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William H. Stubbins, 10th (Sherwood Rangers) Coy. I.Y. & South Wales Borderers 2 months 2 days ago #69731

  • BereniceUK
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A travesty of justice, which was then sorted out, and the tangled story of William Henry Coy/Stubbins and his family.

P.O. Bank Book Lost
….At Brecon Borough Police-court this morning Private William Henry Stubbins, of the Depot, Brecon, was charged with stealing a Post-office Savings Bank book, the property of Private Russell Kemp, on Saturday last.
….The prosecutor stated that the prisoner asked him if he intended to go out of barracks that night, and added afterwards, "Oh,no, you are a defaulter, aren't you?" Complainant replied: "I should like to go out, because I have some money to draw." The prisoner inquired how much, and witness replied, "Twelve pounds." The prisoner then said he wished to speak to the prosecutor privately, and subsequently inquired if he should draw the money. He (Kemp) pointed out that he could not do so. When, about seven o'clock, he went to look for his jacket he found that it had been moved from the door of the Sergeants' Mess, and that his bank book was missing. He had £21 6s. 9d. in the bank.
….Superintendent Hand applied for a remand until Thursday morning, intimating that there would be further charges against the prisoner.
….The Clerk (to the prisoner): Do you wish to say anything why you should not be remanded?
….Prisoner: Only that I am innocent.

Evening Express, Wednesday 31st May 1905

….William Henry Stubbins, South Wales Borderers, was charged with forging and uttering a Post Office Savings Bank warrant for £12 at Brecon on May 27, and, further, with stealing a bank-book, the property of Private Russell Kemp, South Wales Borderers, on the same date. Mr. Denham Benson (instructed by Messrs. Gwilym James, Charles, and Davies) prosecuted.
….The evidence went to show that Kemp had given notice of withdrawal for the sum of £12 from the Post Office Savings Bank, and allowed prisoner to know of this, and that the warrant was waiting for him at the post-office. Prisoner was identified by a clerk as the man who signed the receipt and cashed the warrant.
….For the prisoner several witnesses were called to show that the prisoner could not have been at the post-office at the time the warrant was cashed.
….The jury found him "Guilty," and he was sentenced to six months' hard labour.

The Weekly Mail, Saturday 10th June 1905

Innocent Welshman Suffers Imprisonment.
….Private Stubbins, of the South Wales Borderers, was released from Brecon Prison on Friday, by order of the Home Secretary. After serving four months in prison, it was found that the unfortunate man had been wrongly convicted. Stubbins has been refused re-instatement in the Army until further inquiries have been made, and a few days later he was arrested for non-compliance with an affiliation order.

The Pembrokeshire Herald, Friday 22nd September 1905

….Private Stubbins, of the South Wales Borderers, was released from his Majesty's prison at Brecon on Friday, it having been found that he had been wrongly convicted.
….It will be recollected that at the summer assizes for the county of Brecon, held before Mr. Justice Channell on Tuesday, June 4, Private Stubbins was convicted of uttering at the Brecon Post-office a forged receipt for £12, and also with stealing a Post Office Savings' Bank book, the property of Private Russell Kemp, of the same regiment, on May 27. The prosecution was undertaken by Mr. W. Denman Benson, the prisoner being undefended.
….The evidence was to the effect that Kemp, who possessed an account in the Post Office Savings' Bank, informed Stubbins on Saturday, the 27th of May, that a note of withdrawal of £12 awaited him at the Brecon Post-office. Kemp declared that no one else besides Stubbins knew of the fact. Stubbins asked Kemp, who was a defaulter confined to barracks, if he should draw the money for him, and received the reply that he could not, as he (Kemp) would have to sign the receipt. Subsequently Kemp left his coat, which contained his bank-book, behind the door of the sergeants' mess some short distance away from an open window. To this window it was alleged, Stubbins shortly afterwards came and called for Kemp, who was his chum. Eventually it was discovered that the coat had been moved, and the book taken, whilst the usual receipt or warrant had been signed at the post-office, and the money paid over by the post-office clerk.
….One of the clerks at the post-office, Miss Clare Campion, stated that a soldier in a scarlet tunic, called for the warrant and signed it, and produced the bank-book, and she then handed it and the book to a fellow clerk, Miss Bell. Miss Campion could not identify the prisoner as that soldier. Miss Bell was positive that the prisoner was the man to whom she paid the money. Closely questioned by Stubbins, she adhered to her statement.
….In reply to further questions by Stubbins, Miss Bell stated that he was dressed in a red coat, and the time he arrived in the office was between 7.15 p.m. and 7.30 p.m.
….The only other evidence of importance for the prosecution was that given by Mr. George H. Edwards, the postmaster, who said that the distance between the Bull's Head Inn, in the street, where Stubbins was said to have been that night, and the post-office was 370 yards, which distance he had walked in three minutes and a half.
….In his defence Stubbins declared that he was at the Bull's Head Inn between 6.30 and 7.45 p.m., and in that period he only left to go to the rear of the premises for a minute. He wore that night an old-fashioned scarlet tunic, with the Queen's South African medal.
….Cross-examined, he said he went to see Kemp before leaving the barracks to see if he wanted anything brought back from the town.
….The other evidence for the defence was that of Private Workman and Mrs. Margaret Williams, landlady of the Bull's Head, both of whom gave evidence corroborating Stubbins' statement that he was at the inn from 6.30 to 7.45. Mrs. Williams declared that he did not leave the tap-room the whole time, and if he did it was only for a couple of minutes.
….This comprised the main feature of the evidence, and the jury returned a verdict of guilty. Stubbins was sentenced to six months' hard labour.
….It was noticed at the trial that Stubbins maintained that he was perfectly innocent.
….Recent events tended to corroborate this view, and during the last week one of the chief clerks connected with the Post Office and a detective-officer connected with the same department have been in Brecon making inquiries into the affair.
….This, we understand, was not due to the action of the prisoner, who, however, sent a petition to the Home Office, declaring his innocence, but to the fact that certain information reached the authorities. A number of soldiers were examined, and one day last week Stubbins was again put into uniform, and placed amongst other Borderers in the Depot in order that Miss Bell's identification, on which the case for the prosecution depended, might be further tested. Miss Bell at once picked him out. The fact that in the first place Miss Bell was shown the man alone in the post-office, and asked if he was the man who cashed the order, was however noticed, and this fact, it is urged, made all subsequent identifications a farce, although there can be no doubt as to Miss Bell's honesty in her opinion that Stubbins was the man. It is one of the strictest regulations of the police-force that a prisoner should be placed in a group of men for identification. Stubbins' many attempts at Kemp's signature did not at all resemble that on the receipt, and it was proved that to walk from the Bull's head to the post-office, cash such a warrant, and get back to the inn took ten minutes. So careful were the detectives on all points in this connection that an account was opened, and the post-office clerks were ignorant that this test was being made.
….The report of the detectives was sent to the Home Office last week, and on the Friday Mr. J. W. Thorp, governor of Brecon Prison, received an order from the Home Secretary authorising the release of Stubbins.
….The latter, on his way down from the gaol, called at the offices of the "Evening Express" at Brecon, and reiterated the statement of his innocence to our local representatives.
….Later on he proceeded to the barracks, and was informed that he could not be taken back into the Army until further inquiry had been made.

The Weekly Mail, Saturday 23rd September 1905

….William Henry Stubbins, who was recently released from his Majesty's Prison, Brecon, by order of the Secretary of State, has just been reinstated by order of the War Office as a private in the depot South Wales Borderers, Brecon. Stubbins in June last (before Mr. Justice Channell) at the Breconshire Assizes was sentenced to six months' hard labour on the charge of forging a Post-office receipt for £12, the property of a comrade, Private Russell Kemp. In accordance with military law, Stubbins on conviction was discharged from the Army, but now he will continue his military career. He is a smart young soldier, and wears the South African medal. He is fully reinstated from date of enlistment, with full allowance for lost pay whilst in prison and awaiting reinstatement.

Evening Express, Monday 16th October 1905

….His mother was Ellen Thrift, from Norfolk; she married Henry Coy in 1883, and William was born in the second quarter of 1884, birth recorded in the Loughborough registration district, as William Henry Coy. The marriage seems to have broken down, and by the age of 8 William was living in Grantham with his paternal aunt, Emily (née Coy) Stubbins and her husband, Charles.
….When William joined the Imperial Yeomanry in 1901, as William Henry Stubbins, he put down his age as 20 (actually 16/17) and his father as Charles Stubbins (Henry Coy, his natural father, seems to have lived until 1943). Emily Stubbins (the adoptive mother) died in 1901; Charles Stubbins re-married in 1902 and lived until 1925.
….Post-ABW, he joined the 1st Battalion South Wales Borderers in March/April 1905, as 8742 Private William Henry Stubbins (Russell Kemp, the man whose savings book went astray, had the service number of 8741). William died on 14th November 1914, probably "at the 15th Army Corps' field hospital, due to a gunshot wound to his head, and was originally buried in the Wervicq Communal Cemetery, on the Belgian side of the River Lys" - he now lies in Larch Wood Cemetery, near Ieper, Belgium.
….Ellen married Frederick Alldred, of Derby, in 1906. They were still living in Derby at the end of the Great War, and Ellen had William recorded by the Imperial War Graves Commision on his gravestone as W. H. Coy served as W. H. Stubbins. He's also named on the Grantham roll of honour as Coy, despite serving all his military career as Stubbins, the surname of the relatives who raised him.

….Fifteen days after Stubbins was found guilty, Russell Kemp was discharged from the regiment (19th June 1905), having bought himself out.

….My thanks to posters at the Great War Forum for all their help.

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