1917 crimes: Teetotal serviceman is found ‘mad drunk’ on rum

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At the Scarborough Police Court, the folly of treating soldiers to drink was exemplified in a case which came before the court.

A young soldier, Private Francis Walsh, of the Lancashire Regiment, was charged with having been drunk and disorderly in Falsgrave Road, and further with having assaulted PC Wellburn in the excursion of his duty. He had been on leave, he expecting to go to the front with the next draft. He came back, he told the Bench, intending to go straight to camp, but he had been a little excited, and had taken some drink, with the charges, of which he could remember nothing. He had been at Gallipoli and in Egypt, and was now, as stated, expecting to go to France.

He told the magistrates that if they would be lenient he would go back and be a good soldier.

PC Wellburn had seen the man “mad drunk, wanting to fight with everybody,” at Falsgrave. When the police officer spoke to the man the latter deliberately kicked him. The police officer had to get the assistance of two military sergeants, and stopping a tramcar he was put on it and taken to the Newborough end of St Thomas Street. All the way up St Thomas Street, the man’s language was disgusting.

A military sergeant gave evidence, and Mr George Rowntree, the defendant having stated that he had been teetotal for a long time, pressed him as to why he took drink on the Monday. Defendant replied that he supposed he was a bit excited having been on leave. He intended going straight to his regiment.

In reply to a further question, however, by Mr Rowntree, defendant admitted that a person in the train gave him a bottle of rum.

Mr George Rowntree: Somebody thinking he would do you a kindness lands you here.

Defendant again expressed regret. He had had two brothers crippled in the war, and he had been out since the beginning. He had been teetotal up to going on leave.

Defendant’s captain gave the man, who it appeared, had been in the Army since 1909, an excellent character. He had been at Gallipoli nearly a year. He had been time expired, but was recalled on April 10th this year. There had never been a case against him - he had been a very good soldier, and had been teetotal until the previous night. He thought the man had been under the influence of drink, and had not known what he was doing.

The mayor, after the magistrates had retired, said the Bench, in view of the circumstances, and especially defendant’s good military character and service, would deal very leniently with him. The charge of drunkenness would be dismissed, but an assault on the police, who had to keep order, could not be overlooked, and on that charge he would be fined 10s.

The captain present said he would see that the money was paid.

The chief constable said he would like to say how very much the police regretted having to bring defendant before the court. It was the first case of the kind they had had to bring against a soldier during the war, and they hoped it would be the last. The police desired to work with the military in every possible way, as they had done.

The man said he would take the pledge and not touch drink again.

The mayor: It is very unfortunate. The magistrates are very sorry to see you in this position and they hope you will not be in a like position again.