History of the Metropolitan Police
Originally the 'Mobile Patrol Experiment' (1919 - 1920) the Flying Squad accepted the nickname in about 1921, as a small unit of Branch C1, Central CID. The Flying Squad is concerned with the detection and prevention of armed robbery and related professional crime. The expert drivers are recruited from uniformed police drivers, and given the honorary title of Detective Constable while they serve with the Squad.
The Squad was formed on a one-year experimental basis by Commissioner Sir Nevil McCready in October 1919. Inspector Walter Hambrook was given command of 12 detectives with a roving commission to travel from place to place in the Metropolitan Police District, maintaining surveillance for crime on the streets from a horse-drawn canvas covered Great Western Railway van with spy-holes cut in the side. On seeing known house-breakers or pickpockets they were to leave the van and make arrests if the occasion warrented. They were also employed to frequent known criminal hang-outs in pubs and clubs, maintaining observation on the clientele and collecting information. All members of the Squad were known to have excellent contacts with and knowledge of criminals in their own Divisions. Thus a small group of officers combined to pool their knowledge and enjoy metropolis-wide familiarity with criminals.
The Squad was reorganised and enlarged throughout the 1920s, and in 1929 given an establishment of 40 officers under a Detective Superintendent of C1 Branch. In 1948 it was given independent status as Branch C8. 1978 - 81 it was merged and renamed the 'Central Robbery Squad', although officially accepted as the Flying Squad. (Also nicknamed 'Heavy Mob' and 'the Sweeney'.)
Perhaps the most dangerous part of the Squad's work today is the 'pavement ambush', where armed robbers are arrested in the act of committing a crime. Operation Yamato resulted in an armed robber, Kenny Baker, being shot dead by police in November 1990 at Woodhatch in Surrey, and Operation Char saw two armed robbers killed after they had shot at police when they were trapped trying to rob a post office in Harrow in 1987. However, it is only rarely that police use firearms against bank robbers, more usually relying on speed and surprise.