Henley Watch History

Henley Watch was founded in November 1990 by a number of concerned residents in direct response to the escalating crime wave sweeping our country at the time.

After an initial meeting, Sqd. Ldr. Peter Tunstall was elected chairman and under his leadership, the organisation grew. Being a military man the Watch was organised along these lines and to this day the members on duty have a precise, but courteous, manner on the radios.

From the initial signing up of 150 Henley families, it grew to about 87% of all households. In the past few years however professional armed response companies have attracted Henleyites as they do not require active duty and they install alarms as part of their monthly fee in the contract, they require to be signed. Currently, the Henley Watch membership stands at nearly 450 families, businesses, and community organisations.

Another strength of the Watch was the alarm system set up by Chris van den Heuvel in partnership with George Ripley-Evans. Today there are several alarm installers in the village who install the MAMI system the Watch uses. Any existing alarm can be connected to the Watch radios but it requires the installation of a MAMI radio.

In the early years the Watch only operated from 6 to 6 at night but now there is a separate Day Command so there is cover 24/7/365

Much has changed over the years particularly with technology. Big heavy radios and mobases have been replaced by smaller more effective ones. Over the years the trees in Henley have also grown and they sometimes adversely affect communication despite the advances in technology. Old radios were recently donated to the Henley Museum. Instead of block commanders writing down the schedules and delivering them by hand we use emails and cellular text messages to communicate. There is also a Watch website.

In 2010 to celebrate our 20th anniversary Peter Tunstall and his wife Ann were flown in from Knysna where they had retired, to attend a party held at Henley High. When Peter was interviewed on TV when the Watch was five years old, the suggestion was made that many similar organisations had been formed but have not lasted very long. Well, many other things may have come and gone but Henley Watch is still going strong. The Watch has proved resilient due to sound leadership and a strong community spirit exhibited by many who expend efforts beyond the call of duty.

In 2015, after 25 years of service to Henleyites, a major change was brought about. Although the amount of crime hadn’t increased very much, the nature of the crime had become more violent and it was deemed prudent to employ a professional security company with 24/7 armed response to take over the patrolling and response duties from our members, whilst still retaining control by using our members as Controllers. This necessary change has proven to be very successful.

How the Watch Works

Henley is divided into four blocks:  A, B, C and D (night duties) and E (day duties) for purposes of administration, (See map.) each under the control of a block commander. The area of activity covers east of the Henley station to the last houses in St George’s road. It includes the part of Highbury along Henley Drive and Sontnell and Dinsdale roads next to the mine.

Duties are rotated weekly so every fourth week a block is on duty at night, making 13 duties per year. Day Command works on calendar months but the fifth weeks in the month mean that these members also do thirteen duties in a year. Patrolling is primarily done by a HENLEY SECURITY SERVICES in a vehicle dedicated to Henley 24/7 but there are members who act as backup patrollers. This means that there is a full armed response at all times, a requirement of many insurance companies.

Controllers work from home. They have a mobase radio which registers the location when an alarm is activated. He or she relays this information to the mobile response guard and directs him to the property.  The Controller then contacts the member to establish the situation before calling in the police or other required back-up response.

An assistant controller is known as the “duty officer” is also on duty to assist the controller as and where required. The Watch also responds to community-related appeals such as lost dogs, dog poisonings, phoning for an ambulance in an emergency or escort-me- home requests,

Members are either Active or Inactive. Active members pay a lower fee and contribute a number of hours per month in various duties. These duties are as Controllers and Duty officers or in administration. There are some who supply specialist services such as counselling or medical assistance.  There is a group of members forming the Special Ops team (Watch members who have their own firearms). They organise night time patrolling and stake out operations as the need arises and can be called to back-up the guard of the response company in an emergency.   The Watch supplies protective gear and equipment such as night sights for them but does not supply arms.

Many members are Inactive and they pay a fee that is roughly twice as much as the Active members. Businesses pay Inactive fees.

All this and much more is detailed in the Constitution which is available to everybody at the Henley Library. The confidential Operations Manual for all active members is available via the block commanders.

It will always be a hard slog to keep crime under control in the present environment, but thanks to the dedication, loyalty, self-discipline, and inventiveness of our members we have more than managed to hold our own in this battle. During these endeavours we have also managed to keep an unblemished record for decency, whilst at the same time keeping clear of racism, politics, and unlawful conduct.