Thursday, May 13, 2010

When chancellors and fishmongers collide

Something encountered whilst looking for something else:

Mr. Churchill Sued

Reading Official Papers When Car Collided.

Having given evidence in the King’s Bench Division in defence of an action arising out of a motor-car accident, Mr. Winston Churchill, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had the satisfaction of hearing the jury return a verdict in his favour. The case, it transpired, was defended by an insurance company, and later in the day Mr. Churchill intimated to their solicitor that he was unwilling that plaintiff should suffer out-of-pocket loss for an accident in which he was concerned, and he was ready to make an ex-gratia payment to him of £25, provided it could be arranged that he received the money himself.

The action was brought by Mr. Arthur B. Crew, fishmonger, of Biggin Hill, who alleged that there was negligence on the part of Mr. Churchill’s chauffeur, which resulted in a collision between his car and plaintiff’s van. The accident occurred on the Chancellor’s journey to London from his house near Westerham, and it was contended on behalf of Mr. Crew that Mr. Churchill’s car was travelling at a great speed. Mr. Crew had two ribs broken, an ear split, and an arm badly bruised.

Mr. Churchill, in the witness-box, observed that just before the accident he was reading official papers from his document box, which was open beside him. Two maidservants sat in the front by the side of the chauffeur, and a plainclothes officer was in the closed part with him. He noticed nothing unusual about the pace of the car, and certainly would have noticed if the car was going at a tremendous speed, as suggested. He did notice that the brakes were violently applied, but when the cars collided there was no violent impact. He was not thrown out of his seat or propelled forward in any way.

Mr. Roland Oliver, K.C., cross-examining:

Do you make a habit of allowing yourself a certain time to get from your home to Downing-street?— Yes.

How much do you allow?—About one hour and 10 minutes.

Do you sometimes do it in less?—Yes. It depends on the state of the traffic.

Sir Patrick Hastings, K.C., the defence, pointed out that the distance of the run was 23 miles. The jury returned a verdict for Mr. Churchill, and Mr. Justice Horridge directed that a sum of money paid into court should be handed Mr. Crew.

News of the World, 27 March 1927, p. 5

One wonders whether more attention should perhaps have been given to any possible role in the accident played by the 'two maidservants' sitting next to the chauffeur.

But if nothing else, I've been pleased to have another opportunity to use the word 'fishmonger'.

(The historical bycatch series.)


mikeovswinton, village of the damned said...

Maidservants. Chauffeurs. Fishmongers. If there was a Bootblack and some spooky children we'd be watching "The Bloodening".

Geoff Coupe said...

Travelling at great speed is never a problem. It's the sudden stop that is the issue...