Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Final notes on the death of William Henry Ball, 1892-1941

While I was thrilled to have finally tracked down the details of William Henry's death, it's been quite saddening to learn about his passing in all of its horrendous detail. I received the newspaper accounts of the accident from the Ealing Library earlier this month and they have added a few new details about the fateful day of Saturday June 14, 1941.

The Middlesex County Times noted, in their 21 June 1941 report concerning the coroner's inquest, that William had purchased a platform ticket in the late afternoon of Saturday June 14th, a fact confirmed by a booking clerk at Ealing Broadway Station. A railway porter, James Frederick Matthews, was on duty at 6pm when his attention was caught by a man yelling on the No. 4 platform that a body was on the main line. When he investigated, it was discovered that William had already been struck by the train and parts of his body were strewn along the tracks.

The train driver reported that the express had been traveling at 60 miles an hour, when they passed underneath a footbridge on approach to the station. A dark object appeared in front of the engine, but the driver's vision and glasses were obscured by steam. He applied the brakes, but was unable to stop in time nor at the station, so carried onto Paddington.

The pathologist found no evidence of natural disease in his autopsy of William and found that he had died of multiple injuries. An open verdict was recorded by the coroner as there was insufficient evidence to determine how William had fallen from the platform or if he had jumped to his death.

In the Middlesex Gazette of the same date, it was reported that William had failed to report to work that Saturday. The story also noted that porter at Ealing Broadway has been approached by a man about a body on the tracks, who soon afterward disappeared. Police reported that William's body had been spread out over a distance of 50 yards and that the 15 GBP that his wife believed to be in his possession, had not been found. At the end of the coroner's court, Matilda collapsed, saying "He didn't do it. He didn't do it." when an open verdict was declared. She had to be helped from the court room.

Had William had a medical emergency and fallen, stumbled, been pushed, or decided to jump? While I wish that I had an answer, there are just to many variables to consider - why hadn't he reported to work that day, where were the money that he was to have had on him, why did he tell Matilda that he would be home to hear the music program on the radio at 8pm? I suspect that he may have jumped to his death, but it is speculation on my part.

Hopefully, on to happier tales next time...

Cheers, K.

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