IT was one of the most extraordinary nights for policing Worcester has ever known.

It began when a rampaging mob from Birmingham, estimated at up to 60 strong, descended on the city centre aiming to exact revenge for one of their own being stabbed at a local discotheque a couple of nights before.

As they destroyed a dive bar, injured innocent customers and smashed up property near the historic Cathedral, the mass of screaming, weapon wielding youths attacked a lone police motorcyclist before running to their cars and heading back up the M5.

But the motorway and surrounding roads had been sealed off, many were arrested and brought back to Deansway police station where they were met by senior officers still in their dinner jackets, having downed cutlery at a force function to tackle the emergency.

The sequel came three months later, when at Worcester Assizes, 18 defendants from the Birmingham area were jailed for a total of 54 years for their part in the night of terror. Another, younger than the rest, was sent to Borstal. None had any previous convictions for violence.

Before the court was a wicked array of weapons used, including knives, swords, meat axes, coshes, clubs, pickaxe handles and iron bars. Witness even spoke of a sawn off shotgun, but that was never recovered. Thirteen members of the public were attacked and injured, including several women

The motorcycle officer who took on about 15 of the gang singlehandedly was on routine patrol when they were being sentenced, but a call from court officials brought PC David Borthwick hurrying back to the drama of Court One where the presiding judge Mr Justice Lawton commended him for his bravery. “I am filled with admiration for the way you tackled this gang,” the judge told the officer. “One cannot help but admire your courage.”

It all started on the night of Monday, October 6, 1969, when youths from Worcester and Birmingham clashed in the car park of the Bank House public house at Bransford following the regular weekly discotheque.

One of the Birmingham group attempted to flee, but was chased 500 yards back along the Worcester-Hereford road, cornered in a field and stabbed four times. Amazingly he survived. His attackers were arrested and subsequently appeared in court, but his friends were bent on more instant vengeance. A meeting was called in a Birmingham pub and three gangs joined forces to carry it out.

Two days later, at around 10.15 in the evening of Wednesday, October 8, 23-year-old PC Borthwick was alone on motorcycle patrol near Worcester Cross when he heard screaming and shouting and saw people running towards him from the direction of the Cathedral. “I had no idea what was happening,” he said. “It looked like a riot.”

So he fired up his 650cc Triumph Bonneville and set off down High Street to find out. He arrived in Lychgate Precinct (near today’s Elgar statue) as a large group of youths began emerging from the single stairway down to the Swan Dive Bar, licenced premises which had been created beneath, but were not connected with, Russell and Dorrell’s department store.

In their efforts to find their friend’s attackers, the Birmingham gang had already visited several other city centre pubs, but without success, so they randomly decided to smash up the Swan and terrorise its customers before going home.

PC Borthwick had already alerted police headquarters to the situation, but before help arrived he had no option but to face the mob alone. Members of the public hid in terror as the youths smashed shop windows in High Street and attacked a branch of Barclays Bank. Down below, the single room Swan was a scene of devastation.

PC Borthwick said: “I was determined to have one of them, so I grabbed a fair-haired youth and put an arm lock on him. But then I heard him shout ‘Get the b**tard off me’ and I was hit hard from behind.

"I was then faced by about 15 youths, some of whom were carrying pickaxe handles. They hit me on the head, smashing my helmet visor and I was beaten to the ground. Unfortunately I had to let go of my prisoner and that really annoyed me.”

At that point, having caused as much damage as they could, the mob ran for their cars, but the police were one step ahead. The exit lanes of the M5 had been blocked and they were picked off as they tried to get home. Some of the fearsome weapons used during the night’s carnage were recovered from the vehicles, but 27 others were found where they were discarded in and around High Street.

News of the terrifying incident spread like wildfire across the police airwaves and senior officers in the middle of enjoying an annual dinner, swiftly left to oversee the operation. It must have come as some surprise to the arrested to find themselves being met on their return to Worcester by officers in full evening dress, who were, presumably, not too happy about having their celebrations disrupted.

The case was heard in January 1970 at the last Worcester City Assizes held in the courtroom of Deansway police station. More than 40 police and prison officers ringed the dock as Mr Justice Lawton sentenced every defendant – bar the youth sent to Borstal – to three years in prison for affray. For several it was their first time before a court of any kind and relatives wept in the public gallery as they were led away.

The judge told them: “Going through the streets you must have seemed like a big army to the unfortunate citizens of Worcester who happened to be about at the time. I have decided you must lose your liberty for a substantial period.”

The young policeman who stood in their way rose through the ranks to end his career as a detective chief inspector. Today David Borthwick lives near Hereford and remembers the night only too well.

He said: “I’ve never been in anything like it before or since. I still get flashbacks, but not in a particularly bad way. I just wish I could have held on to the lad I caught hold of. That still really gets to me.”