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Great Yarmouth Harbour and Seafront

Three Elephants and the Police Officer

Early October 2011

Unseasonably warm weather and a surprise visit from old Roy Bateman, coming round to see if there are any cooking apples left on our trees that he could use to make his autumn supply of apple pies. Yes, there are still loads of apples, and having filled a couple of stout bags he reminisces about boyhood scrumping escapades. This somehow leads on to an amusing tale from his days driving haulage vehicles during the early 1960s…


Living in Kent at that time, one of Roy’s local farmers specialised in the over-wintering of circus animals. With Easter drawing near it was time to ship three large circus elephants back to Peterborough ready for the travelling circus season, and Roy was detailed to load the pachyderms into an adapted cattle truck and travel through the night to avoid potential delays, which might upset the creatures.

Having enjoyed a hitherto unremarkable journey throughout the small hours, Roy decided to pull into a layby for a well-deserved tea break. As he was about to take his first sip of black tea (“I don’t drink cow-juice”) there was a loud knocking on the cab side window. Spluttering the tea, Roy wound down the window to reveal a frowning police officer. Initially assuming that perhaps a bulb had blown in one of the vehicle lights, Roy was slightly bemused when the officer demanded to know exactly what animals were in the back of the truck.

Always alert to any opportunity that would fluster a representative of officialdom, he replied simply “Three elephants” without further explanation as to why that unlikely response may actually have been true. The officer, clearly not amused, immediately informed Roy that a truck “not unlike this one” was suspected of involvement in some recent cattle thefts and triumphantly demanded that the tailgate be lowered so he could see the cargo for himself.

It was still very dark and the elephants were restfully silent, so as the tailgate ramp came down to the tarmac it was clear that the only way to confirm the species of the cargo would be to physically enter the vehicle using the tailgate ramp.

Roy had conveniently ‘forgotten’ that there was a light on the truck that he could have switched on which would have immediately illuminated the entire scene, and stood silently in anticipation as the officer neared the top of the ramp.

At what must have been the same moment as the officer realised that the truck did indeed contain elephants, a trunk rose up out of the gloom and brushed against the policeman’s shoulder. There was a mighty yell as the officer jumped in alarm, slipped upon landing and tumbled to the foot of the tailgate ramp.

Roy addressed the forlorn figure with the succinct “I told you I had three elephants…”

Picking himself up with as much dignity as possible and brushing off bits of straw from his uniform, the officer proceeded to berate Roy about his conduct and attitude, but after much huffing and puffing let him continue his journey.

And I expect the elephants told all their circus friends about the new clown act they’d just enjoyed taking part in.



See Also: Three Elephants and the Building Inspector (Completely different elephants)