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1984: 'I had a lot of sympathy for the miners'
John Vipond was an officer in Northumbria Police during the miners' strike.

As a member of the "police support unit" - or riot squad - he was often on the front line during clashes with pickets.

He remembers having a lot of sympathy for the striking miners and was dismayed at colleagues who treated them with unnecessary violence.

Washington did have quite a few miners living in the area and I came across quite a few rather tragic circumstances where families were living almost destitute - candles for lighting and no heating.

I remember there were quite a few of us in the police station then who did a collection for one particular family - a nice family who, because of the strike, had really hit hard times.

There were certain individuals... who had very little sympathy with the miners and what they were doing

I had a lot of sympathy for the miners - I'm a working class man just as much as anyone.

I think a big cause of the violence was propaganda from the government at the time. I'm sure Mrs Thatcher was quite insistent on seeing this thing ground out.

Also there were certain individuals - I met some of them in the police force - who had very little sympathy with the miners and what they were doing and made every effort to stir things up by the catcalls they made.

At Orgreave itself there was a sergeant, or inspector at least, from a different force who was standing about two or three rows behind me who kept yelling out, "Keep it up lads, I'm going to go on my Caribbean holiday with my overtime".

The man was stupid. Whether it was just a lucky fluke or something, I'm sure a brick hit him and knocked him down.

Surges

Orgreave was a beautiful hot summer's day. We were based at an RAF airbase somewhere round there and we were sent out in convoys of vans at 0530.

We were wearing uniforms and they became more and more hot and uncomfortable. By about 0800 we'd had nothing to eat or drink and we were standing there getting more and more morose.

Someone came up with the idea of passing some Mars bars and cans of coke up and we passed them amongst ourselves.

Just as you heard the click of the cans the miners kicked off. They started to throw things at us and we had to put these cans down and stand shoulder to shoulder. And then it became rather nasty after that with surges back and forward.

There were bricks flying and people going down. One or two bricks were thrown back from the police into their end.

When things are bad a policeman is supposed to be calm and rational

I witnessed a policeman going out with his truncheon and hitting one of the pickets.

He left the ranks and started laying into the fellow. He wasn't wearing the riot gear, but the normal black police gear.

When we all finished and went back to the airfield he was quite proud of it because it was on TV as well.

I think his excuse was he'd snapped or the stress had been too much or something. The rest of us said, "We were in the same position, we didn't snap, it didn't affect us like that, why should you get away with it?"

I very much doubt he faced any disciplinary action.

Policeman are not supposed to react like that. When things are bad a policeman is supposed to be calm and rational. That's the way I was taught and that's they way I reacted.

Scargill injured

About 1100 the assistant chief constable I think decided to let these horses through.

We opened up and let them through and then we were told to chase the miners from the field. So I duly started running down this field as instructed and I remember going long by this gravel pathway down to a humped-back bridge.

At that point I heard a noise behind me and I was in danger of being knocked down by one of these damned horses. So I had to squeeze up tight against this bridge as this mounted cop when past.

Within seconds of that I was round the corner. I saw Scargill picking himself up, nursing his head and looking a bit shaken. At that point the mounted policeman rode past him.

Scargill must have thought, "I've just been hit on the head by a policeman and that's him going past".

But he had hit his head on some huge railway sleeper. Whether he genuinely thought that's what happened I don't know. At the same time I suppose it was very good propaganda so who knows?

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Police making an arrest at Orgreave
The miners' strike was marred by serious violence on the picket lines


Police fight with pickets at Orgreave
Police were accused by miners of being heavy handed
John Vipond
John Vipond said some of his fellow police officers tried to 'stir things up'
In Context
John Vipond left the police force in 1985.

He now lives in Sunderland and is an IT manager for a company in north-east England.

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