resolved but it should be evident that it was not a simple matter and that the omission of any mention of the Section D funding from the Home Secretary's statement in the House of Commons in August 1887 cannot automatically be taken as an indication of secrecy on the part of the Home Secretary as against incompetence and confusion on the part of all the officials involved (including the Home Secretary himself) as to what was actually being included in the £37,000 Special Police Vote. 

We have already seen that the Commissioner wrote to the Home Office on 6 October 1888 to attempt to clear up the discrepancy with the number of inspectors augmented to Section B and it was not until a month later that the Home Secretary did agree to a formal reduction of one inspector in Section B to fix this. When we look at how the Home Office responded internally to the Commissioner's letter we find something interesting.

Stuart-Wortley sent the letter of Sir Charles to the Accounts Department and it was a clerk there, G.H. Tripp who drafted the following response on 12 October 1888 (HO 144/189/A46281; underlining added):

'Although not stated in the Commissioner's letter it has been understood in the H.O. that the reduction of 1 Inspector was to be made from the Special augmentation of 2 Inspectors 4 Sergeants and 20 Constables sanctioned by [letter of 16 February 1887] for clerical duties in the C.I.D. in connection with Fenian business. The claims in respect of this Clerical Section have been made in respect of 1 Inspector only, and the Special Police Estimate for 1888-89 shows the staff as 1 Inspector, 4 Sergeants, 20 Constables.  So far as I understand this letter, all that the Commissioner wants is that H.O. should say that the reduction of 1 First Class Inspector in the C.I.D. sanctioned by H.O. letter of 3 February 1887 should be made from the special augmentation sanctioned by H.O. letter of 16 Feb 1887.'  

A comparison of this wording with the wording in the letter as sent to the Commissioner by the Home Office on 8 November 1888 reveals that Tripp's note was used as the basis for the letter, which means that it was Tripp who introduced the notion that Section B was created for 'clerical duties' and was a 'Clerical Section'.  Whether this was itself based on the Home Secretary's remark in the House of Commons in August 1887 that Section B (which wasn't named) was supervising the rest of the Special Police is a little unlikely given the time gap but somehow the Accounts Department at the Home Office had gained an understanding that Section B was doing clerical work.

Before the reply to the Commissioner's letter of 6 October 1888 was completed, however, there were more memoranda being generated within the Home Office.  On about 26 October 1888, Charles Murdoch wrote to Mr Lushington.  The text of this memorandum has already been included in the main article but is now repeated for a different purpose. It stated as follows (HO 144/189/A46281):

'But has it not also been considered what reduction, if any, is to be made in consequence of the provincial work now done by Mr Monro, which as I understand you have discussed with him.  

The clerical staff for Fenian duties in London was (A) 2 Inspectors, 4 Sergeants, 20 Constables - H.O. letter 16 Feb 87 (B) For Fenian Duties - other than in London: 1 Chief Inspector, 3 Second Class Inspectors - one inspector to be reduced. 

1 of the Inspectors in A has been practically reduced for Littlechild was promoted Chief Inspector and his place was not fixed up but that leaves 3 inspectors additional to do the work which Mr Monro has taken away.

They may be still wanted as the work may have increased but the point wants clearing up.' 

Leaving aside that Murdoch has misunderstood in which section the Commissioner was requesting a reduction, we can see that he has made two other mistakes.  Firstly, he has stated that Section B was for duties in London and Section D was for duties outside London.  It wasn't as simple as that and conflicts with what Lushington had said in his memo of 12 October 1887 in which he had stated that Section D was created for duties 'both within and without the Metropolitan Police District.' Lushington's own belief that Section B existed only for duties within the Metropolitan Police District conflicted in turn with what the Commissioner had written about the Irish Bureau in December 1886 when he said it operated both within and without the Metropolis.

The second mistake made by Murdoch in his October 1888 note was to refer to the 'clerical staff for Fenian duties' within Section B.  Whether he has picked that up from Tripp's note or it reflected a pre-existing belief on Murdoch's part is impossible to say but it does show that Home Office officials had very little insight into what Scotland Yard was actually doing.  

Godfrey Lushington replied to Murdoch's note: 'Write to Commissioner explaining to him as in Mr Tripp's minute. On the other question raised by you, I am sending a memo to Secretary of State'  (HO 144/189/A46281).  That memo, in which Lushington discussed whether there should be a reduction of Special Police (and specifically in Section D) due to the provincial work being done by Monro is, unfortunately, missing. 

It is not known whether Sir Charles Warren noticed the reference to Section B's 'clerical' duties in the Home Office's letter of 8 November 1888 - he might have had more important things on his mind at that date - but if he did he didn't say anything. 

Mr Tripp was at it again, though, in December 1888 repeating his mistake.  After drafting a letter to the Commissioner at the end of November in which it was noted that the post of inspector in Section B, which he correctly described as 'Special Duties at Central Office', had been vacant since 13 June 1888 (i.e. since the retirement of Inspector Pope), Charles Murdoch, having got the wrong end of the stick, commented on the draft by saying 'Surely the Inspector mentioned in section (b) was "reduced" finally out of existence by the Home Office letter of 8.11.88'  (HO 133/222/A49500M).  In response, Tripp explained (HO 133/222/A49500M):

'The staff originally authorised was 2 Inspectors etc. but in consequence of special augmentation for duties formerly performed by Mr Jenkinson's Dept only 1 inspector was employed on clerical duties.  HO letter [of 8 November 1888] gives formal authority for employment of 1 Inspector instead of 2 Inspectors on clerical duties.'

There's that reference to clerical duties again.  Although this is perhaps not surprising because Tripp was here referring to the letter of 8 November 1888, the first draft of which he had himself produced, which seems to have introduced the concept of Section B as doing clerical work.

One would think that no-one had told Tripp that Section B was known as the Special Irish Branch because, when preparing a schedule of costings in December 1888 for the 1889-90 Estimate, he referred to two sections of police within Central Office namely, the 'Special (Secret) Branch' and the 'Special Clerical Section' (HO 144/222/A49500M).  However, Tripp had referred to the cost of the Irish Section of C.I.D., as well as the Special Confidential Section of C.I.D. in a note dated July 1888 (HO 144/208/A48000M) and then referred to the Special Irish Branch in a schedule prepared in August 1888 (HO 144/208/A48000M).  The reason for the switch after this to 'Special Clerical Section' is uncertain. Even Lushington, who must have been aware that Section B was known as the Irish Branch, uses the phrase 'Special Clerical Section of C.I.D.'  to describe Section B, in contrast to 'Special Section of C.I.D.' to describe Section D, in a note of October 1888 (HO 144/208/A48000M).


 The concept of the 'Special Clerical Section' never really quite vanished and, as late as 1900, one finds the Treasury 'Blue Note' for the 1900-1901 Estimate saying that the Special Irish Branch was formed when 'certain officers of the Criminal Investigation Department were withdrawn from ordinary duty, and employed on special clerical duties, which were partly imperial and partly local...' (HO 45/10427/A52177).

One final point of interest is that the Special Police Vote for 1887-88, which occurred in August 1887, asked for money for the special police 'in connection with dynamite outrages'.  When the 1888-89 Estimate was being prepared in January 1888, however, the Home Secretary instructed his officials to delete those words (HO 144/208/A48000M).  This could lead to the conclusion that the deletion was to widen the mandate of Special Branch to allow them to engage in more political work unconnected to dynamite outrages.

The reason for the deletion can be found in the debate in the House of Commons on 22 August 1887. Henry Fowler, the member for Wolverhampton East, said:

'It seems to me unnecessary to retain these words about dynamite in the Vote. Why not leave them out, and merely state that the Vote is for special police duties?'  (HC Deb 22 August 1887 vol 319 cc1374-519).

This appears to be the reason for the change which itself might have been suggested to give the special police a freer hand to investigate more than just dynamite plots.  It applied just as much to Section B as Section D.

Anyway, we have seen that just because the Home Office described Section B as a Clerical Section it does not mean that this bore any relationship to reality!


David Barrat
6 October 2016 

Return to main article