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By honouring our fallen officers, we remember our charity’s heritage

As we fall silent on Armistice Day and remember those who lost their lives in conflict, we also pay tribute to the special contribution of our fallen officers and their families.

This morning, Chairman, John Williams, joined the Chief Constable Sir Dave Thompson and representatives from West Midlands Police Staff Associations, to lay a memorial wreath at the foot of the Force’s Roll of Honour.

Today’s acts of remembrance provided an opportunity for us to reflect upon the Benevolent Fund’s heritage and the special connection our police charity has to the names permanently featured on the dedicated memorial board.

PC Michael Hewitt is one of the 112 names of officers and police staff remembered on the Roll of Honour and we had the privilege of meeting his widow, Patricia Bayliss and his daughter, Lesley.

Daughter of the late PC Michael Hewitt with Mum, Patricia and Ben Fund Manager, Steve Newbury

“I cannot begin to put into words the help and support we received from West Midlands Police Benevolent Fund when my father was killed,” explained Lesley, daughter of PC Hewitt.

It was the 25th July 1976 and Michael was on his way to start his 6am – 2pm shift as a police constable with Birmingham City Police. He was traveling along the Widney Lane on his motorbike and proceeded through the set of green lights at the Marshall Lake Road junction, when suddenly, an oncoming vehicle drove over the lights and struck Michael, flinging him from his motorbike into a nearby lamp post.

The accident proved fatal as sadly Michael died from his head injuries six days later.

PC Michael Hewitt

“Quite frankly, the Benevolent Fund was a saviour to us!”, explained Patricia. “I was 35 and Lesley was 15. We had only just moved house, so as you can image, this brought with it a whole set of additional problems.

“There were two officers in particular that offered incredible support”, added Patricia. “Don Morgan, a welfare officer and traffic officer, Harry Bennett. They were both directly involved with the Benevolent Fund back then and came to see me at the hospital while Michael was fighting for his life.

“They offered incredible support, not just emotional and empathic support but practical help and assistance too. They made an extremely difficult time a lot easier to cope with.

“They helped me deal with a serious financial situation involving our house and even came to our rescue when the hot water tank burst and flooded our home! The Benevolent Fund paid for new carpets and even paid for Lesley and I to have a holiday at Butlins in Filey, North Yorkshire.”

The weeks following Michael’s death were difficult enough, but nothing quite prepared Lesley and her Mum for the immense challenges they were about to face.

Within weeks of PC Hewitt’s death, Lesley and Patricia were involved in a serious RTA. Their car had just broken down and while both Mum and daughter were attempting to push it along the road they were hit from behind by a drunk driver. Lesley, who was pushing at the rear of the vehicle, was sandwiched between the two cars, crushing her legs and Mum, Patricia, suffered a fracture skull, broken wrist and jaw.

Lesley spent six months in hospital undergoing surgery and Patricia’s injuries caused a sudden episode of temporary amnesia.

“Mum had no recollection of Dad’s accident and his subsequent death”, explained Lesley. “So, she had to relive the painful grieving process all over again.”

“The Benevolent Fund saved my life!”, added Patricia.

The weekly visits continued by the Ben Fund officers, checking on the family and making sure they had everything they needed.

Patricia looks back and smiles, “I never realised until months later that when Harry or Don paid me a visit from the Benevolent Fund to check that we were coping OK, I would make them a cup of tea and forget to add the tea bags! They would sit and chat and not mention the fact that they were drinking hot water with a splash of milk in. They never mentioned it, they just wanted to make sure Lesley and I were OK.”

Although a slightly different Benevolent Fund existed back then, Patricia and Lesley’s personal experience resonates with so many people the Fund has helped right up to the present day.

Today if an officer dies in service the Benevolent Fund makes a one-off payment of £3500 and will then pay any surviving children £25 a week until they reach their 18th birthday. Around £20,000 in financial support is given to widows and orphans from the Benevolent Fund each year.

When Lesley turned 18 and had plans to go to university, the government rules, back in the late 70’s on awarding grants, meant she was unable to receive financial support because her mother was too young to be classed as a widow.

The Benevolent Fund came to their aid once more and gave a lump sum to the family to enable Lesley to go to university to study Law.

“It just goes to show how brilliant the Benevolent Fund was, even in those days. Not only monetary support but tremendous emotional support too. I know I would not have coped without their help”, said Patricia.

“Everyone remembers 1976 for a hot summer”, adds Lesley. “That year was such a difficult year for Mum and I, however we survived it and I will forever be indebted to the Benevolent Fund. It’s been over 45 years since dad’s death, but we have not forgotten the help we received from them.

“When you have a loved one in the police service, policing is something quite central to your life and so when you lose that person you quickly lose that strong connection with the police. The Benevolent Fund helped us to remain connected, they became our extended police family, which was really important, especially for me and the proud memories I had of my Dad as a police constable.”

“Today’s acts of remembrance provided an opportunity for us to reflect upon the Benevolent Fund’s heritage and its ongoing role of supporting officers and staff in times of need”, commented Chairman John Williams.

“West Midlands Police Benevolent Fund can associate itself with so many names on the Roll of Honour and I’m incredibly proud of the fact that, over 47 years, the Ben Fund has remained steadfast in providing support to its members.”

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Charity Number: 1186628

Company Number: 03179216

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