Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Neivens OBE QPM

A tribute to Peter Neivens by Andrew Neivens

Peter Neivens OBE QPMMy father was born on the 4th June, 1922, at St. Marylebone, London the only son of Charles and Matilda Neivens. It wasn’t long before he was taking his first sea voyage, as in 1924 he and his parents immigrated to Toronto, Canada.

The Toronto winters proved too harsh for my grandmother, so in 1928 the family returned to England and settled on Canvey Island in the Essex. In Canada, Peter would have started school when he was seven years of age. In the UK, children started school at five years of age. So, Peter had to go to school sooner than he was expecting. This was a difficult time for my father as he was a year behind the other children and he had a foreign-sounding North American accent. He was effectively a foreign immigrant in his own country. In was this early experience that allowed my father to see situations from an outsiders view and enabled him to empathize with others in similar circumstances.

As a boy my father only has one idea in his mind, “to go to sea”. As his 14th birthday approached he saw an advertisement in the Scout magazine; “Boys aged 14 to 17, wishing to pursue a career in the Mercantile Marine, should apply to the following address for further information”. Peter sent off for the information, submitted his application and in September 1936 reported to the Prince of Wales Sea Training Hostel Limehouse, 2, Church Row, London E14. The training lasted six months and guaranteed a posting to a reputable shipping company on successful completion of the course. His parents, in particular his mother, didn’t share Peter’s enthusiasm for going to sea and secretly hoped that time at sea as a deck boy would change his mind. When Peter returned from his initial time at sea more enthusiastic then ever about a career at sea, his father agreed for Peter to attend the Sir John Cass Nautical School. Peter then joined British Tanker Company as an apprentice in July 1938. Just over a year later war broke out and immediately my father and his colleagues were in the front line. Peter’s mother wanted her son out of harms way but his father new, that despite the danger, Peter was doing what he has always wanted to do and enjoyed the life at sea immensely.

Peter Neivens OBE QPMDuring the war he was torpedoed in 1940 and spent 10 days in an open boat before reaching safety in the Azores. In 1942 he was mined leaving Falmouth and escaped with his life being the closest to the point of explosion below decks in his bunk but being protected by the water tank below him. Another strange incident occurred one night off the East Coast of America when he was officer of the watch. He received instructions to make a 90 degree turn as the ship’s cargo was urgently required at Malta. After the turn, the ship hit something. Being concerned that he had hit another ship and that there were men in the water, my father made to turn about and return to the point of impact. The Captain came to the bridge and instructed my father to steam at full speed ahead away from the point of impact. It wasn’t until some 60 years later that my father learnt what he had hit that night. When reading a book about the war at sea he learnt that he had actually hit U-Boat 333 and damaged it so badly that if was forced to return to port all the way across the Atlantic on the surface. Peter was awarded the 1939-45 Star, the Atlantic Star, the Burma Star and the War Medal, 1939-45.

We all know what a charming and excellent communicator my father was. He was also very persistent and could even be stubborn, particularly when he thought he was right and someone else was wrong. When he returned to Abadan in 1946, after serving two years on the Indian coast, he was expecting to be sent back to the UK. Instead he was told to go to Australia, so he put in his papers and returned to the UK.

After a short but important time working in an office (he met my mother) he joined the Metropolitan Police in November 1947. In January 1948 my mother and father married at Gidea Park. After two years at Southwark he was transferred to Thames Division and was then promoted Sergeant at Plaistow in 1953; the year in which I was born. He was promoted Inspector at Woolwich in 1959, Chief Inspector at Plaistow in 1964 and Superintendent at Holborn in 1966. Throughout this successful career he still found time to run a Sea Cadet Unit on the Isle of Dogs as well as being involved with other voluntary organizations. Peter was initiated into Freemasonry in 1957 and had a distinguished Masonic career becoming Deputy to the Provincial Grand Master of Essex in 1995.

In 1968 he joined the newly created Community Relations Branch and was responsible for setting up the successful Juvenile Bureau Scheme. To do this he used his many talents to work with the Home Office, Magistrates, Social Workers, and Probation Officers etc.

He was promoted Commander in 1970 and took charge of K Division which covered East Ham to Romford. In 1975 he was awarded the QPM. In 1976 he was promoted Deputy Assistant Commissioner, first in charge of No. 2 Area and then in 1977 as Director of the Complaints and Investigation Department (“police of police”).

In January 1978, the Evening News ran the headlines “Yard gets new voice” when my father was appointed Director of Information. As Director of Information he was responsible for liaising with the press and TV during the Iranian Embassy Siege in 1980. In the New Years Honours of 1982 he was awarded the OBE. He retired from the police in January 1982.

After the police he went to work for Trident which had just acquired the Play Boy Club. You can imagine the Headlines. “Mr. Clean joins Play Boy!” My favourite and indeed my father’s favourite was an Evening Standard cartoon showing an overweight policeman, badly disguised as a bunny girl, approaching one of the gambling tables, flexing his knees and saying “Evening all!”. My father had a good sense of humour and enjoyed the joke with everyone else. My father enjoyed his role of Compliance Officer at Trident and particularly enjoyed working for Lord Hanson.

After Trident he continued to work for various voluntary organisations. He also continued to pursue his passion for travelling. Like father, like son I have also travelled throughout my career and my father came to visit me in Holland and Switzerland.

In 1997, as my wife and I prepared to move to Mexico, he bought his first personal computer at the age of 75 to communicate by email with us in Mexico. This didn’t stop him visiting us as well! On another visit to Switzerland after my wife and I returned from Mexico he teamed up with a Norwegian student and swapped emails and digital photos like the best of them. I always use my father as an example that age is no barrier to learning new technologies.

My father was a caring individual, someone always positive and focussed in achieving his goals. He was an excellent communicator and mixed easily with all types of people. He was level-headed in times of crisis and was an engaging individual who always got the best from others.

Peter passed away on 31st August 2006 having first suffered a stroke in November 2004. He finally returned to the sea when his ashes were taken out by the Walton and Frinton lifeboat and scattered at sea