The World War detective
For one Force CID detective using his skills on present day crimes is not enough – after embarking on a new a part-time career investigating the events of World War I and II.
In his spare time PC Ian Mason combs World War archives and tours European war fields to uncover the history of officers’ ancestors who served in the World Wars.
And this weekend, to commemorate the centenary of the end of World War I, he will venture to France as a tour guide to the war graves of Ypres and Somme. The weekend will culminate in the Remembrance commemorations on Sunday 11 November at the Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres.
Ian puts his interest in the World Wars down to his grandfather and uncle who as a child told him stories of their time serving in World War II.
He joined West Midlands Police 20 years ago at the age of 28 and had no clue that his interest would eventually turn into a part-time career. It was only after his mother and father researched their family tree and uncovered a relative who had served in World War I, that Ian was spurred on to take his interest further.
His great uncle, William Orpe, lived in Lozells, Birmingham and as a teenager went to serve for the Kings Royal Rifle Corp during World War I. He died at the tender age of 20 when he fell at the Battle of the Somme.
Ian wanted to visit his marked grave in France and in 2000 he booked onto a guided holiday tour. Little did he know, this would pave his way to a part-time career.
He explains: “I got hooked, I booked onto regular tours and one day some of my friends asked me to organise a trip for them. I acted as an amateur guide and after the trip they encouraged me to think about becoming a professional guide.
“At work and through word of mouth it became known that I could research the military history of relatives who had fought in the World Wars. Before long I had uncovered stories for many colleagues and booked tours to take them to the battlefields so they could tread the same path as their ancestors had.”
Ian began taking colleagues, friends and even neighbours on regular trips. In 2017 an ex-inspector got in touch with Ian to say that Leger Holidays were advertising for guides.
Ian said: “I thought why not, I’ll give it a go and I applied. I was successful and I’m now a part-time guide. I’ve managed to turn my hobby into my dream job. I work full-time in Force CID and the guided tours fit perfectly in with my shifts; the vast majority of them slotting into my rest days. I feel so lucky that I can do this and have the full support of the organisation.”
Ian also raised £1400 this year for a charity that supports injured soldiers when he walked 100 kilometres for the Armed British Forces (ABF) The Soldiers’ Charity. The ABF has raised over £1 million to support injured soldiers since 2014.
West Midlands Police is commemorating the 100 year anniversary of the World War I armistice this year with a series of events including the unveiling of a new digital roll of honour commemorating the officers who lost their lives as a result of serving in World War I and II.