Thursday Flashback

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1915 court

At the Scarborough Police Court today before the Mayor (Mr CC Graham) in the chair, and other magistrates, George Smith (29), waiter, 61, Esplanade, appeared on remand charged with having attempted to elicit certain information with respect to the numbers of certain soldiers of His Majesty’s Forces at Scarborough on May 7th, 1915, contrary to Regulation 18 of the Defence of the Realms Act.

Mr Tasker Hart appeared for the prisoner, who pleaded not guilty.

Major Gaskell said that on Friday, May 7th, at about 9.30pm, the prisoner was brought before him, in the absence of his commanding officer, and told that prisoner was trying to elicit information respecting the number of troops in Scarborough, and other information of a military character. He (Major Gaskell) asked him his name, address, and parentage, and then heard the witnesses. He considered himself justified handing him over to the police for enquiry.

James Clough, sergeant, Military Police, Yorkshire Dragoons, said shortly after nine o’clock on the night in question he was on duty in Westborough, when Private Mole, 20th Hussars, made a communication to him, and pointed out Smith. Witness gave Mole some instructions which he carried out. He (Mole) got into conversation with prisoner and they went in the direction of the Londesborough Theatre. Mole then went to witness and made a statement. Smith then got into the shadow of the buildings. Witness followed Smith and brought him before Major Gaskell.

By Mr Hart: Witness found no document of an incriminating nature – there was no kind of paper about him; no arms or munitions. He had a small amount of money on him, some eye-glasses and so on.

Pte Arthur Mole, 20th Hussars, said that on Friday night May 7th, he met prisoner at the corner of St Thomas Street and Westborough. When witness looked round Smith was beside him and said, “Good evening”.

Prisoner asked him how long he was out until, and witness replied, 9.30pm. Smith asked him if he could get a late pass some other night. “I told him,” said witness, “I could if I tried. I told him I could get one for Saturday night. He then asked me how many soldiers were about here, and who they were. I said there were thousands and he wanted to know where they all were as there were not many in the streets. When I told him they were all on guard he seemed rather surprised. He asked me if I was a duration man (for the duration of the war), and how long had I been in service.

“When I told him I had had a pretty long service he would not say much to me. I watched him go up the road again, and I followed him. I met him at the corner of Aberdeen Walk. I asked him how it was he was not going to the Londesborough, and he said he did not like to go by himself. I said I would accompany him as far as the door. When we got to the door I arranged to meet him about nine o’clock on the Saturday night. I asked him where he was staying, and he said 61, Esplanade, and that he was a valet to a gentleman. I went away, and he made as to walk up the Londesborough steps, but he darted into the shadow, came out, and walked towards St Thomas Street. I went and informed Sergeant Clough, who arrested him.”

Mr Hart: Of course you would not think of giving away to anybody any sort of information likely to be of use to the enemy?

Witness: No.

Mr Hart: But suppose I ask you a perfectly, simple question, you as a good natured Englishman, as you are, would answer me?

Witness: It depends on the questions asked.

Mr Hart: Well, suppose I ask you how many soldiers there were in Scarborough, would you tell me?

Witness: No.

Mr Hart: And you did not give any information to this man which would be useful to the enemy?

Witness: No.

Mr Hart held that there was no evidence against Smith. The gist of the charge, he contended, was endeavouring to elicit information for the purpose of transmitting it to the enemy or using it against England.

A witness, named Patterson, staying at 61, Esplanade, said he thought Smith was incapable of committing such an offence.

In this case, after enquiries had been made, the military should not have submitted him to the indignities they had.

At 1.15 after the bench had retired, the Mayor said that in view of the conflicting evidence the magistrates would dismiss the case, but they 
expressed the view that the case was one in which the military authorities were justified in making enquiries.