Long, Eileen

Long, Eileen        1917 August 24th         Britford

Fatal Accident on the Britford Road

Britford Road was the scene on Monday afternoon of a motor-car accident, in which Mrs Eileen Maud Long, the wife of an officer, was killed. The story of the distressing accident was related to the City Coroner (Mr A M Wilson) and a jury at the Infirmary on Tuesday evening. Mr W J Saunders was appointed foreman, and Mr F H Trethowan appeared for the driver of the car.

Lieut. Harry Carpenter Long, of the London Regt., who is under treatment at Longford Castle, said that his wife is staying at Britford, and was 26 years of age. On Monday both of them were coming from Longford Castle in a car and she was sitting on the off side back seat. A sister from the hospital was sitting in the centre and he was sitting on the left. There were two other cars in front and all three left the Castle at the same time and went at a great speed, so much so that they had to lower their heads to keep their hats on. The other cars in front threw up a huge cloud of dust. Just before the collision he noticed a vehicle on the near side of the road and the driver of the car swerved to the right, and then he saw a motor cyclist appear suddenly through the dust, coming from the direction of Salisbury, and the car and the cyclist collided. The impact caused the car to swerve to the left and skid to the near side. When his car was stopped he saw his wife leaning on the nurse’s shoulder. She had a cut across the mouth and eye, and was partially unconscious, and on his speaking to her said she was faint. A doctor who was passing examined her and advised them to take her to the Infirmary. They did so. She did not regain consciousness and died in the evening. Before the accident he shouted to the driver to slow down, for he considered he was driving too fast. When he last saw the car in front of them he was sure they were not far enough apart to be safe. The driver, however, in spite of his warning, continued at the same speed. The accident happened at about 2.45pm.

James Downer, a carter at Longford Park, said when he was about 100 yards from the Salisbury boundary mark on the Britford Road a car passed him going towards Salisbury. Two more cars followed about a hundred yards behind. He was driving a horse attached to a cart and was well into the near side of the road. The first car which passed him raised a great cloud of dust. He then saw a motor cyclist coming from Salisbury well on his near side. After the first car had passed he did not see the cyclist again, but as the other cars came along he heard a report, and stopped his horse, and saw that the cyclist was lying on the footpath. There was a spare wheel, a hat, and a piece of iron on the road. The car went on about twenty yards after the accident. All the cars were travelling at a fairly good rate and the first raised a cloud of dust, owing to which he thought the driver of the second car and the motor cyclist did not see one another. The two cars were about twenty yards apart. The width of the road where the accident happened was 22 feet 9 inches.

In reply to the Foreman, he stated that there were three cars, but the first one was well ahead and these two came along together. The car which collided with the cycle was really the third.

A Juror : Do you think they were going at an excessive speed?

Witness : They were going at a fairly good pace.

Mr Trethowan : Did you notice whether the car touched your float in passing?

Witness : No, it did not.

Supt Cowdrey : You say “a fairly good pace.” There is a pace which a horse travels and one which a motor car travels, you know.

Witness : I think the car was going from 15 to 20 miles an hour.

Lieut Walter Noel Walmsley, of the East Lancashire Regiment, also at present at Longford Castle Hospital, was also riding in the car, and said he did not see the horse and cart until he was quite close, and did not see the car in front of them pass the horse and cart on account of the dust. When he noticed the motor cycle he was from 10 to 15 yards away. They were about level with the cart when the motor cycle collided with the car and ran into the off mudguard. The driver of the car slowed up at the corner just before the accident occurred, and at the time of the accident they were going at from 18 to 20 miles an hour as far as he could tell, for there was no speedometer on the car. In his opinion the collision was purely accidental, because the whole thing was due to the dust raised by the car just in front, so that they could not see the cyclist before he was on them. He spoke to the cyclist, who said he remembered nothing after entering the cloud of dust, though he said he had a faint recollection of a car on the right of the road. He thought that Mrs Long leaned over the side of the car and something hit her on the forehead.

The Foreman : Did you hear Lieut Long call from the back of the seat for the driver to slow up?

Witness : No, I didn’t.

But the driver did slow up as he approached the cart? As soon as I saw the horse and cart I noticed that the speed of the car was dropping.

A Juror : Do you think there was sufficient space for the motor cyclist to get by?

Witness : There was at least two yards.

Mr Trethowan : Did the car pass quite close to this cart?

Witness : That I can’t say because I was watching the motor cyclist.

Lieut Moors : Did the driver sound his horn?

Witness : I could not say.

How far ahead could you see? I can’t state that either.

What speed was the car travelling before it slowed down? Twenty-four or twenty-five miles an hour.

Mr Trethowan : The witness said that Mrs Long leant over the side of the car?

Witness : That I could not actually state, but I thought that it might have happened.

Second-Lieut Maclean, also of Longford Castle, said he was sitting in front with the driver of the car. He gave evidence similar to that of previous witnesses. Just as they drew level with the cart a motor cyclist suddenly appeared. The next thing he heard was a crash due to the cyclist and the car colliding. He immediately jumped out and saw that Mrs Long was bleeding from the nose. He said they were extremely close to the cart and there were two or three yards between the off side of the cart and the edge of the pavement. At the time of the accident the speed of the car was 15 to 20 miles an hour. He could not say the speed the motor cyclist was going. He found that the brass rod of the foot guard of the car had passed through the front wheel of the machine, showing that with another two or three inches the car and the cycle would have been clear of each other.

Ernest Charles Blanchett, motor driver, of 72, Winchester Street, the driver of the car, said there was a considerable amount of dust but he could see the cart plainly. When he did so he put his footbrake on, and he was then travelling from 15 to 20 miles an hour. When level with the cart he saw a motor bicycle appear out of the dust. The cyclist had his head down and was on the left side of the road. He saw that he could not miss him, and what he did was to keep as close as possible to the cart, leaving from two to two and a half yards for the cyclist to pass. He did not know whether the cyclist saw the car. The collision occurred and he did not know which part of the car was hit except that it was part of the off side. He then detailed the injuries his car sustained, and said he saw a lot of things on the road afterwards. He pulled up as soon as he could, but had to go on a certain distance to save hitting the horse and cart. He did not realise at the time that anyone in the car had been hurt.

In reply to Mr Trethowan, he said he could not state the pace the motor cyclist was going.

The Foreman : Did you hear Lieut Long shout to you to ease up?

Witness : No.

Miss D’Abrue, house surgeon at the Infirmary, said Mrs Long was unconscious and bleeding from the mouth and nose when admitted. She had a fracture of the frontal bone. Her condition improved slightly at first, but she died at 7.35 in the evening. In her opinion death was due to fracture of the base of the skull.

The Coroner said that was all the evidence he proposed to call. He had seen a statement which the motor cyclist had made, but he did not propose to read it. He was in too dangerous a state to appear at the inquest. He did not think that anything he stated was material.

The jury retired to consider their verdict, and on their return the Foreman said they were of opinion that it was a case of accidental death caused by everybody going too fast, and the jury would like the driver on the car to be censured.

Magistrates Court 1917 September 7th

The driver of the car, Ernest Charles Blanchett, was subsequently charged with feloniously killing Mrs Eileen Long in the accident. Much of the evidence heard in the inquest was rehashed, though that of Lieutenant Long, the husband of deceased, was subjected to cross-examination by Mr Trethowan, during which he said he had been suffering from shell-shock, as well as wounds, and that had affected his nerves. This is perhaps an early example of prejudice against any soldier claiming shell-shock as a reason for his state, and thus casting doubt on his testimony. Mr Trethowan also objected to a question about the excessive speed of the vehicle, a question we today would see as very much to the point.

Mr Blanchett was sent up to the next Assizes.

Assizes Trial 1917 October 19th

No new evidence was produced, or line of questioning brought in, at the Assizes trail, and in summing up the Judge said it was high time some other term was adopted instead of “manslaughter” for cases like this, as manslaughter was associated with something far different.

Blanchett was found not guilty, and was discharged.

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