Thursday 26 November 2015

Diary of a somebody - Frank Simpson's war diary part 9

Frank Simpson (1863-1942) was a prominent figure within his native city of Chester. During the First World War he was Quartermaster of the Chester Volunteers formed for home defence in 1914. One of our volunteers has begun to serialise his diaries. Our ninth installment recounts an incident that appears in the guard room diary.

Saturday, July 15, 1916
At 3.a.m Saturday, July 15th Private S. H. Bengon arrested 2 deserters from the South Lancashire Regt (T. F) and after reposting the matter to the Sergeant of the guard, he escorted them to the local hall and handed them over to the police. It appears that as a foods train was preceding along the line, furthest away from the sentry, on its way to Chester the sentry noticed two men in uniform running along just in rear of the train. He challenged them, and blew his whistle for the guard, who quickly arrived on the scene and took the men in custody, removing them to the guardroom. The men said they were looking for their camp, but shortly afterwards acknowledged they had deserted from the camp at Oswestry. They asked the guard if the rifles were loaded. The men seemed famished and some of the guard gave them food they had bought for refreshment during the night. While this was going on a Sergeant and constable of the police enquired from no 2 sentry (at the Curzon park end of the footbridge) what the whistle had been blown for and they were informed that no 4 sentry had arrested two men on the lines. They then asked if they might cross the bridge and visit the guard-room; they were allowed to do so. The Sergeant then questioned the prisoners and they acknowledged to having deserted from the military camp at Oswestry, had got to Wrexham from where they walked to Chester and to avoid passing through the city they proceeded through Curzon Park and got on to the Railway. The police then asked if the guard would hand them over so that they might be taken to the police office by doing so it would save time as they could phone Oswestry and get an escort to take them back to the camp to be dealt with by the O.C. this was agreed to. The (two) sentries which had been placed at the entrance to the guardroom with fixed bayonets were then withdrawn and the sentry who first challenged them accompanied the police and prisoners to the police office. They were young men, one having served in France where he was wounded. Strange to say these men belonged to the same regiment (Territorial) as the guard the Chester Volunteers had replaced on two days before. The men were brought before the magistrates at 11 am the same day.

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