Church Square, Toddington [Z1130/126/32]
Wednesday 29th September 1915: A Bedfordshire Yeomanry trooper from Toddington has been prosecuted for assaulting Ernest Duckling, the proprietor of the Great Northern Laundry at Dunstable. Mr. Duckling stated that he was a passenger in a motor van which passed a governess cart near Dropshort Farm on the road from Dunstable to Toddington. When they stopped further up the road Horace Fowler and his father drove up. The father complained that he had had to go on to the grass. The younger man said “Leave this to me” and struck Mr. Duckling several times in the face, giving him two black eyes and breaking a tooth. Fowler jumped into the governess cart and drove off, leaving his father behind. When asked who they were the father refused to tell him. Mr. Duckling followed the cart up the road and took hold of the horse’s head. Horace Fowler jumped down and assaulted him for a second time. He cried “murder” and a crowd gathered; he was then told that the man’s name was Fowler.
Horace Fowler said that Ernest Duckling had struck the first blow – Duckling denied this, saying that his arms had been full of parcels. George Pearson, chauffeur to Dr. Lathbury of Dunstable and the driver of the van, said he was driving that night as an act of friendship. They had passed the governess cart and stopped further on to deliver parcels. Fowler had struck Mr. Duckling in the face without a word being said. He reiterated that Mr. Duckling could not have struck Fowler as he was carrying parcels. Fowler suggested that Pearson was driving because Mr. Duckling had had too much to drink, but Pearson emphatically denied this.
Horace Fowler said he was on leave and had cycled from Olney to Toddington before driving to Dunstable and back with his parents. The motor car had passed them at a terrific pace. He shouted, his father pulled on the grass and the car just missed them. Near Mount Pleasant he got out to lead the pony; as he passed the motor car he asked Duckling if he wanted all the road. They had an altercation during which Duckling struck at him and grabbed the pony’s reins. He retaliated, although he admitted Duckling had got the worst of it. The pony escaped and he had to run after it. Duckling, who was under the influence of drink, followed him and again grabbed the pony. Ebenezer Fowler said that after he spoke to Duckling about driving too close, Duckling and his son “began to dance about the road”; his son merely retaliated when Duckling struck him. When Duckling shouted “murder” people thought it was because he was drunk.
The Bench were not convinced by the Fowlers’ evidence. Horace Fowler was fined £2 with the alternative of one month’s hard labour and was told that if he had not been in uniform he would have been sent to gaol.
Source: Bedfordshire Standard, 1st October 1915