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.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Coroner's report for William Henry Ball, 1892-1941

Following the tragic death of William Henry Ball at the Ealing Broadway Train Station, a coroner's inquest was held. These are the details from that inquest conducted by Mr. H.G. Broadbridge, coroner for West Middlesex, on 18 June 1941 at Ealing Town Hall.

This is an image of the Ealing Town Hall:

By P.g.champion (Own work) [CC-BY-2.0-uk (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/uk/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

William died as a result of being hit by a train at Ealing Broadway station, an east-west National Rail and London Underground station in Ealing in west London, located here:

View Larger Map

William was 48 years old. He had lived at 34 Stanley Crescent, Southall, with his wife, Kate Matilda Ball (her name appears as 'Matilda Kate' in other records), and had been a carpenter's labourer for the Great Western Railway.

Francis Paynter, who had known William for 12 years and lived at the same address, described him as a 'temperate man' in his testimony.

Kate Ball noted that William had suffered from asthma and bronchitis and took medication for these conditions. He did not gamble, had no financial worries and had been a teetotaler since the previous October. She noted that he been worried when she was ill recently.

On the morning of Saturday 14 June 1941, William went through his normal morning routine and showed no signs of distress or upset. He usually travelled by trolleybus to Acton, where he worked, but often stopped at Ealing, due to his illness, which had been aggravated in the last two years of his life. However, he never turned up at work that day.

The report notes that William bought a ticket for Ealing Station late that afternoon. At 6pm, James Matthew, a railway porter, heard on man on Platform 4 shouting that a body was on the main line. Unable to stop, the express train to Paddington hit William with such force that his body was left in pieces. The train had been travelling at 60mph and the driver's view was obscured by engine steam. Although the brakes were applied, the driver was unable to stop the train in time.

The pathologist reported that death was due to multiple injuries and the coroner was unable to determine why William fell onto the tracks, so an open verdict was recorded. William's wife, it was noted, felt that it had been an accident and had to be helped away.

Had William jumped or fell onto the tracks? Given his failure to turn up at work, I am tempted to say that this was indeed a suicide, but there may have been other circumstances at play, including his health. It is such a tragic end to William's life. I also can't help but feel sad for the poor train driver who had been unable to stop in time.

Many thanks to the Ealing Library Local Studies Centre and Dr. Oates for their assistance in tracking down this information. I have ordered additional news reports of the accident and will update details upon their receipt.

Cheers, K.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Closure for my mystery man, William Henry Ball

In my previous post, I had mentioned that I had obtained a death certificate for a William Henry Ball, who had died in 1941 in Ealing in a horrific railway related incident, but could not confirm if this was my William Henry. Sadly, I can now say that it was indeed my William, who died so tragically at the Ealing Broadway train station the afternoon of 14 June 1941.

To learn more details about the event and victim, I contacted the Ealing Library Local Studies Centre about obtaining a copy of the obituary for William Henry Ball, noted in the death certificate. Dr. Jonathan Oates, Borough archivist and local studies librarian, kindly provided me with a synopsis of the coroner's report which confirmed the identity of William. The inquest, held on 18 June 1941, at Ealing Town Hall, recorded an open verdict, which means that a determination on whether it was an accident or suicide could not made, based on the evidence heard and presented.

Many thanks to go Dr. Oates and the Ealing Library for providing this information for it has solved the mystery of William's death.

I'll post more details from the inquest in the days to come. Stay tuned!

Cheers, K.