A soldier's life is not a happy one!

Hertfordshire Mercury, 19th February 1916


William Liddle Hastie, a soldier, was indicted for ‘burglariously’ entering the house of Joseph Henry Haddon, in Hitchin, and stealing clothes. The prisoner pleaded guilty.

Mr. Fulton, for the prosecution, said that the premises were an outfitter’s shop, and that when Mr Haddon had arrived at the premises on the morning of 20th January, he had found a discarded soldier’s uniform, and had also noted that some civilian clothes were missing from the shop. The same day, the prisoner had given himself up to a police officer and had said that he was a deserter from the Welsh Guards.

Supt Read read out a list of previous convictions, as follows:-

In 1902, the prisoner had been arrested as a deserter and had been sent back to his regiment.

In 1903, at Sheffield, he had been sentenced to 10 days for being disorderly.

In 1904, at York, he had been given 3 months’ hard labour for stealing two pairs of boots.

In 1907, at Durham and York Assizes, he had been sentenced to 9 months for burglary and for stealing a bottle of brandy.

In 1908, at Sunderland, he was given 3 months for being found on enclosed property.

In 1909, at Edinburgh, he was given 6 months for shop-breaking, and also 3 months, in the same year, at Middlesbrough, for loitering.

In 1910, at Hereford Assizes, he was given 3 years’ penal servitude for burglary and for stealing money.

In 1913, at Lincoln, he was given 3 years for burglary. He was let out in November 1915 on licence.

From the time he was 16, he had been a source of trouble to his mother. At 16, he had joined the Navy, but had subsequently been discharged as being medically unfit. A short while later, he had joined the Royal Scots Militia and afterwards the Regulars, where he remained for a while. When he left the Army, he remained in England and very seldom returned to Edinburgh to see his mother.

When he had been discharged from Dartmoor in November 1915, arrangements had been made for him to be sent to sea but, on arriving in Cardiff, he had joined the Welsh Guards and was afterwards drafted to Caterham in Surrey. He deserted on January 18th, went to Hitchin, and committed the offence for which he was now charged.

The judge said “He’s not much use in the Army, is he? This is the second time he’s deserted”. An officer from the Regiment said that he knew nothing about the prisoner personally.

The prisoner handed in a written statement, but the judge, after reading it, said that he didn’t believe a word of it. He told the prisoner that this was not a particularly grave offence in itself, but that the difficulty lay in his record which was very serious. The judge went on to say “From 1904, when you would have been 20 years old, you have spent nearly the whole of your time in prison or on penal servitude. You have been convicted 11 times. I don’t think a man like you is any good in the Army at all. You will go to prison for 15 months with hard labour”.


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