Cawston, Walter

Cawston, Walter        1919 October 3rd        Old Sarum

Cyclist’s Fate

Another Accident on the Amesbury Road

A fatal accident occurred not far from the Bee Hive Farm on Saturday night. A cyclist, Walter Bateman Cawston, a commercial traveller, was knocked down by a car, the driver of which said he did not see the cyclist because his eyes were dazzled by an approaching car’s bright lights. At the inquest held by the City Coroner (Mr A M Wilson) it was pointed out that Cawston had no rear light, and it was suggested that if he had had a tail lamp the accident might possibly not have happened. The cyclist was 26 years of age, single, and a Suffolk man, living at Mutton Hall, Wetherden, Stowmarket. He died a few hours after the accident.

Henry Harold Cawston said his brother was a commercial traveller for the United Manufacturing Company. He was a teetotaler and had ridden the same cycle for nearly seven years. It was a racing cycle with fixed wheel and no brakes.

The Foreman (Mr H Case) : Do you know if there was a rear light on the bicycle? I don’t think so.

Henry McCullough, a driver in the Australian Imperial Force, stationed at Salisbury, was driving from Amesbury to the city. When he was a mile from Old Sarum, about 8.30pm, a car approached him at a fast speed with very bright headlights which dazzled him. He slowed up, and as he passed the car sounded his horn and was pulling into the centre of the road when his car struck something. He pulled up within two or three car lengths, and then saw a man lying on the left side of the road. A bicycle was entangled in the left front wheel of the car. The man was unconscious and groaning but he saw no sign of blood. He left a companion with the man and went to the Infirmary to report the accident, and an ambulance was sent out. At the time of the accident he was going 15 miles an hour. He did not see the cyclist’s light.

The Coroner : You don’t know whether, as a matter of fact, the cyclist was travelling towards or from Salisbury? From the way the bicycle lay I think he was going in the same direction as myself.

Replying to further questions, he said he knew the road very well, it was pretty level and straight at this point. He saw the lights of the approaching car about 150 yards away.

The Foreman : You made a statement that at the time of the accident you were going 15 miles. What speed were you travelling before you slowed down? I don’t suppose I was going over twenty miles an hour.

Could you not see the cyclist with your own lights? When you see big headlights they nearly blind you.

But you said you slowed up and that it was about 15 yards after the lights passed you that you had the accident? I could not see anything at all.

You were not drunk, I suppose? No, I was not.

Men drive along that road about 50 miles an hour. I have to pass them myself so I know about it. It is all very well for you to come to an inquest and say you were going 15 miles an hour. Not many tenders go along that road at that rate.

Capt Mann (legal advisor to the AIF) : Mr Coroner, I object to the remarks of the Foreman.

The Coroner (to the Foreman) : The officer is right. You may make any comments you wish afterwards.

Capt Mann : What kind of a night was it?

Witness : Fairly dark.

Did you keep a good look-out? I always do when I am driving.

On a fairly dark night is it usual for you to risk your life by travelling at a high rate of speed? No, sir.

Mr F H Trethowan (who appeared for the relatives) : I take it the blinding effect of the headlights lasted for some time after you passed them? Yes, sir.

Do you think it was possible that the car dragged the cycle 22 feet along the road? I should hardly think so. It might have done, the road is very slippery.

Staff-Sergt Clark, who was sitting in the car with the last witness, said they were on duty carrying dispatches from Tidworth. He corroborated the driver’s evidence.

Capt Mann : What was the nature of McCullough’s driving with regard to traffic or meeting people? The nature of the driving was very careful. I consider him a very good and careful driver.

What was McCullough’s condition that night as regards sobriety. He was sober.

If it was suggested that he was travelling at an excessive rate of speed, say from 25 miles per hour upwards, what would you say? Twenty miles was the highest speed we went.

Mr Trethowan : When you found you could not see anything did you ask the driver to stop? I did not ask him to stop.

Miss Dobbin, house surgeon at the Infirmary, said Cawston was admitted unconscious suffering from cerebral hemorrhage and died just before 6 o’clock on Sunday morning.

The Coroner : Was he knocked about very much? No, there was nothing to be seen but a slight abrasion on the forehead.

The Foreman : What do you think was the cause of death? Cerebral hemorrhage.


The Coroner said it was perfectly clear that it was a regrettable accident. There was no question that it was an accident, the only point was whether the jury was satisfied that the driver took all precautions in view of the fact that it was a dark night and he was dazzled. What seemed regrettable to him was that the compulsory order for a rear light was not in force. If there had been a lamp or a reflector on the back of the bicycle it must have shown up and it was possible that the accident might have been avoided. However, the cyclist was complying with the regulations as far as lighting was concerned.

The jury returned a verdict of accidental death and absolved the driver from all blame. There was no evidence to show that the man was actually on the bicycle.

The Foreman : The jury is of opinion that these bright lights should not be allowed on cars.


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