Ex-Romford officer pens book on secret police squad

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.

The story first captured Dick’s imagination as a boy, after reading John Gosling’s account.

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“I joined the police in the 1960s,” he said, “and all the way through my service I heard snippets of information about the squad, so it’s been simmering away for years.”

During the 1990s Dick began consolidating his research, but by that stage most of the founding team was dead.

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Then by sheer coincidence Dick discovered that Henry Clarke, then 92, was living a mile from his Upminster home in Hall Lane.

“He was very old at that time,” said Dick. “But he was still wonderful company and we had a number of interesting chats together.”

Finally, the notes and vagueries were turned into reality two years ago when Dick was given unrestricted access to John Gosling’s files by his son Martin.

“It feels amazing to have finished it after all this time; I think it’s a great read,” he said.

Dick joined the Met Police force in 1967 where he worked as a detective before becoming a member of the Flying Squad in 1981.

He served in Hornchurch and Romford, before he retired in 2000 and moved from Upminster to Bury St Edmunds.

When he retired he decided to start a career as a historical writer.

Scotland Yard’s Ghost Squad is Dick’s seventh book. He has two others in the pipeline.

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