Soldier Drowned Whilst Bathing

A further story involving Charles James Gatehouse, husband of my 3rd cousin 3x removed Elizabeth Mary Champion was reported in the Dover Express of 10 Sep 1915.

It must have been exciting living on Shakespeare Cliff.

An inquest was held at the Esplanade Hotel on Monday afternoon before the Borough Coroner, Mr. Sydenham Payn, into the death of James Wilson Barnet Lucas, 19, a private of the 3rd Buffs, who was apparently drowned whilst bathing on the other side of Shakespeare Cliff towards Abbotts’ Cliff on Sunday morning.

Mr. T. Harris was chosen foreman of the jury.

William Lucas, brother of the deceased, of Teynham, Faversham, Kent, gave evidence of identification. His brother, he stated was 19 years of age. He last saw his brother alive about a fortnight ago when he visited home at Teynham. His brother had never suffered from fits, and he wrote home frequently and had never complained of his health or anything. Deceased was a blacksmith in civil life. He had been bathing since he had been in Dover, but witness did not know if he could swim.

Private George Horn, 3rd Buffs, said that at 11.30 the previous morning he went down to the beach at Abbotts’ Cliff with the deceased, and had a bathe. Witness went, in first followed by the deceased. His comrade was just learning the same as witness himself. The tide was just going out but the water was calm. Witness could not swim much himself. They were both learning. Witness came out first and went up to dress, about a couple of yards up the beach. Deceased said “ Chuck another stone in,” for fun, and witness did so. He did not hit the deceased. Deceased then went on swimming about for some time until about five minutes after that he called out. Witness looked and saw him laughing, for he was always a joking fellow. He then heard him call out something, and put his hand up and sink. Witness had his clothes on but rushed into the water and tried to reach him but the water was too deep for him and he himself went under once. Deceased was about five feet four inches in height. Witness scrambled ashore and a sentry who was on the top of the cliff saw him coming out of the water and gave the alarm. Assistance came from the coal mine, and Mr. Gatehouse, a boatman, who lived that way, fetched a boat as quick as he could and dragged for the body and found it. He found the body some way further out than witness and his friend were bathing. The sea was not rough, but there appeared to be an undercurrent. Witness knew deceased during the past seven or eight weeks and he had always enjoyed good health. They attempted to restore life into the body without avail. Witness had bathed with the deceased at the same spot before, but they had never experienced any difficulty before. When deceased held up his hand he appeared further off in the water than witness himself had been.

By the foreman. He would rather have done deceased a kindness than an injury. The water appeared warmer on that occasion. He went into the water to try and rescue his friend with his trousers shirt and socks on, but it was no good.

The foreman said the deceased’s friends were no doubt most thankful to him for what he tried to do for his friend.

The Coroner. You did all you could.

Charles Gatehouse, Shakespeare Colliery, said the previous morning his attention was called to the deceased having sunk. He ran down on to the beach and inquired as to where the man had sunk. They looked to see if they could see any bubbles rising but failed to see any. Witness would have gone in but if it was out of his depth it was no use for him to do so. He then got his boat and went round the spot where they thought the body was and felt for it and eventually, after about a quarter of an hour found it in about eight feet of water, where the beach joined the rocks and sand and at which point there was a slight fall. There was no doubt that it was this fall which sucked him under. The place was safe enough for bathing, many of the collier men having gone down there for years. Witness then conveyed the body to the Shakespeare Bay beach where it was received by the R.A.M.C.

Lieutenant Juland Rawlinson, R.A.M.C., stated that from a telephone message received about noon the previous day he took & detachment of men with a stretcher down to the beach at Shakespeare Bay. Shortly after Mr. Gatehouse rowed ashore with the body, which was naked. He examined the deceased and found life was extinct, death having taken place quite recently. There was a slight abrasion on the upper lip probably due to scraping on a rock, but this in no way affected deceased’s death. Having made no post-mortem examination witness could form no opinion as to the cause of death. Deceased might have had heart failure or anything.

The Coroner: Have not you any probability?

Witness: I can only put it that the appearance of the body was consistent with drowning.

The Coroner: There is nothing to lead you to form any other opinion?

Witness: Oh. no.

The jury returned a verdict of “accidental death.” and commended Private Horn for his efforts in endeavouring to save his comrade.

Here is a little more on Charles and Elizabeth from the Dover Express 02 May 1947

64th Wedding Anniversay

Mr. and Mrs. Charles Gatehouse, who have lived in a bungalow beside Sheakespeare Halt for forty years, celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary on Wednesday. Mr. Gatehouse is 85 and his wie, Elizabeth, formerly a Miss Champion, is 84, and both were born in East Kent. They were married at Buckland Church on April 30th, 1883, and eight of their ten children are living. Mr. Gatehouse claims to have turned the first spadeful of soil for the original Channel tunnel scheme in 1880. Later he worked at Shakespeare Colliery and since its closure in 1916, he has been caretaker of the disused buildings. Both he and his wife are in good health and Mrs. Gatehouse makes frequent visits to Dover by train, to collect their pensions and do the shopping. Mr. Gatehosue spends much of his timein his garden. 

Dover Express 02 May 1947.png

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