Farewell Old Friend. Bill Crabtree, OLM, CPM,PCD
‘A gregarious, popular and highly efficient officer with a swashbuckling side to his nature’…….
So it was said of Yorkshireman Bill Crabtree OLM, CPM,PCD who rose to the rank of Deputy Commissioner (Crime & Security) in the British South Africa Police (BSAP), one of the most distinguished and respected of the old colonial forces (Daily Telegraph 29 March 1980).
Bill Crabtree, born February 1917 in the small Yorkshire town of Todmorden, passed away peacefully this month in Amberglen, Howick just three months before his 100th Birthday.
In 1938, tiring of a sedentary existence as a staff member of a building society in London, Bill decided to seek a career in Southern Rhodesia and joined the British South Africa Police as a mounted trooper. He enjoyed an adventurous and exhilarating life in the bushveld, patrolling and policing the countryside on horseback before transferring to the Criminal Investigation Department.
During WWII, Bill was seconded as a Lieutenant into the British Army and served in Egypt, Palestine and the Greek Islands. In 1946 Bill returned to Rhodesia to resume his service in the BSAP as Detective Sergeant. During a long an exciting career he was involved in the investigation of serious crime, undercover activities against organised gold smuggling syndicates, counter espionage and anti-terrorist operations in the then Rhodesia.
Promoted to the rank of Detective Inspector in 1954, Bill rose rapidly through the ranks and in 1968 was appointed Deputy Commissioner (Crime and Security). He retired from the police force on the 31st May 1970 having completed 32 years of service. Bill was considered the epitome of an Officer and Gentleman, highly efficient and well respected by all his colleagues.
After his retirement, Bill joined the South African Diplomatic Service in June ‘70 as ‘Administration Secretary’ and spent the next 12 years as Rhodesia’s ‘man in Greece’ working in the South African Embassy in Athens.
In 1982 Bill and his wife Kay relocated to Durban and in 2008 moved to Amberglen in Howick. Kay passed away in 2009 and Bill continued to live in good health until his death on 6 November 2016. A member of both the Natal and the Natal Midlands Regimental Association, he will be sorely missed. Bill leaves behind his daughter Beverley, son Michael, daughter-in-law Cheryl, grandchildren David, Andrea, Michelle, Brett and Amanda.