Mann, John

Mann, John               1916 May 5th                  Larkhill

Fatal Motor Accident

Three Workers Knocked Down near Stonehenge Inn

A serious accident occurred on Thursday night in last week on the road leading from Stonehenge Inn to Larkhill Camp. A motor car, driven by a private in the Royal Flying Corps, overtook a number of men, and in turning to avoid some who were walking on the left side of the road knocked down three who were waking on the right. All three were injured and were brought to Salisbury Infirmary. One died soon after admission. An inquest was held at the Infirmary on Saturday afternoon by the City Coroner (Mr S Buchanan Smith), Mr Northumberland Brown being foreman of the jury.

George Thomas Jacquett, general foreman in the employ of the Road Board, working at Larkhill, said that the man who had died, John Mann, had been under his supervision since August. He had known him about seven years. He was a native of Chatham and from statements he had made witness reckoned that he was about 58 years of age. He was a labourer employed by the Road Board and had been working at the Camp.

Albert Goldsmith, who appeared with bandages round his head, said he was a hut orderly and lived at Hut No 1, Flying Sheds, Larkhill. On Thursday evening, April 27th, he and Mann and another camp worker were in the Stonehenge Inn, and they left at about 9 o’clock to go to Larkhill. They walked on the left hand side of the road in single file. It was a very dark night. When they got a little way up the road, about 9.15pm, a motor car struck him in the forehead and knocked him down. He was picked up by some soldiers, who put him in a motor car and he was brought to the Infirmary. He did not hear the motor car coming, nor did he see any lights.

Mr Easterbrook (from the office of Messrs Hodding and Jackson), who represented the driver of the car, asked the witness several questions.

How far past the Stonehenge Inn did the accident occur? About 100 yards.

You say it happened at 9.15? That’s right.

So it took you a quarter of an hour to walk 100 yards? Yes, we were not hurrying.

I suppose there were a lot of people about? Yes, a good many came out of the Inn.

People were walking both behind you and in front? Yes.

You say you heard no hooter sounded? Quite correct.

The car tried to get past you without sounding the hooter? It might have knocked anyone down. It ran over a dog before it got to us.

You did not have time to tell whether the light were on or off? No.

The next witness, John Donley, was wheeled into the room in an invalid’s chair. He described himself as a labourer employed by the Road Board, and said he was with some mates at the Stonehenge Inn on Thursday night. They left at 9 o’clock and when they had got from 100 to 150 yards beyond the Inn he heard some shouting and saw the reflection of glaring lights coming from behind. He and his mates were on the left side of the road and when he looked round it seemed as if a motor car was coming straight for them. He shouted to his mates to keep in, then moved towards the right hand side of the road. The car also swerved to the right and in doing so knocked him down. There were two or three soldiers behind him walking on the left hand side of the road. The car pulled up 20 or 30 yards after it passed them.

Replying to Mr Easterbrook, witness said he was quite sure he saw the lights of the car. He was the last of the three as they walked in single file.

Percy Harman, corporal in the 2/5th Battalion West Yorks Regiment, said he saw the car coming when it was about 50 yards behind him. He and Corporal Sykes were on the left hand side of the road and he noticed three civilians on the right hand side about ten yards in front of them. As the car was passing it seemed to swerve to the right and the next thing he saw was that the three civilians were lying in the road. He helped to put two of them into the car and stayed with the third man till another car came along which took him to Amesbury.

Cross-examined, he said that the occupants of the car also helped to pick up the man who was knocked down. He saw one light on the car.

Thomas Sykes, a corporal in the same regiment as the last witness, said he was with him on the occasion of the accident. They were walking close to the bank on the left-hand side of the road, and three civilians were on the right side. He heard a motor car coming, and touched Corporal Harman, who then went behind him. The car was partly on the right hand side of the road, and it went further to the right as it passed them. It pulled up a little distance ahead, and witness saw two men were lying on the bank and one in the road. They went across and rendered what assistance they could. One man was more seriously injured than the others, and he and one of the others were put into the car and taken to Amesbury. A doctor ordered their removal to the Infirmary. A private in the Royal Flying Corps drove the car to Amesbury, but witness refused to let him drive to Salisbury, so a civilian drove.

Questioned by Mr Easterbrook, witness said the civilians were walking single file, he saw lights on the car, and the car pulled up about 25 yards from the scene of the accident.

The Foreman asked why the witness refused to allow the soldier from the Royal Flying Corps to drive to Salisbury.

Witness : Because he was “nervy” and upset.

A Juryman asked if the witness had any idea of the pace the car was doing when it passed them.

Witness : Twenty miles an hour is the lowest estimate I could possibly put on it.

Replying to another question, he said it was not very dark. He could see a man fifteen yards away.

George William Mullis, motor driver in the employ of George Andrews, Chapel House, Bulford, said that at 9.5pm on April 27th he left Bulford in the car with Mr Heather and two other soldiers of the Royal Flying Corps. Mr Heather asked if he might drive the car, as it was usual for him to do when he went back to the camp alone. When his wife went back with him witness used to drive. Mr Heather drove the car on this occasion, witness sitting by his side, and the two soldiers at the back.

The Coroner : Did all go well till you got to the cross roads by Stonehenge Inn?

Witness : Yes, sir.

Was the horn sounded before you crossed the road at that point? Yes, sir.

Was it sounded after you crossed the road? Yes, sir.

Did you see some soldiers walking up on the left hand side of the road? Yes, about 200 yards after we passed Stonehenge Inn, and Mr Heather steered the car to the right to pass them.


Did you see any civilians there? Immediately after we passed the soldiers three civilians appeared from the bank on the right hand side of the road. They came suddenly right in front of the car and before Mr Heather could bring the car back to the left hand side of the road again he ran over them.

Can you tell the jury what pace he was driving? From ten to twelve miles an hour?

What lights had you? An off head light and a near side light.

Did Mr Heather pull up the car? Yes, in about twelve yards.

Did you and Mr Heather, with the assistance of some soldiers, put two men in the car and take them to Amesbury? I remained with the car and afterwards drove them to the Infirmary.

The Foreman : Were your brakes in perfect working order? Yes, in perfect order.

A Juryman said he thought that if the driver could see the soldiers he ought to have been able to see the civilians who were walking near.

Edward Charles Gerald Heather, a private in the Royal Flying Corps, stationed at Larkhill (who was questioned by Mr Easterbrook) said that on the evening of the accident he left Larkhill at about 7.15 to walk to Chapel House, Bulford (his wife’s home), where he was living. He went there to supper and left at about 9 o’clock, as he was due back at the camp at 9.30. He was driving. After he passed Stonehenge Inn he was continually sounding the horn because a lot of people were in the road. He saw four soldiers on the left hand side of the road.

Mr Easterbrook : I supposed you pulled to the right to pass them? Yes.

Tell us what happened next? As I was going to the right to avoid these soldiers, about ten or twelve yards in front I saw three civilians on the right hand side of the road.

What did you do? Put your brakes on? Yes.

There was no time to pull up dead? No, it was an impossibility.

How many miles an hour do you think you were going? About 12.

Is it a level road or uphill? Slightly uphill.

When you saw you had run into someone you put all your brakes on and pulled up? Yes.

Within how many yards? Under the length of the car. I pulled up as quickly as possible and rushed back to see who was hurt.

You rendered what assistance you could? Yes.


Did you drive two of the men into Amesbury? Yes, I went to Dr March first but he was out so I went to Dr Browne.

When you got to Amesbury did you inform the police? Yes, after I had been to the doctors.

You were greatly upset? Yes, I was very bad after I got out of the car at Amesbury.

The two men who were sitting in the back of the car have gone to Farnborough? Yes.

Dr Cameron Gillies, house surgeon at the Infirmary, said that John Mann was brought into the institution at 10.00pm on April 27th. He was unconscious and suffering from severe injuries to the head and chest. His head was cut and grazed in several places and several ribs on both sides were broken. He did not recover consciousness but died within a few minutes of admission. The shock due to the injuries was sufficient to cause death.

Addressing the jury, the Coroner said he had gone very carefully into the statements of the witnesses and they were very conflicting. The civilians said they were walking on the left hand of the road, and others said they were on the right. One man who told them they were on the left said that Mann made a rush to the right when the car came – the very thing he should not have done.

The Foreman said the jury were unanimous in returning a verdict of “Accidental death” but thought the driver should be severely censured, because they were of opinion that he was driving at an excessive speed at the time of the accident.

The jury gave their fees to the Red Cross Society.

A Charge of Manslaughter – Salisbury Magistrates Court

1916 May 26th

Despite the Inquest verdict of “Accidental Death,” Private Edward Heather was brought to Salisbury Magistrates Court by the Salisbury County Police, charged with ‘feloniously killing and slaying John Mann.’

I will not reproduce the evidence, except to note, as did the defending counsel, Mr F H Trethowan, that the evidence given by Goldsmith and Donley was not consistent in detail, either with each other or with their inquest evidence. The evidence of Heather – who, as a suspect at the inquest had been kept out of the room – was consistent with other accounts.

The case ended with these exchanges:

Dr Browne, of Amesbury, said he remembered the three men being brought to his surgery on April 27th. Two were only slightly injured, but one had a severe lacerated wound in his head. After they had left he found a lot of broken glass about the room and a police officer discovered a broken bottle. They all smelt strongly of drink and the one who was most severely injured was more under the influence of drink than the others. Heather was quite sober.

Mr Trethowan again addressed the Bench and submitted that there was no evidence that could be given of any negligent conduct on the part of his client. There was nothing to suggest that he was driving in such a way as to show that he did not care what happened, and that was what must be proved before he could be convicted on a charge of manslaughter.

The Chairman : If your submission is correct, all I can say is that lives are cheapish.

Mr Trethowan : I have submitted that many times before.

The Chairman : Yes, we have heard it many times, but I still don’t agree with it.

Mr Trethowan said he had in a professional capacity directed juries in regard to the same point.

The Bench committed defendant for trial at the Assizes and bail was allowed.

Assizes Trial 1916 June 2nd

The same evidence was here needlessly rehashed, and the Judge summed up as follows,

The Judge, in the course of summing up, said that the explanation that the men whilst in a fuddled condition, caused by drink, blundered in front of the car, was the one which seemed to him to be the true one, and if the jury believed that that was the case they must find the prisoner not guilty.

After a very brief deliberation the jury returned a verdict of not guilty and Heather was discharged.


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