Monday, 13 October 2014

An Ill-Tempered Recruit

Image: Park Road (now Park StreetLuton, with the Bull Inn on the left hand side, 1909 [Z1306/75/10/50/2]

Tuesday 13th October 1014, Luton: A case was heard at the Borough Police Court yesterday in which a Luton man, Peter Johnson of Chobham Street, was charged with assaulting Sergeant Leonard Sowerby of the 5th South Staffordshire Battalion. Johnson had joined up a few weeks ago but on Sunday night he was stopped by Sergeant Sowerby outside the Bull Inn in Park Street where he was using filthy language and causing a disturbance. Sowerby told Johnson to go to his billet but Johnson's response was to strike him; his excuse was that “he came pushing me about, and I lost my temper”. When the Sergeant asked for Johnson’s name and address, Johnson hit him in the face. Detective Sub-Inspector Attwood said Johnson was well known to him as a loafer, always standing around outside public houses. Since Johnson enlisted he had rarely been sober and had already been arrested twice. The suspicion was that he had enlisted simply to get the money and now wanted to get out of it. Johnson denied this and claimed to be very sorry for his behaviour. One of the magistrates, Alderman Williams, told him It is very disgraceful after you have joined and professed you would be of service to the country to make an exhibition of yourself, and to be a nuisance to others in this way. You will have a fortnight’s hard labour”.

Source: Luton News 15/10/1914

Note: This case is presumably one of the incidents that led to the following letter to the editor of the Luton News:
Sir. – On three successive nights last week I saw drunken Territorials reeling and brawling about the streets of the town. Such a sight was extremely painful. Now should not these men be made to know that such conduct is disgraceful? They do harm to the whole division and are discredited as men and soldiers. Then as a community we have a right to ask them to show more courage when faced with the temptation to drink. And further, to ask them to remember that drunkenness upon the public streets is a crime ...”
 The British Army WWI Pension Record shows that Peter Johnson of 21 Chobham Street enlisted on 21 September 1914 and was discharged 12 October 1914 after 22 days service.

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