Hewson, Dorothy

Hewson, Dorothy        1919 January 10th           Amesbury

Sad Death of a Salisbury Lady

A very distressing accident, attended by fatal results, which has thrown some well known Salisbury families into mourning, occurred on Monday afternoon near Amesbury. Major and Mrs Hewson, the only daughter and son-in-law of Mr and Mrs Whitehead, of “Rougemont,” London Road, were coming back to Salisbury. The Major was driving a motor cycle to which was attached a sidecar containing his wife. Near the Workhouse they met an Army lorry and owing to some mistake there was a collision, in which, while the cyclist escaped with a severe shaking and bruising, his wife was rendered unconscious by the force of the impact of the radiator. She was brought into Salisbury Infirmary immediately but died about an hour afterwards.

The City Coroner (Mr A M Wilson) without a jury, held an enquiry into the tragic happening at the Infirmary on Tuesday evening. The sadness of the event has been deepened by the unexpected death of Mrs Hewson’s uncle (Mr R A Wilson), who was present at the enquiry, together with her father, Mr Whitehead. With all the bereaved relatives much sympathy is felt.

The following evidence was taken:

Major Frank Lloyd Hewson, of the RAOC, on leave from France, and staying at “Rougemont,” London Road, said that Dorothy Hewson was his wife and was 27 years of age. On Monday he as coming out of Amesbury about 4.30 on to the Salisbury Road, and the bicycle was pulling very badly. Just as he was opposite the Workhouse he stopped to make an adjustment to the machine, or to speak to his wife, which took his eyes off the road. Suddenly his wife exclaimed, “Look out,” and as he glanced up he saw a lorry practically on top of him, and on the right hand side of the road. When he saw the lorry it could not have been more than 20 feet away.

The Coroner : At the time you looked up what position were you in on the road? As far as I can remember I was a little on my left side of the crown. I wasn’t close in on the left hand side, but near the crown. He added that the light was quite good and they drove into Salisbury afterwards without lights. The moment he saw the lorry he knew nothing on earth could avoid an accident. When he saw the lorry on top of him he felt in a moment that he wanted to go to his left, but as he could not by any chance get round that way he went to the right to get through the only opening, and the driver did the same thing and went to his left. The collision occurred and the bicycle just cleared, but the lorry caught the sidecar full square. He was not thrown off by the impact, but he had some difficulty in getting clear. His wife was in the sidecar and the radiator must have hit her head. The sidecar was broken all to pieces. After the accident the lorry fetched up across the road and stopped the traffic. An officer who had a car brought his wife into Salisbury and he came in with her.

The Coroner : What speed were you going at the time you suddenly looked up and saw the car? I should think about 12 miles an hour. It would be difficult to say as the cycle was going very badly.

Have you any idea what speed the lorry was going? I think it was going from 12 to 15 miles an hour, nearer 15 than 12 at the moment I saw it. He added that he had had experience of motor cycles and cars of all kinds for about ten years.

When you looked up was there any space between the lorry’s right and its right hand side of the road? There was not the least bit. It was tight into its right-hand side. I wanted to go to my left, as was my natural impulse, but the only chance was to go to the right. He added that at the Workhouse there was a slight curve in the road. It was an easy bend.

And if at the moment you had not been looking away the curve would not have been too great to prevent your seeing the lorry? I should have seen it naturally, had I had plenty of time to make my arrangements suit his, because it is not a difficult curve. He declared that the impulse on a road like that was not to look for people on the wrong side but to presume they would go on their own side, and had the lorry been on its own side of the road there would not have been any occasion for him to make any fresh arrangements. The curve was not a difficult one, and had he not been looking away at the moment he would have seen the lorry, and could have passed it on his right hand side of the road, if the lorry driver had wished him to do so. In the circumstances, naturally, he stayed on his own side.

Mr Whitehead : I believe the road is practically north and south, and that after the collision the lorry was slewed right across the road, blocking access from north and south. After the collision did the motor lorry slew across the road, blocking access from Amesbury and blocking access from Salisbury? It was right across the road.

Pte Harry Gibson, a motor driver in the MT, ASC, stationed at Tidworth, said on Tuesday he was driving a lorry from Fovant to Tidworth via Salisbury. He was just entering Amesbury when he saw a motor cycle and sidecar between 30 and 40 yards away coming towards him on its wrong side of the road. He kept his eye on the cycle and slackened speed, expecting it would get on its left hand side of the road. He thought that the motor cycle was out of control, or was suffering from engine trouble, so he turned the lorry into the middle of the road to avoid a collision. He was about ten or eleven yards away when the cycle also turned into the middle of the road. He applied his brakes as soon as possible, but, unfortunately, before he could bring the lorry to a standstill it had collided with the sidecar. The lorry carried the cycle and sidecar a short distance, his near side wheel hitting the cycle, and the radiator colliding with the sidecar. He got out to see the extent of the damage and found that the sidecar was smashed and the lady injured. He was driving the lorry about ten miles an hour, as far as he could judge, but not over that figure.

The Coroner : All this time until you pulled into the middle of the road you say your lorry was on the correct side? Yes. He added that after the collision, when his lorry had come to a standstill, the front wheels and the bonnet were into the near side of the road. The cycle was in front of the bonnet and against the badge.

Did you see where the back wheels of the lorry went? The road is 20 feet wide, and my off side back wheel was a foot over the middle of the road, that is 11 feet from the lorry’s left side of the road.

Would that prevent any vehicles from passing by? It would prevent a large motor but I don’t think it would prevent a light car.

If the motor cycle had pulled into the left hand side of the road, would there have been plenty of room for it to have passed the lorry? Yes, sir.

What made you pull into the middle of the road? Was there some movement on the part of the motor cycle driver? He seemed inclined to keep on his off side, and I pulled into the middle of the road to avoid him. I thought he must have engine trouble.

Was it when you were in the middle of the road that the motor cycle came into you? Yes, sir.

What direction were your front wheels turned at the time of the impact? The moment I turned into the middle of the road the cycle turned as well, so we were both going towards the middle of the road. There I straightened my wheels in order to avoid an accident. I was thinking of going back to my left side but it was too late.

If you were exactly in the middle of the road and going straight along, that would hardly account for the position of your lorry when you pulled up? At the time when I saw what was happening I tried to do my best and turn again, but the bicycle turned with me every time. When the cycle came towards the middle of the road I attempted to pull back into my left hand side again.

You can’t think of anything else you could have done to have avoided an accident? No, I did my best.

In reply to the Coroner he said he had driven cars about 18 months, but answering Mr Whitehead he said he had only driven a lorry a couple of months.

Mr Whitehead : Do you know the road between Salisbury and Amesbury well? No, I have only travelled it twice.

What was the weight of your lorry? Thirty hundred-weight.

What was the length of your lorry? Between 15 and 20 feet.

How far was your bonnet from the hedge? About two feet.

Mr Whitehead then said that if the lorry were across the road, which was 20 feet wide, 17 feet would be occupied, 15 feet by the lorry and two feet between the lorry and the hedge, which would leave only three feet for vehicles to pass.

Witness, however, stated that there were nine feet between the back wheel of the lorry and the opposite hedge, because his lorry was not right across the road, but slewed across, and several cars passed the lorry while it was in that position.

James Fitzgerald, a private in the RAOC, stationed at Tidworth, said he was sitting alongside the driver of the lorry. The lorry was travelling at a speed of about eight or nine miles an hour. He saw the motor cycle when it was about 40 or 50 yards away, when it was on its wrong side of the road. The lorry was on its left hand side and it had been driven carefully all the journey. The motor cycle was on its wrong side, and seemed to waver in its course. It seemed to wobble in the road, and it made him think there was something the matter with the machinery. The driver of the cycle still appeared to be coming on at the same speed, though the driver of the lorry had slowed down. The cycle seemed to keep to the wrong side of the road, and to avoid an accident the lorry turned into the middle of the road, and at the same time the cycle also turned into the middle of the road. The driver of the cycle endeavoured to get on his correct side, and as he turned the side car collided with the front part of the lorry. The driver of the lorry seemed to turn the wheels on to the near side, went two or three yards and then came to a standstill.

The Coroner : When you first saw the motor cycle what speed was it going? It appeared to me that the cycle was going faster because the cycle seemed to be coming on to the lorry instead of the lorry on to the cycle.

Do you think the accident could have been avoided? If the motor cyclist had gained his left side of the road nothing would have happened.

Pte H G Watkins, a driver in the Australian Motor Transport Service, stationed at Tidworth, said he was driving a car about six yards behind the lorry. It was conveying the Assistant Director of Medical Services from Salisbury to Tidworth. The lorry was on its left hand side, and he also saw a motor cycle approaching in the middle of the road. In connection he corroborated the evidence of previous witnesses. The force of the driver putting on his brakes made the lorry skid. He pulled up and went to render what assistance he could.

The Coroner : What speed was the lorry going? I should say somewhere about ten miles an hour, but at the time the lorry hit the cycle it had slowed down to about five miles an hour.

Did the driver of the lorry appear to do everything he could to avoid an accident? Yes.

Mr C W Patterson, house surgeon at the Infirmary, said that Mrs Hewson was admitted at 4.45pm. She was unconscious and suffering from profound shock. She had a compound fracture of both legs, fracture of the thighs, fracture of the upper jaw, cut chin, and there were evidences of fracture of the base of the skull. The patient did not recover from the shock, and died about 5.30.

The Coroner at the conclusion of the evidence said it was a very sad and painful fatality, and was doubly painful to him because since he was a child he had known Mrs Hewson, and they had been children together, and had more or less grown up together. He had tried to grasp the evidence.

On the one hand there was the evidence of the husband, in which he said he was quite certain he was on his correct side of the road. The evidence was rather conflicting on that point, because against it they had the statement both from the driver of the lorry and the passenger who was sitting alongside, and the driver of the Australian car which was following the lorry, that the lorry was on its correct side, and that the cycle was on its wrong side. In his own mind he had no doubt that this fatality was an accident, and an accident which he thought might happen to anyone on the road. He had gone into the evidence very carefully and no blame could be attached to the driver of the lorry.

The only way in which you could account for the accident, if one could account for it at all, was the fact that just at the time, unknowingly, Major Hewson was either talking to his wife or attending to his machine, and one could partly understand that when he was suddenly told, “Look out,” and he immediately looked up and saw the lorry on top of him, he might have been mistaken with regard to whether there was room on his left hand side of the road. There was evidently a certain amount of indecision on the part of the driver of the lorry and the driver of the cycle, just as with two people meeting on the street and not being able to make up their minds which way to pass. Therefore he had no hesitation in bringing in a verdict of accidental death, and he thought it was only fair to add that there was no blame attached to the driver of the lorry.


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