Rushden Man Crushed To Death - Once Before “Presumed Killed” - War-Time Story Recalled
One of the worst fatalities in a Rushden boot factory for a long time occurred yesterday morning in the engine-room of Mr. H. Jaques’s factory in Harborough-road. Mr. Thomas Woods (the victim), of 46, Oval-road, a brother-in-law of Mr. Jaques, who had been working for the firm since the end of the war, had gone into the engine-room about eight o’clock, as he usually did, to oil the engine, when it would seem he became entangled with the machinery and was killed. He was the engineer and the only employee entitled to be in the engine-room. It was the more shocking to the one who happened to go to the engine-room and find Mr. Woods in that it was his sister-in-law, Miss E. Jaques. The poor man had been torn open. His limbs were broken and his skull fractured.
Mr. Woods was seen to go into the engine-room, and a few minutes later a loud bump was heard. There was not an actual eye-witness of the accident. Mr. H. Jaques was travelling in Scotland at the time. One of his brothers, Mr. W. Jaques, arrived at the factory just after the accident and was met at the gates and informed. Without waiting to see his brother-in-law, Mr. Jaques hastened to the telephone and summoned Dr. Muriset. Naturally, as the doctor could do nothing death having occurred probably instantly the police were informed, and later the Coroner. Mr. Jaques also got into touch with H. M. Inspector of Factories, and the inspector arrived during the morning and made his own investigations. Mr. Jaques closed the factory for the day.
An inquest was fixed for 3 p.m. to-day at the police station, where the body was taken.
The deceased was aged about 45. He leaves a widow and four daughters. One other daughter was killed some years ago in a motor accident. Mr. Woods will be remembered as having served with the Northamptonshire Regiment at the outbreak of war. On the retreat from Mons he was captured by the Germans, but the enemy did not then publish lists of prisoners of war and Mr. Woods was reported by the British War Office as missing. After some time he was officially “presumed to have been killed” on the date from which he was missing, and Mrs. Woods was granted a “widow’s” pension. A long time later on came news of Mr. Woods being safe and sound in a German camp for prisoners of war, and the pension was cancelled.
Repatriation of prisoners of war brought release to Mr. Woods, who returned to his family. From that time he was in the employ of Mr. H. Jaques as engineer and edge-trimmer. Mr. Jaques’s firm has been fairly busy for a considerable time past.
The brothers Messrs. Harry, William, and Charles Jaques are well known as keen supporters of the Adult School movement, all being members of the Rushden Adult School Male Choir. Mr. H. Jaques is also president of the Northamptonshire Adult School Union.
The greatest sympathy is felt with the bereaved wife and children in the terrible death of Mr. Woods.
Rushden Echo, 15th June 1928.
Inquest On A Rushden Engineer - Body Dragged Through Space of Six Inches And Thrown Up To Ceiling
Verdict Of Coroner’s Jury
Receiving an urgent telegram from his works while he was on business in Glasgow, Mr. H. Jaques, a Rushden boot manufacturer, drove the distance of 400 miles in his car, passing at night through a terrific storm and arriving to find that his brother-in-law (who was his engineer) had been entangled in the gas engine and crushed to death.
Mr. J. C. Parker (Deputy Divisional Coroner) conducted an inquest at the police station, Rushden, on Friday last on the body. Other officials present were Superintendent Jones (Wellingborough), Inspector Knight (Rushden), Mr. C. W. Wing (representing the firm of Messrs. H. Jaques and the insurance company), Mr. W. Langley, J.P. (secretary of the Rushden branch of the National Union of Boot Operatives, who watched the case for the Union), and Mr. Sedgwick (H.M. Inspector of Factories). A jury of ten was empanelled, Mr. S. Saint being the foreman.
Ellen Woods, widow, 46 Oval-road, Rushden, said her husband, Thomas Woods, was 43 years of age last February. He was foreman finisher and in charge of the engine. His eyesight and hearing were both good. He had never complained about anything at his work.
Elizabeth Jaques, sister of the previous witness, of 10 grove-road, Rushden, said she was employed by her brother, Mr. H. Jaques. On Thursday, about 8.20, she said, she was going on an errand and she noticed the door of the engine-room open. They had been told to close the door if it was ever open, and she went to close it. “I saw my brother-in-law,” said witness, who broke down in tears at that moment. She continued that he was
Lying Near The Oil Tank,
at the back of the engine. She ran out and could not call anyone at the moment. She believed it was Percy Wilmott, one of the finishing-room operatives, who came out. Mr. Woods was foreman of the finishing-room and was engine driver. He also worked the edge-trimmer, which was a delicate machine. He had worked there for ten years and was a very steady, quiet sort of man.
Percy Wilmott, of 98, Park-road, Rushden, said he was a finisher and worked in the same room as the deceased, whom he knew well. On Thursday, about 8.15 or 8.20 a.m., his attention was called to the engine-room by the previous witness. He went at once and saw the deceased lying by the engine-oil tank. Witness saw blood, so he stopped the engine.
“Did you go to the deceased then?” asked the Coroner.
“No sir,” witness replied. “I came straight out. I had seen quite enough. I have seen the place since it has been cleaned up. I don’t know that anything was done in the engine-room until the doctor came. I was glad to get away.”
Dr. O.A.J.N. Muriset said he was called to Mr. Jaques’s Factory at 8.20 by telephone. He went at once and went into the engine-room. The engine had been stopped. The deceased was lying on his left side, with his back against the oil drum. His face was against the slab on which the engine stood, and his head was firmly jammed against an iron bar which projected from the floor and formed part of the engine bed. The right leg below the knee was smashed, bits of bone being quite loose. Nothing remained but the skin to hold the leg together. The leg had been twisted round, he thought, at least three times from the foot. There was a fracture of the right femur. There were several puncture wounds in the left knee, and the thigh bone and both bones below the knee were broken. There was no particular injury to the arms, chest, or shoulders, but the neck was broken. Part of the skull was fractured, and the left cheek bone was comminuted. Witness had first made a brief examination before the body was moved and found that Woods died quite recently.
George Frederick Sedgwick, H.M. Inspector of Factories, Northampton, said he was at the factory about 11 a.m. He was told that the engine-room had been locked up until he arrived. He examined the room. It was about 14 ft. 6 in. by 12 ft. wide and 8 ft. high. There was a fair-sized gas engine and an oil tank. The flywheel was 6 ft. 6in. in diameter. The space
Between Flywheel And Engine Bed
was 6½ in. The engine was fenced by a double rail the whole length on the camshaft side, and there were fittings at the end of the engine to the wall to carry a double-rail fence. The top rail of the diagonal fence was resting against the wall of the engine-house. It fitted into slots. The lower rail was lying on the floor of the engine-house at the end of the engine. The crank cover of the engine was badly dented on the side nearer the flywheel. He examined the engine and found that the side of the bed showed obvious marks of a body having been taken against it. Also, in the flywheel pit there were quite newly made marks as of mortar being turned over, and on the stone bed were other newly made marks of knocks, causing chippings of stone to lie about. It was evident from the marks that the man had been taken from the back of the engine and his body passed between the flywheel and the engine bed. There were also marks on the ceiling, one almost in a line with the front end of the flywheel and another about mid-way between those marks and the place where the man was found. At the back of the engine he found that the waste-oil drainpipe which ran from beneath the crank of the engine to a tin receptacle on the floor was removed, and it was lying on the floor.
The Coroner : Could you, from those marks, help the jury to say roughly what happened?
Mr. Sedgwick : It is entirely problematical what he was doing, but I surmise he was at the back of the engine and slipped in some way. I imagine his body went through into the armed flywheel and that his shoulder or the left side of his body caused the indentation on the cover. His whole body was then drawn through the narrow space of 6 ½ in. or less under the flywheel. When it got to the front side of the engine level with the floor again it was thrown upwards and
Hit The Ceiling
With such force that it was carried across and dropped into the position in which it was found. When I went the fence was non-existent.
The Coroner : When the fence was in position the engine was properly fenced ?
Mr. Sedgwick : It was not fenced in the best possible manner, but it was fenced so that if the fence was maintained a person could not inadvertently get into the position in which this man must have been.
The Coroner : Then, it was satisfactory from that point of view ?
Mr. Sedgwick : From that point of view, yes.
The Coroner : The diagonal fence to which you referred, and which was removed, was made so that it could be removed to enable a person to get at the engine ?
Mr. Sedgwick : That is so.
The Coroner : And you do not disapprove of that ?
Mr. Sedgwick : well, they would have to go to it when the engine was stationary.
The Coroner : That is to say, before removing the fencing the proper thing really would have been to stop the engine?
Mr. Sedgwick : Exactly.
The Coroner : In your experience you find that this is seldom done? Yes.
It ought to be done? Yes.
The other fencing was all right? Yes.
Have you examined the engine before? Yes.
Passed As Satisfactory
And you passed it as satisfactory? I do not remember passing any comments on it.
The Coroner : You did not take any action or proceedings?
Mr. Sedgwick : No proceedings in any way.
The Coroner : I can say it was passed as being in order, or up to your requirements, at any rate?
Mr. Sedwick : Yes, quite.
The Coroner : It is impossible for anybody to say what the deceased was attempting to do. We cannot tell what was at the back of his mind.
Mr. Sedgwick : No. The only thing is the drainpipe being as it was gives some suggestion, but it might have been knocked out when he was flung about.
Summing up, the Coroner said he thought the jury would have no difficulty whatever in saying that the poor unfortunate man met his death by being mixed up in some manner or another with the machinery. “The Factory Inspector has helped us very considerably by giving us very full information as to how he found the engine and the engine-room. As an expert he has also given his surmise of what was happening or what did happen to the man. He has told us, which is very helpful, that the fencing, in in order and properly fixed all round, was sufficient and did its job. This other diagonal piece of fencing is apparently fixed loose for the purpose of enabling somebody, presumably the deceased, to do certain things, and to do these things he ought properly to have waited until the engine was stationary. You have heard that that rule is very seldom kept. Instead of stopping the whole work in the factory, certain risks are taken to do things required to be done; so that I do not think you can say there is anybody to blame for this accident.
The jury deliberated in private for a few minutes, when the foreman said they were quite unanimous that the deceased met his death by pure accident and no blame was attached to any person. They also wished to extend their sympathy to the widow and family.
The Coroner promised that that message should be conveyed to the proper quarter.