Local History Society

 Memories - 'Up Before the Court' in wartime

A.R.P. Black-Out Simulation Exercise, May 1939

Arborfield Garrison was a tempting place for theft, judging from those 'up before the Court' during WWII, as these news items reveal. The 'Times and Weekly News' almost always referred to thefts as 'Larceny'.

The first case of the war was not at the Garrison, but at Arborfield Grange, as reported on 22nd September in an article entitled: Arborfield Butler Sentenced - Wokingham Court Case.

On November 4th, the 'Mercury' related the case of Edward W. Holland, a carpenter of Stokenchurch, charged with stealing wire worth 1/- from huts under erection, under the heading: "Stole Wire from Huts at Arborfield." He was dealt with very leniently. Since the cost of reinstating the wires was 30 shillings, the case was dismissed on condition that the 30/- costs were paid by the defendant.

The November 24th issue reported two more thefts from the Garrison:

Heavy Fines for Larceny at Arborfield

Jack Palmer (43), Tudor Road, Reading, appeared at Wokingham Police Court on Tuesday, for the larceny of goods valued at 8/6, the property of Lt. J. Whittaker of Arborfield. He pleaded guilty. […] Fined £5 or one month’s imprisonment.

Sidney Siarey (44), Great Knollys Street, Reading, was fined £3 for stealing 1 lb Margarine valued at 6d. He was employed at Arborfield as a Mess Orderly. […]


March 15th:

To Be Dealt With by Military Authorities

Albert H. Thompson, R.A.O.C. Technical School, Arborfield, came before the Magistrates at Wokingham on Tuesday charged with the larceny of a bicycle valued at £2. 10s., the property of Sidney Alva Stafford; also six packets of cigarettes and six packets of sweets, value 6/3, the property of J. Tracy Jordison. An application was made to the Bench by the Commandant that the matter should be dealt with by the Military Authorities; and also stating that defendant had a record of 2½ years’ splendid service and an excellent character. The application was granted.

April 12th:

Larceny at Arborfield Camp: Sausages and Butter Involved

Harry Fry of 37, Rodway Road, Tilehurst, came before the Wokingham Magistrates on Tuesday, summoned with the larceny of 18 sausages and 12 pats of butter (valued at 3s.), the property of H.M. War Office. […] Fry was bound over for a year.

Coal Found in Road: Wokingham Man Charged with Larceny

George E. A. Webb of 15 Rose Street Wokingham was summoned at Wokingham Police Court on Tuesday for stealing coal (valued at 5d), the property of H.M. War Office, at Arborfield, on March 19th. Webb pleaded "not guilty". […] Webb was bound over for a year.


On January 10th, the 'Times and Weekly News' couldn't resist the headline:

"Cook, the Cook, ‘Cooked’ the Supplies"

A day later, the 'Reading Mercury' adopted a far more serious tone:

Groceries Stolen from A Camp

Army Cook Bound Over

Receiver Sentenced at Wokingham

Accused of stealing a large quantity of groceries valued at £2. 7s. 2d, an Army cook, Archibald Cook, was bound over for three years by the Wokingham County Bench on Tuesday. On a charge of receiving the stolen property was George Howes Bromley, a pig dealer, of Arborfield, who was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment with hard labour. [The article went on to state that Bromley was licensed to collect swill from the camp, and described in detail what happened].

Two weeks later, on January 25th, we read:

Army Kitchen Porter Sentenced

"It beats me how military authorities can employ a man with sixteen previous convictions for larceny", said Col. F. G. Barker (Chairman) at Wokingham County Police Court on Tuesday, when Patrick William Moore, of Arborfield, was charged with the theft of one pound of steak from an Army camp. Moore, the holder of the Military Medal, was sent to prison with hard labour for 6 months. […] Moore, who had served throughout the last war and for a part of the present war, had a good military character.


On August 14th, the 'Times and Weekly News' avoided the 'L-Word':

‘Scrounging’ costs £20

For being in possession of Government property, Vincent N. Hemmy, of Arborfield, was fined £20 at Wokingham on Tuesday. He had pleaded ‘Guilty’.

Quarter Master Sgt. Frederick Turner identified the property, which included tables, clothing, electric light bulbs, and other articles, as belonging to the War Department. The total value was £13 9s. 0d. – no civilian was allowed to have them in his possession.

Prosecuting, Mr. E. P. Fullbrook, said that the articles were found by Det. Sgt. Christopher during a search of defendant’s house. Defendant was for two years in W.D. employ.

Mr. Piercy, defending, said that some of the property had been abandoned, and Hemmy had scrounged the rest and gradually collected it. Defendant had no previous convictions. Col. Barker said that he thought defendant ought to go to prison, but the majority of the Bench were in favour of a fine.

Other Offences

The newspapers published regular lists of cyclists riding without lights, as in the example below, or motorists driving with full lights, or householders showing too much light in the blackout.

August 16th 1940:

Cycling offenders

The following were fined at Wokingham on Tuesday for riding with neither front nor rear lights: Cecil Hugh Luscombe and Capt. L. H. McDermott, both from Arborfield, riding on Barkham Road on August 6th. Fined 10/- each. [… another three cyclists also fined.]

Poor Charles Crocker was fined twice for allowing his cattle to stray onto the road:

April 19th 1940:

By-Pass Collision

Mr. Charles W. Crocker, of Wormstall, Arborfield, was fined 2/6 at Wokingham on Tuesday, after being summoned for allowing cattle to stray. On April 6th a collision occurred between a black heifer belonging to defendant, and a motor car on the Twyford By-Pass Road. Mr. Crocker explained that he did his best to keep the cattle in, and he could not account for this one straying.

June 27th 1941:

Straying Cattle

Charles W. Crocker, of Wormstall Farm, Reading Road, Arborfield, was fined £1. 0s. 0d. for allowing cattle to stray in the Bath Road, Twyford. It was stated that the barbed wire fence surrounding the field was in an extremely bad condition.

A far more serious case came before Wokingham Magistrates in November 1941, as reported on the 28th:

Indecent Assault Case at Barkham

A Winnersh Lady’s Painful Experience

For indecently assaulting Mrs Dorothy E. Pounds, of Robin Hood Nurseries, Winnersh, George E. Love, 17, Council Cottages, Arborfield, was sent for trial at the Berkshire Quarter Sessions by the Wokingham Magistrates on Tuesday.

Mrs. Pounds stated that she saw defendant in Coombe Lane, Barkham, on November 5th. After he had asked her if she had seen the hounds, he tripped her and threw her to the ground. Later he apologised, saying, "Forgive me, ma’am, don’t tell him". She returned home in a very distressed state and later communicated with the police.

A year later, there was a trial at the Old Bailey, as reported on October 29th 1943 in the case of George Edward Tune, secretary of the Royal Merchant Navy School at Bearwood:

Fraudulent Conversion of R.M.N.S. Funds: Former Secretary Sentenced to 4 years’ Hard Labour

With acknowledgements to Surrey & Berkshire Media, and to Berkshire Newspapers

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