Two tales from the newspapers involving the residences of Blandford and the RAF. Even in a time of war it is inevitable that the number of soldiers, at the Royal Naval Division based at nearby Blandford Camp, would cause problems for the residents of Blandford. The first case takes place just before Christmas in 1915, 3 years later at the time of the second case, it was noted that the local and national crime rate had significantly decreased. Grandad Beck was present at both court cases and had the help of the military in the investigations. This is just the type of co-operation that Supt. Beck was commended for, as I wrote about here.
Alleged Wholesale Pilfering
Christmas Eve 1915 the Western Chronicle reported on the Special Police Court at Blandford. Before the magistrates were William Coulter and William Smith from the Royal Navel Division based at Blandford Camp.
In the lead up to Christmas 1915 the shop keepers of Blandford had problems with the number of soldiers and sailors in the shops. From the report it seems that the shops were open well into the evening. This lead to tremendous looting, or what we would call shoplifting. The vigilance of the police led to the arrest of two of the thieves, who found themselves before the local magistrates. The two men spent Christmas in custody, before being tried at the Borough Sessions on 4th January.
Sergeant Otter and P.C. Galpin were patrolling the town on Saturday 18th December at 10 pm, the shops had been open into the evening. As the policemen walked along Whitecliffe Mill Street, just off the town centre, they saw William Smith and William Coulter. The men both had walking sticks. Quite why the policemen found this suspicion I don’t know, perhaps in 1915 this would have been obvious. When the soldiers were questioned they both said they had been given to them by some fellow. Sergeant Otter arrested both men on suspicion of having stolen the sticks.
On the way Smith admitted stealing the walking stick and offered to return to the shop and pay for it. “You are not going to lock a man up on a charge of stealing a twopenny-halfpenny thing like that?” At the police station, P.C Diment assisted in searching the men and Coutler was found to have 71 Christmas and other cards, a book, two bottles of scent and a scent bottle, on him. Coulter claimed he bought the items but they were later found to have been stolen from a shop in the town.
The two walking sticks were the property of Henry Walter Strange who had a hairdresser’s and fancy shop in Salisbury Street. He did not know they were missing until Sergeant Otter showed him the sticks on the Saturday evening. The officers at Blandford Camp asked for any information about the thefts and consequently ordered Joseph Edward Bond A. B. to attend the court. Joseph told the magistrates that he had seen Smith take the stick and walk out of the shop.
The other items, found on Coulter, were identified the next morning. Alfred Hobbs went to the police station to report wholesale looting on Saturday night. Mr Hobbs was a bookseller and stationer, in Salisbury Street, the main shopping street in Blandford. He identified his own private mark on the goods and valued them at 8 shillings 6 pence.
At the court on Tuesday 21 December Winifred Grace Squibb gave evidence, she worked for Mr Hobbs and had been in charge of the Christmas card and perfumery table. She told the court that on that evening there had been lots of uniformed soldiers and sailors in the shop. During the evening a tremendous lot of things were stolen from her department. Winifred had not sold a packet of 20 picture post cards that evening, one of the items found on Coulter.
Both men were charged and cautioned, they elected to be dealt with summarily on January 4th. Smith was held in Police custody and Coulter by the military.
Young Woman’s Preference for ‘Nice’ Soldiers
A young lady who went for a walk with a soldier, ended up as a witness in court. Olive Painter was 23 years of age and lived in Blandford. She met the soldier in Blandford on the evening of 20th July 1918 and went for a walk up Strickland Hill. From her evidence Olive admitted that she had gone out with soldiers before and she had kissed them but “only the nice ones; she did not kiss anyone”.
When the couple got to Stickland Hill they had an altercation. I assume that Olive had decided that Joseph Allen, a 30 year old soldier in the RAF at Blandford Camp, was not nice enough to kiss. The paper doesn’t give us a lot of detail but Olive’s story was that Joseph knocked her down, hitting her, which causing her eye to become swollen and black. Olive took her hat pin out (sounds like a useful article to have!) and attached Joseph with it. Joseph needed nine stitches to his face.
Joseph told the court that Olive attached him first and when she slipped and fell, he helped her up. Joseph had joined the RAF at Blandford, that month. Previously he had been in the Worcester Regiment where he had a bad record. Grandad Beck giving evidence, at the Dorset Quarter Sessions in Dorchester on 2nd October 1918, stated that Allen had a previous conviction for stealing.
Joseph Allen was charged with common assault and the jury found him guilty. He was sentenced to two months imprisonment, with hard labour.
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Ref: Quotes in italics Headings taken from the newspapers
Western Gazette 1918 Oct 4 p8
Western Chronicle Dec24 1915 p4