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1963: The man who shocked the wardens

Charlie Hicks remembers his father Peter, who notoriously invented a device which delivered an electric shock to any traffic warden who tried to give him a parking ticket.

When Charlie Hicks left school aged 16, his headmaster probably breathed a sigh of relief.

This was no reflection on the BBC Radio 4 presenter's academic ability or his behaviour, but rather the method of transport his father used to fetch him from his South Downs boarding school at the end of term.

"Dad bought an ex-American Army helicopter fairly cheaply, probably not costing more than an ordinary car. It was great fun for a while - he used to come and pick me up at school in it," Charlie told BBC On This Day.

Two-thousand volts

It may have been a good way to impress fellow pupils, but not the authorities at Lancing College.

"One day I was summoned to the headmaster who said he'd had complaints from the ground staff and could my father please park his helicopter somewhere else?"

Peter Hicks also used the army chopper to commute from his Sussex farm to London, where he sold his produce in the Covent Garden wholesale market.

It was one certain way to avoid the traffic wardens who constantly fined him for parking his delivery lorries illegally in Shorts Gardens, central London.

Hicks senior became famous in 1963 for designing a device that delivered a 2,000-volt shock to any warden who touched one of his vehicles.

Warden watching

Charlie, who sells fruit and vegetables when he's not presenting Radio 4's Veg Talk, says the invention was born out of genuine frustration, but ended up as good sport for his father.

"He actually used to deliberately drive around and park his Land Rover in the West End and then go and sit in a pub or a restaurant.

"He'd get himself a nice window table and park very obviously - and illegally - outside. He and his mates would sit there having a drink or two and a nice bit of lunch watching them trying to ticket his vehicle."

The attempts frequently ended in a huge bang and much merriment for those watching in the pub.


" You have no idea how much pleasure it would give him that this story was still doing the rounds "

Charlie Hicks

The farmer's invention landed him in trouble with the police - although he was eventually cleared of committing any offence - but Charlie says the whole incident was typical of his father.

By any measure Peter Hicks was a resourceful and talented man.

He built and raced power boats for many years with his wife, was a respectably successful amateur jockey and was a painter.

And this was aside from running a large business, maintaining a farm and, of course, his flying activities.

Mischievous

Charlie argues that this sort of character was not unusual for a man of his generation.

"He went into the RAF virtually as he left school and was in bomber command - he was a tail-end Charlie in Lancasters and Wellingtons.

"I think the rest of life was a bit of a let down after that."

But he admits his father had an unusually mischievous sense of humour.

"[On the video] he's trying to explain it's purely an anti-burglary device but he can't hide that smirk can he?

"You have no idea how much pleasure it would give him that this story was still doing the rounds - he would be delighted."


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