Wednesday 25 May 2016

Soldiers Assault a Constable

Thursday 25th May 1916: Two soldiers concluded Empire Day celebrations by assaulting a policeman in Luton last night. They were William Olney, 2nd/5th Beds and Eli Mynott of the same regiment and these two privates were this morning charged at a special Borough Police-court, Olney with drunken and disorderly conduct, assault on police and wilful damage  and Mynott, who was not drunk  with also striking the constable and tripping him up with his stick. They pleaded guilty.

PC Odell (who has only just returned to duty after a bad attack of rheumatism and who looked very sick and bruised) said he encountered the two prisoners near the Old English Gentleman in Hitchin-road, about 9.45 pm and asked them to produce their passes. Olney at once became abusive and struck him on the mouth and chest and he had the greatest difficulty in handcuffing him. Nor was this accomplished before Olney had torn his tunic and the top off his helmet. Olney was very drunk but Mynott was not drunk. The latter, however, said: “Let’s make a fight of it” and struck witness several times over the head with his stick and also tripped him up more than once by catching him round the leg with the stick. A woman named Mrs Leach blew his whistle. There was a big crowd, some hundreds, he should think.

Mrs Leach of 47 Hitchin-road said she saw the two soldiers on the top of the constable and succeeded in getting hold of the policeman’s whistle and blowing it for assistance, being kicked on the leg in the struggle.

Sergeant Janes said he was called to the spot by telephone and arrested Mynott. Olney was got to the station with assistance. He was very drunk and using obscene language all the time. It was a very large and hostile crowd.

Chief Constable Teale said whilst out driving he saw the two men in Gipsy-lane and thought they looked like mischief then. They both appeared the worst for drink, he estimated the damage to the constable’s uniform and helmet at 10 shillings. Olney had previously been before the court for fighting before joining the Army. In fact he had been charged with unlawfully wounding a man on one occasion, but the charge was afterwards reduced to one of assault. He had also been bound over to keep the peace.

The Chairman (Mr H Cumberland) said they (M A B Attwood JP was also present) were sorry to see Olney again before the Court. Drink was evidently his downfall and it was bad for him. He had much better give it up. He would never efficiently defend his country if he continued to take it. For the drunkenness he would be fined 15 shillings or ten days’ imprisonment, for the assault on the constable £2 or 21 days and for the damage 15 shillings or ten days. The two ten days would run concurrently, so that he would have to go to prison for 31 days actually, and the hoped it would be a warning to him, although the previous convictions did not appear to have been so.

The Chief Constable, I should like to publicly thank Mrs Leach for the part she took in this little drama and would respectfully ask your Worship to hand her this 5 shillings. I think her conduct was most exemplary where so many cowardly men were standing by.

The Chairman: the justices appreciate very much what you did, Mrs Leach, and hope you example will be an incentive to others in similar circumstances.

Joseph Tearle said he saw Mynott strike the constable several times with a stick and did what he could to assist the constable and Sergeant Janes deposed to seeing the man trip the constable up with it.

The Chairman said Mynott was even worse than Olney, as it appeared he was not drunk at the time he assaulted the constable. He did not known whether he recognised the seriousness of his offence, but he would be fined £2 including costs or 21 days’ imprisonment. He should like to say they also appreciated the efforts the last witness had put forth to assist the police. These two witnesses had set and excellent example and had apparently been the only two to help the assaulted policeman in the execution of his duty, which was a disgrace to the rest of the crowd.

The Chief Constable said he should like to associate himself with the remarks of the Chairman.

Source: Luton News 25th May 1916


  1. Eli MYNOTT enlisted in the 5th Btn Bedfordshire Regt at Luton on 30/03/1916 and was an 'Iron Moulder' by trade. He lived at 62 Park Corner in Luton, but he was from a large family that lived in Letchworth, Herts (his mother was deceased). His sentence was one of 'hard labour' and was served at HMP Bedford. MYNOTT then transferred to 6th Btn Leicestershire Regt and the Regimental War Diaries record an enemy attack in Chalons le Vergeur on 27/05/1916 - the date he was declared deceased by the Army. His father received his Memorial Plaque and medals - the British War Medal & the Victory Medal.
    William OLNEY's Army service cannot be positively traced, but the previous conviction for assault was reported in Luton Times and Advertiser on 17/06/1910, where a 'wounding' charge was successfully negotiated down to a common assault by his defence. OLNEY was the son of a 'well respected fish hawker, who had been in business for 21 years' and in 1911 was living at 2 Hartley Road, Luton.
    No research has been conducted on the Police characters, but it is interesting to note that the Chief Constable was 'driving around', saw the defendants and attended the Court to give evidence as to the value of the damage to the victims uniform and recommend the 5 shilling reward to the lady witness! How times have changed!
    Credits to and

    1. Thank you very much for sharing all that extra information on Eli Mynott and William Olney. Did you mean to put 27/5/1918 for Eli's date of death?