THE FORCE is celebrating half a century of protecting the public by looking back at significant events in the history of Thames Valley Police.

Thames Valley Constabulary was formed in 1968 when five forces from across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire merged.

A change of name followed in 1970 and since then there have been a number of historic events in the region.

Chief constable Francis Habgood said: "Thames Valley is an incredible place to police and I love working here. We have over 2.3 million residents in our force area and about six million visitors. It is the largest non- metropolitan force in the country.

"I have been in policing for over 30 years and the rate of change has accelerated massively.

"Our core principles remain the same: protecting the public, investigating crime, preventing crime but the landscape is now more complex and we need to make sure we continue to stay ahead of this challenge.

"I feel proud and privileged to be leading the service as we hit this milestone anniversary."

Villager: Hungerford Massacre 30 years on: Michael Ryan.

The Hungerford Massacre, Ufton Nervet Rail Crash and Operation Hornet were recognised as some of the most significant events in the 50-year history of Thames Valley Police.

A number of fundraising events are being planned to mark the celebration, including a sponsored walk along the Thames Path.

Any funds raised through the events through the year will go towards the chosen charities for the 50th anniversary - The Police Dependants' Trust and MIND.

Operation Hornet was a six-year investigation into a mult-million pound fraud case, involving bank employees and private business advisoirs.

It was the longest and most complex investigation in the force's history and concluded with six people facing more than 47 years in prison.

Seven people were killed in the Ufton Nervet disaster in 2004 when a car was delliberatley left on the level crossing.

The infamous Hungerford shootings saw 16 people gunned down by Michael Ryan in 1987, including PC Roger Brereton. This led to a change in legislation over semi-automatic firearms.