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#714370 - 6th Aug 2012 2:23am Bidston Hill - WW1 Mystery - Soldier Shot Dead
JonnyCigarettes Offline
Beginner

Registered: 5th Aug 2012
Posts: 8
Loc: Wirral
A Cheshire Tragedy.

FATAL MIDNIGHT ALARM.
TERRITORIAL SHOT DEAD.
CORONER'S INQUEST AND VERDICT.


The mysterious death of a gunner in the Lancashire Brigade Royal Garrison Artillery whilst engaged in military duties at Bidston on Monday night formed the subject of an inquest held on Wednesday in the Reading-room, Bidston Village, by M J C Bate, the West Cheshire coroner.
The proceedings lasted for nearly two hours, and ended in the jury returning an open verdict.
Major Stitt, representing the Lancashire Brigade, was present during the inquiry.

The victim of the tragedy is Louis Morrice, aged twenty, who had been a labourer, and ha resided with his mother and stepfather at 34, Upper Hill-street, Liverpool, until Wednesday of last week, when he joined the artillery. Since that time deceased, with others, had been doing garrison duty at Bidston Hill.
The evidence of various members of the corps was to the effect that about midnight on Monday and alarm was raised consequent upon the report of a sentry that a suspected person was loitering in the vicinity of the gun park. The guard turned out, and some shots were fired. The, under the direction of Lieutenant Cook, the men, split up into parties, were moved into the fir wood in extended order with the object of searching for the trespasser. Morrice was one of a party of five who made their way through the thick undergrowth towards the railing dividing the wood from Eleanor-road. When within two or three yards of the railing deceased's comrades saw a flash in front, followed by a retort. Morrice, who was nearest the railings, staggered, cried "Oh! I am shot." and fell to the ground. It was found that a bullet had passed through his body, and although medical aid was promptly summoned, the young soldier died a few minutes after the shot had been fired.

A MAN ON THE WALL

Bombardier Beamish said that when the alarm was given he ran to the gun park. "There he is," pointing towards a man who was on the wall. Witness ran to seize the man, but he clambered over the wall into the ferns. He challenged the man, but got no response. Witness was the ferns moving. He ordered some of his men to fire, which they did. Lieutenant Cook then arrived, and ordered the men to beat the wood.
When witness's men fired, the wood was quite clear so far as soldiers were concerned.
The men in the deceased's party were not in complete agreement as to the direction from which the shot which killed Morrice came. One said he saw a flame in front, about ten yards outside the railings. Another said the flash came from the right-hand bottom corner of the railings near the bushes.
His opinion was that the shot which killed Morrice came from the wood. A third member of the party said the shot came from the road and not from the wood. This witness did not see anything moving.
On the question whether Morrice's rifle had been fired inadvertently through the trigger catching in a twig, it was pointed out by Major Stitt that this was unlikely, as the trigger would require a 6lb poll.
AN OFFICER'S STORY

Lieutenant A E Cook said he gave strict instructions that no one was to fire without challenging. The deceased could not have been in front of any portion of the line owing to the position in which witness had placed his men.
Witness added that when he came back to the gun park he saw a man standing close up to the ammunition, and when challenged he ran away.
Dr Thomas Brown, captain in the Royal Army Medical corps attached to the Lancashire Brigade, deposed to being called to the deceased. The bullet had gone through the lower part of his body, entering on the right side and coming out on the left near the spine. It was a clean wound, and must have been caused by a nickel bullet - either a service bullet or a bullet from a heavy automatic pistol. It was impossible to distinguish which. From the relative position of the points of entrance and exit he assumed that the bullet was fired from a spot lower than where the man was standing. Judging by the size and the condition of the wound, he thought the shot had been fired at a distance of about twenty yards.
Major Stitt told the coroner that there certainly had been men hanging about the garrison "I saw a man myself later on in the night standing beside the ammunition on the Liverpool side of the gun park."
The verdict of the jury was that death had been caused by a bullet, but there was no evidence to show by whom the shot had been fired. The jury expressed sympathy with the relatives of the deceased.

Liverpool Weekly Mercury
15th August 1914

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#714383 - 6th Aug 2012 8:39am Re: Bidston Hill - WW1 Mystery - Soldier Shot Dead [Re: JonnyCigarettes]
markw2621
Unregistered


very interesting, sad that there was no closeure for the family to what had happened. iam not buying the twig story either, iam sure freak accidents happen, but to pull a 6 pound catch as they say iam sure impossible.

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#714421 - 6th Aug 2012 10:32am Re: Bidston Hill - WW1 Mystery - Soldier Shot Dead [Re: JonnyCigarettes]
alann Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 22nd Aug 2011
Posts: 186
Loc: wallasey
You can discount him being shot by his own weapon, as the doctor states shot was fired from. 20 yards, also I doubt he would have the weapon pointing towards himself if they were tracking whoever ran off...

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#714425 - 6th Aug 2012 11:04am Re: Bidston Hill - WW1 Mystery - Soldier Shot Dead [Re: JonnyCigarettes]
yoller Online   content
Smartchild

Registered: 7th Dec 2008
Posts: 435
Loc: Cheshire
A very interesting story and a baffling mystery. Unless some of the witnesses were lying, it looks very likely that Gunner Morrice was killed by an armed interloper. Could it have been a German spy?

Gunner Morrice's death is recorded on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission roll of honour and he is buried in Liverpool (Ford) Roman Catholic Cemetery.

The date of his death, August 10, 1914, makes him one of the first British Army casualties of the First World War - possibly even the first.

Britain had declared war on Germany on August 4, after which the British Expeditionary Force was sent to France.

The first British soldier to die in action is said to have been Private John Parr, aged 20, of the Middlesex Regiment, killed on August 21.

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#714432 - 6th Aug 2012 11:57am Re: Bidston Hill - WW1 Mystery - Soldier Shot Dead [Re: JonnyCigarettes]
JonnyCigarettes Offline
Beginner

Registered: 5th Aug 2012
Posts: 8
Loc: Wirral
The fact that he had been in the army for 5 days, and yet was allowed to run around at night with a loaded rifle, may give weight to the idea that it was "friendly fire" caused by trigger happy recruits.

Given that the Lieutenant had split them up into groups, this seem the likeliest cause.

The evidence of the Lt and Bombardier might be questionable. And the Major didn't raise the alarm later on, when the man apparently calmly returned?

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#714454 - 6th Aug 2012 1:37pm Re: Bidston Hill - WW1 Mystery - Soldier Shot Dead [Re: JonnyCigarettes]
lestom Offline
Newbeee

Registered: 30th Oct 2011
Posts: 17
Loc: PRENTON
Originally Posted By: JonnyCigarettes
The fact that he had been in the army for 5 days, and yet was allowed to run around at night with a loaded rifle, may give weight to the idea that it was "friendly fire" caused by trigger happy recruits.

Given that the Lieutenant had split them up into groups, this seem the likeliest cause.

The evidence of the Lt and Bombardier might be questionable. And the Major didn't raise the alarm later on, when the man apparently calmly returned?


I think this sounds like the answer, more likely "Friendly Fire"

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#714459 - 6th Aug 2012 2:01pm Re: Bidston Hill - WW1 Mystery - Soldier Shot Dead [Re: JonnyCigarettes]
BandyCoot Online   Reading

Forum Veteran

Registered: 7th Dec 2008
Posts: 5334
Loc: Birkenhead
Lots of theories but how many have had a go with a .303? Guards don't go around with a round up the spout, even if they have a live magazine on the weapon so a .303 would have to be cocked before shooting, it being a bolt action rifle. The report isn't a full report so it would be impossible to glean much from it. I would've thought the patrol's weapons would've been inspected afterwards for evidence of firing for instance and that wasn't mentioned. The weapon would also have needed cleaning afterwards. Sad story but it's no use trying to glean facts from a quick report.
_________________________
Birkenhead........ God's own Room 101.

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#714465 - 6th Aug 2012 2:41pm Re: Bidston Hill - WW1 Mystery - Soldier Shot Dead [Re: JonnyCigarettes]
JonnyCigarettes Offline
Beginner

Registered: 5th Aug 2012
Posts: 8
Loc: Wirral

I found his service papers but there is no detail of the incident therein.

I would have expected there would have been a military inquest, but it seems to have fallen under the jurisdiction of the West Cheshire coroner. I expect the transcript of the inquest exists somewhere?

I think the coroner was actually Mr J C Bate, not MJC Bate.

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#714481 - 6th Aug 2012 3:36pm Re: Bidston Hill - WW1 Mystery - Soldier Shot Dead [Re: JonnyCigarettes]
BandyCoot Online   Reading

Forum Veteran

Registered: 7th Dec 2008
Posts: 5334
Loc: Birkenhead
That would be a better read John and you'd find out the lot. I was thinking about the spent round still being up there but it being a manual cocking weapon unless the soldier, if it was indeed a soldier, recocked the weapon to discharge the spent round then it would stay in the breech. All this might be in the Coroner's report. According to a bloke on the radio today the report might be in the Wirral Archives down at Woodside.
_________________________
Birkenhead........ God's own Room 101.

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