This year, when the Great War was really making itself felt, shows a distinct increase in the caseload – 56 from January to June – so that I feel forced to split 1915 into two halves.
Obviously there were movements of soldiers, including some from the Empire – several cases featuring Canadian casualties – but there were also many cases featuring men working at the temporary Camps which had been built next to almost every village. For Salisbury, the closest camps were in the Nadder and Wylye valleys, and a number of cases enlighten these places.
The workmen came by train into Salisbury for shopping on a Saturday, and naturally frequented certain establishments – George Lye was found incapable and sleeping rough near his camp, while Herbert Wells and Ebenezer Griffiths were both caught taking short cuts along the line. Charles Hann told his wife he had been mugged and robbed before he travelled home by train and died, but the truth was not so sober. Robert Hardwick was also not sober when he ignored a cart in Fisherton Street, and neither were his two friends who would not allow him to be properly treated at the Infirmary. Percy Futcher disobeyed that well-known bus/railway rule about disembarking from a moving vehicle, but it is also stated that the workmen in the Camps fabricated for themselves railway-carriage keys to enable entry/exit where they chose. Meanwhile Harry Gray was hefting telegraph poles which he wasn’t paid to do, hence betraying the golden rule – never volunteer.
There were thousands of soldiers, some of whom also had mishaps, including Briscoe (who stood behind the targets at musketry practice), Colonel Sykes, Private Morris, and John Horrigan, who was accidentally stabbed to death. Alfred Ellis drowned in the dark in a poorly protected reservoir, while James Dowds was “accidentally killed” by a railway train at night.
Canadian William Campbell overturned his car on the still well-known dogleg railway-bridge at Winterbourne Earls. Drink featured again in the David Smith case, where a juror argued with the Coroner about the relevance of a question about when the soldier’s Mess in Wilton Road was open to serve alcohol. Private John Bennett died when he was caught in a fire of fifteen hay-ricks.
There are several obvious gun fatalities – surely Edward Taylor, Cary Coles and Stanley Dowsett would have lived on had the holders of the guns not been bearing them fully-cocked and pointing their way. I could not help debating the opinions of the doctor and witnesses in the Ernest Lander case, as it seems quite possible that the victim did perhaps hold the gun barrel and push the butt into the hedge to fire it.
Alfred Penny fell from a hay-cart that was going too fast down a slope, causing the horses to bolt, but the driver Moore apparently was not there to control the horses, or was he?
It is often forgotten that much of our Great War forces were reliant still on horsepower, but when two soldiers, including Walter Coleman, ignored instructions about the riding of their horses and indulged in an illicit pint or two, the result was inevitable.
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