I have a very tatty photograph of a gun carriage sitting in a garden. My mother always told me that it was my father’s fault that it ended up there, although she never told me exactly what happened. I knew my father, Benjamin Thomas, was in the Royal Horse Artillery as I also have a photograph of him with his troop. He died when I was 11 years old and as I didn’t have any interest in family history at that time, I never asked him what happened.
I did often wonder what exactly happened, but it wasn’t until I began my family history research that I started to think about how I could find out. One Friday evening, my husband was reading our local newspaper when he suddenly said, “Did you say your dad’s gun carriage fell into a garden?
Well there’s a bit about it in here, in the 75 years ago column”. Having read the article, which did not give any names, I knew I had to go to the County Press office and get a copy.
All I knew was that the year would have been 1928 and that my dad would have been 20 years old. However, a very kind lady helped me to look for the article and when she found it, there was my dad’s name. So it was true, but was it Dad’s fault?
ALARMING ACCIDENT AT VENTNOR
MILITARY WAGON AND HORSES FALL INTO GARDEN
YOUNG DRIVER’S PROVIDENTIAL ESCAPE
An alarming accident occurred in Lower Gill’s Cliff Road, Ventnor, on Wednesday evening, but happily, was unaccompanied by any personal injury. The Ventnor section of the 219th Howitzer Battery of Territorials were proceeding with their gun equipment to a field at Weeks farm for a drill, when two horses attached to an ammunition wagon bolted near St. Alban’s Steps. Careering wildly along, they carried the vehicle so near the edge of the road that the wagon toppled over, dragging the horses with it, and rolled down the garden bank at the rear of Lyncombe, Castle Road, a distance of about 25ft. At the time of the accident the near horse was being ridden by driver Benjamin Thomas, who realising his danger as the vehicle struck the fence at the top of the bank, had the presence of mind to vault across the offside horse and jump into safety. Previously the wagon was being drawn by six horses, and the journey from the Drill Hall in Bellevue Road had proceeded satisfactorily until the party reached ‘Woodlands’.Here the leaders and centre pair caused trouble, and it was decided to take them out of the team. The wheelers then got out of hand, with the result described. The wagon and horses came to a ‘halt’ on the level portion of the garden, a few yards from the back of the house. Eventually the frightened animals were freed and taken through the front entrance into Castle Road. With the exception of a few cuts and bruises, the horses were unhurt. No doubt the fruit trees and bushes broke the force of their fall, but the results to the trim little terraced garden were disastrous. Beautiful fruit trees were broken off and the garden presented a sorry spectacle. The removal of the wagon without greatly adding to the damage already done presents difficulty, and yesterday (Friday) morning was still in the garden.
I have since been back to the spot where the accident happened and it is a very steep drop into that garden! I am so glad that my dad managed to get off that horse, otherwise I might not be here now to tell the tale. Had he been a larger man (he was only 5’2”), he probably would have had trouble getting off safely.
© Wendy Pusey 2007