"Internet Law Book Reviews", Provided by Rob Jerrard LLB LLM (London)

Pen & Sword Books Reviewed in 2011

The Sweeney
The First Sixty Years of Scotland Yard's Flying Squad
Edition: 1st
Format: Hardback
Author: Dick Kirby
ISBN: 9781848843905
Publishers: Pen & Sword
Price: 19.99
Publication Date: 15th Feb 2011

Publisher's Title Information

The story of sixty years of Scotland Yard's top crime-busting department has been written over a twenty year period by a former detective who spent over eight years with the Flying Squad - The Sweeney.
The meticulous research by the author has uncovered files never before released by the Yard and he has amassed the tales of bravery and top-notch investigations, carried out by the Squad officers of yesteryear.
The book commences with the dramatic account of the daring gold bullion and jewellery raid in 1948 by a gang of well-organised criminals from the newly-opened Heathrow Airport. The Flying Squad were lying in wait for them and what happened next, was described by a judge at the Old Bailey as, 'The Battle of Heathrow'.
The Flying Squad was formed to stem the tide of lawlessness, following the First World War; from humble beginnings using horse-drawn wagons, they swiftly progressed to high-speed cars. Taking on the might of the Racetrack Gangs, armed robbers and smash & grab raiders, the Squad was brought to the forefront of the public's attention.
The war years, the secret post-war Ghost Squad, the horse-doping scandals, the Great Train Robbery, the Bank of America robbery, Supergrasses and corruption are recounted with its scrupulous attention to detail. The book is filled with thrilling, amusing and always compelling anecdotes from the men who were there. It was the Flying Squad who inspired the popular TV series. This book reveals what life was really like in The Sweeney.


Anyone who watched the television series entitled The Sweeney that was shown between 1975 and 1978 and presently being repeated will welcome the book of the same title written by Dick Kirby. The correct title for the small band of police officers, whose task it was to travel quickly across London as and when necessary is the Flying Squad. The Sweeney is a title based on the cockney rhyming slang words Sweeney Todd.

The original group was formed in 1918 with two horse-drawn wagons unrecognisable from other similar traffic and concealing several detectives who, without warning, would suddenly appear and arrest thieves, pickpockets, etc. The group was officially known as the Mobile Patrol Experiment and became permanent the following year, when Crossley tenders replaced the horse drawn vehicles. It has been suggested that it was the Press who first referred to the group as the Flying Squad and that the name was invented as an ironic term because of the time it took the vehicles to climb the slight incline from Scotland Yard to Whitehall!

The author narrates in his usual amusing anecdotal style many stories to illustrate the work of the Squad under its various heads. In this respect the book has become a companion to his earlier work The Guv'nors that relates in some detail the leadership of several of the Squad's most prominent heads. Both books should be read to really appreciate the work of this elite squad.

The book has been meticulously researched with a number of stories previous not recorded in the Press. Other well known cases outlined from the perspective of the Police Officers involved and given full chapters are the Great Train Robbery, the Racetrack Gangs, the Bank of America and Gunmen and Gallants. Other chapters are divided into relevant periods such as the war years, the 1930s, 1950s, etc. Each chapter details changes in vehicles used, officers in charge and other persons who came to notice together with short synopsis of many cases investigated.

This book covers sixty years and will appeal to anyone who enjoys reading detective fiction or non-fiction police works. It contains a fine index for anyone who professes to have knowledge of names of individuals, whether law-abiding or otherwise.

Like all Dick Kirby's books this is another one that can be placed in the history section of any individual's well-stocked library.


The Author

Dick Kirby was born in the East End of London and joined the Metropolitan Police in 1967. Half of his twenty-six years' service was spent with Scotland Yard's Serious Crime Squad and the Flying Squad.
Kirby contributes to newspapers and magazines on a regular basis, as well as appearing on television and radio. The Guv'nors was also published by Warncliffe Books and he has further other published works to his credit.
In retirement he lives near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

More Information can be found at the Pen & Sword website at

The Sweeney: More Details on the Pen & Sword Website