Widow of first South Wales officer to die on duty to attend National Police Memorial Day
The widow of a South Wales cop who died in the line of duty four weeks after the couple got married has told how important it is to keep his memory alive as she prepares to attend this year’s National Police Memorial Day.
Jeffrey Pitman, 21, was the first South Wales police officer to die while on duty, following a motorbike accident after he had been called to an incident in 1969.
More than 50 years later and Diane Roberts is looking forward to attending the memorial service, which this year is being held in Cardiff.
“Jeff was a very special person. His one thing was that he always wanted to join the police. He’d joined the cadets at 17 and became a constable at 19, and he thrived in his role. He would have continued to be an amazing officer,” recalls 74-year-old Diane, who was just 20 years old when Jeff died.
In 1968, just a year before he died, Jeff was awarded a Queen’s Commendation for Brave Conduct, after being shot at during an armed burglary that he had been called to.
“It was extremely traumatic when Jeff died. I was devastated, we’d been married just over four weeks. I was in complete shock,” Diane added.
“And to be honest, 50 years after, I didn’t have any contact with the Force. But then on the 50th anniversary of his death, the Chief Constable took part in the Police Unity Tour in Jeff’s memory, and that’s how I came to be in contact with South Wales Police Force once again.
“I appreciated it so much that he hadn’t been forgotten after all that time, it meant a lot to me. It’s very comforting to know that, even after more than 50 years, I’m still considered part of the police family.
“It’s so important to keep his memory alive - and remember all officers who have died on duty.
“The memorial event means our loved ones are remembered and honoured at a service every, single year - and that means a lot to us all.”
Having struggled with Jeff’s death, Diane decided to train as a nurse, to give her something to focus on. During the second year of her nurse training, she went on to meet her husband, and the pair went on to have two children.
“I think helping others helped me heal, in a way,” said Diane, who has six grandchildren.
“It took time for me to heal though and it wasn’t until I was invited back to Bridgend to receive a commemorative display in Jeff’s memory that I started talking about him again. In a way, getting in touch with the Force again was all part of the healing process.”
This year’s National Police Memorial Day will be taking place at St David’s Hall in Cardiff on Sunday 24 September.
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