Searle, Arthur

Searle, Arthur                1916 June 23rd                Burcombe

Shocking Motor Accident near Burcombe

As the result of colliding with a motor car when riding a motor cycle round a bend on the Hindon road approaching Burcombe, Lieutenant Arthur Henry Searle sustained shocking injuries on Sunday evening and was instantly killed.

The Coroner for South Wilts (Mr F H Trethowan) held an inquest at Burcombe School on Tuesday, Mr G Spearing being foreman of the jury. Among those present were Lieutenant-Colonel Gore, commanding the 11th Reserve Battalion London Regiment, to which the unfortunate young officer belonged, Major Chapman-Huston, and Captain and Adjutant Burgin. Mr P D Aylward represented the owner of the motor car, Mr L R Frank of Wilton.

Captain and Adjutant Burgin, of the 11th Reserve Batt. London Regt., stationed at Hurdcott Camp, gave evidence of identification. He said that Lieutenant Searle was in the same regiment as himself, and his home address was 39, Branckley Road, Chiswick. He was 23 years of age, and single. Witness knew that he rode a motor cycle, and was a skilful rider.

Charles Henry Rogers, motor driver employed by Dr Straton, of Wilton, said that on Sunday, June 18th, he was driving a Studebaker car for Mr Frank, of Wilton. There were five private soldiers in the car whom he was driving to Hurdcott. He left Wilton at 7 o’clock, passed Burcombe and reached Greenway Bottom Arch, where there was an awkward bend to the left. There he saw a motor cyclist approaching him about 20 feet away. Witness pulled the car up by putting on both brakes. He was only going at from 12 to 15 miles an hour as it was a very bad road just there. The car stopped within its own length, and the back of it slewed out into the road. One back tyre burst. No sooner had the cycle struck the car then the radiator cap came through the screen and hit him on the face. Witness did not think he could have avoided the accident in any way. No sooner had the cyclist seen him than he began to move away from the side of the road and to wobble about. The rate he was cycling seemed to be about 45 miles an hour. It was a terrific pace.

Samuel Myers, a private in the 4/2 Reserve Batt. London Regt., said he was riding in the car by the side of the driver on the occasion of he accident. He first saw the cyclist when he was about 30 yards away. The car was on the near side of the road, about a yard from the hedge, and was going at from 12 to 15 miles an hour. That was slower than they usually went back to camp. In his opinion the force of the collision stopped the car practically dead. The motor cyclist was riding on his off-side, and there was hardly any time for him to move out of the way of the car. Witness had some experience of motors when he was in civil life and he estimated the speed at 40 miles an hour. The accident was practically unavoidable in any way. The cyclist could not have come round on the near side of the road at that pace because he would have had an accident earlier. Witness helped to move the car to the side of the road. Before it was moved the bonnet of the car was right in the hedge, and the back straight across the road. The bicycle hit the left side of the radiator and swung the car round.

Replying to Mr Aylward, witness said the motor cyclist was crouched on his seat. They had plenty of time to get back to camp because they started early.

Alec Samuel Newton, a private in the same regiment as the last witness, said he was riding in the back of the car and agreed that the pace was very moderate. The car swung round before they knew where they were.

Thomas William Joyce, a private in the 2nd Reserve Batt. London Regt., said that he and his brother were walking back to camp and when the car was five or six yards behind them they saw the motor cyclist coming towards them. He was on the near side of the road so as to take the curve. The collision took place on the off side of the road.

Replying to Mr Aylward he said the cyclist was going at a terrific pace.

Witness’ brother corroborated his evidence.

Dr Straton, of Wilton, said he was called to the scene of the accident at about 7.30 on Sunday evening. He found there were extensive injuries on the body of the officer, and that death was due to shock consequent upon them.

Addressing the jury, the Coroner said that that was all the evidence he proposed to call. The witness Myers had told them very clearly exactly what happened and from the evidence of the witness Joyce there appeared to be no doubt that the officer was not able to take the corner on the near side of the road, and took it on the off side, but the car was round the corner and he collided with it. The verdict must be “Accidental Death,” but the jury, if they cared to do so, could say that the driver was free from all blame.

The Foreman said he was quite satisfied as to the accident and to the cause of it, and also that no blame was to be attached to the motor driver, but he would like the Coroner to make a note of the condition of Burcombe Lane. A lot of light traffic ought to be diverted on to Burcombe Lane, because it would obviate those accidents, but it was not a negotiable state.

A juryman stated that the hedges by the side of the road where the accident occurred were eight feet high.

The Coroner said he would make a note of these facts.

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