17 June 2020

William Edwin Surman (1897-1937)

William Edwin Surman

William Surman spent the first fifteen years of his life growing up in the pleasant country town of Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, After leaving school he worked in a local shop. But this wasn't enough. In 1913 he left his family and moved thousands of miles away when he emigrated to a new life working on a farm in Saskatchewan, Canada. A year later the Great War started and he joined the Canadian Army as soon as he was eighteen. 

After being demobbed in 1919, William returned to Tewkesbury to live with his widowed mother Mary and in 1924 married local girl Irene Bennett. They set up home at 47 Barton Street and went on to have two sons, Roy and Alan. William had a secure job with the Tewkesbury Burial Board and worked in Tewkesbury Cemetery. 

In 1932 the family took in a lodger, 43-year-old Charles Edwards. Early the next year Irene found herself pregnant - and the father wasn't William. In October she gave birth to a daughter in discreet, faraway Barrow-in-Furness. They were divorced in 1935 and William was given custody of their two sons. Irene, Charles and their baby daughter moved to Hertfordshire where their family expanded. They don't ever appear to have married.

In 1937 William received the news that he would have to move from his home at 47 Barton Street. Although his landlady offered him alternative housing, and at a lower rent, he felt that none of it was of the right standard for him and his sons.  Although his mother later said he had recovered from the divorce, the loss of his home triggered the rapid onset of severe depression. We can only speculate that it was related to the breakdown of his marriage.

Thursday 16th December was the day for William and his sons to move to the new home he had eventually found in nearby Nelson Street. At 6.30 that morning his wife's sister Elsie Dickenson was woken by a banging on her door and boys' voices shouting. It was her nephews telling her their father had broken a gas pipe in his bedroom and the room was filling with gas. Their father would not get up. When Elsie saw him later that day she asked him about the the gas and he told her that he was feeling "sick" and that the piping had broken when he'd clung on to it. But when Elsie saw the gas piping she didn't believe him. It looked as though it had been cut through. William's first suicide attempt had failed.

She later told the inquest: "He was very funny that morning. I was frightened of him. His eyes were glassy and he seemed strange. He tried to blow out my flashlight. He made me anxious."

His mother helped him with the move. Did she know about his suicide attempt with the gas pipe? She later told the inquest jury "He wasn't normal. He'd stand about and looked dazed and had no energy, so I stayed with him till 11.30 that night. I told him to go to bed and get some rest and I'd help him in the morning. He never suggested doing himself an injury."

The next day, Friday, William went to work as usual and later visited the local Woolworths store to buy a half-pint bottle of Flame disinfectant. He walked back towards the cemetery and in a small lane close by, drank almost whole the bottle. As the contents burned through his stomach and beyond, he rushed to the small pond in Mills Ground, 150 yards from the cemetery, and threw himself in to end his agony.

Because of their age, his two sons were not called as witnesses at the inquest so we don't where they spent the Friday night, but it's most likely that they stayed with their aunt Elsie for at least the next few days, and probably longer.

On Saturday William was reported missing from home and the police made enquiries. The bottle of disinfectant was found in the lane where William had dropped it. On Sunday morning P.C. Masterson and P.C. Horton dragged the pond in Mills Ground and found his body.

At the inquest which followed the jury returned the only possible verdict: "Suicide while the balance of his mind was disturbed".

William's funeral took place on 23rd December when his burial in Tewkesbury Cemetery was preceded by a service in Tewkesbury Baptist Chapel. The Rev. R. J. Reith officiated at both places.

The family mourners were Mrs. M. A. Surman (his mother), Mrs. F. Trinity, Mrs. E. Hallett and Mrs. H. Beecham (his sisters), Mr. H. Hallett (his brother-in-law). Mr. and Mrs. O. Dickenson (his brother-in-law and sister-in-law), and Mr. W. Freeman (a friend).

As the sympathisers assembled at the chapel, the organist, Mr. P. Wilkins, played Tchaikovsky's Chanson Triste  and then Handel's Largo.

The hymns were "Jesu, Lover of my Soul" and "Abide with Me".

William's employers were represented by Alderman G. P. Howell, Councillors H. D. James and W. Walkley, while Messrs. J. J. Whiteley. A. H. Hulbert and H. Green were present on behalf of Tewkesbury Brotherhood. Also present in the chapel were Miss Wilkins, Mr. R. Wilkins, Mrs. W. Smith, Mr. W. E. Workman, Mr. W. Smith and Mrs. Chambers.

The coffin was carried by Messrs. Walker, Robins, Cooke and Hodges. Among the wreaths were those from the Tewkesbury Baptist Church, Tewkesbury Baptist Women's Own, his neighbours, his workmates at the cemetery, and the Tewkesbury Brotherhood.

Roy and Alan, William's sons, moved to live with their father's sister Ethel in Birmingham. They both died in 2001. William's mother continued to live in Tewkesbury and died there in 1956.

16 June 2020

A Memorial to a Murdered Policeman

On 21st April 1815, John Burnett, the "Peace Officer" of the Cornish town of Lostwithiel was murdered by a drunken soldier, John Simms. Simms was tried and hanged in Bodmin Gaol.

The memorial to John Burnett inside Lostwithiel parish church

Kentish Weekly Post or Canterbury Journal - Tuesday 6th September 1814


The 28th regiment of Foot, which had been quartered at Pendennis, since the disbanding of the Royal Miners, having received orders to proceed by forced march to Plymouth, for the purpose of embarking there for America; the baggage passed through Lostwithiel on Sunday last. Four of the baggage guard, who had been drinking at a public house remained when the party moved forward it should seem, unconscious of the departure of their comrades. Two of the four were so much intoxicated, as to render it impossible for them to proceed, and the other two who appeared in.full possession of their senses, applied to the constable, to procure a cart to convey the drunken men to the next town. This the constable refused to do, as did a Magistrate who happened to be passing by at the time. An altercation ensued, and the soldiers threatened to shoot the constable, who prudently retreated into his house and shut the door. Enraged at this they fixed their bayonets, with which they menaced some persons who stood by, at the same time threatened to fire through the constable's door, and proceeded to charge their muskets with ball cartridges, which had been served out to them as part of the baggage guard. After having loaded their pieces they walked down Fore-street, one of them presenting his musket in different directions, and attempting to fire it amongst the people, a number of whom were assembled in the street; happily the ruffian was unable to effect his purpose, as the piece flashed in the pan without going off. Having proceeded in this way for some distance, regardless of the remonstrances and intreaties of the inhabitants, they were met by Joseph Burnett, the town serjeant, who made known that he.was a peace officer, and should take the man who was. endeavouring to discharge his piece into custody. The soldier replied, "I’ll shoot you first” and resting his musket on the wheel of a cart, in front of Burnett, declared that if he advanced an inch he would fire. The officer moved a little to one side, to get out of the direction of the piece, when the villain raised the musket, stepped back few paces, and levelling it at the unfortunate man, instantly fired. The ball passed through Burnett’s body, and struck another man named Walter Davies, who stood behind him,* near the hip, shattering his back bone; - both instantly fell. The spectators immediately endeavoured to secure the miscreants, who made all the resistance in their power; fortunately the man whose musket was not discharged, was seized before he could fire; the other kept the people at bay with his bayonet for some time, but was length secured without further mischief. Burnett expired in about half an hour after he was shot; Davies languished until Wednesday, when also died. Both have left families; the former nine and the latter five children. A Coroner’s Inquest was held on the body of Burnett on Monday, and returned a verdict of Wilful Murder against John Sims and Richard Rogers, who were conducted to Bodmin Gaol. 

Stamford Mercury - Friday 2 September 1814

John Sims and Richard Rogers were Monday se'nnight committed to Bodmin gaol, for the murder of Joseph Burnett and Walter Davies.

Royal Cornwall Gazette - Saturday 22 April 1815


Before the Honourable Sir ROBERT GRAHAM, Knt., one of the Justices of His Majesty's Court of King's Bench. 

Wednesday, March 29. John Simms, aged 30, and Richard Rogers, 26, were charged with the wilful murder of Joseph Burnett.

William Hicks sworn and examined— Lives at Lostwithiel; was a constable in August last; recollected seeing the two prisoners in the town; they came to his house between 1 and 2 o'clock and enquired for a cart to forward some drunken men; said they belonged to the 28th regiment of foot; a part of that regiment had passed through Lostwithiel in the morning. Witness told the prisoners they could have no cart, they having no right to one, and asked why they did not go on with their own baggage cart; they made no reply; he then enquired who would pay, they said, the Government; he told them as old soldiers they ought to know better, their own officers were bound to pay for baggage carts; Simms said <em>he</em> was not drunk, did not want a cart for himself, and would not be seen to ride on one; they then left the house of the witness, and he went in and shut the door; his house is near the middle of Market-street. In 10 minutes or a quarter of an hour the prisoners returned to his house, and again required a cart to carry the drunken men to Liskeard; he told them they had no right to a cart but if they would pay he would get one; Simms asked the price; witness told him 12 shillings; He said to Rogers, " Pay the man for the cart;" Rogers then said "Bring the cart here;" Witness said, "Let me see the money, and I will;" on which Rogers turned and said "I'll be d—d if I do," and walked off, and witness returned into his house. Simms appeared sober, and Rogers drunk. James Netherton lives at Lostwithiel; remembered the prisoners at the bar; saw them in Market street, in August last; saw them speak to Mr. Hicks at his door; they made an application to him for a cart; witness was sitting in his own window opposite; after the conversation, Hicks went in and shut the door, and the prisoners went away ; saw them return together to Hicks's house, where they enquired for a cart, as before, and Hicks agreed to get one if they would pay for it; they refused at first, but afterwards agreed to pay for it by making application to another man at the bottom of the town; Rogers went away, and Simms went to the steps of Miss Spernon's house, at a little distance on the same side of the way; witness heard Simms say, with many oaths, that he would have the blood of some person before he left the town; he had a musket in his hand; he fixed the bayonet, and brought it down to the charge; as soon as Rogers was within hearing, Simms hailed him, and requested him to load his gun; Rogers had his piece; Simms desired him to load, saying that "some of the Cornish a—s were going to murder him;"  there were many people, chiefly boys and young persons, round Miss Spernon's door; they said nothing to the prisoners, nor offered them any insult or affront; Rogers attempted to unbutton his pouch to load, but was unable, being so intoxicated. Simms then bade him come to him, and he would assist him; Rogers went up to him, and Simms unbuttoned his pouch and took out a parcel of cartridges, he untied the parcel, took out one, and gave it to Rogers, who bit off the end and primed his piece, and returned the remainder (with Simms' assistance) into his gun; Simms then requested Rogers to ram it down well; he did so, fixed his bayonet, went a few yards down the street, presented his piece, and levelled right down the street; there were many persons in the direction in which he presented it; he cocked his piece and snapped it, when it flashed in the pan; Simms said that Rogers's was a poor gun, and he would load his own, but witness did not see him do it; they then went together down the centre of the street, but witness remained at the head of the street; the prisoners were nearly close together, and some persons were standing at a small distance from them. The witness knew Mr. Joseph Burnett, he was serjeant at mace of the borough of Lostwithiel, and lived in Fore street; witness could see his house from the place where he was standing; he saw Burnett come out of his house, having on the laced hat usually worn by the town-serjeant. The prisoners had not reached the turning at die bottom of the street, when Rogers turned and snapped his gun again, in the direction in which Barnett was going; there was no footpath in the street. Witness saw a man of the name of Davey tap Rogers on the shoulder; prisoners then went down the street together with Burnett and Davey, and passing the corner were lost to the view of the witness; he followed them, and was at the corner just at the report of the gun; he ran to the turning, and saw the smoke of Simms's gun; the arms were then taken from the prisoners, and the loaded musket, belonging to Rogers, was given to the witness; he examined the gun and drew the load, with some assistance; it contained a ball-cartridge; after the prisoners were put into the hall, witness saw Burnett in Mr. Reed's house, where he lay in the parlour, bleeding; witness continued in the room with him; he lived about three quarters of an hour after being shot. Witness knew nothing of what passed after the prisoners turned the corner. James Dewan lives at Lostwithiel; is in the Local Militia, his mother keeps a public house in Fore Street; he saw the prisoners in August last; he saw Simms ramming something down into his piece; the prisoners afterwards came to his mother's door; Burnett was there; Simms then put his ramrod in his piece; witness they saw the piece was loaded; Burnett said in the hearing of Simms, he did not think it was loaded, and Simms then put his ramrod into his piece again, and witness said he was sure it was loaded; and he desired Simms to come inside the door and let him draw the charge, that he (Simms) was an old soldier, and ought to know better; Simms instantly came to a charge at the witness and said he would rather put that into him; the bayonet was fixed, and witness put up his hand, and put it aside; Simms then threw his piece to his shoulder, and the prisoners both went away down the street, they stopped at about 50 or 60 yards; no person followed them at that instant; witness observed the prisoners come to a priming position, one faced up the street and the other down, their locks coming nearly abreast of each other, Simms put his hand to Rogers's lock, and then walked off down the street; witness had observed Rogers's lock before, and saw that the pan was too full of powder to shut close; the prisoners went down the street together, and Davey followed them; witness and Burnett went down about five minutes afterwards; Burnett called at the constable's house; Mr, Rowe's, and witness went to a public house kept by George Reed, in an open place near the Fore street; the prisoners were there, and Burnett afterwards came there; witness was close to the prisoners, when Simms turned and asked him what business he had there; he said he was going in to Mr. Reed's; when Burnett came up, he said he was the town-serjeant, and desired him to go into Reed's and give up their arms to him; Simms repeated that he would kill the first man who came to take his arms, he then went back a few paces, and rested his piece on the wheel of a cart, and took a level on the wheel; witness then turned to Burnett, and desired him to come away, for the prisoners would shoot some person; witness then went into Reed's passage, and had not been there two seconds when he heard the report of the piece; he turned round and saw Burnett turning round towards the door; witness observed a hole in the breast of Burnett's waistcoat. There were many persons in the street, but witness saw only one man follow the prisoners before himself; no person offered any insult to the prisoners. <em> Nicholas Pomeroy</em>, corroborated much of the testimony of the preceding witnesses, and added that he saw one of the prisoners rest his piece against a wall, and attempt to strike a man called Walter Davey; witness followed the prisoners round the corner, towards George Reed's house; heard Burnett say "I require the peace; come in here, and deliver your arms to me;" Simms said "he would be d—d if  he did not shoot him first;" witness saw him, after resting his musket on the wheel of a cart, take it up and present it at Joseph Burnett who might be 10 or 20 feet distant ; Rogers was a few yards distant from Simms, nearer to Reed's house; Simms fired, and Burnett put his arms around him, and turned into the house. <em>George Wills,</em> <em>Walter Lucas</em>, and <em>George Reed</em> corroborated much of the preceding evidence, and all saw the piece fired by Simms. <em>Mr. Burgess</em>, surgeon at Lostwithiel was called in to see Joseph Burnett about 2 o'clock in the afternoon of the 21st of August; Burnett was then at George Reed's house, witness found him bleeding very much, and on examining him he discovered a wound, apparently made by a bullet, which had entered at the lower part of the breast-bone, passed through the right lobe of the lungs, and came out at the right side, about 5 or 6 inches from the spine which was undoubtedly the cause of his death; the deceased was removed to his own house, and died in about three quarters of an hour after the witness saw him. The prisoners then being called on, said that they ,"stood in their own defence, as it was wanted to take their arms from them." They called no witness. The Jury found John Simms guilty, and Richard Rogers not guilty, the latter burst into tears when the verdict was returned; but Simms appeared unconcerned. The Judge then addressed the prisoner Simms in the following words: "John Simms, you have been convicted bv evidence the most clear and precise, of a very heinous crime, the crime of taking away the life of one of your fellow subjects, whose blood calls loudly for retaliation, and who, in the capacity of a Peace Officer was using his utmost endeavours to prevent you from committing that mischief which you by your intoxication and temporary insanity at that time was capable of doing; and while I proceed to my duty in passing the awful sentence of the law upon you, I cannot help regretting your unprepared state for it. The victim of your violence, Burnett, was, as the evidence have stated, a man who was doing and doing no more than his duty as a preserver of the public peace; and however reluctantly you as a soldier might permit your arms to be taken from you, yet the circumstance of your intoxication is no extenuation of your guilt; it is therefore my duty, my painful duly, to pronounce the sentence of the Law upon you, which you have drawn down upon your own head; a Sentence which, though it be both awful and severe, yet I fear you are very unprepared to meet, I therefore most earnestly hope that the short period of time which you have now remaining, you will employ in making your peace with that God whom you have so grievously offended. The Sentence of the Law therefore is, that you be taken to the place from whence you came, and from thence, on Friday next, you be brought to the place of Execution, where you he hanged by the neck till you be dead, and that your body he given to be dissected and anatomized; and may God have mercy upon your Soul!" 

The Execution

John Simms was hanged for the murder of John Burnett on 31 April 1815 at Bodmin Gaol

Two Russians Sailors buried in Plymouth

Plymouth's large nineteenth century private cemetery at Ford Park contains the graves of two Russian sailors who died while their ship, the Askold, was in Devonport Dockyard for repairs in 1917. One is in good condition; the other is in pieces. The sailors whose remains lie buried in Ford Park lived and died at a time of major change in the Russian Empire, and their stories shed a little personal light on those times. 

Imperial Russian Cruiser Askold

The Imperial Russian cruiser 'Askold' at Kiel in 1901

The cruiser Askold of the Imperial Russian Navy was launched in 1900 at Kiel in northern Germany. She initially entered service with the Russian Baltic Fleet, but only after one year was assigned to the Russian Pacific Fleet based at Port Arthur, Manchuria, instead. After seeing action in the 1904-5 Russo-Japanese War she became the flagship of the Russian Siberian Flotilla. Askold began the Great War as part of the Allied (British-French-Japanese) joint task force pursuing the German East Asia Squadron under Admiral Maximilian von Spee. 

In August 1914 she patrolled the area to the east of the Philippines, resupplying out of Hong Kong and Singapore. In September and October, she was assigned to escort duty in the Indian Ocean. Askold was then assigned to the Mediterranean Sea for operations off the coasts of Syria and Palestine for coastal bombardment and commerce-raiding operations based in Beirut and Haifa. 

In 1915, she was involved in operations against the Ottoman Navy and the Austrian Navy in Greece and Bulgaria, including support for troop landings in the Gallipoli Campaign. She underwent an extensive refit in Toulon, France, beginning in March 1916, which involved the replacement of her guns. The repairs were delayed by lack of materials and manpower. Tensions arose in the crew as the men were forced to live on board, whereas the officers went to Paris. 

On 19th August there was an explosion in her powder magazine attributed to sabotage, and four crewmen were later convicted and sentenced to death. Repairs were completed only in December 1916. Askold was then transferred to the Barents Sea theatre of operations. 

Askold arrives in Plymouth

Askold left Toulon on 27th December 1916, heading for England via Gibraltar. In bad weather, she suffered some storm damage in the Atlantic and reached Plymouth on 20th January 1917 with only 70 tons of coal left. The storm damage was repaired at Devonport Dockyard where she remained until she left for Greenock in Scotland on 23th May 1917.

 A note about the Russian Calendar

At this point, dates become important. At the beginning of 1917, the Russian Empire was still using the Julian Calendar while most of the rest of the world had moved to using the Gregorian Calendar. As a result, dates in Russia were thirteen days behind those used elsewhere. This difference in calendars in conventionally shown as "Old Style" ("O.S." - Julian Calendar) and "New Style ("N.S." - Gregorian Calendar". 

On 13th January 1917 in the United Kingdom it was 1st January 1917 in the Russian Empire - and on board the Imperial Russian Navy's ships. How many people understood this at the time is a moot point when considering the dates of the deaths of these two sailors.

Under the influence of modernising forces in Russia, the calendar changed in February 1918 with the removal of thirteen days: 31st January 1918 was followed by 14th February 1918. Unless otherwise stated all the dates in this article are given as "New Style" dates whether they refer to the Russian Empire and its Navy or Great Britain. 

A note about the Russian Alphabet

At the beginning of 1917 the Cyrillic Alphabet had letters which is does not have today. The alphabet had these letters "removed" during the early Soviet era. But in 1917 those characters were still in use. 

The "February Revolution" of 1917

The main events of the revolution took place in and near Petrograd (present-day St. Petersburg), the then-capital of Russia, where longstanding discontent with the monarchy erupted into mass protests against food rationing on 8th March 1917 (New Style). Revolutionary activity lasted about eight days. It involved mass demonstrations and violent armed clashes with police and gendarmes, the last loyal forces of the Russian monarchy. It came to be known - because of the Julian Calendar in use at the time - as the "February Revolution". 

On 12th March mutinous Russian Army forces sided with the revolutionaries. Tsar Nicholas II abdicated on 15th March, ending Romanov dynastic rule, and Imperial Russia. The British government reluctantly offered the former Imperial family asylum in the UK on 19th March 1917. It later withdrew that offer. The officers and crew heard about the revolution and the Tsar's abdication from the English newspapers in Plymouth. Only when he received official notification from Petrograd did the captain of the Askold, Kazimir Ketlinski, make an announcement to his ship's crew, urging them to remain loyal to the Motherland. His reduced the risk of attempts on the lives of the officers by having some men removed from the ship. After that, the ship took an oath of allegiance to the Provisional Government.

Pyotr Ogorielkov - Петръ Огорљлковъ

The grave of Pyotr Ogorielkov in Ford Park Cemetery, Plymouth

We know from Pyotr's gravestone that he was a 27-year-old Stoker on the Askold when he died in March 1917. Pyotr's headstone shows his date of death as 7th March. It uses the Julian Calendar to show the date in Old Style. The New Style equivalent is 20th March.

The gravestone is written in Cyrillic and Pyotr's name is shown as Петръ Огорљлковъ. This inscription shows two Cyrillic characters no longer used in Russian. 

Why does this matter? Because when it came to transliterating Pyotr's name for his death certificate and inclusion in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission there was some confusion which has led to it be recorded incorrectly.

The first character is Љ known as "Lje", pronounced like the "ll" in  "million".

The second is Ъ known as the "Hard sign". 

Before spelling reform in 1918, a hard sign was normally written at the end of a word when following a "non-palatal consonant", even though it had no effect on pronunciation. So Pyotr was written as Петръ before spelling reform and Петр afterwards. And Огорљлковъ is now written as Огорелков. So today his name would be written as Петр Огорелков. This would now be transliterated at Pyotr Ogorielkov and gives a reasonable approximation of the original Russian pronunciation. 

But at the time, as you can see from his death certificate below, it was recorded as Garielkow. And is as as Garielkow that he is recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. 

Peter Garielkov death certificate

How did this happen? Pyotr died of heart disease in the Royal Naval Hospital, Stonehouse, Plymouth. It seems likely that in the confusion of his death and the need to register it, a handwritten transliteration as Ogrielkow was misread. (The use of the German transliteration of в as w rather than the English v was not uncommon at the time.) 

But look at the date - recorded at 19th March. This does not correspond with the date on his gravestone (7th March (OS) = 20th March (NS). Again, it seems that the confusion of a busy Naval hospital in wartime led to the error. 

Nicolai Yevgrafov - Николай Евграфовъ

The grave of Nicolai Yevgrafov in Ford Park Cemetery, Plymouth

While Pyotr Ogorielkov's death was from natural causes, even though he was only 27, Nicolai's was a very different matter. Is that the reason that his grave is in pieces? The Commonwealth War Graves Commission have confirmed that both of the graves are in their care, but they are treated as "private" graves and no funding is received for them from the Russian government. Nicolai's gravestone shows that he died, aged 30, on 7th April 1917. Again, it gives the date in the Old Style. The New Style equivalent is 20th March. 

Nicolai's name is written as Николай Евграфовъ. Apart from the final ъ (Hard sign), the Cyrillic spelling has not changed since his death. At the time, for the death certificate, it was transliterated as Nicolay Engraffoff and subsequently for the entry in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database it became Nicolai Engraffof

The second letter of his surname is definitely в the letter best transliterated as "v". But on both death certificate and CWGC is has been represented by the letter "n". This gives the name a completely false pronunciation. Nicolai's death certificate reveals that his death was not from natural causes. 

Nicolai's death certificate

Although his gravestone says that Nicolai was a Stoker, he was actually a mechanic in the Askold's engine room. 

As with Pyotr's death certificate, there is a discrepancy between the date recorded on Nicolai's grave and that on the certificate. The grave claims he died on 20th April, while the certificate says it was 11th April. Which is right? Nicolai died an agonising death in the Royal Naval Hospital from a self-administered dose of hydrochloric acid. 

Fortunately, a newspaper report of his inquest provides some background, and confirms that the date on the death certificate is the correct one. 

 So Nicolai's death was due to suicide. He didn't die immediately and was able to tell the Askold's surgeon that he had taken poison "because he felt life was not worth living under the new conditions in Russia." He was the only supporter of the Imperial Russian Family on board. 

That fact that he killed himself did not prevent him having a formal Naval funeral at Ford Park. 

There being no Russian Orthodox priest in Plymouth, a Greek Orthodox chaplain officiated, and the coffin was drawn by a party of Russian sailors on a gun-carriage with a detachment of marines firing shots over the grave.

Buried alive in a well

From the Essex Standard - Saturday, 6th May 1899:


Rescued After Eight Hours' Entombment

Great excitement was caused at Brightlingsea early on Monday morning when it became known that Mr. Samuel Wilson Webb born in Colchester in 1861 and died there in 1945, aged 83. In the 1901 Census, he is living at 31 John Street, Brightlingsea, with his wife and family and working as a "carpenter and joiner", a master carpenter, had been accidentally buried at the bottom of a well. The well is 25ft 6in 7.77m deep and is situated in East End Garden, the enclosure being hired by Mr. Herbert Francis born in Ardleigh in 1865, in the 1901 Census he is living with his wife and son at 5 School Yard, Brightlingsea, with his occupation described as "market gardener". In the 1911 Census he is at the same address and a "nurseryman", a market gardener. 

It appears that last summer the well failed, in consequence of which Mr Francis decided to increase its depth by three feet, and Mr Webb was engaged to do the work. At a quarter past six on Monday morning Mr. Webb, with two assistants (Donald Dinwoodie in the 1901 Census, Dinwoodie is living at 54 Mill Street, Brightlingsea, with his wife and family. His occupation is "excavating contractor" and Harry Copsey in the 1901 Census, Copsey is living at 101 High Street, Brightlingsea, with his wife and family working as a "bricklayer"),to continue the work which they had commenced a week earlier, and a hand-derrick had been placed over the well, which Mr. Webb descended by means of ladder which was resting on the bottom. Chains were fastened at the bottom of the well and secured at the top as a precaution against anything like a collapse, and everything being considered safe Webb descended once more.

He called to one of his assistants for two or three tiles, and immediately there was a terrific crash. The assistants, who were terrified, looked down the well, and found that the walls h«d fallen in about fifteen feet from the surface, and that Webb was completely buried beneath about five tons of bricks, mortar, and other débris. 

"Are you all right?" they shouted, and were delighted at hearing the faint reply, "Yes; get help and work like Englishmen. " 

In a very few minutes a party of five professional well-sinkers, who are engaged on the new Waterworks at Brightlingsea, were on the spot, and at once set to work to rescue the buried man, and were assisted by a large band of willing workers. It being unsafe to operate at the top of the well, the men began digging a large pit a few feet away, with the object of tapping the well-side when they had reached a sufficient depth, and then removing the débris through the hole. 

At the same time the sides of the well itself were shored and when the exact whereabouts of Webb had been ascertained, a three-inch water-pipe was sunk, thereby insuring a constant supply of air. Those who listened down the pipe could hear Webb singing the well-known hymn "Rock of Ages," and also praying, and to a man named Wrinch, whose voice he recognised he called out "If I don't come out alive, tell my wife l am trusting in Jesus."

The wall of the well was penetrated about mid-day, when Charles Burns I have not been able to identify Charles Burns; he appears not to have been a Brightlingsea resident, who superintended the gang of workers, burrowed his way into the well, aad was in imminent peril of instant death. 

About an hour later Webb's head was freed from the débris, and his left arm was liberated, but his right arm was still weighed down by the solid mass. The men spared no exertions in their work, and soon afterwards the entombed man's bead and shoulders were sufficiently cleared to give him some refreshment. Brandy was administered to him by the means of a tube, it being feared be might collapse, for it was stated that he was subject to fits. 

As the work proceeded it could be seen that he was shivering with cold, and that he had become very nearly exhausted. Soon after two o'clock it was decided to put ropes under the man's armpits and haul him out, and in order to do this the workmen borrowed into the well, bound Webb's body with matting and sacks, and placed the ropes under his arms. The rope was gradually tightened, and amid intense excitement Webb was dragged to the surface after eight hours' burial. 

His face was very pale, one eye was cut, his clothes were torn and a boot had been wrenched off one foot, and altogether he presented a pitiable sight. He was immediately placed on a stretcher, which had been fetched in readiness, and conveyed to the residence of Mr Francis, where Dr. Ling born in Suffolk in 1855 and died in March, Cambridgeshire, on 9th August 1916. According to the Medical Directory of 1900, Dr Charles Arthur Squire Ling qualified as a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1877, he was District Medical Officer and Public Vaccinator to Tendring Union, Admiralty Surgeon and Agent, Medical Inspector of Seamen, and Medical Officer of Health for the Port of Colchester, who had been present during the whole of the operations, followed and administered stimulants. He afterwards made a careful examination, which showed that no bones were broken, and that though the sufferer was in a state of collapse and had lost all sensation in his lower extremities, he was not otherwise seriously injured. Webb was then conveyed home and Dr. Ling was confident that be would thoroughly recover.

Good service was rendered by Police Constable Peacock and a constable throughout the whole of the operations, in preventing encroachment on the part of the public who assembled in great numbers, and the greatest possible praise is due to all those who assisted so heroically, in what was unquestionably a wonderful rescue, more especially to Burns, who not only superintended the operation but undertook the most difficult and dangerous part of the work.


Considerable excitement and sensation was caused on Monday morning. when it became known that Samuel Wilson Webb, a carpenter and builder, of John Street, had been buried alive owing to the collapse of a well in which he was working The first intimation which the general public had that something extraordinary had taken place was about 7.30 a.m. when Webb's brother, who is also a builder, was seen driving to and fro through the town, each time at a gallop, and it was not long before the news had spread from one end of the place to the other, and had even reached the fleet of boats, which were engaged at brood dredging in the Colne. 

The accident occurred in a garden near East Green which is occupied by Mr. Herbert Francis, market gardener. In the garden was an old well about 21 feet 6.4m deep, and during the dry weather of last summer the supply of water failed, causing Mr. Francis considerable inconvenience. With a view to prevent a similar occurrence during the next summer it was decided to deepen the well about four feet 1.2m, and the work bad been undertaken by Mr. Webb. The work was commenced on Tuesday of last week, but owing to various circumstances it was on the same day abandoned for a time. 

On Monday morning about half-past six, Webb, and two of his workmen, named Donald Dimwoodie [sic] and Henry Copsey went to renew operations. A hand-derrick had been rigged up over the well, and a couple of chains carried from top to bottom, to hold up the existing brick-work. These, together with a ladder placed in the well, had been left in position from the previous Tuesday, and as soon as the men arrived on Monday morning Webb descended, to inspect the chains and ascertain if they were all right. He soon reascended being satisfied by the inspection, but for additional safety he considered it wise to place a third chain up and down the well. 

This was speedily accomplished, and Webb again descended, and shortly afterwards called out to his men to hand him two or three tiles. He then placed one foot on the bottom rung of the ladder, for the purpose of climbing up to reach the tiles as they were handed to him, and immediately, without the slightest warning, the well bulged in the middle and Webb was buried in the débris, with several tons' weight around and above him.

The awfulness of the situation of the buried man, and the absolute necessity for immediate help being secured, were at once fully recognised by those upon the surface. Their first desire, however, was naturally to ascertain whether the entombed man was alive, or whether he had been crushed to death by the falling débris. Before the cloud of dust raised by the crash had been cleared away, they looked in at the top of the well, and shouted an enquiry, and, to their relief and joy a response came from the entombed man, bidding them to get help and


an injunction considered by those who know Webb best, as being characteristic of the man. The top of the ladder projected somewhat above the well, and it was undoubtedly owing to the position of the ladder that Webb was saved from instantaneous death. The ensued a brief pause, which to the buried man must have seemed like ages, while help was being obtained. Before many minutes had elapsed, however, there were several willing workers on the spot, and those thus early on the scene could hear a voice proceeding from the depths of the earth, and when they listened more closely they recognised the strains of the well-known hymn: 
"Rock of Ages, cleft for me, 
Let me hide myself in Thee."
Subsequently they could hear the unfortunate fellow pleading in earnest prayer to God, and when he was cognisant of the fact that the work of attempting to rescue him had been commenced he called out to a man named Wringe in the 1901 Census, James Wringe is living at East Green with his wife and family.working as "head horseman on farm." This is probably the farm now known as East End Green Farm, who lives nearby, and who was one of the first on the spot, and requested him if he did not come out alive to inform his wife that he was "trusting in Jesus." Meanwhile, additional help had been obtained, and was arriving every minute. A load of tools was secured, and the help of a party of professional well-borers, who were engaged in sinking a new well for the public water supply of the town, was obtained. The direction of the rescue operations was at once assumed by Charlie Burns, the foreman of the party, and were vigorously proceeded with in a scientific manner, which, though at first criticised by the onlookers for being too slow, were eventually recognised as being the safest and surest. Webb was able to apprise his rescuers of his exact position, so they were able to concentrate their efforts at exactly the right spot. It was evidently impracticable to operate from the top of the well, or to touch the sides lest a second collapse should occur, and thus succeed in that which the first had failed to accomplish. Scores of willing workers were engaged in excavating a large pit a few feet distant from the well, on the side which Webb had indicated his rescue could be most easily effected, the intention being when a sufficient depth had been reached to tunnel through to the well, and by the hole thus made to remove the débris. While this work was going on, other competent hands were busily engaged in shoring up the top part of the walls of the well, which had remained standing, in order that they might not give way as a result of the operations which were going on outside, and which it was naturally supposed must tend to render the frail structure even more unstable. Efforts were also made directed to securing a supply of air to the buried man, and for this purpose several lengths of water piping were passed through the débris alongside the ladder. At intervals words of encouragement were spoken to Webb by his two brothers and others, and it was evident from the replies given that the poor fellow had not lost any of his well-known stock of courage, for although not possessed of a super-abundance of physical strength, being subject to fits, it is generally recognised that he possesses an iron nerve, which has on more than one occasion stood him in good stead. While the work was going on one individual expressed a doubt as to whether he could possibly be got out alive, and it was reassuring to hear from a bystander his personal conviction that there was not the slightest doubt about it, as 


or that would have taken place years ago, as he had in the past gone through what would have killed half-a-dozen men".

Notwithstanding his own danger and the fact that he was placed in such an awful position, Webb's thoughts were evidently not solely concentrated upon himself, for in addition to the message or his wife mentioned above, he subsequently enquired if his wife knew of</span> or watched the operations, and how she was. Hundreds of men and women had during the morning assembled, and either assisted in or watched the operations, and it is most satisfactory to note that in no way was the work retarded by the assembled crowd. Among the early arrivals were the Rev. A. Pertwee (Vicar) and Rev. A. J. Johnson (Wesleyan Minister), who at once took a spade and helped in the work of excavation until he was relieved by others who were perhaps more accustomed to such work, and Dr. Ling remained on the spot until the work of rescue was completed. Nearly all the master builders in the town were also present, and rendered valuable help, as well as the timber and tools for the rescue work, and special mention ought to be made in this connection of Messrs. J. O. Fookes, E. Blyth, W. James, W. J. Nicholls, W. Nicholls, and A. Langley. But the brunt of the most perilous and difficult work was carried out by Charlie Burns, and he must have experienced a sense of relief when the work was finished almost as great as that felt by Webb himself. He recognised all through the peril in which he was placing himself; he recognised that at any moment he himself might share the same fate as the man whom he was endeavouring to rescue, but he did not hesitate although, when all was finished, he admitted that nothing but the fact that a human life was in danger and that there was just a possibility of rescue, would have tempted him to enter into what he declared, was a veritable death-trap. About noon the wall of the well was penetrated from the outside pit, and the removal of the débris through the tunnel was commenced. But it was slow work as the débris had to be removed merely by handfuls, and drawn up in buckets, while as soon as the space of about a foot was cleared shores had to be placed to prevent another collapse. Soon after one o' clock a clearance had been made round the buried man's head, and some brandy was passed to him through a tube, which with characteristic pluck he at first declared he did not require. Another hour passed during which time the work had not been suspended even for a moment, for whenever one man desired a spell of rest from his arduous labours, there were always half-a-dozen ready to take his place. Burns stuck nobly to his work hour after hour, and it was not until almost exhausted and bathed in perspiration that he ascended to the surface for a breath of fresh air and some slight refreshment. In a few moments he was again engaged in his perilous work, his place having during the brief interval been taken by a fellow-workman named Patrick. It was becoming evident that the imprisoned man was getting very exhausted, and the anxiety of all was becoming more and more intense, as it was seen that another hour must elapse before the work could be completed. The question was freely put, could the poor fellow hold out so long, or would the noble band of rescuers only have the melancholy satisfaction of withdrawing his dead body? As the time passed on Sergeant Peacock and Police Constables Mann and Beasley, who had been present throughout, experienced a little more difficulty in keeping the crowd from the vicinity of the well. Ropes were passed down and an attempt made to move the ladder, but it was found impossible, the only response to the effort being a weird groan from the captive. Then it was decided to pass ropes under the man's armpits and a call was made for a sack, or something to place under the ropes. As soon as this was asked for, handkerchiefs of all sizes and colours were thrown to the workers, one man offered the loan of his shirt, but before he could divest himself of this article of apparel several sacks and pieces of carpet were brought forward. Then followed a painful pause, during which the silence which reigned became oppressive, those outside beiug able only to imagine what was being done in the depths of the earth. Then a signal was given from those below to those above, and a careful and steady pull was given on the ropes, which after a slight resistance gave evidence that success would soon be assured Another pause, almost as painful as the last while Webb, who had been drawn up on a level with the aperture, was being released from the ropes, and then at exactly three o'clock, borne on strong arms he was drawn through the tunnel into the open pit. Then everybody heaved a great sigh of satisfaction and relief as expressive as the loudest cheers could have been, for it was known that the man had been rescued alive after having been over 


 Needless to say he presented a sorry spectacle, bruised, cut. and bleeding, his clothes dirty and torn, and minus a boot. But his pluck had not forsaken him, and he attempted to stand, but realising that tins was impossible, he looked up to Dr. Ling and said "Have you a horse and cart here? I can't walk home." "That's all right," cheerfully replied the doctor, "we'll see about getting you home presently," and Webb was placed on the stretcher which had been got in readiness, and a stimulant was administered to him by Dr. Ling. He was conveyed into a cottage situate in the garden, where a bed bad been prepared hours before, and Dr. Ling followed and made a careful examination of him. It was found that no bones were broken, and that, beyond being in a state of collapse and an inevitable numbness in his legs and arms, he was not seriously injured. 


A public subscription is being raised in order to acknowledge in a substantial manner the heroic exertions of Charlie Burns and those who worked with him, and a small committee has been constituted to carry the matter out. The names of Dr. Ling and Rev. A. Pertwee are at the head of the list, each opposite, a subscription of half-a-sovereign.

15 June 2020

An Execution at Execution Dock

St Mary the Virgin, Wivenhoe, Essex Headstone to the memory of Joseph and Harlow Martin

In the churchyard of the sleepy Essex riverside village of Wivenhoe there is a headstone standing against a wall, one of many. Since the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin was 'tidied up' in the 1960s it no longer marks the place where those named on it are buried. But it recalls a vicious murder which happened in the middle of the English Channel in the summer of 1815.

Formed in 1809, the Preventive Waterguard was the sea-based arm of revenue enforcement and complemented the "riding officers" who patrolled the shore. The Waterguard was initially based in Watch Houses around the coast.

Mary Cole was six or seven months pregnant when she married Joseph Martin, the father of her unborn child, on 5th November 1789. Their child, named Joseph after his father, was born in Wivenhoe two months later on 17th January 1790. Baby Joseph appears to have died in infancy.

Their next child, born in November 1791, was another son who they named Edward. He survived infancy and went on to become a Master of the Royal Navy and for thirty years commanded the Marquess of Anglesey's yacht Pearl. He is remembered today by a stained glass window in Wivenhoe's parish church.

Joseph and Mary's third child, born in 1793, was their first daughter. They named her Mary Elizabeth Martin. She went on to marry ship and house builder Thomas Harvey - my great-great-grandfather.

Their next two children followed with only eleven months between them. Joseph and Harlow were born in June 1794 and May 1795 respectively. They must have grown up together almost as twins. So it is scarcely surprising that when it came to finding a career they both chose to join the Preventive Waterguard.

By 1815 they were both working on the revenue cutter Fox patrolling the English Channel, looking out for smugglers who had - ironically - thrived during the Napoleonic Wars. Joseph aged twenty-one and Harlow aged just twenty. Fox was designed for speed rather than carrying capacity - catching smugglers was her job.

On 13th August 1815 Colchester witnessed a sad scene and one that brought news to the Martin family in Wivenhoe which they did not want to hear. One of the small rowing boats belonging to the Fox arrived in Colchester a couple of miles upriver from Wivenhoe. Captain Hore was in command and with him were several men who had been wounded by the crew of a large smuggling lugger between the Goodwin Sands and France. The lugger had run down the Fox's rowing boat which had been chasing her. The smugglers had fired at the crew and killed Joseph Martin, second mate of the Fox, his brother Harlow, two other men, and wounded all the others in the boat.

The Wivenhoe parish records contain no mention of the Martin brothers' burial in the churchyard, so it seems probable that their bodies were not in that small rowing boat. The account of the remand hearing (below) strongly suggests that Joseph Martin's body was not recovered, and that this may well have been the case with Harlow's body as well. Nevertheless, their family ensured that they were both remembered on this headstone.

Several months seem to have passed while the case was investigated. Bow Street Runners
were dispatched to France to interview witnesses, and one of the smugglers gave evidence against his former colleagues.

In November, one of the smugglers was captured and turned King's Evidence. By December, the case was sufficiently sound for a remand hearing at Bow Street Magistrates' Court.

From the Kentish Gazette, 2nd December 1815

Bow Street

Charge of Murder

Saturday a long examination took place at this Office ;before Richard Birnie, Esq. relative to the murder of four of the crew of the 'Fox' revenue cutter on the 8th of August last.

The Solicitor to the Customs conducted the proceedings for the prosecution and called William James who said he belonged to the 'Fox' cutter on the employ to the Excise.

On the 6th of August last witness was in the cutter's boat with the following persons comprising the crew,viz. Joseph Martin, second mate of the cutter; Harlow Martin, William King, John Bland, William Horrocks, Luke Underwood and Thomas Strutt, about six leagues off the South Foreland; witness, on leaving the watch, saw a lug-sail boat bearing S.S.E.; he gave notice to the master and the cutter's boat then at anchor was soon got under weigh and gave chace [sic] but did not fetch their object.

They put about and on nearing the smuggler, which was then on the opposite tack, the crew of the latter waved their hats in answer to which Harlow Martin fielded up the Fox's colours. The smuggler kept off; and the Fox's men fired several muskets upon which the smugglers lowered their main lugsail. As they were near running the boat down, Martin said to them "keep off;" some of their crew replied "you precious ------, you perish every soul of you."

The stern of the smuggler immediately struck the boat and her crew discharged their arms and shot Joseph Martin and King; Martin then discharged two pistols and attempted get into the smugglers' boat, some of whom pushed him overboard and he was seen no more.

King kept in the boat's bow but was afterwards shot dead. Four of the Fox's men boarded the smuggler for the boat was sinking. Harlow Martin was also wounded and thrown overboard but recovered and swam back to the boat and clung to the gunwale. The smugglers hove John Bland out their boat into the Fox's. The boats were then cleared and the Fox's boat fell over upon her side. The Fox's people still clung to her and two hours after Harlow Martin said to his associate Bland "Good bye, dear John, I can't stop any longer," and fell dead into the water.

The witness was here ordered to look upon the prisoners, Gillham [The majority of sources spell this Gillam] and Brockman; but could not say that they were the men. The three other survivors were called but they could not swear to the prisoners. An accomplice, however, identified Gillham as the Captain the smuggler and the other having been a party concerned. They were remanded.
With Gillam and Brockman on remand, a month went past before the case was heard by the Court of Admiralty [The Court of Admiralty was responsible for crimes occurring at sea] at the Old Bailey.

From the Kentish Gazette, 26th January 1816

Adjourned Admiralty Sessions

Monday, Jan. 22

Trial for murder

At Justice Hall in the Old Bailey before Sir William Scott [Judge of the High Court of Admiralty] and Sir Vicary Gibbs [Chief Justice of the Common Pleas], John Gillam, William Brockman (alias Brock alias Billy Rock) and Samuel Brice stood capitally indicted for the wilful murder of Harlow Martin, Joseph Martin, William King and William Horrox [Horrocks] on the high seas, within the jurisdiction of the Admiralty of England, about six leagues from Ramsgate, in the county of Kent, the 8th of August last.

Mr. Bolland opened the indictment which contained various counts charging them with the murders of the individuals mentioned separately.

The Attorney-General [Sir Vicary Gibbs had actually retired from the post in May 1812] at considerable length stated the case.

William James, the first witness, deposed that he was a seaman belonging to the Fox revenue cutter on the 8th of August last. He was in the eight-oared boat of the cutter that day together with the deceased and others of the crew. They were lying about six leagues [18 nautical miles; 20.7 statute miles; 33.3 km] from the South Foreland, about half way across the Channel [South Foreland is the closest point on the British mainland to the European continent at a distance of 20.6 miles (33.2 km); this is at odds with the "six leagues"]. About one o'clock at noon they observed sail which appeared to be coming from the coast of France. It was a lug-boat. She was then within five or six miles of the Fox. The boat neared them and they hauled anchor and made a tack to come up with her. She neared them to within about a mile and half and the Fox then hoisted her colours and fired a gun bring the boat to but the signal was not obeyed.

Witness and his companions neared them to within half a mile and the boat of the prisoners then made towards them. The deceased Joseph Martin, who commanded the boat of the Fox, waved his hat and called out to them to keep off. The reply of the crew in the prisoner's boat, however, was "you shall perish every soul of you."

Their boat immediately ran in upon them and cut the side of that belonging to the Fox. The prisoner John Gillam, who commanded the smuggling boat, and his companions then commenced firing blunderbusses and other fire arms by which Harlow Martin and others of the crew were wounded.
Witness and three others boarded the smuggler when they were attacked and beat by the crew of that boat. Harlow Martin was shot in the breast and afterwards received a blow on the side of the head with a musket and was thrown overboard.
Witness and Bland escaped back to their boat much beaten. William King was then sitting in the boat labouring under a musket wound the neck of which he afterwards died. Harlow Martin was this time clinging to the end of the boat and on the point of sinking. The boat of the prisoners then stood away from them and the boat the Fox became a complete wreck the flat bottom being turned up.
After rowing some distance from them towards France the prisoner's boat again put towards them and witness and the other survivors asked for assistance: the crew however laughed at them, some of them waving their hats and pointing downwards as if they meant to say "sink". Harlow Marlin fell from their hold which he had some time maintained and was lost; William King, Joseph Martin and William Horrox were also lost.
The conflict commenced about three o'clock and lasted some minutes. The witness and his surviving companions floated upon the wreck of their boat until seven o'clock in the evening when they were picked up a Deal boat. The names of these surviving companions were Thomas Strutt, John Bland, and Thomas Underwood. While floating upon the wreck witness and his companions saw prisoner's boat row for the English coast.
Strutt, Underwood and Bland confirmed the testimony of the last witness. All of them particularised the kind of boat which the prisoners were in the inhuman manner in which they attacked and fired upon them particularly Harlow Martin and the still more cruel conduct they evinced when the boat of the Fox had become a wreck and four the hands that had not sunk were floating upon it.
John Atkins, one of the crew the prisoner's boat, but who had since become an evidence deposed that in the month of August last he saw the prisoner Gillam who was the master in Walmer Roads. The latter engaged him to go a voyage to Boulogne and he agreed to go tor 7 guineas. It was long white galley and was generally called a Centipede. It was quite new and newly rigged and they went from Deal to perform their trip.
The three prisoners were then on board. There were also the brother of the witness Henry Atkins, Joseph Brown, Thomas Andrews, William Daniel, Thomas Epps, "Jack of Clubs", and Duckey Wells making in all eleven, ten oars and John Gillam who steered.
They arrived at Boulogne the day after, and took in a cargo of spirits in tubs, or half anchors as they are called, each holding about three gallons and half. The boat might hold rather more than 200 tubs.
They left Boulogne for England about eight o'clock on the morning of the 8th of August last with this cargo, the whole of the persons already named returning in the boat. Witness did not know that there were fire arms aboard when they left Deal, but discovered that there were two blunderbusses, two pistols and some musquets there when they sailed from Boulogne.
On their passage home they fell in with number of fishing boats upon the oyster beds between Calais and Gravelines. They got a basket of oysters on board from one George Church, and in return gave him three bottles of cherry brandy. They then set sail again, and had nearly got halfway across, when they observed a boat at anchor, with her sails down.
Having neared her a little more, she got under weigh and advanced closer, she fired a gun to bring the prisoner's boat to. Witness and his companions however kept their course and refused to answer the signal. The sail wore towards and gained upon them, but she did not appear so long or large as their own boat.
Upon each coming within hail, witness heard a cry from the boat of the Fox, "Keep off, we don;t wish to have anything to do with you." Two or three of the crew cried out to Gillam to do so, but the latter replied, "no; he would either go on board or sink them." Gillam, who steered, might have gone clear if he pleased.

After making some manoeuvres, their boat ran in upon the side of the boat, and commenced firing. One man from the boat of the boarded them, but he was knocked overboard. There was a considerable firing and conflict, which lasted about five minutes, when they stood away towards the French coast.

They afterwards veered again and bore to the eastward; witness heard "Billy Rock" say he had shot one man. On turning round and again passing the boat of the Fox, he saw four men floating on her broad bottom wreck. One of the crew said, "let us go and put them out of the way." This, however, was objected to, and they were left to their fate.

The witness and his companions then made their way to England, and arrived, at twelve o'clock that night, in Herne Bay. The goods they had board were landed safe.

They afterwards took the boat a little along shore, and put in some beach as ballast. While engaged this way, a boat came up, and demanded to know what their boat was? Gillam replied, it was "a wooden one." This appeared to be the boat of another revenue cutter, and after searching their boat, it put off. The fire arms which they had board were left upon the banks, after which Gillam gave orders to put to sea, and they went to Gravelines.

The same crew that went Boulogne and returned, were still on board. They all went on shore at Gravelines to the house of one Rosa Le Clerq. They slept there that night, and next day John Gillam left them to come to England. Witness's brother, and "Jack of Clubs", were wounded in the conflict with the boat of the Fox. They all remained until Saturday in Gravelines, when a person called "Gipsey Jack" came from England, and brought some news!

Witness heard from him that four of the Fox's men had been picked up, and he immediately resolved upon coming home. That afternoon himself, his brother, W. Brice and Thomas Epps left Gravelines. They were followed two others the party, with "Gipsey Jack" to Calais, from whence, in two separate vessels, they sailed for Dover.

A few days after his arrival in England, he met Gillam in the neighbourhood of Deal. From him he received eight guineas for his voyage, observing to him that there was one extra account of the fray which had happened. Gillam was soon after taken into custody, but was again liberated when he observed to the witness, "he was glad had been taken, as he would take care he would not he secured again."

Witness was apprehended in November last and was since detained to give his evidence.

Cross-examined by Mr Alley

Determined to give his evidence in four or five days after he was taken up. His testimony, however,
was not received by the Magistrate for 14 days, he kept a lodging house at Walmer, but was never indicted. Did not exactly know that there was £1000 reward offered the present case, until sometime after he had determined to give evidence. He had heard £500 and subsequently the £1000. Never threatened do Gillam an injury. Witness informed against all the parties, not excepting his own brother. Never knew the prisoner Brice before the transaction in question.

Re-examined by the Attorney-General

Gillam proposed him about fortnight after the affair to go smuggling again? He refused, as did his brother also. Gilliam then said, "if you don't with me, then you'll never go at all.""

George Church deposed that on the 8th of August last was fishing upon the oyster grounds between Calais and Gravelines. Remembers seeing a large boat come from the direction of Boulogne with her main lug set. She came within stone's throw of witness and other persons fishing there. Witness went in a punt belonging to one Jemmy George, with two lads, alongside the boat in question gave them a basket of oysters, upon which some persons on board asked if they would have any cherry brandy?

Witness accepted of three bottles for different persons, and left the boat; one the parbailed, and said, "is she nicely trimmed; does she look deep." Witness replied she looked very well. He could not identify the prisoners, but had some slight recollection ot Gillam.

Hart, the son-in-law of the last witness, remembered the lug-boat, the transmission of the oysters, and the receipt of the brandy. Witness remembered Billy Rock in the long white boat, but could not speak with certainty to the others.

James George corroborated this testimony; saw the boat or centiped; Gillam and John Atkins were on board; knew them both about two years, and had no doubt of their persons.

Cross-examined by Mr Alley

Witness did not give information of what knew until about five weeks ago; had since heard, and not before, that a reward had been offered to the conviction the persons who committed the crime in question. He was not since out of town, being advised by Mr Mahow, the solicitor to the excise, not to go. That gentleman was to defray his expenses while detained.

Examined by the Attorney-General

No other boat than that of Gillam's had given his boat brandy or them oysters.

Henry Tillman was one of the petty officers belonging to the Scorpion revenue cutter. On the 8th of August last he left her with five others and went on board the long boat in Herne Bay as "look out." About two o'clock on the following morning, they saw a long white boat lying on the shore at Beltinge. She appeared to be from forty to fifty feet in length. Witness approached and asked what boat she was. A man said he did not know but looked into her himself and saw nothing but ballast with which they were filling her. He saw the crew about her, eleven in number and the boat put to sea.

George Warren and W Barfield corroborated this evidence. and produced the fire arms which they had found after the departure of the boat, already mentioned, from the shore.

Rosa Le Clerq deposed that she lived between the harbour and town of Gravelines. Many persons resorted to her house. She knew Gillam for three or four years - knew John Atkins about the same time. Gillam frequently came to her place, and remembers his being there particularly the 9th of August last; ten others came with him, they were all Englishmen, and with them was Billy Rock, J. Atkins, and J. Brown. She does not know names of the others - knew person of Brice but could not swear to him; they remained there all night.

The parties came in a long white boat, and two of them were wounded. One called Jack of Clubs was hurt over the eye; she saw him wash it with milk and water, his hair was also cut about the wound. The prisoner Gillam went away, as he said, to England on the following morning. Some person came in a few days after and took away six more. Jack of Clubs, Brown, Billy Rock, and another remained.

Gillam returned in a few days. Witness told him she had heard he had been put in prison. His reply was "you see I am not." In some days after, he, with the four already mentioned, went away and said they were going to Dunkirk. Witness saw them go away in the long-boat, which like others, was used by Gillam and the smugglers, conveying spirits from the French coast. Witness remembered Taunton and Howley, two Bow Street officers, afterwards coming to her house.

John Louis Le Clerq, husband to the last witness, confirmed her testimony. He remembered the party of eleven, of which Gillam was the head, coming to his house. He was employed by that person to watch the boat, of he which took the charge for sixteen nights. The party were all Englishmen. He was paid by Giilam for his labour, and was well acquainted with his person; knew the prisoner Billy Rock; also, and remembered the witness, Atkins, being of the party; he remembered the departure of Gillarn and his return; the departure of six of the original crew, and the circumstance of six other hands being brought to man the boat to Dunkirk.

The prosecution having closed, Sir Vicary Gibbs desired to know if the prisoners had any thing to offer in their defence.

Gillam asserted his innocence. He had frequently risked his life for persons in distress and never injured anyone to his knowledge. He had offended Atkins by not taking him out in board him, and had sworn to be revenged on him which he was now doing by swearing away the life of an innocent man.

Brockman denied any concern whatever in the transaction, and said that a severe illness for more than a year, precluded the possibility of his having been engaged in such an undertaking.

Brice in the most solemn manner, denied any knowledge of, or participation in, the crime.

The prisoners called no witnesses.

Sir Vicary Gibbs then proceeded to sum up the evidence. He observed that if the Jury had merely to scrutinise and examine upon the evidence of accomplice Atkins, unsupported by other testimony, even the most trivial in the case, related by him, were confirmed by, he would say, "a cloud of witnesses", there was less embarrassment in this exercise of their painful duty. If his evidence, therefore, supported by the testimony they had heard, was to be credited, he feared it must be fatal to the prisoners.

If a doubt remained on their minds of a rational and well founded nature, the Jury would no doubt give the benefit of that impression to the prisoners. With regard to the prisoner Brice, he knew there was other identify[identification] of him beyond that of Atkins; but if all that person had detailed was so incontestably confirmed, it remained with the Jury to say whether, with respect to his evidence, it was not as complete and as correct as it had been throughout.

The Learned Judge concluded by recommending the Jury to weigh the case dispassionately; and if they felt themselves painfully bound to convict the prisoners, not to shrink from their public duty.'

The Jury then retired, and after an absence of about hour and a half, returned with a verdict of acquittal on the part of W. Brice, and finding John Gillam and William Brockman, alias Brock, alias Billy Rock, guilty.

Sir William Scott, in the most solemn and affecting manner, immediately proceeded to pass the awful sentence of the law upon the two last prisoners, which was, that they should be executed on Wednesday morning next, at Execution Dock, and their bodies to be afterwards given over to surgeons for dissection.

This sentence, however, was afterwards respited to Wednesday the 31st instant on account of the tide not serving at an hour for the purpose contemplated in such cases [according to custom, the hanging would take place below the low water mark and then the incoming tide should cover the body once dead; what is being said here is that the tide was not at the right level to allow for the body to be covered].

W. Brice was afterwards put to the bar and arraigned upon the several indictments which imputed to him the murder of the other persons of the Fox cutter, who met with their death on the 8th of August. On each of these he was respectively acquitted, and dismissed with an admonition from the court.

From the Evening Mail, 2nd February 1816:


ln the course of Monday the sacrament was administered to these unfortunate men in the condemned cell by the Rev. James Rudge [Dr James Horace Rudge (1783-1852), minister of St Anne's, Limehouse], who, at their express desire, has attended them daily since their conviction.

Previous to their receiving the holy sacrament of the Lord's Supper, they fully acknowledged Mr. Rudge the justice of their sentence, and their deep conviction of the crime for which they were to suffer.

After the ceremony, Mr. R. conducted their respective friends to them for the last lime.

Yesterday morning they were hanged at Execution Dock. At a quarter past nine the unfortunate wretches entered the cart from the felons' side of Newgate, attended by the executioner and a great number of officers. Gillain seemed much dejected; but in the appearance of Brockman there was no alteration since his trial.

Before they entered the cart, they shook hands with their friends, and said to them that they were going upon a more prosperous voyage than any they had yet taken, and that they would reach it sooner. Gillam looked with great benevolence upon all around him. He took from his neck silk handkerchief, which he begged the gaoler would deliver to an intimate friend. The unfortunate delinquents arrived at the fatal spot about a quarter past ten o'clock, and met their fate with calmness and resignation.
The hanging of Gillam and Brockman at Execution Dock

This image of the execution of Gillam and Brockman is taken from the collection of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, specifically Treasures from the Library, 49, The Bulletin of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, 89(5), p. 184.;"Murder in the English channel"

Amelia Talexis : the soprano killed by a porcelain lavatory pan

Jeanne Christine Victorine Talexis was born in No. 6 Rue Ferrari in Marseilles on 29th June 1866 at nine o'clock in the evening. Exemplary French record-keeping tells us that she was the daughter of 35-year-old Jean Victor Talexis and his 25-year-old wife Marie, née Lala.

On 14th June 1899 in Paris's 17th arrondissement she married the baritone Henri Seligmann Bernstiel (who used the stage name Enrico Berriel). They travelled to New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, the following year and performed there.

They were divorced on 19th May 1905.

On 6th November 1907 a new opera was performed at the Opéra-Comique in Paris: Xavier Leroux's Le Chemineau (The Vagabond).

In 1910 Talexis was invited to Calais to sing the role of "Toinette" in Le Chemineau the following year. She arrived at her hotel in early January 1911 and in the afternoon of 7th January went to use the lavatory. She sat down and the porcelain lavatory pan broke beneath her. A large shard of porcelain entered her thigh or buttock and cut a major vein or possibly her femoral artery. Losing blood rapidly, she was taken to a clinic in the Place d'Angleterre where she died a few hours later.

The following day her death was registered with the authorities by Emile Recq (41) and Paul Recq (39),

I would like to thank O. Thomas for his help interpreting the French handwriting and P. G. Lort for his medical expertise.