It was the day the tabloids billed Super Saturday. Police forces would be busier than on New Years Eve as drinkers returned to pubs and bars for the first time in three months, they said.

Wiltshire Police had prepared for the worst. There were 30 response officers on duty, together with 18 officers staffing three riot vans.

At points in the evening it seemed that every other vehicle on the roads was a patrol car or police van.

And in the end the evening seemed no busier than the average Saturday night in Swindon.

Swindon Advertiser:

Wood Street was empty by 1am

By midnight the majority of Old Town’s pubs had shut their doors. Would-be revellers were being refused entry to the two that remained open: Mackenzie’s and the King’s Arms.

But even these two watering holes were empty by 1am. And with no nightclubs to go to, people drifted home.

The Adver was out on the night shift with PCs Rory Myers and Dean Tilling.

The night shift - what happened?

Half a dozen officers are briefed by Sgt Richard Tottle at Gablecross police station at 9.30pm. He runs through the aims of the operation, given the name Quantum by the force, and says he wants to see his constables speaking to door staff and regulars. “I want to see lots of hats and chats,” he tells them.

PCs Myers and Tilling’s evening starts early – at 10.30pm – with the officers called to reports of a disorder at the bus station that turned out to be a disagreement between friends.

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The police van at the bus station

Minutes later, the officers pull over by a man walking alongside Manchester Road. He’s carrying what turns out to be an old-fashioned hat stand. He found it in some rubbish and is taking it home, he claims.

Patrols of Wood Street show everything are in order. The bars are alive with chatter - but no music.

A disgruntled drinker comes up to PC Myers, claiming that a bar is not complying with the government’s guidelines for pubs and clubs. The complaint is passed to the licensing officer out on patrol with officers for the evening.

A little later there’s a strangled cry from further down the road, with a bearded man claiming another has a knife. A search reveals no blade.

Swindon Town’s players have been out celebrating the end of their season. The manager, Richie Wellens, and a number of players emerge from one club. Wellens disappears down Michael’s Walk before reappearing at a first floor window to speak to his players on Wood Street below.

PCs Myers and Tilling are tasked to help out with a man sitting above the A419. The road below has been closed by traffic cops. After around 20 minutes he’s helped into a police car by officers.

Another report comes on over the radio: a large number of people are said to be brawling in the Parks. The group, if there was a group, has dispersed by the time officers reach the scene.

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Police patrol in Old Town

At half past midnight the police van is flagged down in Milford Street. A man claims his friend has been assaulted in a random attack around the corner. The victim is struggling to stand. The officers take the men’s details and arrange a taxi to take the pair home.

Further patrols of Wood Street and Regent Street reveal a deserted night scene. The drizzle is beginning to fall as confirmation comes over the radio that the extra officers in the riot vans have been stood down.

By 3am we’re back at Gablecross police station. Acting inspector Liam Winstone says it’s been a quiet night, with no arrests linked directly to the easing of the lockdown measures – although there are three suspected drink drivers in the cells.

“It was always going to be a difficult evening to predict,” he says.

“There was always the possibility people would follow the national trend and have street parties which, obviously, requires a larger police presence to control and manage.”

Asked what message he had for revellers tempted to go out partying as the lockdown measures continue to be eased, Mr Winstone says : “At the end of the day this has all come about because of a virus that has killed half a million people worldwide.

“Just because the restrictions are easing doesn’t mean that threat or danger has gone away. It will only go away if we continue to act sensibly.”

A sergeant ruefully points out the real test will be what happens when the nightclubs reopen. “Come back to us then.”