Hamilton, William

Hamilton, William      1918 March 29th            Stonehenge

Soldier Found in a Well

Gruesome Discovery near Stonehenge

Last week the body of a soldier, who had evidently died at Christmas, was found at the bottom of a well near Stonehenge. He was a pioneer in the Building Section of the Royal Engineers, named William John Hamilton, and 43 years old. His home was in County Tyrone, Ireland.

Mr F H Trethowan (Coroner for South Wilts) held an inquest on Thursday.

Dr J O March, of Amesbury, said he saw the body on Tuesday, and came to the conclusion that the man had been drowned, and evidently died two or three months ago.

Sapper J Duncan, of a Building Section of the Royal Engineers, stationed at Stonehenge Camp, stated that on Christmas Day, 1917, he was in the company of Hamilton and a sapper named M’Cool. They left the aerodrome at Stonehenge at about 9pm and went to their camp, which was about 20 minutes walk away. Hamilton occupied the same hut as he did, and they both went in. About 9.30pm the man left the hut, and on finding he was not there the following morning witness reported the matter to the corporal. Hamilton had only four pints of beer as far as he could remember. He would not say he was drunk ; he walked straight on the way to the hut.

Private Frank Smith, Hants Regiment, stationed at Durrington, said he was walking near Stonehenge on March 17th and passed a well there. He went up to it because he noticed a round brick building with a thatched roof. There was a doorway partly filled up with a hurdle. He found there was a well, and thinking there might be a body in it on account of the strong smell he reported the matter when he returned to camp.

Corporal W A Bone, Hants Regiment, said he put a hurricane lamp into the well on March 19th, in consequence of instructions, and saw what appeared to be a body, with brass buttons on the clothing. He telephoned to the civil police at Amesbury. If it had been dark and he had gone to this place for shelter witness said he thought he might have fallen in, as he did not know there was a well.

PC Norris gave evidence as to the recovery of the body from the well, which was from 40 to 50 feet deep, and contained two or three feet of water and mud. Hamilton’s hands were in his overcoat pockets. He had in his possession a purse containing 6s 9¾d. The man described on the identity disc was posted as a deserter on December 26th.

Replying to the Foreman, witness said there was a space of about two feet all round the well, the diameter of the opening of which was from six to eight feet. There was a beam over the top of the well. He had seen the building before, but did not know it covered a well.

The Coroner said that when the jury had satisfied themselves as to how the man met with his death they might very well consider whether the well was a danger to the public.

In announcing a verdict of “Accidental death from drowning,” the Foreman said that in the opinion of the jury the well was undoubtedly a very great danger, and they thought some steps ought to be taken to have it covered in.

An officer from Hamilton’s unit said that in view of the danger the military authorities would like to erect a wire fence round the well, and he asked the Coroner’s permission to have that done.

The Coroner said he could not give any permission, but he did not anticipate any likelihood of the owner of the well objecting. In view of what the jury had said, he should write to the owner informing him of their opinion, and urging him to cover the well and fasten the cover, so that it would be quite impossible for anyone to fall into it.

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