Final escort in St Albans for Met Police motorcade organiser, who met Richard Nixon and other dignitaries
- Credit: Archant
Decades after organising official motorcades for visiting dignitaries including Richard Nixon and moon-landing astronauts from Apollo 11, a St Albans man has received a police escort to his final resting place.
John Baldwin died peacefully at the age of 91 at Verulam House, Verulam Road, on October 29.
His son, Neil, who has lived in St Albans since 1992, said that for many years John was in charge of the Metropolitan Police Special Escort Group (SEG).
On Tuesday (15), riders of the unit provided a motorcycle escort for the Army veteran, from the nursing home to the West Herts Crematorium in Garston.
Originally from Greenwich, John joined the Army at the age of 19 in August 1944 and in 1945 was on route to Japan when the nuclear bomb was dropped.
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As a result, the regiment was sent to Singapore and then on to Malaya for the next two years. He ended his service as a Sergeant in 1947 and joined the Metropolitan Police as a Constable.
Neil explained: “During his service, he was largely responsible for making the SEG into the group it is today and escorted our Royal family and visiting heads of state and dignitaries including the first man and woman in space, the Apollo moon landing astronauts and far too many to name from 1960 to 1973.
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“Winston Churchill’s funeral in 1965 was one that he had a large part in organising the dignitary’s escorts, with over 70 heads of state from around the world to be moved at the same time.”
He added: “In 1971, Japanese Emperor Hirohito visited London on a state visit and was so impressed with his motorcycle escort that he sent the best of his police motorcyclists to be trained at the Metropolitan Police Driving School at Hendon every year for the next 40 years, only stopping the visits in the last couple of years.”
Neil recalled the “hours the SEG worked were extremely long and antisocial with lots of very early starts and late finishes”.
However, with the members’ skills so highly regarded, some of the escort group were used for the Met’s motorcycle precision team, which put on displays of riding skills at events all over the country.
John served for 32 years before retiring from the police in 1980 with the rank of Chief Superintendent.
On retiring from the Met he took up the role as head of security for Guys and St Thomas’s health district.
John is survived by two sons, three grandchildren and one great-grandchild – his wife Joyce died in Verulam House two years ago.