Sheffield Evening Telegraph – Saturday 24 August 1918
Mine Manager Summoned.
Collier and Absentee Board Incident.
The Doncaster West Riding Court today, Harry Smith, manager of the Denaby Main Colliery, was charged with assaulting James Wood, a collier, who is a discharged soldier, on August 12th.
Mr. S. Baker appeared for the complainant, and said the case was brought on principle to show that even a miner had a right to speak freely on a matter which concerned himself.
Mr. F. Allen defended.
The case arose out of proceedings that took place before the Colliery Absentee Board, of which the defendant is the chairman. Complainant, who is employed a dataller at the Denaby Main Colliery, said he had served 152 days in the Army, and was discharged owing to varicose veins and ulcerated legs. He was absent from work on Bank Holiday, and on August 12th had to appear before the Absentee Board, of which defendant was chairman. Asked why he was absent from work, said that, being Bank Holiday, and seeing no one going to work, he stayed at home.
He was fined half-a-crown, and when leaving the room he muttered something which no one else could hear, and the defendant called him back and said, “If I had anything to say I was to say it and not out of the room muttering.”
In reply to that witness said, “A week to-morrow I have finished, and this is the thanks I get for fighting for King and country and such like men as you.” The defendant said. “Get out of the room or downstairs or I’ll help you down,” or words that, effect. He went out of the room, and defendant followed him and caught hold of his sleeve just as was going downstairs, and hit him on the side of the head. He reeled against the bannister, or there was a danger of him falling downstairs. He did not hit defendant or provoke him in any way.
Was he a good temper?—He didn’t seem in good mood.
Replying to Mr. Allen he said he was discharged from the Army and joined again. He knew- that every discharged man put on at the colliery had to get a doctor’s certificate and could then go to work as he liked. He admitted that absenteeism practically started at Denaby colliery. The minimum fine for absenteeism was half-a-crown.
Did you ever put in certificate that you were unfit for regular work —No.
Did you neglect to work Bank Holiday because you were ill or was holiday?—lt was a holiday.
Being a discharged soldier you think a man has a. right to as he likes? —We think we should have consideration.
You went out muttering—do you think it was a right thing to do when they bad treated you with the utmost courtesy?—l was muttering to myself simply that a week to-morrow I have finished.
You think because you have done 152 days in the Army you are entitled to insult anybody?—I don’t think it was an insult to him.
Didn’t you mean he a shirker?—lt was to that effect.
You meant he was a shirker and every member of the Board shirkers? —Yes.
You think you have a right to do that? — Well, it is a free country.
He added that, he wanted to establish the principle that discharged men should not go to the Board.
Several witnesses were called in corroboration.
In defence Mr. Allen admitted technical assault and alleged great provocation, and said complainants remarks were grossly insulting, not only defendant but to every member of the Absentee Board, they were exempted from service in the Army owing to the nature of their work. Such provocation complainant gave was more than human being could be expected to stand.
The prosecution agreed to withdraw the summons on payment, of costs.