Thursday, 7 December 2017

Theft of Provisions at Biscot Camp

Soldiers at Biscot Camp c.1917 [Z1306/75/16/14]

Friday 7th December 1917: At a hearing lasting four and a half hours at Luton Court House four men charged with theft and conspiracy to steal provisions from Biscot Camp have been sent for trial. Bombadier Frederick Thomas Cocksidge was charged only with theft; Bombadier John James McGrath, Walter John Baxter (assistant storekeeper at the Canteen) and Thomas Charles Mortimer (storekeeper) were charged with theft and conspiracy; and Mortimer was also charged with receiving stolen goods. The prosecution took place following management changes at the Regimental Institute at Biscot and the appointment of a new President, Lieutenant Clyde Wilson, who discovered the alleged offences.

The main witness, Percy Walter Beale, had been reduced  from the rank of mess sergeant to gunner after four charges against him were heard by the Messing Committee. He admitted giving away items that did not belong to him, and said he later acted as decoy to catch the prisoners. He had also made accusations against Captain Lane (the former President of the Institute) and Lieutenant Baker, but did not know what had happened to them. He admitted giving presents to Baxter and receiving from him pickles, cigarettes and chocolate; and said he had also received money from Mortimer.

McGrath had signed a confession, and the other three prisoners had admitted the offences. Baxter and Mortimer were also prosecuted by the Navy and Army Canteen board for receiving stolen hams, and Mortimer was also charged with attempting to steal five cases of salmon. The defending solicitor described some of the evidence for the prosecution as “a combination of Jonathan Wild and Judas Iscariot”, but agreed the prisoners should be sent for trial. All were allowed bail except Mortimer.

Source: Luton News 13th December 1917

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