The funeral of Private Arthur Charker [Z1306/12/7/1]
The other sergeant, Poulson, said that Charker had been drinking heavily and the others were also under the influence. He helped Sergeant Mackenzie to calm the initial quarrel and was standing at the door when he noticed that Charker was bleeding from a cut over the eye He sent Macdonald for a towel and managed to stop the bleeding. While he was doing this Macdonald and Fraser started to fight again. They separated the pair. Fraser sat on his bed, stretched out his hand and took the bayonet in its scabbard from near the fireplace. As Fraser looked as if he meant to use it he told Sergeant Mackenzie and left the room to get an escort. He heard a “fearful scuffle” and rushed back to the room to find the three men fighting. He saw the bayonet in Fraser’s right hand and Macdonald also had hold of it. It seemed that Charker and Macdonald were trying to get the bayonet from him. Six or seven more men rushed in, there was confusion and someone said that Charker had been stabbed.
According to Private Macdonald he and three other men were sober, Fraser had had a drink or two and Charker was a little drunk. Fraser and Charker quarrelled, he did not know what about, and they came to blows. He was helping Sergeant Poulson with Charker’s eye when he realised Fraser was holding an entrenching tool above his head. Fraser struck him on the arm, they struggled and Macdonald managed to get the tool from him. When the sergeants left the room he saw Fraser had a drawn bayonet in his hand and heard him say he would put it into the first man who went near him. Charker tried to get the bayonet from him, but Fraser swung it into his stomach.
Fraser himself said that MacVinish was the first to cause a disturbance. While Sergeant Poulson was treating his eye with a towel Charker told one of the other men to go to bed. Fraser said to him “you have enough to do to look after yourself”. Macdonald then hit him (Fraser) in the face with the towel and he hit Macdonald with a trenching tool. After they fought he had gone to his bed. Macdonald challenged him again and he said that if they would leave him alone he would interfere with nobody. Charker then hit him in the eye and he got up holding the bayonet. Charker fell over him and the bayonet went into him. He was friendly with Charker and had no intention of stabbing him - they used to “knock about the streets together” back in
Inverness. Fraser had tears in his eyes as he said he was
sorry this had happened to his “chum”.
Charker had made a statement while he was dying in the hospital, but as it was taken under the impression that it was his dying declaration and there was no evidence that Charker was aware that his condition was fatal it could not be accepted. Acting on the Coroner’s recommendation the jury gave a verdict of manslaughter. Private Fraser will be tried for this offence, but will not face a murder charge.
Source: Beds Times 16/10/1914
Source: Beds Times 16/10/1914