Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Bedford Soldier Killed by a Train

Bedford County Hospital 1910 [Z1130/10/36/2]

Thursday 6th April 1916: An inquest has been held at the Bedford County Hospital into the death of Trooper Percy James Griffiths of the Bedfordshire Yeomanry, a married man aged 21. Major Pares told the inquest that Trooper Griffiths had joined the Yeomanry last September but only a few days later was kicked by a horse and was reported sick. From then onwards he never actually came on duty, and was sick more or less until he was discharged from hospital on 29th March. The effects of the injury had only lasted a short time, but he suffered from other health problems. On March 29 he appeared all right and looked fairly well. He was reported fit for duty but did not come on duty the next morning as he ought to have done. The Major did not think Trooper Griffiths cared for military work, and he suffered from hysteria.

On the morning of Friday 31st March Corporal A. F. Carnell was sent to find Trooper Griffiths and found him in bed at his home at 42 Greenhill Street. Griffiths said he was too ill to attend and asked for a doctor to be sent. He was told he was reported fit for duty and advised to get up. The Sergeant Major had asked Griffiths why he did not attend at the miniature range the day before as instructed; he claimed that he had been and found no one there, but this was contradicted by the Sergeant Major. On the Friday Griffiths again failed to turn up for parade and Corporal Carnell was sent to fetch him. He saw the man’s mother-in-law, who said Griffiths had told her he had to report himself to the doctor. He had appeared quite rational.

Another witness, Frank Gosling, told the inquest that he had been cycling from Wootton Pillinge to Bedford on Monday evening at about 9 p.m. As he passed under Cow Bridge he heard someone call for help from the railway bank. He got off his bicycle and called for some soldiers, who went to a nearby cottage to see if it had a telephone. Mr. Gosling found Trooper Griffiths at the bottom of the bank, with both his legs cut off by a train. The soldiers had managed to telephone the hospital, and he contacted both the signal box and the station master. Griffiths was taken to the hospital, where he died at about one o’clock the next morning.

Griffiths’ mother-in-law, Ellen Chambers of Biggleswade, said she was nursing Griffiths’ wife. She had last seen him on Friday morning; he had complained of his head and looked “wild in his eyes”. He had also complained about his head on Thursday night. He worried about his wife and children, but was a very steady man who never took too much drink. Griffiths’ mother said that she had three other sons in the Army who were all doing well. Percy was trying to do his bit, but could not manage it. When he was two years old he had a severe illness, and it was then considered that he had brain trouble. He worked as a warehouseman and his manager had told her that her son suffered from loss of memory.

The jury returned a verdict that Trooper Griffiths had committed suicide, but that there was insufficient evidence to show his state of mind at the time.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 7th April 1916

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