Shire Hall, Bedford from the river [Z1306/10/58/7]
Wednesday 28th April 1915: A pleasant Sunday afternoon boating expedition ended in tragedy today when a Canadian canoe carrying two young soldiers of the Highland Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps capsized near Shire Hall. One of the men, Private Macleod, could swim a little and was able to keep hold of the canoe until he was rescued by a man who rowed down the river from the boatyard at Batt’s Ford. His comrade Private Cooper, however, was drowned.
At the inquest held at the
police station yesterday evening Private
Macleod said he had known Private Cooper since September and was in the same corps.
They had been on the river together before but in a rowing boat, not a canoe.
They had hired the canoe for an hour and were returning to the boatyard when the
accident happened. He believed Private Cooper had put his paddle too far into
the water as the canoe went over on his side. There were at least two boats close
to them and Private Macleod shouted at them as he clung to the canoe, asking
them to help his comrade who was then above water. He himself tried to help but
Private Cooper caught hold of him and pulled him under. After he freed himself
he did not see Private Cooper again. None of the boats around gave them any
help and he was rescued by a man from the boatyard. Bedford
Mr. John Preston, an Old Bedfordian who has just been admitted to Sandhurst gave evidence that he had been in a boat on the opposite side to where the accident happened. His friend drew his attention to what was happening and he saw two men in the water. They rowed to the spot but other boats were there before them and by that time the second man had disappeared. No help was given by the two boats nearer to the accident. Police Sergeant Halestrap recovered the body at five o’clock, from fourteen feet of water. The man’s watch had stopped at 4.15. The policeman thought that if anyone had dived in Private Cooper could have been rescued.
The Coroner expressed surprise that nobody could swim sufficiently to save the young man. He recommended that greater care should be taken in canoes and small boats which were easily upset. The jury passed a verdict of “accidentally drowned”.