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Lilian Wyles

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Chief Inspector Lilian Wyles (1885-1975) was the very first woman to serve as a fully attested, ranking officer in the CID of the Metropolitan Police of greater London, having already been among the very first women to serve in the "Women Police" instituted in the years just after the first World War.

Lilian Mary Elizabeth Wyles was born in 1885, the remarkably gifted daughter of a Lincolnshire brewer who hoped she would consider a career as a barrister. She served in the First World War as a nurse, and enlisted in the Women's Special Police Patrols on her return in 1918. This was meant as a temporary force in the face of the nationwide manpower shortage, but Wyles proved herself a survivor, escaping the disbandment of the Women Police to become an attested officer of the CID (this is listed in official records as a "re-joining,"and has resulted in her records being listed under two different Warrant numbers, 4 and 23).

Her male colleagues apparently took a rather dim view of her arrival there, and relegated her to the routine work of a statement-taker. Nevertheless, she enjoyed the support of Chief Constable Wensley, who called upon her work in several notable cases, including the murder of Percy Thompson in 1923.

Wyles's position with regard to her peers was forever altered in 1928 with the events of the Savidge case. Miss Savidge, who was found in a compromising situation with Sir Leo Money MP, was caught up the the row when Sir Leo demanded an apology from the police. At the request of the DPP, Chief Inspector Alfred Collins was dispatched to find evidence supporting the police account of events. He took the unusual move of calling upon Miss Savidge at her place of work, from which she was taken to Scotland Yard to be questioned. Wyles was present upon Miss Savidge's arrival, and by her own account expected to be the one to take her statement -- but instead she found herself dismissed by Collins, who wished to conduct the interview himself. When Collins was later accused of badgering the witness, his dismissal of Inspector Wyles was roundly condemned. Wyles, to her credit, never personally criticized Collins's actions, and indeed was called upon during the hearings to accompany Collins -- by her own account, in order keep him calm, and prevent his taking any whisky until he'd testified. Wyles gave Collins a "lucky" mahogany bean, which the latter so valued that he once panicked when he thought his wife might have sent his waistcoat to the cleaner's with the bean still in its pocket!

After the hearings' guardedly positive outcome, Wyles and Collins remained on good terms, and she gained the respect of her colleagues that had been lacking before. By defending the force and keeping rank, she'd done them all a service. She was given a wider range of responsibilities, and promoted to Chief Inspector before her retirement in the early 1940's. Her memoir, A Woman at Scotland Yard, was published by Faber & Faber.

Key Dates

  • Joined WPS, 17 February 1919
  • Promoted to Sergeant, WPS, March 31, 1919
  • Promoted to Inspector, C.I.D., 22 December, 1921 (effective date 12.6.21)
  • Promoted to Chief Inspector, 1932