Friday 19 September 2014

The V! at Featherbed Moss - December 1944

Quite a few years ago I posted an article about the only V1 to land in Sheffield during WW2. And since it was posted quite a few people have contacted me to add their reminiscences about the event. Their observations have proved to be both welcome and valuable,

I have also just found a photo from 2007 that shows a V1 crater at Featherbed Moss in the Peak District

 On the morning of 24th of December 1944 about 50 Heinkel 111s of Kampfgeschwader 53 headed into the North Sea and under each aircraft was a V1 Flying Bomb. The target was the industrial city of Manchester. Only one bomb fell within the Manchester Civil Defence Area. No factories or military targets were hit. Seven of the bombs landed in Yorkshire including this Fieseler Fi-103 V1 Flying Bomb Crater which exploded on Midhope Moor, Near Cut Gate, It like the Sheffield V1 fell short and exploded at Featherbed Moss, near Cut Gate on the 24th December 1944. Grid Ref: SK 18224 97083 GE: 53.470171 -1.726931

Wednesday 17 September 2014

John Henry Johnson (1840-1877) - A Very English Murder

Way back in August 2001 a Mr Steve Allatt placed the following message on a Family History Board

" My great, great uncle,John Henry Johnson was hung for murder at  Armley Gaol,  Leeds, Yorkshire on April 3rd 1877. He murdered Amos Waite in  Bradford, Yorkshire on December 26th 1876.

 Between about 1865 and 1875 he lived in the States, probably  Pennsylvania,  but this is not certain. He was joined there by his wife, Mary Jane  Johnson,  formerly Toothill, and their son Fred Johnson, born in Bradford on  4th May 1861. John Henry and Mary Jane lived apart prior to his return to England and
although contacted before his execution, she declined to return to England."

Steve wanted to know about the family in the US but I thought it would be interesting to see the about the circumstances that led to John's execution.

During the evening of 26 December 1876, John Henry Johnson and his paramour, Amelia Sewell, visited several Bradford pubs. When they entered the Bedford Arms they met Amos White, an old acquaintance. Later, as Sewell walked across a yard to the toilets she was accosted by White and screamed for Johnson to help. The two men squared up and traded a few blows before being separated. Johnson then staggered home, returning later with a gun with which he shot White dead. A friend of the victim helped detain Johnson who was immediately arrested. He was convicted before Mr Justice Lopes and sentenced to death by hanging at Armley Prison in Leeds

The following is a contemporary newspaper report of the execution that was carried out by Thomas Askern on Wednesday 3rd April 1877. The following report is in The Times dated 4th April 1877


 I think Mr Lawrence's letter to the editor of the Times sums up what I feel - this was nothing short of torture and "English law forbids torture." It is apparent from that the report that these disgraceful scenes were not a rare occurrence in the prisons of the time but why were they allowed to persist and why was no action taken against the perpetrators of such "outrages."

According to the excellent capital punishment website

His death was formally recorded as being from asphyxia but no official mention was made of the failure of first attempt to hang him. It was to be Askern's last execution at Armley."

A rather typical "establishment" response that unfortunately tends to echo down the years 

It appears that all the blame was heaped on Askern.  

Reginald Herbert Hookes (1910 - 1941)

The other day I received this e-mail from a researcher about an article I posted to my site quite a few years ago. It was entitled The Many Suicides of Reginald Hookes and related to a court appearance Reginald made at Bow Street Magistrates Court on 26th April 1937.  

"I was interested to come across your page on Reginald Herbert Hookes whilst researching his name on the Tinsley St Lawrence Church WW2 Roll of Honour.

Initials: R H
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Gunner
Regiment/Service:Royal Artillery
Age: 30
Date of Death: 12/05/1941
Service No: 926362
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: Sec. G. Coll. grave 73. Screen wall. Panel 3.

He died in Hammersmith, although I can not find out the circumstances. There are no other RA deaths in London that day. Although air raid is possible as there are some civilian deaths, there doesn’t appear to have been a big raid. Hammersmith is the location of military hospital. Or he could finally have managed his suicide.
You may be interested in searching him out on the British Newspaper Archive website as there are a number of other newspaper stories that are as ‘crazy’ as this one. An advanced search on the phrase ‘Reginald Hookes’ and ‘Reginald Herbert Hookes’ gives results such as (plus more) from the late 1930’s:

- Reginald Herbert Hookes....... I.R.A. to blow up an R.A.F. launch on the night of July 10, was the appearance at Ramsgate

- Reginald Herbert Hookes……purpose of obtaining certain secrets on behalf of people by whom he was employed, was line 4 10s.

- TO PRISON He Was Near Service Premises For loitering in the vicinity of premises used in His Majesty's service, Reginald Herbert Hookes, of Love Lane, Margate

- On Monday night, a man of 28 years, Reginald Hook, of no fixed abode, was found on the Sea Front. He complained violent pains in the stomach and was taken to

- Found taking photographs at the Manston R.A.F. Station, Herbert Reginald Hookes, was sentenced to a month's

I have not paid to have access to them but they look interesting.

Although born in the south of England the family appears to have moved to Sheffield prior to 1928 as his mother died in Sheffield in 1928 at the age of 48, and was buried in Tinsley St Mary’s Churchyard. I have not found anything on her death, but suicide could be possible. Her gravestone says died suddenly.

Reginald would have been 17/18 and regardless of the cause this would have affected him.
(His father lived to be 88)"

Name:     Reginald Hookes
Given Initials:     R H
Rank:     Gunner
Death Date:     12 May 1941
Number:     926362
Birth Place:     Kent
Residence:     Kent
Regiment at Enlistment:     Royal Artillery
Branch at Enlistment:     Royal Artillery
Theatre of War:     United Kingdom
Regiment at Death:     Royal Artillery
Branch at Death:     Royal Artillery
Source Information: UK, Army Roll of Honour, 1939-1945 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2009.
Original data: England. The National Archives. “War Office: Roll of Honour, Second World War.” Database. Army Roll of Honour 1939-45. Soldiers Died in World War Two. (WO304). CD Rom. Naval & Military Press."

I must admit I was rather surprised that Reginald appeared on a WW2 Roll of Honour in Tinsley given his "activities" relating to planning his own demise a few years earlier.

Hi died in Hammersmith Hospital on 12th May 1941 but we do not know the circumstances leading to his death, and the cause of death. Reginald's death is listed in the BMD Registers but to order a certificate from the GRO now costs £9.25, which is bit of a steep price just to satisfy my curiosity.

The court appearances that are mentioned in the mail certainly point to Reginald being a person of interest. I managed to access one court report from the Times dated 6th August 1938 which is certainly entertaining but to access the others I would need to subscribe to the British Newspaper Archive which also costs £10.95 a month. Still it is cheaper than a trip to the National Archives!


Monday 15 September 2014

Walter Hasland and the Runaway Horse - Infirmary Road, Sheffield - January 1935

I've just posted an article to the site that I have been meaning to do for a few months but have never got around to it, The title "Walter Hasland and the Runaway Horse -Infirmary Road, Sheffield - January 1935"
does not reflect the full horror of the accident that led to Walter losing his life whilst standing outside a shop window with his fiance. The incident even made the pages of  The Times

The Times dated 23rd January 1935

It must have been quite literally carnage - "in crashing through the shop window the horse's head was almost severed" gives an indication of the mayhem that occurred.