Knight, Frederick

Knight, Frederick       1919 September 5th        Bemerton

Sad Sequel to a Fete

There was an inquest at the Salisbury Infirmary on Saturday at noon, when the City Coroner, Mr A M Wilson, enquired into the circumstances that led up to the death of a railway guard, named Frederick George Knight. The evidence showed that Knight was returning from a fete at Quidhampton on the night of Wednesday, August 27th, accompanied by four other men, and was knocked down by a motor car which overtook them, sustaining such serious injuries that he died soon after admission to the Infirmary.

A jury of seven heard the case, Mr Alfred Rogers being chosen foreman.

Mr F H Trethowan represented a dependant of the man who was killed, and Mr A J Atkins (Messrs Hodding and Jackson) the driver of the car.

Minerva Knight, a widow, said she lived at 28, Ashfield Road, Salisbury, and her son, Fredk George Knight, lived with her and was 24 years of age last October. He was her sole support. She last saw him at 5.30pm on Wednesday, August 27th, when he left home to go to a fete at Quidhampton. He was a guard on the Great Western Railway.

Albert John Sidney Ledbury, a fireman on the Great Western Railway, living at 2, Jesse Cottages, St Andrew’s Road, Bemerton, stated that he went to the fete with Arthur Usher, Frederick George Knight, Ralph Montague Feltham, and Fred Knight. They left the fete field at about 10.30pm, he and Usher walking just behind the three others who were side by side, close together, and in the middle of the road. When they were about 150 yards from Skew Bridge he saw on the ground the reflection of a light. On turning round he saw a motor car practically on them. He shouted to the others to “look out,” and he and Usher jumped out of the way. The car cleared them by inches but struck the other three in the back, and pulled up about 30 yards further on. He did not hear the motor horn sounded. He took the number of the car, then went to assist his friends, who were badly hurt. Frederick George Knight was lying unconscious in the road, and as the driver could not get his car to restart, witness tried to stop another that came along. It slowed up, went over to the right hand side of the road, but did not stop. He could not catch its number. At last they stopped an Australian Red Cross ambulance car which was going towards Wilton. He called on the driver in the name of the King to stop and take the injured men to the Infirmary, and he took the two men named Knight, who were the worst injured. That was at about 10.50. It was a very dark night.

Answering a juryman, witness stated that there were on the motor car two small oil lamps, and one small acetylene lamp such as was used on a motor cycle.

Not a very brilliant one? No, sir.

Another juror : Insufficient light, I should say.

Supt Cowdrey (of the County Police) enquired why the witness refused his name and address when the Police asked for it.

Ledbury replied that the constable was in civilian clothes and he did not know who he was. As soon as he knew he was a Police officer he gave his name and address.

Answering Mr Atkins, he said he did not measure the distance from the place where the accident occurred to the place where the car stopped. Thirty yards was his estimate.

Arthur Usher, an engineman, living at 214, Devizes Road, who was with the last witness, corroborated his evidence.

 

Juryman : Were you all sober?

Witness : Yes, sir.

John Thornton, of Netton, a motor driver in the employ of Mr C H Avery, of 38, Wilton Road, said he wished to give evidence. On Wednesday, August 27th, he was driving two officers in a car from Fovant to Salisbury. As he neared Skew Bridge he noticed three men arm in arm staggering in the road, and two others on the right side of them about two yards away. They were all in a line across the road. When he first saw them they were from 20 to 30 yards away. It appeared to him that they were walking towards him because he could see their faces. One was pulling one man one way, and another was pulling him the other way. He was travelling at about 15 miles an hour. He kept to his near side and could have passed them had they kept in the same position but they came across to his side of the road when he was only about 15 yards off, and just as he pulled hard to get by on the other side they went across to that side. So he was unable to avoid hitting them, and three were knocked down. He pulled up within about five yards and walked back to see the men. One man said to him, “It’s all right. You had better come back and see the other two. We could not help it. You had better take the others to the Infirmary.” Knight was lying about a yard and a half from the near side of the road going towards Salisbury. One had got up and the other was in a sitting position leaning on his elbow, on the right-hand side of the road. He was going to take them into Salisbury, but PC Roberts, of Wilton, came along and took particulars of the accident, and in the meantime two of the men who had been knocked down were picked up by another car. He had two oil side-lamps, and one acetylene lamp on the left side. The acetylene lamp gave a very good light. The head lamps, which were not lighted, and the radiator were damaged. He used the acetylene lamp because the head lamps were out of order.

The Coroner : You say these men were staggering about the road. What do you suggest?

Witness : That they were under the influence of drink.

Why do you say that? Because they smelt like it and their actions showed it.

Did one of the men say something to you after the accident? Yes: One said, “It was a pure accident and all we can do is to get them to the Infirmary. We could not help it.”

Continuing his answers to the Coroner, witness said he drove a car for about eighteen months before he joined up, and he had now been driving since June. He had often driven on the Wilton Road before. He did all he possibly could to avoid an accident.

Answering the Foreman, he said he thought he had sufficient light for the safety of the public. He had had an accident before.

In reply to a juryman, he said he had a horn but did not sound it because he thought he could have passed the men all right. It would not have made any difference if he had blown it some distance before he reached them, because of the state they were in.

Another Juror : Were they like a drunken gang in the road? Yes, sir.

Answering Mr Atkins, he said he did not know what train his pasengers wanted to catch and he was not hurrying.

Mr Trethowan : Was 30 yards about as far as you could see ahead with those lamps?

Witness : Twenty of thirty yards.

When you first saw the men did you come to the conclusion that they were the worse for drink? Yes, I did, sir.

Had you any reason to believe they had seen you? Yes, because they were looking round.

Were you of the opinion that they were walking towards you up to the time of the accident? Yes, till they came across the road.

When you first saw them, did you attempt to pull up? I did, sir.

The Coroner : Did you pull up? No, sir.

Mr Trethowan : Did you slow up? Not when I saw them first, but I pulled across the road to where there was an opening.

Supt Cowdrey, of the County Police : If you could pull up your car five yards after the accident, why could you not pull up five yards before and avoid it? I applied my brakes immediately I saw them coming in front of my car the second time.

Were your brakes good : Yes, sir.

George Alfred Ellis, an ex-lieutenant in the RFA, said he lived at Torquay. He was a passenger in this car with another officer. They left Fovant at about 10.30 and had instructed the driver to take them to Salisbury. He considered they were travelling at not more than twelve miles an hour. When within about a mile and a quarter of Salisbury he saw five men in a line across the road. Three were arm in arm and two on their right. They were from 10 to 20 yards away when he first saw them, their car being on the left-hand side of the road, and the acetylene lamp gave quite a good light. The driver had been sounding his horn all along the road because it was very dark. As soon as he saw the men he applied his brakes and turned in close to the left of the road because, he thought he could pass them there, but the men also moved to the left side. The driver then swerved to the right, but by that time he was quite close to the men and they all seemed to jump straight in front of the car. There was a collision, and the car pulled up within about six yards. Witness got out and found three men just behind the car, one was unconscious but the others were not. He assisted the unconscious men to the side of the road because another car was approaching, and then told his driver to take the men to the hospital. He could not, however, start the car at once, and eventually they went in another. In his opinion the driver did everything he could to avoid the accident, and the two men who were uninjured said it was a pure accident.

Replying to jurors, he said he was sure the driver blew his horn. The men in the road were certainly not helplessly drunk, but they had had a good drop to drink. They were heedless of anything in the road. The driver was quite sober and drove very carefully the whole way.

Answering Mr Trethowan, he agreed that it all happened within a few seconds.

PC Roberts, stationed at Wilton, said he was walking from Salisbury to Wilton on this occasion, and at about 11pm was about 150 yards on the Wilton side of Skew Bridge. He saw a car approaching and then it stopped. On reaching it he took the number and questioned the driver about the accident. The width of the road at this spot was about 25 feet and it was straight, but there was only a footpath on one side. The lights of the car could be seen a long way off, and it was about 300 yards away when he first saw them. The injured men were lying about three yards behind the car. The other men seemed very excited and were under the influence of drink.

In reply to the Foreman, he said he considered the lights were sufficient and complied with the regulations.

Juror : Do you remember hearing a horn sounded? No, sir.

Dr Yahelivitz, house surgeon at Salisbury Infirmary, said that Knight was admitted shortly after 11pm on Wednesday, September (August) 27th, in an unconscious condition, and suffering from fracture of the base of the skull and considerable hemorrhage. His condition grew steadily worse and he died three hours later, without regaining consciousness. Death was due to the effects of the injury to the brain produced by the fracture.

Ledbury was recalled and was again questioned by the Coroner.

Were you all perfectly sober? Yes, as far as soberness is concerned.

I don’t understand? Well, we were not the worse for drink.

You had had some? I had had a few drinks, but was not in the company of the other men all the evening.

You had all come from the fete? Yes, sir.

And had the drinks at the fete? Yes, sir.

Were you walking perfectly steadily and straight along the road? Yes, as far as I am aware.

The Coroner briefly summed up the evidence to the jury, pointing out where the various statements did not agree. He asked them to consider whether reasonable care was exercised by the driver, or whether he was so criminally negligent as to be responsible for this unfortunate accident.

The jury returned a verdict of “Accidental Death” and asked the Coroner to caution the driver to make more use of his motor horn in future.

Thornton, on being recalled, was informed by the Coroner that the jury found that the death of Knight was purely accidental, but they wished him to express the hope that in future Thornton would use his horn a little more, so as to give adequate and proper warning to people on the road. They were of opinion that on this particular occasion he did not sound the horn as much as he should have done.

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