In Trouble with the Law: Tales from the Quarter Sessions – Part 1

The archive team are busy cataloguing records which relate to this period, including the trial records of the Quarter Sessions, which were the local Magistrates Courts of the day. From this, a number of stories relating to soldiers and life in Somerset during the war period have emerged.

In March 1916 David James Smith (aged 33) and Arthur Warren (aged 19), both of Wellington and Privates in the Army Service Corps, were convicted for stealing a bag and 70lbs of white oats and maize.

Evidence from Captain John Butler says that Smith and Warren were serving under him at the Nynehead Mule Depot, and whilst taking a wagon to Wellington railway station, stole the bag and maize. The stolen goods were then taken to Edith Rowe, the sister of Arthur Warren. Both men pleaded guilty to the charge and received one month hard labour at Shepton Mallet prison as punishment.

Next in court was Arthur Bert Haines (aged 21), a Private with the Royal West Kent Regiment, who in December 1915 was discharged from Compton House (Sherbourne), a convalescent home, after receiving a knee wound at Hill 60.

Haines had Somerset roots and ended up meeting with a cousin, Albert Haines of East Coker, who invited him to stay. Two days later Arthur left, taking with him a blue serge suit and a pair of leather boots, leaving behind his army boots.

The Handwritten Appeal of Arthur Bert Haines

The Handwritten Appeal of Arthur Bert Haines

Arthur pleaded guilty at his trial, but in two appeal letters to the Magistrates, he asks for leniency. He states that he had overstayed his leave from the Army and has been tried from missing his draft to France. He also explains that his father is suffering from an ‘aulsterated stummock’ and sister from ‘pentersitis’, leaving him as the only support for his mother. He admits: ‘I did this it is true to get out of the army’, as his pay was not enough to support his family. Arthur received one month’s hard labour at Shepton Mallet Prison.

Keep checking here as further stories are revealed.

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