October 12, 2013

Motor Tragedy

Motor Tragedy Near Brandon

Soldier and Land Girl Killed

Misadventure Verdict

A soldier motor-cyclist and his Land Army girl passenger were killed when their machine came into collision with an Army lorry near Brandon. They both had extensive injuries and the machine was a total wreck.

An inquest was held at White Lodge Hospital a few days later and a speedometer, with the needle stuck pointing at 60, was produced. The Coroner for the Liberty of Bury St. Edmunds (Mr T Wilson) conducted the inquiry and Mr C Morgan represented the Treasury Solicitor and the driver of the lorry.

Deceased were Miss Joan Hart (21) Women’s Land Army, whose home was at East Dulwich, London, and B.Q.M.S. John Whitlock Woodcock (31).

Evidence of identification of the girl was given by Mrs Ethel Morrison warden of the Y.W.C.A. hostel for the Women’s Land Army at Lakenheath.

Ellen Ann Naifsey, also of the W.L.A., said that on Saturdayafternoon she cycled to Brandon with Miss Hart. After shopping, they went to a public bar and a lady bought them a drink and they played darts. They talked to two soldiers and had another drink. After closing time they walked with the civilians and soldiers towards home. There were several suggestions on how they should return to the hostel, owing to having only one cycle lamp. A soldier obtained a motor-cycle and, after some argument, it was decided that the deceased should be taken home first.

John William Huns, lorry driver’s mate, Coronation Place, Brandon, said he went to the Railway Hotel, Brandon, about 8.15pm, and had a shandy. He and a friend played darts with the girls and stayed with them until closing time. The girls and the soldiers were perfectly sober.

Q.M.S. Thomas William Billsborough stated that with another soldier, he called at the Railway Hotel and while there he bought the girls half a pint of beer each. Sgt-Major Woodcock suggested that he would get a truck to take them home. He could not obtain a truck, but the girls agreed to go home singly on a motor-cycle. Sgt-Major Woodcock left between 11.15 and 11.30 and expected to make two journeys to Lakenheath (4 miles away) by midnight.

Q.M.S. John Hinton gave evidence that he was sitting beside the driver of a truck leaving Newmarket and the headlights were masked. Nearing Brandon, he saw a light approaching. They were on the crown of the road. Next, he saw the motor-cyclist 4 yards away and there was a crash. The motor-cyclist had come out of a dip.

Lt. Harold Vernon Wilkes identified the body of Woodcock. He visited the scene of the accident and saw marks made by the motor-cycle.

The Coroner said there was no evidence of gross negligence. The motor-cycle had plenty of room to pass and he returned a verdict of “Misadventure” and expressed his sympathy with the relatives of the two deceased.