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UK First Sikh Special Police Officer In Hounslow Dies


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Dec 22 2010 By Jessica Thompson

THE FIRST Sikh special police officer to work in Hounslow has died aged 69.

Rawail Singh Sembi died on December at the Vicarage Farm Nursing Home in Heston on December 12 after a four year battle with prostate cancer.

Mr Sembi, who was born in India, in 1941, applied to join the British Parachute Regiment at the age of 18 after living in Kenya and joining the Kenyan police as a clerk at the age of 15.

He was told that he would be required to wear the uniform and head-dress (maroon beret) of the Parachute Regiment and was unwilling to give up his turban and so declined to join.

In 1962, Mr Sembi became a presidential escort with the police.

During his career with the Kenyan police he received several commendations for his work particularly in relation to organised vehicle crime.

In 1963, when Kenya became independent, the Government pursued the Africanisation policy.

The Kenyan police were the last on the list and in 1966, Mr Sembi got his letter from the commissioner of police either to become Africanised or leave the service. In order to keep his British citizenship he left the police service.

In 1967, Mr Sembi with his wife of three years and two boys came to England and settled in Hounslow. The family home was made in Worton Gardens, Isleworth.

After this he took on a series of jobs, he worked for IBM repairing typewriters, as a postman, and then joined British Airways as a store keeper.

At BA Mr Sembi led on a project to save money of £5m on aircraft parts by extending their shelf life.

In 1977 he joined the Metropolitan Police Special Constabulary, which sees people take on police duties on a voluntary basis.

His passing out parade was reported in The Times newspaper. Although Mr Sembi was not the first Sikh turbaned officer in the MET, he was the first in the Hounslow borough.

He was part of the special constabulary for four years.

Detective Sgt Gurpal Virdi said: "His duty hours exceeded the required minimum and in addition he was reliable. Mr Sembi showed willingness to be called out at any time in order to act as an interpreter.

"Rawail was also well known in the Asian community to drive around in his silver Mercedes with his personalised number plate. He was also part of a group of retired Kenyan police officers who meet up every month for a meal - he will be sadly missed".

In 2006 Mr Sembi was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He carried on working with British Airways until his retirement at 66.

He died on December 12, and is survived by his two sons and one grandson.

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