Newcastle Daily Journal 15 January 1916

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MOTOR AMBULANCE VAN FATALITY

Inquest on a Soldier at Alnwick

Mr Charles Percy held an inquiry at Alnwick yesterday, into the circumstances attending the death of Thomas Bell (32), a private on the motor transport of the Army Service Corps, though holding the local rank of sergeant while stationed at Alnwick. His death was the result of injuries received while driving a motor van in the direction of Alnwick, on Wednesday night.

Colonel P. Broome Giles, C.B., commandant of the convalescent camp at Alnwick, stated that the deceased had taken charge of the car1 entirely at his own initiative, and without orders.

Ernest Ball, a private in the motor transport of the Army Service Corps at Alnwick, stated that just before ten o’clock on Wednesday night he got an order to drive the motor ambulance car2 to Titlington with Mr G. Sordy and his wife, who had been attending the military concert in the Y.M.C.A. hut at the encampment. They got to Titlington, a distance of about ten miles, just after eleven o’clock. A gale of wind was blowing. They stayed at Titlington about half an hour, during which time he had one and a half glasses of whisky, and the deceased had two ordinary glasses of whisky. The deceased took the wheel of the car on the return to Alnwick.

He (witness) would not say that deceased was quite sober, but a little under the influence of drink. At a turn in the road Bell failed to take it, and ran into the wall of the quarry. They were both thrown out. Bell was badly injured, and witness was cut on the face and head.

The jury found that Bell had died from injuries accidentally received, and added they were of opinion Bell was driving recklessly while in an intoxicated condition.

The Coroner complimented Private Ernest Ball for the straightforward manner in which he had given his evidence.


  1. Interestingly, “car” is used here in the same way as ALL himself often used it, to mean a generic motorised transport. 

  2. Here, “car” is qualified as “motor ambulance car”. Evidently “ambulance” on its own was not yet generally understood to mean a motorised patient transport.