Annie Carnegie-Brown (1891-1981): Cambridge’s First Policewoman and WW2 Spycatcher
What is your dream career? Could you cope with being the first ever person to do that job?
Annie Carnegie-Brown (1891-1981) was the first ever policewoman in Cambridge, a trailblazing woman whose fluency in German ensured she was involved in the interrogation and capture of Nazi spies in the Second World War. Her bravery and dedication to duty were unrivalled and she was even stabbed with a carving knife while carrying out a routine arrest. Read on to find out more about this incredible heroine!
Annie was born in 1891 in Kingston-upon-Hull, Yorkshire; her family eventually moved near to St Paul’s Church, Cambridge, where her father was vicar between 1902 to 1915. Educated at Edinburgh University (a feat that was rare for a woman at that time), she worked as a teacher at the Scottish Missionary School in Palestine, until the outbreak of the First World War when she joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) which served behind the front lines in a non-combatant role, providing administrative support for the soldiers, including cooking, transportation and medical care. Annie was camp administrator at Rouen army base and was mentioned in dispatches for bravery—even though she was behind the front lines being a WAAC was dangerous work as there were frequent air raids and artillery bombardments of rear areas.
Imagine living under the constant fear of a bomb or shell landing near you, how would you survive?
While in Leeds after the First World War, Annie joined the police and in 1923 she was transferred to her home town of Cambridge where she became the local constabulary’s first policewoman . Her salary when she first started was only £3 a week (the equivalent of £182.60 today and a lot lower than what policemen at the time earned), but she didn’t choose her career for the money, it was more of a vocation for her. If Annie had thought that her days of danger had ended with the First World War, she was deeply mistaken: although only of a very slight build, she was stabbed with a carving knife while arresting a thickset woman in Ely; remarkably, she was able to return to work the next day.
What is the bravest thing you or anyone else you know has ever done?
Forget Bond, James Bond; Carnegie-Brown, Annie Carnegie-Brown was a real life spycatcher
. During the Second World War, Annie was recruited to help catch and interrogate German spies in Britain due to her fluency in German; although still part of the police she would have had to work alongside MI5 officers hoping to ‘turn’ the spies into double-agents in order to send false information to the Nazis.
After retiring from the police force as a sergeant in 1947, Annie turned to her favourite hobby of coarse and fly fishing and passed away in 1981, aged 90. She had lived a truly extraordinary life and was a pioneer in ensuring that women today have the same job opportunities as men.
Can you follow in Annie’s footsteps and draw yourself in your dream job? Are there any job roles today that you consider exclusive for men or women?