West Lulworth

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News - 1927

The Times -  Wednesday, 3 August 1927

NURSE KILLED BY LIVE SHELL

“Misadventure” verdict at inquest

The inquest on the body of Miss Millicent Catt, a nursemaid, who was killed by a fragment of shell at Lulworth Cove, was held in an army hut at the Tank School Camp, Lulworth, yesterday.

Captain R.G.W. Rimington, of the Royal Tank Corps, living at St. Margaret’s, West Lulworth, said that Miss Catt was employed by him as a children’s nurse. She was 50 years of age.

Mrs. Alice Cleall, of West Lulworth, said that about 4 o’clock on Saturday she was on the beach at Lulworth Cove. Miss Catt came to her and asked to look at the baby in the perambulator. They then walked away from the beach along the path to the village. Suddenly Miss Catt cried out “Oh,” and fell by the side of the road. She pulled the perambulator down with her, but the witness saved it when it was nearly on the ground. She then shouted for help. She did not hear any explosion. She ran to a farm for help. Afterwards she took the baby to Captain Rimington’s house.

Bertram Charles Meaden said that while driving a horse and cart in Lulworth on Saturday afternoon he heard an explosion. Two women were with a perambulator and one of them fell.

Captain H.C. Beasley, R.A.M.C., who was called to the spot where Miss Catt fell, said he found her lying on the footpath. Captain Rimington was there helping to support her. She had a severe injury on the right side of the head and had lost a lot of blood. First aid was given in a house nearby, and Miss Catt was then taken to the County Hospital at Dorchester, unconscious.

Police-constable Margri produced a piece of shell about 2in. Across, and heavy, which he said he found on the footpath about 2ft. From where Miss Catt was lying. It was quite warm when he picked it up. There was no blood on it.

Dr. William Russell, house surgeon at the County Hospital, Dorchester, said Miss Catt died there on Saturday evening. The post mortem revealed extensive injuries. He would not expect the blood to have shown on the shell if it had hit the woman when red hot. He considered the piece of shell could have caused the wound on the woman’s head. It was possible the bleeding might start afterwards.

Eric Jakeman, a cadet aged 12, said he lived at Dorchester and belonged to the Weymouth Grammar School Cadet Corps, who, on Saturday, were camping at Newlands Farm. With another cadet, named Dennis, he left the camp on Saturday afternoon to go on the range. They went towards the Cove and near a gate they saw two shells about six yards away, close together. They picked them up and decided to take them back to the camp. They threw the shells at stones and threw the one against the other. They thought they were quite harmless.

The foreman asked the boy if he did not see a military warning notice on going to the range.

“Yes,” he replied, “It said shells were not to be touched.”

“And you took no notice of it?” asked the foreman.

“No,” said Jakeman.

The boy continued that he and Dennis met his brother and another boy, and they looked at the shells. Eric Williams took the bigger of the two shells and threw it a few yards ahead. They thought they would not explode, but this one did. They were very surprised when the shell went off. His brother threw the other shell into a ditch and they went back to camp.

Alec Dennis, aged 11, gave similar evidence, and Eric Williams, another Dorchester boy, aged 15, said the piece of shell found by the policeman was just like the shell he threw.

Major F.J. Babb, headmaster of the Municipal Secondary School, Weymouth, and Officer commanding the Cadet Corps, said that in previous years the boys had been specifically warned and prohibited from going on ranges. This year he did not mention it specially, as so many of the boys had been in camp before.

The Coroner asked Major Dowell, who is in command of the Gunnery School, to give his expert opinion, not as a witness, but in order to help the jury. Major Dowell said that from what the boys said and the distance where this shell arrived, it seemed fairly apparent that the shell fell nose down, and that the base got a good kick off and went straight in the air backwards. It must have hit the nurse, 230 yards away, at the end of its flight. It went straight up into the air, probably above the trees, and got the woman with a falling blow on the head. It was an old six-pounder shell, and had been lying out for a good many years. Those shells had been out of service for a considerable time and he thought it probable that this one was fired some time during the war period. They had organised search parties from time to time, and there were monetary rewards for all shells found. If the shell was lying in the open, it had recently been put there.

The jury returned a verdict of “Death by misadventure.”




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