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Unexploded shell – in a fish – 1948

Old British News

Dundee Courier – Wednesday 14 July 1948

The job of clearing Britain’s cities and towns of unexploded devices after the war has taken many years.  Indeed even today we see still hear of exploded bombs more than 70 years on.  There have been many, dangerous, weird and wonderful stories of the discovery of such devices –but this one from the 14th July 1948 has to be the strangest.

Mr. Maurice Barnett, former RAF bomb disposal officer, was yesterday back at his wartime job –but this time in an open space at the back of his salmon-curing firm in Frying Pan Alley, Bishopsgate.

Among the salmon sent from Billingsgate for curing yesterday was a 23 lb fish, in which were found to cannon shells.

“The men were in the yard trying to split the fish, but could hardly get the knife into it,” said Mr. Barnett.  “They were mystified until they got it open and found two 35 mm shells of British origin inside.

“I examined them and found that one had been exploded and the other was an unfired incendiary.

“I decided it would be safer for me to explode the shell before I gave it to the police, so I took it to an open space and fired it.

“The job only only took a few minutes and didn’t make much of a bang.”

Emily Cave (née: Windebank) 1892

Whilst doing more family research I sadly discovered that my great, great grandmother (Emily Cave (nee Windebank)) committed suicide in 1892 after drinking the contents of a bottle of Carbolic Acid. I found out about this after conducting routine research through the London newspapers.

London Evening Standard – Wednesday 14 September 1892:

Dr. G. Danford Thomas held an inquest yesterday at St. Pancras Coroner’s Court on the body of Emily Cave (née: Emily Alice Windebank, born 1865), 27, the wife of Walter Cave (Walter Frederick Cave: 1863-1904), a barman, lately residing at 17, Castle-road, Kentish-town.

According to the husband, he lived very happily with the deceased, who was very amiable. She had recently – especially since their last child was born – been “queer” in her head. She complained of pains in the head, and often said she “wished she was dead.”

On Saturday morning the Witness was fetched home, where he found his wife lying insensible on the floor. Upon a table was the empty bottle produced, labelled “Carbolic acid—poison,” and a purse containing half-a-sovereign. He learnt from his little boy that the latter saw his mother drink “something” from a bottle and then fall on the bed on the floor. Before she became insensible she handed the purse mentioned to her son saying, “If I don’t wake up any more, give this to your father.” The husband at once called in a neighbouring doctor. Witness had never heard his wife threaten to destroy herself. The son stated that his mother drank from the bottle itself and then fell down. She asked him if she did not wake any more to “give baby some sugar-tits,” and father the purse. Dr. T. Massi, 183, Kentish Town-road, said when he arrived the woman was dying from the effects of carbolic-acid poisoning, and she expired about an hour and a half afterwards from this cause.

The Mother of the deceased (Harriet Windebank (née: Monk) 1839-1899) said she was a good girl, and had a good husband, and Witness could not account for the mode of her death.—The Jury returned a verdict of “Suicide while of unsound mind.”

Walter Frederick Cave was born in March 1863, the son of Caroline (née: Pritchard born 1822) and Benjamin (died 1863). He married Emily Alice Windebank and they had three children together. He then married Isabella Florence Meyers in 1894 and they had four children together. He died in July 1904 in London, at the age of 41.

Valletta Stampede – 1823

The Times of Malta are reporting today the dreadful case of about 100 children who died during a stampede at a Valletta convent during carnival 192 years ago (here).

I have found two articles from 1823 describing the scene (click the images to read the article, then click again to open the image)):

Morning Advertiser - Saturday 29 March 1823

Morning Advertiser – Saturday 29 March 1823

Morning Chronicle - Saturday 29 March 1823

Morning Chronicle – Saturday 29 March 1823

James Rossiter of Rahere street, found drowned – 1892

British Newspapers from centuries ago were full of reports, much the same today, of people disappearing or dying in suspicious in unresolved circumstances. The police on the river Thames during Victorian Times were kept particularly busy.

21 year old James Rossiter, was living with his mother in the overcrowded and squalid conditions that were in Rahere Street in Clerkenwell. From what I can discover this street finally disappeared in the post-war clearances. In the 1800s however the area around it was notorious and kept the police busy at all times.

As for James Rossiter, although he had been involved in a minor disturbance and was due to appear in court, he seemed a quiet man with something troubling him. We will never really know what was going on and why his body was found in the Thames on that December morning in 1892.

An Embankment Mystery

Morning Post - Monday 26 December 1892

Morning Post – Monday 26 December 1892

On Saturday, at King’s College hospital, Mr. John Troutheek held an inquiry with reference to the death of James Rossiter, aged 21, a walking stick maker, of 9 Rahere Street, Goswell Road, Clerkenwell, whose body was found in the Thames near Temple stairs early on Wednesday morning last.

Mary Anne Rossiter, of Rahere street, said the deceased was her son. On Tuesday evening she saw him in a public house on the corner of Spencer street. He was with three friends. He last witness to get some fish for supper, and gave her the money to pay for it. Witness did so, and went to bed.

About one o’clock the deceased came in and called after her, “Mother, I must be very careful of myself, as someone is following me about.” He then said “Goodnight” and she heard him go out. By the Coroner: He was summoned a short time ago for assault, and had nothing else to worry him. He would have no occasion to go near Waterloo Pier.

Police Constable Alfred Freshwater, 37 Thames Police, enclosed that only on the morning of the 21st Inst. he was on duty at Waterloo Pier Police-station, when he heard a loud cry for help coming from the direction of the Temple Pier. He rode to the spot with another constable, but could only find a man’s hat. There was no one on the Embankment.

Inspector Plumb, Thames Police, stated that he had found the body the same morning in the Thames near the pier stairs and the Temple. In the pockets he found three pawn tickets, some letters, and a summons returnable at Clerkenwell police-court on December 7.

Dr. George Hamilton, of three, Southampton street, Strand, said he’s am on the body and found no marks of violence.

A post mortem examination revealed that death was due to suffocation by drowning. The jury returned an open verdict of found drowned.