The Standon affray
Hertfordshire Mercury, 26 September 1914
It was the Miles brothers versus the police. At Wellpond Green, on the Friday, there was a serious affray, at midnight.
The three Miles brothers were well known in the district, having lived for many years in a caravan and, more recently, in a hut. 3 years ago, a warrant had been issued against Walter John Miles on a charge of criminal assault upon a young girl. He had absconded and had not returned to the district until last Friday when the police were at once on his track. Just before midnight, four officers, namely Police Sergeant Lee, of Much Hadham, Police Constable Gooch, of Little Hadham, Police Constable Morley, of Standon, and Police Constable Burch, of Braughing, went to the hut and knocked at the door. Immediately, a double-barrelled gun was poked through an opening and one of the men asked what was wanted. One of the officers confirmed that they were the police and that they had a warrant for the arrest of Walter J.Miles.
Thereupon, the door was flung open and the three brothers rushed out and allegedly attacked the police officers most savagely. Constable Burch was struck on the shoulder with a gun and felled to the ground. Sergeant Lee was hit on the head with a large bottle, and suffered a severe scalp wound. Constable Morley was hit across the left wrist with a heavy gun barrel, and Constable Gooch was savagely kicked on the ankle. After the officers had recovered from this initial assault, they drew their truncheons and there was a general scrimmage.
After a terrible struggle, and a good deal of blood had been shed, two of the brothers, Walter John and George, were arrested and taken to Ware Police Station, but the third brother, Fred Miles, got away and has been at large ever since. The woods in the neighbourhood were searched the next day as he was believed to be hiding, but he appeared to have made good his escape. Three of the police officers were seriously injured and were placed on the sick list.
On the Saturday, Walter John and George Miles were brought before the Ware Police Court on a charge of maliciously wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm.
Constable James John Burch, stationed at Braughing, said that on the previous day he had received a warrant for the arrest of Walter John Miles, and had proceeded to the hut where the defendants lived, in company with the other three officers. When they had knocked on the door, one of the men inside had asked what they wanted and Constable Gooch had said “Open the door. We are police officers”.
At first, the muzzle of a double-barrelled gun was pointed at them through the door opening, and most filthy language was used. The door opened, and the two defendants, together with their brother Fred, flew out armed with sticks and guns. Before he (the witness) had time to defend himself, he had received a violent blow to the shoulder from Fred Miles and was felled to the ground. His assailant then got on top of him. The witness got hold of the gun, whereupon George Miles came to help his brother and wrenched the gun away. George then left them and joined in the scrimmage between his second brother and the other officers.
Sergeant Lee and Constable Morley were struggling with Walter John Miles. The witness saw George Miles then strike Constable Morley across the left wrist with the gun produced. Morley exclaimed “You have broken my wrist”.
One of the other officers was calling out for assistance, and the witness then went and took the gun from Walter John Miles and threw it over the hedge into the lane. Whilst they were struggling, he saw Fred Miles go into the hut and come out with a large bottle in his hand. With a curse, he had hurled the bottle at Sergeant Lee’s head. Eventually, Walter John was overpowered, handcuffed, and taken to Ware. Later, the police returned and fetched George Miles, but Fred Miles got away.
The prisoners were remanded until the Tuesday when they re-appeared before the Bench. Superintendent Handley stated that the police officers were unable to appear and asked for a further remand, which was granted until the Tuesday next.
On that following Tuesday, Walter John Miles (35) and George Miles (38), of Wellpond Green, were charged at Ware Petty Sessions with inflicting grievous bodily harm on the police on Friday, the 18th of September, at Standon.
Sergeant William John Lee of Much Hadham said that, in the company of Constables Gooch, Burch and Morley, he had gone to arrest, on warrant, Fred and Walter John Miles. They had searched for the two men from 6:00pm but could not find them in the district. At midnight, they went to a hut in Wellpond Green and tapped on the door. When asked what they wanted, Constable Gooch said “It’s the police. Open the door”. The same voice inside the hut then said “Give me the gun. I’ll shoot him and all the others he has with him”. The door was opened a few inches and the gun was poked through the gap. A man then shouted “Pull the door open”.
The door was opened, and the witness then saw Walter John Miles with the double-barrelled gun in his hand. George and Fred Miles were also there. Walter John had the gun to his shoulder ready to fire. Constable Gooch then seized hold of the gun at the stock, and the witness got hold of it close to the muzzle. The barrel was then broken from the stock, leaving the stock in the hands of Constable Gooch and the barrel in the hand of Walter John. When this happened, the barrel swung round and hit the witness in the mouth. The witness then went after Walter John, but the latter then hit the witness on the right side of the head with the barrel. It was a glancing blow, and the full force fell on the witness’ arm. The truncheon flew from the witness’ hand, and he fell.
On rising, the witness saw Constable Morley struggling with Walter John, and he went to the constable’s assistance and, whilst helping to handcuff him, he was struck by some heavy instrument on the back of the head. This blow brought him to his knees, and he was dazed for a long while. The witness showed his injuries to the Bench.
Walter John Miles was then taken to the Nags Head PH, and subsequently to Ware Police Station by Constables Burch and Morley. The witness had his wounds dressed at Much Hadham.
The defendants contended that the gun was useless, and denied using it. They also stated that the constables had cried out “Come outside and we will show you who we are”.
Further questioned regarding the gun, Sergeant Lee said that he believed the gun produced was the one in question. When he had seen it on the night, he thought it had been tied up with string. The witness produced his blood-stained uniform.
Constable Gooch gave evidence, and said that the last witness had been struck on the back of the head by a bottle whilst struggling to handcuff Walter John. The blow felled him to the ground. The bottle was of dark green colour, similar to the one produced in court. The witness was kicked on the ankle and the leg and was struck on the helmet with a stick. Constable Morley cried out “My wrist is hurt” and, going to his assistance, the witness took Walter John to the Nags Head, with the help of Constable Burch. The witness was put on the sick list. In reply to the Clerk, the witness said that he heard George Miles cry out “Let’s do them all in now that we’ve got them here”. Another voice from down the garden cried “Stand back, I’ll shoot them”.
Replying to the defendant, the witness said that either George or Fred Miles struck the sergeant with the bottle. Each of them had had a bottle in his hand.
Dr. Barker of Much Hadham said that he had attended Sergeant Lee at 3:30am on the 19th of September. The chief injury was a scalp wound, three inches long, which required four stitches, a cut on the forehead, a bruise on the upper arm, and he was also bleeding from the nose. The bottle produced might well have caused the head wound. A blow by the barrels would cause a similar bruise. Considerable violence appeared to have been used against the sergeant. There had been considerable loss of blood. The witness saw Constable Gooch at noon on the same day. He had two or three bruises on the ankle and foot, which were likely to have been caused by blows or kicks.
Dr. Ewing of Puckeridge said that he examined Constable Morley on the 19th of September. He had received a cut on the left wrist which was also considerably swollen, and the wound was accompanied by much pain. A glancing blow from the gun barrel would account for the injury. He was also slightly injured in the groin, and suffered from shock. In reply to the defendants, the witness said that Constable Morley had previously been disabled but was on duty at the time of his injuries.
Constable Morley, giving his evidence, said that he believed the man who struck the sergeant with the bottle to be Fred Miles, who was not in custody. George Miles struck the witness on the wrist with the gun barrel. Walter John caught hold of him in a vital part, severely hurting him. The witness struck the man with his staff. Walter John was arrested then, and George later in the day.
Constable Burch said that, when they got to the hut, the men inside shouted “Shoot the Germans; we’ll do them in now that we’ve got them”. The men then rushed out of the hut like mad dogs, each carrying an instrument in his hand. A terrible struggle ensued. The witness received a severe blow from Fred Miles, which knocked him down, and his assailant fell on top of him. On gaining his feet, he saw George Miles pick up the barrel of a gun and strike Constable Morley on the arm. Morley had cried out “You’ve broken my wrist”. The witness said that Fred Miles had thrown a bottle at Sergeant Lee, whom it had struck. The witness threw away the barrels that were being used as an offensive weapon, and recovered them the next day. In reply to the Bench, the witness said that it was a fairly light night, and there was a light in the hut. The struggle had taken place five yards outside the door of the hut, near the gate. The hut stood in a garden belonging to the Miles brothers.
George Miles pleaded not guilty and gave evidence on oath. he said that he was a labourer. At 11:45pm on the night in question, he was in the hut with his brothers, Walter John and Frederick. A knock came at the door and John said “Who is there?”. The answer was “Come out and we’ll show you”. John opened the door and was going out when one of the policemen struck him on the head. Fred followed and was also struck and knocked down.
The constables got hold of each about 3 yards from the door. The policemen had truncheons in their hands, and were beating Walter John on the head. The blood was running all over his face and head, and he was calling out for help. The witness then came out and went across to where they lay on the ground. John said “Help me up”. The witness said “I can’t. What can I do?”. One of the policemen said “That’s it, George, keep out of it”. The witness asked them not to use their sticks so much.
The police then handcuffed John and regained their feet. Fred was lying 2 or 3 yards further on. A constable had hold of him. His head and nose were bleeding. The witness said “Let him get up”. One of the policemen thereupon turned round and struck him across the nose, and dealt him several blows about the head. He fell to the ground, and they jumped on his chest. When he got up again, John and the police were in the lane. Fred had gone, and the witness did not see any more of him. The witness would have taken no part in the struggle if the constable had not struck him. The witness had been out of the trouble, and had not wanted to be in it. PC Burch had said “You are like the others: you will have to have it”. After being struck several times, the witness went into the lane with John.
About 5 or 6 o’clock on the following morning, the sergeant and 2 or 3 policemen came and said “I want you to come into Ware with us”. The witness replied “All right then, I must go”.
In reply to Superintendent Handley, the witness said that the hut was his property. They were alone in the hut save for a dog which he had borrowed to ‘try’. They were all sober. The gun produced usually lay inside the hut. In reply to the Clerk, the witness said that he was in the habit of sleeping in the hut, and had occupied it for about 4 years. He had not seen his brother, Walter John, for 3 years prior to 16th September.
Walter John also pleaded guilty and reserved his defence.
Both defendants were committed for trial at the November Assizes on the two charges.
Walter John Miles was then charged with a criminal offence against a girl of 14 and a half years, at Standon, in 1911. The girl, who is now 18 years of age, described how she was approached by Miles in January 1911. She said that he had threatened to shoot her if she resisted. A child was born in November 1911, but only lived 3 weeks.
George Cobb, a gardener, who lived at Standon in 1911, and worked at Westland Green, said that he had passed Miles occasionally when the latter was in the girl’s company. That was when he was on his way home from work in the evening. He had also seen them together outside a public house.
The mother of the girl stated that her daughter had been brought up by her grandmother at Wellpond Green, and that she had not seen much of her daughter. She was now 18 years old, but when the baby was born, she was only 14 and a half years old.
Miss Morris, matron of the Rescue Home at Ware, stated that she took the girl to a maternity home in Essex where she gave birth to a child. It died after 3 weeks.
Superintendent Handley stated that a warrant was issued for the prisoner on 15th July 1911, but he absconded, and that the warrant had not been executed until 19th September this current year.
The prisoner said that he would reserve his defence, and was then committed for trial at the next Assizes.
At Hertfordshire Autumn Assizes, at the Shire Hall on the Friday, George Miles (36), groom, and Walter John Miles (34), labourer, were indicted for wounding Police Sergeant Lee and assaulting other police officers at Standon on 18th September. Both pleaded not guilty. Mr Blanco White appeared for the prosecution and Mr Ansell for the defence. Sergeant Lee, of Much Hadham, stated that he and Police Constable Gooch, of Little Hadham, Constable Morley, of Standon, and Constable Burch of Braughing, on the 18th September, proceeded to a hut at Bromley, Standon where the defendant, George Miles, lived, with warrants for the arrest of Walter John and Frederick Miles. They heard singing and shouting and, when they knocked on the door, one of the men inside said “Who the ——– are you?” Constable Gooch said “It is the police. Open the door.” A voice inside said “Fetch me that ————– gun. I’ll shoot the ————–, and all the —————- with him. Pull the ————– door open”.
The door was then opened 3 inches and a double-barrelled gun thrust out. Then the door was flung open and Walter John appeared with the gun in the act of shooting. Constable Gooch seized the gun by the stock and the witness got hold of the barrels. As the prisoner burst out of the hut the barrels just broke away from the stock, and he was struck in the mouth. Walter John then aimed a blow at his head: he dodged the blow and was struck on the arm. His helmet came off, he lost his truncheon, and was felled to the ground.
The next thing he saw was Walter Miles struggling with Constable Morley, and he went to his assistance. Whilst trying to handcuff Miles, he received a fierce blow to the back of his head with some heavy instrument. He was felled to the ground and was dazed for some time. He showed the scar on his head where he had received the wound. He was laid up for 12 days. All 3 constables were also severely knocked about, but eventually the 2 prisoners were arrested, although their brother, Frederick Miles, got away. There was also a 4th man present, but they did not know who he was.
Asked by Mr Ansell why the police went in such numbers to arrest two men, Sergeant Lee replied that he knew what desperate men he was dealing with; besides, there were four against four, and they were attacked with guns, bottles, bricks and sticks, which were flying in all directions. Mr Ansell asked if the gun was loaded, and he replied “No”. Mr Ansell said “It must have been a very old weapon to have broken in two, so there was no chance of you being shot”, and Lee replied “Well, I was not going to let them shoot me if I could prevent it. There was no time to exchange confidences or to ask if the gun was loaded”.
Constable Gooch stated that he was kicked on the ankle and his helmet smashed in. Constable Morley said that he was struck on the wrist, and Constable Burch sustained other injuries. They all said that the prisoners rushed on them suddenly like mad dogs. When they approached the hut, they heard the prisoners singing “We don’t care for the men in blue”.
Doctor Barker, of Much Hadham, and Dr Ewing, of Braughing, gave evidence as to the injuries sustained by the constables.
George Miles elected to give evidence. He said that between 11 and 12 o’clock on the night of 18th September there was a knock at his door. His brothers were inside with him. Walter John said “Who is there?” and the police answered “Come out and we’ll show you”. His brother opened the door and immediately 3 or 4 truncheons came crashing through the door with a ‘bang, bang’ one after the other. His brother said “Who are they, ———– Germans”? The his brother pulled the door open, and John rushed out but was knocked down. Fred went out, and he was knocked down, and someone struck him, George, across the nose with a truncheon and knocked him down. A struggle took place outside, with the police and his two brothers. One of the policemen told him to keep out of it. He replied “Then don’t use those sticks so freely”. Then the policemen from Braughing struck him on the head. His brother Fred, after that, ran away.
Both prisoners appealed to the judge to let them off and said that they would join the army and go to the front. The judge said “I’m afraid that pious hope won’t have much weight because you had plenty of time to enlist between 4th August and 18th September if you wanted to”. Walter John said that he came home on purpose to enlist, and that was how he came to be in this row. The judge said “I am sorry you didn’t enlist before you got into this trouble. It is essential to the peace of this county that this type of conduct should be put a stop to. This gun happened to be unloaded, but there was no telling what might have happened if it had been loaded”.
The jury found both prisoners guilty.
Mr Blanco White said there was a further charge against Walter John for a criminal assault upon a young girl but, under the circumstances, the prosecution did not propose to proceed with it. The judge said “I don’t think it is necessary to proceed upon that as I don’t think the punishment will be increased”.
Previous convictions for assaults on the police having been proved, the prisoners again appealed to the judge to give them a chance of joining the army. The judge said “Give you a chance! You should have gone before. You were convicted in 1902 of unlawful wounding, in 1904 of assaulting the police, together in 1908 for assaulting the police, and in the same year for inflicting grievous bodily harm.” George Miles said “They didn’t always tell the truth”. The judge said “I am afraid you did not tell the truth either. My experience is that the truth is as difficult to find as the most minute speck in nature, but in this case there is absolutely no doubt.
Walter John said “They didn’t care how they knocked us about”. The judge replied “Oh yes, they did. You did all the knocking about. They came lawfully to arrest you and you presented a double-barrelled gun at them. You must both go to penal servitude for 3 years.
The Court of Criminal Appeal, on the Monday prior to the 19th December 1914, dealt with the application for leave to appeal made by George Miles who, at the Hertfordshire Assizes, was sentenced to 3 years, penal servitude for wounding a police sergeant in a hut near Standon.
Mr Justice Atkin reviewed the evidence given at the trial and said it was for wounding the sergeant that the appellant was indicted. The wound inflicted was not actually inflicted by the appellant but by one of the other brothers and, therefore, it was necessary to prove that the appellant was a party to a common design to commit the assault and do bodily harm. The evidence showed that the appellant actually used weapons against the police and hit one with the barrel of a gun. The case was properly left to the jury who found the prisoner guilty, and the Court saw no reason for quarrelling with that conclusion. The prisoner had been convicted before, and his application would be refused.