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