Killed by an amoured car

The sad death of John Curl, aged 77, of East Winch, and indirectly a victim of the war, was described at an inquest held at Swaffham on Monday by Mr. B.H. Vores and a jury whose foreman was Mr. F. Winter.

Mr. Talbot (Messrs Chamberlain, Talbot and Bracey, Yarmouth) watched the case on behalf of the Treasury.

Lillie Curl of West Bilney, said deceased was her uncle and he lived at East Winch. He was formerly a gardener. About 6.45 on Friday evening she and her uncle were walking on the road at East Winch on the left hand side. Witness was in front of her companion and they were going towards Lynn. She saw a car coming from that direction, and later noticed that it was accompanied by another car and a motor cycle. After the vehicle had passed and the dust had cleared away she turned round and saw her uncle lying on the ground about 50 yards back. One of the motors which had been travelling at a very fast rate, stopped and later conveyed her uncle to the Swaffham Cottage Hospital.

By Mr. Talbot: She told one of the occupants of the car, an officer, that her uncle had been under her care for some years. He was out of his mind, and would not let her walk with him.

Dr. A.W. Thomas said that when Curl was admitted to the hospital his left ear had been torn off, and he was suffering from a fracture of the base of the skull. He died that night without regaining consciousness.

James Albert Price, cattle dealer, Leziate, said that on Friday evening he was driving along the road leading from East Winch to West Bilney in the direction of Swaffham. He saw Miss Curl, and then her uncle, the former being about 50 yards in front of Curl. Witness heard a motor coming behind him and saw Curl knocked down. The latter seemed to have made an attempt to get to the other side of the road, but had not gone more than about one or two feet when the car struck him. He was then about five feet from the side of the road.

By Mr. Talbot: When the car passed witness he saw that Curl was in danger.

Pc Marshall said that on the next day he examined the place where the accident occurred, and found blood about four feet from the edge of the road, which at this point was about 19 feet wide.

Sub. Lieut. Frank T Hodges, Royal Navy Reserve, Anti-aircraft section, said that on Friday evening he was in charge of an armoured motor car which was being driven in the direction of Swaffham by Petty Officer Mould. About 6.45pm they passed a coal cart at East Winch, and as they moved out to do so witness saw Curl about 100 yards away. He was then on the off side of the road, close to the grass, and as the car approached him he started to cross the road diagonally, and then hesitated and began to re-cross to the off side. The front near mudguard of the car hit him a glancing blow and threw him to the ground. The car passed on to the grass between the man and the fence. They were travelling at a speed consonant with their duties at the time. Everything was done that could be done, and they took the man to the Cottage Hospital at Swaffham.

Petty Officer A.B. Mould, the driver of the car, corroborated. He added that as they approached the man he sounded the horn, and Hodges shouted. When the car was stopped after the accident he found marks on the lamp, which was also dented. They were travelling at about 30 miles per hour. The man seemed to be in deep thought. It was impossible under the circumstances to avoid the man, and had the latter kept in the direction he was going witness could have missed him by only about three inches.

Major Lucas, of the Royal Navy Air Squadron, gave evidence as to the orders he had issued to Hodges.

The Coroner told the jury that when a soldier or Naval man had received orders from a superior officer he was not responsible for what happened while he was properly carrying out such orders. Therefore the question of the speed of the car had not to be dealt with in this case.

The jury returned a verdict of “Accidental Death”.

Mr. Talbot said he wished to express on behalf of the Admiralty and also on behalf of the officers concerned their deep regret at the accident, and their sincere sympathy with the relatives of the old man.

The funeral of Mr. Curl – who for many years was gardener to the late Sir Lewis Jarvis of Middleton Towers – took place on Wednesday at Middleton. The Royal Naval Anti-aircraft Squadron was represented at the ceremony, and the officers also sent a cross.

(This is believed to be from about 1914/1915)