History of Henley Watch

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

After an initial meeting, Squadron Leader Peter Tunstall was elected chairman. Being a military man, he organised the Watch along those lines and under his leadership the organisation grew. To this day the members on duty have a precise, but courteous, manner on the radio.

From the initial 150 Henley families, the Watch grew to about 87% of all households. Each had an alarm system, set up by Chris van den Heuvel in partnership with George Ripley-Evans, which was monitored by volunteer controllers. Henley Watch members actively patrolled the area. This ceased in 2015, after 25 years of service, when crime, although it did not increase, became more violent. Patrolling and armed response functions were outsourced to a professional security company. To retain control, the alarms are still monitored by Henley Watch controllers. In the early years the Watch only operated from 6 to 6 at night, but now there is a separate Day Command to provide cover 24/7/365.

Much has changed over the years, particularly technology. Big heavy radios and mobases have been replaced by smaller more effective ones. Trees have grown up and can adversely affect communication. Recently old radios were donated to the Henley Museum. Schedules used to be written and hand delivered, but now block commanders use email and cellular text messages to communicate. There is also a Watch website.

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 a MAMI radio transmitter is required.

In 2010, Peter Tunstall and his wife Ann were flown in from Knysna, where they had retired, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Henley Watch. When Peter was interviewed on TV for the fifth anniversary, it was noted that such organisations seldom lasted long. Henley Watch is the exception. The Watch has proved resilient due to sound leadership and a strong community spirit. A number of founding members still do active duties after all these years, a show of loyalty and dedication.

Currently the Henley Watch membership stands at nearly 400 families, businesses and community organisations, the largest membership among the numerous competitors in the village, and we like to believe we offer superior service.

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