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Remembered Today:

Length of service

Northern Soul

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Photo from a rural churchyard in Cumbria.

It is possible that this man had the shortest tenure of service in the British Army during the war - about 12 hours give or take a bit. doubtful whether he actually had any military experience at all in that time other than being shouted at a couple of times by N.C.O.s.

He was a suicide, and a rather tragic one too. Coming from a very remote and insular farming community where he had lived all his life and probably never been more than a few miles from home before, the thought of military service was apparently just too much for him.

Does anyone have any similar contenders for such a short period of service?

Best wishes.



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where did you get the information regarding his death from ? was it from a newpaper article. other sources coroners inquest ,probate ,death certificate it seems very sad that he died if from a newspaper article can you print it

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Bootle Man’s Tragic End.

Before Coroner F. W. Poole and a jury, of whom Coun. James Mount was foreman, an inquest was held on Saturday evening at the Ulverston Police Court concerning the death of Joseph Peile Pennington. Mr. S. Hart Jackson, jun., watched the proceedings on behalf of the Furness Railway Company, and Mr. Woolgar, stationmaster, was also in attendance.

William Pennington, of Corney, Bootle, identified the body as that of his son. He was a farm labourer, 40 years of age, and unmarried. He was in lodgings. He was not an attested man, but had been called up under the Military Service Act.

The Coroner : Have you had any conversation with him about joining the Army? - No; he had spoken very little about it.

Do you know whether he objected to join?- I believe he did.

On any particular ground?- Not anything particular; but he did not seem as if he would like to join.

Private William Kendall, of The Green, Millom, gave evidence that he met deceased about nine o’clock on Friday morning at Millom Recruiting Office. They stayed there until 10:30, and at noon went to Lancaster for medical examination. They returned by the 8:12 p.m. train, and on arrival at Ulverston witness, deceased, James Burns, Edward Kendall, and another man walked in the direction of the Ulverston Drill Hall. On getting near the hall, he noticed deceased was hanging back a bit. Deceased did not come into the Drill Hall, and witness said to one of the men, “There’s someone short; where’s Pennington gone?” He replied, “He’s not come in yet?” Witness went to the door and shouted out, “This is the place.” He made some sort of answer, but did not come back.

The Coroner : Had you any talk to him during the day about soldiering?- No.

He said nothing against it in any way?- No : he seemed a little bit downhearted, but expressed no opinion.

John Townson, signalman, stated that at 11:50 on Friday night he was stationed in Ulverston east cabin at the Ulverston end of the station. On hearing some noise at the rod points, he looked out of the window, and saw the shadow of a man. He called out, but, getting no answer, he went down the yard about 50 yards, and saw deceased standing in the four-foot. He asked him what he wanted there, and he gave an answer he could not understand. He got hold of him, brought him up-to the cabin, and asked him if he had fallen out of the train, or had been knocked down by an engine. He replied “No.” On getting him to the light, he saw that he had a nasty cut in the neck. He took him to the porters’ room, and left him in charge of Tom Hope, porter, while he knocked up Mr. Woolgar, the stationmaster. The latter came promptly and rendered first-aid until the arrival of Dr. Bowman, about seven minutes later. The doctor conveyed deceased in his motor-car to the Cottage Hospital.

William Riley, porter at the passenger station, stated that he found the razor produced at 9:20 that morning outside the porter’s room.

Police-Sergt. Nutter gave evidence that deceased died about midnight. On examining the body he found a deep cut in the throat, severing the windpipe. He afterwards searched the clothing, and found a purse containing 3s 6d. and the Army Form produced. Subsequently he examined the line, and found patches of blood at three different points, about half a mile from where deceased was found.

The Coroner, in summing up, said that the facts were very simple, and the main question for the jury was as to the state of the man’s mind. There was no evidence that he had any strong feeling in regard to joining the Army, although he seemed somewhat downhearted. If the jury thought the calling up for military service had affected his mind, they might return a verdict of temporary insanity, or, in the alternative, they might say that there was not sufficient evidence to indicate the state of his mind.

A verdict of “Suicide whilst temporarily insane” was returned.

-: Millom Gazette, Friday, March 31, 1916; page 3.

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So tragic.

I have a feeling that had he been 18 rather than 40 the story would have been better known - people tend to think that the younger the casualty, the greater the tragedy.

But the deaths of older men are just as tragic, but in a different way.


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