Has anyone come across the term " "Absent-Minded Beggar" crutches" before?
MAIMED BARNSTAPLE SOLDIER HOME FROM THE FRONT.
…...There arrived home from South Africa on Thursday Private C. Webber, of the 1st Devons, and son of Mr. Webber, Lock's Court, Barnstaple. Webber (unmarried) is only twenty-two years of age, and his case is a very sad one. He joined the Army three years ago, and reaching Ladysmith from India on 6th October last, he was therefore among the besieged. In the battles of Elands Laagte, Tintunyani, and Lombard's Kop he had many miraculous escapes, numerous shells having burst in close proximity to him at different times. On one occasion he was beside a sleeping companion (Private Brockett) when a shell burst, Brockett being killed on the spot. Webber's last engagement, and a most unfortunate one for him, was the famous bayonet charge at Wagon Hill. The Devons were finally repulsing the Boers on that memorable day, and at a distance of 500 yards from the trenches Webber (one of the number) received a flesh wound in one leg, but he continued to within five yards of the goal, when an explosive bullet struck him in his left knee, shattering the leg. Completely disabled, he remained where he fell for six hours, being picked up by the ambulance corps at 2.30 the following morning. The experience was an awful one, Webber and many others being trod on by opposing Britons and Boers in the desperate struggle for supremacy. Everything possible was done to save Webber's leg, but at the end of six weeks it was found absolutely necessary to amputate it. Webber speaks in terms of the highest praise of Sir George White's kindness to soldiers of every rank, whilst he regards General Buller as an ideal general. He says the real Boer is for the most part a brave and honourable foe, and that it is mainly the riff-raff of other countries (particularly Germans), whom he condemns in specially severe terms, who have disgraced the Boer army by their cowardice and brutality. Moving about on a pair of "Absent-Minded Beggar" crutches, Private Webber is on leave until September 25th, when he will return for the purpose of being provided with an artificial leg, and in order to see what a grateful country will do for one of her soldiers "broke in war."
The North Devon Journal, Thursday 2nd August 1900
THE WAR OFFICE AND DISABLED SOLDIERS.
SHABBY TREATMENT OF A BARUMITE.
…...Last week we gave some particulars of the shabby treatment meted out to Private Charles Webber, of Barnstaple, who was in the famous Wagon Hill charge of the Devons at Ladysmith, losing a leg in consequence of a wound from an explosive bullet, and we are pleased to be able to report now that Webber's case has been brought before the War Office and that the crippled hero is receiving assistance from a local fund. The following letter from Sir John Kennaway, Bart., M.P., appeared in the Exeter Gazette on Friday: …...Sir, - The statements in your paper of Monday last, in regard to Private C. Webber, of the Devons, seemed to me to be so serious that I felt it my duty to at once lay them before the Secretary of State for War. …...I am glad to be able to state on his authority that, so far from being discharged without means, Private Webber was sent away with £9 15s. 8d., which was presumably sufficient to maintain him for three weeks. …...As to his pension, I am informed that the Commissioners at Chelsea Hospital fixed it provisionally at 1s. 6d. a day on the medical evidence of last July, from which it was assumed that Webber was capable of very light work. …...Further medical evidence was taken on the 12th inst., which will influence the Commissioners in their consideration of what his permanent pension will be. …...The pension of 1s. 6d. was not, I am told, awarded for twelve months only, but as a conditional pension, to be reconsidered at the end of twelve months after further medical examination. I am glad to be able to put these facts forward without delay. …...I remain, yours faithfully. ………...JOHN H. KENNAWAY. ……………...Escot, October 18th, 1900. .
. …...Interviewed in regard to this letter, Private Webber said he was afraid the idea may be entertained that this £9 odd was a gift to him. He wishes to state that it was only a portion of what was actually due to him as soldier's pay on active service. In September of last year he was serving in India with his regiment. He was settled up with to the end of that month, some time before he left for South Africa. He arrived at Durban on the 5th of October, 1899, and from the time of his being paid in India in September up to his receiving the £9 15s. 8d. when he was discharged from Woolwich Hospital on July 25th, he had only received pay amounting to 25s., namely, in October last year 12s., in November 7s., and December 6s. His pay on active service, which dates from October last year to September 24th, is at the rate of 1s. 4d. a day. Six weeks ago, he received a further sum of £7, so that the £9 15s. 8d. "which was presumably sufficient to maintain him for three weeks," had to maintain him for six weeks. Before he left the hospital in July to come to Barnstaple, he had to purchase a suit of private clothes, which cost him £2 15s. 6d. He was allowed the sum of 5s. in lieu of clothes! Since being at Barnstaple he has found it necessary to provide himself with a second suit of clothes. Nearly £6 of the £9 odd have therefore been expended in clothing himself, and but for the timely arrival of the further sum of £7, back pay, he would long ago have been penniless. His pension commenced on the 27th of September. This first payment was made to him on Friday, the 12th inst., at the rate of 1s. 6d. per day. That means 10s. 6d. a week. He pays 10s. a week for his board and lodging. It will be seen how necessary it is that he should at once receive the fullest pension he is entitled to. …...The case came before the Barnstaple War Fund Committee on Saturday. The Mayor (Mr. J. G. Hamling) presided. The Committee decided to contribute to Webber's relief the sum of 4s. 6d. a week, being a total allowance of £15, for six months, at the end of which time he will again come before the Committee and report himself. Webber is under medical treatment, as the leg has not properly healed, and this was the reason for the Committee's grant. The doctor reported that probably the leg would not be well for six months. The Rev. Dr. Newton, Vicar of Barnstaple, has received the sum of £5 from Lieut.-General Pearson for Webber.
North Devon Journal, Thursday 25th October 1900
…...There was a Salvation Army funeral at Barnstaple on Saturday last, when the remains of Mrs. Bessie Webber, of Cyprus-terrace, were interred in the Cemetery. Numerous members of the Army were present, each wearing a white band round the arm. The ceremony was performed by Ensign Pearson, assisted by Captain Vilven, and the Band (under Mr. F. C. Shambrook) was in attendance. The deceased's husband, an ex-private of the Devonshire Regiment, took part in the early stages of the Boer War. He was in the famous bayonet charge of the Devons at Wagon Hill, where he lost one of his legs. He was invalided home, and is now in receipt of a pension.
North Devon Journal, Thursday 20th March 1902
…...The death of Bessie Emma Webber, aged 21, is recorded.
Palmer tells us it was "4866 Pte. C.Webber" of 1st Devons who was wounded at Ladysmith on 6/1/00. So much of a story covered by the term "wounded". No, I have never heard of Absent-Minded Beggar" crutches and they must have been purchased from the fund. The AMB fund must have been used for all sorts of comforts and the like.
Simple explanation of the crutches which never occurred to me. Thanks, IL.
I can add to my first post: -
He was born on either 10th February 1878 (birth registered as Charley) or 15th March 1878, at Merton, Devon (as Charlie) - son of John Webber and Mary Smale.
Charles married Bessie Emma Jago at Barnstaple, in the first quarter of 1901.
His second marriage was to Elizabeth Ann Wooldridge/Woodridge/Woolridge (spelling changes from marriage and birth of two sons) in Exeter, first quarter of 1905. They had two children - William Frederick Charles born circa1907 and Herbert John, born circa 1910.
He died in Exeter, the second quarter of 1940, too early to have been a casualty in the Exeter Blitz.. (The above info courtesy of researchers on RootsChat)
An interesting albeit, like many I've researched, a very sad case.
Charles Webber's service papers haven't survived but the PIN 71 files at the NA include a Charles Webber who enlisted in 1897 and died in 1940 which make it odds on that's him. These files often contain well over 100 pages of information on men invalided to pension.
The 1911 census shows him aged 33 living with his wife and two children at the Soldiers' Home, Whipton, Heavitree, Exeter. His occupation was labour master at a boy's reformatory and army pensioner.
Thanks, David, I'll contact Heavitree Local History Society, and see if I can find out anything about the Soldiers' Home. I've searched the burial records for Exeter's three cemeteries, and cannot find him - Higher Cemetery is in Heavitree and is Exeter's largest burial place. Possibly he was buried back at Barnstaple, as his father may have been buried there. I need to get his death certificate for the exact date of death.
davidh wrote: The 1911 census shows him aged 33 living with his wife and two children at the Soldiers' Home, Whipton, Heavitree, Exeter. His occupation was labour master at a boy's reformatory and army pensioner.