Lilian Wyles

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Lilian Wyles
Lilian Wyles.jpg
Lilian Wyles, in the beginning of her career as a female police officer in the United Kingdom, 1919
Born Lilian Mary Elizabeth Wyles
31 August 1885
Bourne, Lincolnshire England, United Kingdom
Died 13 May 1975 (aged 89)
Penzance, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
Nationality British
Occupation constable, police detective chief inspector, author, nurse
Employer London Metropolitan Police

Lilian Mary Elizabeth Wyles known as Lilian Wyles and Chief Inspector Lilian Wyles (31 August 1885 – 13 May 1975) was among the first police officers to take statements from female and juvenile assault victims.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Lilian Wyles was the daughter of Joseph Wyles a brewer in Bourne, Lincolnshire England, United Kingdom. After her education at Thanet Hall, Margate, and a Paris finishing school, Wyles broke off the legal studies she had begun at her father's instigation, to serve as a hospital nurse in the First World War.


Lilian Wyles started her police career in February 1919 as one of three sergeants in the temporary women patrols, covering Central London and the East End. The patrols met with scorn from male policemen and from members of the public,[3] "Daunted at first, Wyles became accustomed to her visibility as another London sight, 'along with the Tower and Westminster Abbey'. People stopped and commented within earshot: 'How queer.' 'How unwomanly.' 'Not quite nice, do you think?'" However, they were given tasks such as escorting lost children.[4] When the women's patrols were disbanded, she became a pioneer in the establishment of women as officers in the Metropolitan Police in 1922. As the first woman in such a position, her relations with male colleagues were uneasy, although she enjoyed the confidence of the chief constable of the CID, Frederick Porter Wensley, until his retirement in 1929.

Wyles was instrumental in making it a task for women policemen, not of outside "assistants" to take statements from women in cases of sexual assault, as "detailed knowledge of the rules of evidence was required for a statement to be both useful and admissible. In 1922 Wyles was given responsibility for the taking of statements in all cases involving children and young girls that arose north of the Thames ...." (pp. 186–87).[3]

Greater respect came in 1928, after the part she took in the Savidge case involving sexual misconduct by an Italian-born member of Parliament, Leo Chiozza Money, despite being initially spurned by Chief Inspector Alfred Collins, in charge of the case.[5]

Lilian Wyles was promoted to chief inspector in 1932[5] and retired to Cornwall in 1949. There she wrote her memoirs, A Woman at Scotland Yard (London: Faber, 1952).


Lilian Wyles died unmarried in Penzance, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom on 13 May 1975.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Louise A. Jackson: "Wyles, Lilian Mary Elizabeth (1885–1975)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, September 2010) Retrieved 31 August 2015.
  2. ^ Adrian Bingham et al.: "A Hidden History". History Today, October 2015, Vol. 65, No. 10, caption p. 45. Retrieved 25 October 2015
  3. ^ a b Louise A. Jackson: Women Police. Gender, Welfare and Surveillance in the Twentieth Century (Manchester, UK: Manchester UP, 2006), pp. 87 Retrieved 25 October 2015
  4. ^ Joan Lock: The British Policewoman (London: Robert Hale, 2015) Retrieved 25 October 2015
  5. ^ a b Biography of Wyles on the Rhode Island College site (Russell A. Potter) Retrieved 25 October 2015.

External links[edit]