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, hijacked trucks and ransacked rail 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 and 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 wartime arrests, both individually and collectively. 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, with the aid of their informants, undercover officers and their own, unsurpassed ability.
The Special Duties Squad was a one-off. How the four officers accomplished their task is divulged in this thrilling book, using hitherto unseen official documents and conversations from people who were there.