Dawkins, Frank

Dawkins, (Frank)        1918 October 18th

Fatal Motor Accident – Lieutenant Killed in the Devizes Road

A collision, which was followed by fatal results, occurred in the Devizes Road on Friday evening. Shortly after lighting-up time a Government tender and a motor cycle with side car met with such force that the occupant of the side car (Lieut F Dawkins, RE, of Cromwell Rd, Southampton) was thrown out and died soon afterwards, and the rider of the cycle (Pte Snell) was seriously injured.

On Saturday evening an inquiry was opened at the Infirmary by the City Coroner (Mr A M Wilson).

Lieut-Colonel Farthing, commanding the Air Construction Services at Salisbury, stated that Lieut Dawkins, who was 46 years of age, and unmarried, was a Royal Engineer officer attached to the Royal Air Force pending transfer. On Friday he was engaged at Lake Down and in the evening a motor cycle and side car, with Pte Snell as driver, was sent to bring him home.

James George, a maltster’s labourer, said that he was returning from Skylark allotments at a quarter past six on Friday evening and saw a motor car coming up the road out of the town, with lights burning. About the same time he saw a motor cycle and side car coming in the opposite direction – towards the city. It had a light. The car passed witness and almost immediately he heard a crash and a man came hurtling through the air and pitched a yard or two in front of him. He at once did what he could but could see that he was terribly injured. A woman told him that another poor fellow was lying a few yards up the road. The motor car had been pulled up and the injured men placed in it and taken down to the Infirmary. The cycle and side car had pitched right over on the off side of the road and was partly on the footpath.

In reply to the Coroner the witness said the car was moving in the centre of the road and going fast enough. There was plenty of room on the off side for the cycle and side car which seemed to come along pretty quick. It was his opinion that there would have not been an accident if both vehicles had been going at proper speed.

The Coroner : Did it seem to you that the car was travelling at a dangerous pace? I don’t say it was going over the limit, but you seldom see cars going up there much different. It is a dangerous place, because there are usually dozens of children about, and there is a bend in the road at the top of the hill. A motor cyclist approaching the city would scarcely see a car coming out of the town until he got to the point where the accident occurred.

In answer to Second-Lieut Slingsby, who represented the No 1 School of Navigation, he said he saw only one light on the motor cycle.

George Albert Hand, of 62, Ashley Road, said he was coming down the path by the road with George, who was walking by his side pushing a hand barrow in the road. The motor car came along the middle of the road at a moderate pace, and had just passed when there was a crash, and his son Alfred, aged 12, who was following, called out, “Oh Dad, my back.” He had been struck by a piece of the side car, but not seriously. The car had sounded its hooter coming up the hill but he did not hear any warning from the motor cycle. He did not see it before the crash.

By a Juror : The barrow was on the motor’s near side and might have caused it to go towards the middle of the road if it had been travelling close in on the left. But when the car was pulled up it was on the right side of the road, having swerved over to the side.

Victor Reginald Rolph, a motor driver attached to the No 1 School of Navigation, RFA, chose to give evidence, and said that he had brought in a party to a dance in his car and was returning, carrying two lighted head lamps and two side lamps, and doing about 15 miles an hour. On the brow of the hill he caught sight of a motor cycle and side car, without lights, and on the wrong side of the road. They came straight at the car. He attempted to swerve but was not in time and they ran right into his left head lamp and mud guard.

Miss Brophey, assistant driver, corroborated, saying she was positive there were no lights on the motor cycle or side car. They were on their wrong side and struck the left of the car.

The House Surgeon at the Infirmary said that Lieutenant Dawkins was dying when he was admitted, and did not recover consciousness before he passed away at eight o’clock. There was a fracture of the base of the skull, his left leg was broken, and there were other cuts and abrasions. Private Snell was so injured that he would not be able to give evidence for some days.

The inquiry was accordingly adjourned until he is able to do so.

Adjourned Inquest 1918 November 29th

I shall skip the first introductory paragraph and start with the awaited evidence of Private Snell.


Private Snell said he left Lake Down with the lieutenant about five minutes to six, and came along the Devizes Road at an average pace of about 20 miles an hour. Half-way on the journey he stopped to light his lamps, but they did not burn very well. He kept to his left side, and immediately before the accident he was sure he was on his proper side. He did not notice anything coming towards him, and the next thing he remembered was coming to consciousness in the Hospital.

The Coroner : Don’t you recollect any crash? No, sir.

Don’t you realise that anything happened? Not until I came to consciousness in the Hospital. When I gained consciousness I had to make enquiries as to where I was.

And then it came back to you? No, it hasn’t come back to me properly now. I suppose I hit something, but I can’t remember it. He added that he had ridden a motor cycle since 1912, and had experience on all kinds of machines. He had never had an accident before.

The Foreman (Mr T Miles) : You say your average pace was 20 miles an hour? I should say it was. I wasn’t travelling unduly fast.

A Juror : That is not very fast for a motor cycle on an incline? I believe it was at the top of the hill.

You would naturally go fast there? I am rather careful when driving.

Do you remember seeing some people walking on the right hand side? No, I don’t remember seeing any pedestrians.

Do you remember seeing any lights from an approaching car? No, I can’t remember.

Were you talking to the lieutenant at the time? No, I hardly spoke to him.

After the Coroner had given a brief resume of the evidence at the opening of the inquest, the Foreman said that though the evidence was conflicting, the jury had decided to return a verdict of accidental death. As they were all aware the road was rather dangerous at that point.

The Coroner said he thought it was the right verdict. He had been hoping that they would be able to get some further details from Private Snell, but apparently he was not in a position to help them.

The Foreman congratulated the witness upon his excellent recovery.


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