“Such a Poor Finish”

Illegitimacy, Murder, and War Veterans in England, 1918-1923

in Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques


Historians usually analyze changing gender constructions in the criminal courts after World War I through cases involving men and women. Using a different analytical lens, this article explores two well-publicized murder trials involving war veterans and illegitimate children, one of a soldier who murdered his wife’s daughter from an adulterous affair and one who killed his own son. Although notions of masculinity had changed, the police, courts, and Home Office used traditional factors to assess punishments, including the degree of provocation, the behavior of the women involved, and the issue of deterrence. The press, however, was more sympathetic to the veterans, regarding them as victims of circumstances, much like women who committed infanticide. This new presentation did not succeed with the Home Office, especially as the war moved further into the past. By 1925, men’s war service had less influence on punishment than Victorian ideas of gender and criminal responsibility.

Many historians have explored the changing gender expectations in Britain that followed World War I. Women had experienced higher wages and greater public roles during the conflict, as well as receiving the vote in 1918 (if over thirty). They earned the right to full citizenship by being mothers and wives of soldiers but also by war work.1 Men returning from war, however, took many of the jobs from women and the nineteenth- century ideal of femininity did not transform radically, so one could argue that the war was only a temporary aberration. Nevertheless, legal reforms in the 1920s, including equalized divorce grounds in 1923, show that some things had indeed changed, though the progress was not linear.2 Moreover, the postwar status of masculinity was as fraught as that of femininity. Men who returned from war could be either brutalized or traumatized with shell shock or physical disabilities. Those too young to enlist came to manhood in the 1920s burdened with the knowledge that they had missed the “great test” of their time.3 In addition, the economic depression in the early 1920s left many men, including ex-soldiers, unable to fulfill their roles as providers. In short, the gender landscape was both confused and confusing.4

Given the level of social upheaval, the press predicted a “crime wave” at the end of the war. A large percentage of young men saw active service, so potentially greater numbers faced difficult adjustments, and at the age when most men committed crimes (eighteen to twenty-five). Commentators assumed men hardened to violence had developed an indifference to human life. Additionally, the economic collapse early in the 1920s left many without jobs. Some historians have repeated the assumption, made in a few women’s memoirs, that the number of rapes and sexual assaults increased, but the evidence does not support this assertion. In fact, most criminal statistics showed a steady downturn. Common assaults halved between 1925 and 1939; a similar decline happened in aggravated assaults. Clive Emsley has shown that violent crime in general between 1914 and 1924 reached prewar levels only in 1920, then declined to below that mark until the mid-1920s.5 Crime statistics are unreliable, but one at least can conclude that no surge of violence followed demobilization.

All the same, British courts did have to adjudicate domestic upheavals after the war because of long separations and overhasty marriages. When these incidents turned violent, the gender assumptions of the Victorian age influenced the treatment of men and women. In the nineteenth century, judges and jurors sometimes excused male violence as “provoked” by disobedient, drunken, or adulterous wives, but toward the end of the century, judges especially demanded self-control and respectability from men. In addition, disorderly women could expect negative reactions, but women who presented themselves as brutalized or seduced victims might excuse any violence against men and children. Killers of either gender usually still got convicted of some crime, but the charge might be manslaughter rather than murder; alternatively, the Home Office (HO) could reprieve them from the capital sentence, an act that was extremely common with women killers after 1850.6 Though these patterns remained, they came under pressure during the 1920s.

Historians have devoted much study to women’s place in the courtroom in the early twentieth century. Women predominately killed children, almost always their own. As the twentieth century progressed, sympathy for these women increased because of a more nuanced understanding of their psychological traumas and difficult economic situations. Most pointedly, women’s seemingly greater independence during the war did not diminish the criminal courts’ assumptions that women who gave birth to illegitimate children were more victims than perpetrators. Thus, the average time women spent in prison for the deaths of illegitimate newborns diminished considerably, as Daniel Grey’s work has shown. The Infanticide Act of 1922, in fact, changed the crime of maternal killing of a newborn child from a charge of murder, which carried an automatic death sentence, to that of “infanticide,” with punishments equivalent to manslaughter. The maximum time served by unwed mothers convicted of murdering their infants, and then respited to life in prison, declined from seven years to three, and such women rarely served more than a few months.7

Few historians have studied men’s violence against illegitimate children in the twentieth century, but Victorian men who killed these children got much less sympathy than mothers did. In particular, a man who murdered his own child, if found guilty of murder, was far more likely to hang than a woman.8 Male child killers after World War I have received even less attention, but their crimes were violations of many important aspects of manliness—protecting, providing, and notions of honor. One lens with which to analyze the way courts reacted to wartime redefinitions of masculinity, then, is to study how the criminal justice system regarded ex-soldiers who murdered illegitimate children, especially as the treatment of women offers a telling contrast. Did the courts’ decisions reflect the challenges to masculinity of war trauma or unemployment? Did the new acceptance of shell shock as a diagnosis make for more consideration of psychological causes of violence? How sympathetic were courts when families faced divorce or illegitimacy in the wake of the conflict? In other words, was continuity or change more prevalent in gender expectations in criminal cases after 1918–1919?

This article concentrates on two murder cases that occurred within five years of the end of the war (1918–1923), both of which featured former soldiers. One killed his own child and claimed economic problems as his motive, while the other killed an illegitimate child of his unfaithful wife. The victims in these cases were not newborns but were under a year old, one girl and one boy. Both cases demonstrate the difficulties of marriage in the 1920s, exacerbated by adultery or postponed weddings and estrangements. Although my database has eight cases of soldiers killing illegitimate children, these are the only two veterans of World War I charged specifically with child murder. These were, then, atypical crimes set against other crimes by soldiers, of which theft and domestic violence against women were the most common.9 Infanticide cannot, then, be representative of soldier crime overall.

By focusing on child murder, though, these trials give a different perspective than most studies of domestic violence and war. The few studies that exist center on men as husbands/partners, with much less attention to men as fathers (or stepfathers), despite the fact that recent works on masculinity have made clear how central fatherhood was to masculinity. Adding illegitimacy as a complicating factor highlights men’s views of their own domestic responsibilities.10 In addition, the women in these two cases illuminate issues of female independence in unusual ways because of their position as working mothers. Precisely because they were not typical, and thus provoked more press coverage, these two cases offer insights into four major areas: violence against illegitimate children; postwar gender roles; differing perspectives of violent veterans in the press, judiciary, and the police; and continuity and change in the criminal justice system.

The War Hero

Thomas Pole was a miner in Nottinghamshire when World War I began. He had married his wife, Frances, in 1910 and fathered two daughters, born in 1912 and 1915. Since Britain did not introduce conscription until 1916, and since Pole also worked in a protected industry, he need not have joined the military at all. Nevertheless, he volunteered for service in 1915 at the age of twenty-five. During the war, he did not advance beyond the rank of private, serving in both Gallipoli and France. In August 1916, he suffered a severe injury to his jaw and gums, and he got shrapnel in his left knee in June 1917. He spent time in hospital in Britain in 1916 but went back to France in March 1917. That year, Pole saved the lives of some of his fellow soldiers, and his commanding officer recommended him for the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM), which he received in 1918. His citation explained: “He rushed forward with his officer against a machine gun, put the team to flight and captured the gun. His courageous action undoubtedly saved the lives of many of his comrades.”11

Before this act of courage, though, Pole’s personal life had fallen apart. In 1916, he received letters from neighbors, warning him that his wife was pregnant; Frances herself confirmed this in a letter to him shortly afterward. At first, she claimed to have been attacked, but she eventually admitted to a romance with Harry Mitchell, a private in the Royal Field Artillery. Thomas determined to end the marriage, writing on 12 November, “it is no use us pretending any longer. … I am sorry our married life has come to such a poor finish.”12 Pole was not abusive, insisting in the letter that he did not “bear any malice.” His lack of fury was perhaps related to his own failings; he appears to have strayed in the marriage while overseas. He wrote, in a second, undated letter, that “I admit it was not right what I done in Egypt but I wrote at once and explained everything to you.” Despite his own failings, Pole could not forgive the adultery, partly because of previous conflicts in their marriage: “I shall never forgive you for that letter you wrote to me while I was in Egypt. … Your duty was to stick up for me. … I am afraid it will be impossible for us to live together after the war. … So if you meet a good chap what will take to you and look after you I will give you my word I won’t raise any objection.”13

Oddly, when Pole was released from the hospital in England in September 1916, he stayed with his wife and girls, though Frances was pregnant with Mitchell’s daughter, to whom she gave birth in February 1917. In fact, Thomas again cohabited with Frances in January 1918 when he got his second leave, despite his parents’ presence in the same neighborhood. During that visit, Frances insisted to the police that Thomas lived with her without “any threats” toward the baby, Evelyn, who was eleven months old. At the inquest, Frances claimed that “he petted the child and said it was ‘a nice little baby.’”14 Neither had they had words on the morning of 12 February. Yet on that day, Thomas requested that his wife go buy him cigarettes. After she left, he put Evelyn in a tub of water and then put a chair over it so she could not escape. By the time the rest of the family found her, she had drowned. Pole went to his mother’s house after he murdered the baby, where the police found him. He admitted the crime: “Well I’ve done it, if I done what was right I should have drowned my wife as well I could easy have done her but I wouldn’t because of her poor father and mother—I was sorry for them.” These were the only words Pole uttered to explain why he attacked an innocent baby.15

Pole’s trial for murder was in June 1918 at the Nottinghamshire Assizes. His defense barrister tried to make his war hero status an asset; Pole dressed in khaki and wore his DCM ribbons (the medal had not arrived). The defense speech also noted that “a soldier’s constant association with death must somewhat change his nature,” one of the defenses that the authorities worried would excuse violent soldiers after the war. Emsley’s larger study revealed that references to “shell shock” were common between 1917 and the mid-1920s, including in cases of “assault, bigamy, burglary, fraud, loitering with intent, theft, and obtaining money by false pretenses.”16 Defense barristers used these excuses when no other defense was possible, but judges were often skeptical, especially in crimes against children. Perhaps because of that, Pole’s barrister stressed instead his lack of premeditation and the provocation that his wife had given him. If successful, this defense could persuade the jury to lessen the conviction to manslaughter or to recommend mercy to the HO. The defense barrister also blamed “a more sinister figure” who should be “side by side with [Pole] in the dock—the man through whose shameful act this case has arisen.” Since judges were strict in their instructions to juries about the necessity of immediate provocation to reduce the charge, the conviction for manslaughter was unlikely. In addition, the fact that Pole had attacked an infant, rather than his wife, made this defense unworkable. An eleven-month-old baby could hardly have provoked the attack. Despite their sympathy, then, the jurors found him guilty of murder, though with their strongest recommendation for mercy. The judge gave Pole the death sentence, but assured him that he “would receive every possible consideration” for reprieve.17

As with all murder convictions, the HO officials reviewed Pole’s file to determine if this was an appropriate case to reduce the capital sentence to life in prison. Pole made a strong appeal for mercy. Few stories excited public sentiment more than a man faced with the betrayal of his wife while he was shedding blood for his country. Moreover, several factors made commuting Pole’s sentence attractive. For one thing, Britain was still at war during the trial. For another, Pole had joined in the first fifteen months of the war as a volunteer. He fit in with the myth of the man who fought for his country in a blaze of patriotism: “a brave knight who took himself off on a crusade of chivalry and sacrifice.” This view of the British soldier as a patriotic volunteer was a powerful and long-lived trope, and Pole’s injuries in battle and his DCM reinforced his narrative of courage and sacrifice.18

Crucially, Pole’s behavior was also a stark contrast to the negative assessment of femininity. Gender constructions interacted throughout the period, and this case shows how important a wife’s conduct was when a husband became violent. Although women’s work at the front and at home helped win the war, women’s power and sexuality excited anxieties. Frances Pole was an example of this dichotomy. She worked in a munitions factory while her mother watched the children, so she was part of the war machine herself. Indeed, she claimed she had to work, as her husband’s war pay (twelve shillings a week) was insufficient. Yet her adultery while her husband was at the front was the opposite of the ideal British soldier’s wife and reinforced concerns that women’s economic emancipation led to too much sexual freedom. The local press did give her some sympathy when she adamantly refused to testify against her husband in the assize trial, and she was clearly distressed at the death of her child. Nevertheless, she still took most of the blame for the “pathetic tragedy.”19

The larger public certainly sympathized with Thomas. Although none of the petitions for reprieve survive in the records, local newspaper coverage emphasized several mitigating factors. The Nottingham Evening Post stressed that the crime happened after a “farewell gathering” the night before, since Pole had been “summoned to rejoin his regiment … with whom he had served in Gallipoli, Egypt, Salonika, and France.” They also described him as a “well-built, alert, and determined looking fellow” who was unmoved by the jury’s decision to convict. The petition for his reprieve collected fifteen thousand signatures in a few days, and isolated incidents also indicated support. For instance, after the inquest, soldier friends gave him cigarettes, and the Illustrated Police News reported that a “large crowd of tearful women shouted sympathetic messages” after his arraignment. War news crowded out longer commentary on the crime, but Pole’s war service was obviously a factor in his favor.20

Interestingly, however, when coming to a decision about reprieve, HO officials did not argue long about his war service, nor did they consider other factors important to commentators on the postwar readjustment. Despite his barrister’s argument, they did not worry that Pole was a brutalized killer, or alternatively, that he had suffered mental problems from his war experiences. Nor indeed did Pole try to present himself as traumatized. Instead, the report of the chief constable of the county was the most important item, seen by the HO as an “objective” assessment. Notably, its contents related to standard arguments about criminal responsibility. The crucial question for the police was why Pole had suddenly murdered the baby after tolerating his wife’s adultery for over a year. The chief constable explained that Frances Pole had given birth to a second illegitimate child on 22 July 1918. The father of this child was a fitter from Derbyshire named Frank Watson. The chief constable explained that “Mrs POLE further states that she has not seen Watson since the 2nd February, 1918 when accompanied by her husband, she met WATSON by appointment … Private POLE, the prisoner, could not possibly be the father of this male child born on 22nd July last, and … he may have discovered her condition on or about the date when he committed the murder for which he was convicted.”21

In other words, Pole actually could have argued provocation as a motive, given the fact that he had found out ten days before the murder that his wife had taken a second lover. He could plausibly claim that he was overwrought by this news. Why he did not do so at the trial was a mystery, but he may still have been protecting his wife, or may have preferred not to be publically humiliated as a cuckold twice over. Since Frances did not testify at the trial, her condition (over eight months pregnant) stayed in the background until this report pulled it forward. For the HO, this gave another reason to reprieve Pole, since his violence could have been the result of snapping at this unwelcome news. All the same, the provocation was not enough for a full pardon; after all, Pole had other options. In fact, his mother-in-law had advised him to leave Frances when the war was over. He would, then, have been among the many servicemen whose postwar divorces swelled the statistics, but would not have ended up in the dock. Pole may not have thought divorce was an option, as he could not have foreseen the expansion of legal aid after the war. In addition, having lived with Frances after her adultery, he had, in the words of the coroner, “to some extent condoned his wife’s misconduct.”22 Still, he could at least have waited until the end of the war to assess his legal position. Most crucial, though, was his choice of victim. He had murdered a baby girl in a way that must have caused her great suffering. Given these circumstances, the HO commuted the sentence to life in prison, meaning that Pole would serve between seven and fifteen years. They insisted that he serve time, if only as an example to others. As one official wrote, “We are likely to have many such cases & it will not do to treat them too leniently.”23

The public was in favor of a short prison stay for Pole. As with many crimes against children, the victim in the crime disappeared (almost invariably called “it” in the press), while the trial centered on the defendant and his wife. By ignoring the actual victim, the public could instead see Pole as a wronged man. Not surprisingly, in the years following his conviction, Pole’s supporters urged his early release. Unlike these actors, the HO did not so readily ignore the true victim of the crime. Pole petitioned to get out in September 1921. He said he was contrite for the crime, but had been upset at his wife’s behavior; he also cited his war record. The HO almost always refused the first attempt at early release, and in this instance, the civil servants insisted that any man who murdered a baby needed to serve a minimum of seven years. Thus, in the next three years, letters from H. B. Betterton and E. G. B. Kirk pleading for a free pardon received the same response. Pole again petitioned in December 1924, and the officials explained the seven- year rule to him as well. Given the timing, this communication indicated that as long as Pole did not misbehave in prison, he might be able to go home in six months. And, in fact, the HO’s first official review of his file in June 1925 resulted in his unconditional release. According to the News of the World and the local press, he returned to a hero’s welcome in Nottinghamshire, settling for the time being with his brother and getting back his old job at the colliery.24

The review process highlighted the different readings of the case by three main constituencies. Reporters sensationalized or sentimentalized many defendants to sell newspapers. They wanted clear-cut, relatable villains and victims, which was one reason why infant victims largely disappeared; they had not developed enough personality to be interesting. Thus, Thomas and Frances became the focus. In contrast, the police were leery about sentimentalizing offenders, in part because they had more complete information. They knew, as the reporters did not, that Pole had snapped because of another adulterous pregnancy, as well as the details on how Evelyn had drowned. Similarly, the HO officials were veterans of appeals for reprieve and shortened sentences and had a much longer and broader view than either the press or individual police departments. They were more worried about deterring crime in the long run and being consistent. Somewhat like judges, they relied on precedent to determine minimum and maximum punishments. These three different viewpoints led to a clash of opinions as to what was “fair” to both perpetrator and victim; commonly, the result was that public opinion wanted less punishment than the professionals deemed necessary.

Despite their firmness about keeping to the seven-year rule, the HO sympathized with Pole. When the army proposed to recall his DCM in 1921, the officials protested, and the army relented.25 In addition, the officials helped Pole resolve his relationship with his estranged wife. In May 1921, Frances Pole wrote a letter to the prison, asking for help: “I have been left at the mercy of the world to work for three children for three years without a bit of help. … [I]n the meantime I have got with another young man who is willing to Marry me. … No doubt you will look on me the same as the world does but I do not want to live in sin all my life. … I am Married and not Married but they will not give me my Husband’s Address at his Relations. … [W]hat a hard struggle I have had without a Man’s help all this time So that when I got a chance I took it.”26

Frances had, then, begun a third extramarital relationship, this time with a man named James Thoms, with whom she began living in 1920. They already had a child together by the time she wrote the prison. She had given birth to five children with four different men by the age of thirty, but she still craved the respectability of marriage. More practically, with so many dependents, she needed a breadwinner. Without help from Pole’s family or her community, she turned to the HO.27

The civil servants debated what to do about this letter. They were un-enthusiastic about Frances, for whom they felt contempt; as one put it, “now she wants to tell him She is living in adultery again, so that he will free her to do as she pleases. I do not think we should assist her in any way.” On the other hand, Thomas would also be free. Thus, the HO ultimately decided that “if he is ready to divorce her I think he might be allowed all facilities possible—if he wishes to apply for legal assistance as a ‘poor person’ I think he shld [sic] be allowed to do so.” Thomas refused to look at the letter, but he did want a divorce. Thus, in May 1921, the HO helped him request legal aid as a pauper. This facility had broadened to include more people in 1914, though the recipients were still a minority of petitioners. Thus, Pole’s support from the government was crucial in helping him sue for divorce.28

Pole’s petition was uncontested. He relied on testimony from Frances’s married sister, who told Justice Horridge that Frances had lived with Thoms for two years. This information was enough to secure a decree, but the issue of the two girls from the marriage remained. Normally, custody went to the innocent parent, but Horridge wanted to know the reason for Pole’s incarceration before considering the future of Mabel, now eleven, and Frances, eight. Since Pole had murdered a child, his barrister did not ask for custody or even visitation rights. Horridge granted the decree nisi in November 1922, and the divorce was final on 11 June 1923. Pole’s two daughters presumably stayed with their mother and stepfather, as the divorce file shows no attempt by Pole to reclaim them. After all, he barely knew them; he had been in the army or prison for most of their lives. In addition, he had told Frances in 1917 that if she found a “good chap” he would step aside, and he kept his word. His decision to kill Evelyn, however, meant that he probably never saw his daughters again.29

The handling of the divorce was a strong indication of the sympathies of the HO as well as the changing societal norms about marriage, adultery, and illegitimacy in the 1920s. Rather than trying to discourage a divorce, the officials instead promoted it. Certainly part of the reason was the civil servants’ belief that Thomas was much less likely to reoffend if he got away from his wife. Though divorce remained limited after World War I, more and more governing officials saw the need to end certain marriages, especially after the stresses of the war. Moreover, this case indicates that gender expectations were in flux in this period. Few people could see Frances’s side of things; the HO’s contempt for her was apparently a general one, given Frances’s reference that its officials would “no doubt look at me the way the world does.” Frances herself had admitted she was in the wrong and regretted hurting Pole, who was “a good husband to me.” In 1918, she was the only one who insisted that “he must have done what he did in a fit of insanity.” But her kind words for him were not enough to regain public sympathy. Only once did she offer an alternate explanation of the downfall of her marriage. She told the chief constable that “she has not lived happily with her husband who was of a nasty tempered jealous disposition,” but he added the obvious response: “having regard to the moral conduct of Mrs. POLE while he was serving his country abroad, it might be said that he had cause for jealousy.”30 Still, Frances, a woman with three children and a checkered marital career, had no difficulty attracting a second husband. Proper femininity in the Victorian period meant chastity, but this was not always possible in the working classes, and the war disrupted these expectations even more.

The HO’s attitude toward Pole was also instructive. Pole’s exemplary war record and strong motive for the crime helped him secure release in the minimum time set by the officials for murder. In addition, the sympathy he engendered helped him keep his DCM. In that way, World War I influenced the case. Though my sample of cases is too small for many comparisons, the outcome of his trial contrasts with that of a Boer War veteran charged with murder, Henry Williams. Williams hanged in 1902 despite his service, and his crime was similar: revenge against a wife he thought (incorrectly) was unfaithful. The much greater sacrifices required during World War I perhaps allowed for more leniency, as well as the fact that Pole’s wife had definitely and repeatedly been unfaithful, while Williams’s suspicions were unfounded—and Williams killed his own daughter. Yet the civil servants did not entirely excuse Pole’s actions or blame them on war trauma. This reluctance was perhaps related to his class, since officials were more likely to believe shell shock affected officers. At any rate, the HO rejected all attempts to pardon Pole outright.31 This outcome also differed from women who killed their illegitimate children; the average time women served was half of Pole’s term. A man killing an infant was still a severe infraction on masculine norms. Such an act also violated femininity, but women could plead postpartum insanity, shame, and poverty more convincingly. The HO insisted that seven years in prison was the absolute least a man should serve for such a crime, if only to act as a deterrent.

Pole’s case was an extreme example of violence from ex-soldiers. Clive Emsley has surveyed 127 cases of actual or attempted violence in 1919 reported in the Times and the News of the World, of which soldiers or ex-soldiers were the suspects in 42 (a third). This is a high number, but one that partly reflects the fact that most crimes were committed by males between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five, and these cases followed prewar patterns of violence and did not differ substantially from those involving nonsoldiers. Notably, a few involved the “unwritten law” that a man could attack an unfaithful wife or her lover and expect leniency, though this worked best in cases in which the violence was not fatal. Juries and judges let men off with fines or being bound over to keep the peace if they had simply “thrashed” their wives or their wives’ lovers. The main reason was that adultery offered strong provocation. As Emsley put it, the violent acts of most ex-soldiers were not caused by the war, “but [by the] domestic upheaval created by it.”32

Occasionally, ex-soldiers also “got away” with premeditated murder, but this was not the norm. Gail Savage has written about the case involving Colonel Cecil Rutherford, another war hero. Rutherford, a doctor, volunteered for a second stint in France, and won a Distinguished Service Order (DSO). Much like Pole, he returned from the front in 1918 to confront his wife, who had informed him of her desire for a divorce. He murdered Major Seton, the man he believed was her lover, and then successfully pled insanity at his murder trial, though not without controversy. Rutherford was helped by his upper-middle-class status and a history of violent, irrational behavior, both of which made him a better candidate for an insanity plea. Still, the main difference between him and Pole was that Rutherford killed the man he believed had cuckolded him. Pole’s choice of victim made him less sympathetic, especially to officials. One thing both cases had in common was that the HO was more skeptical than the press or juries. Rutherford remained in Broadmoor for ten years, because of civil servants’ resistance to his claims to have been “cured” of mental illness. In a way, he served a longer term than Pole.33

Pole’s reason for killing Evelyn was sexual jealousy, one of the most common motives for domestic murder and certainly explicable to most jurors. Thus, the defense of insanity was not easy to make, and Pole did not even try. In contrast, an ex-soldier who killed his legitimate children might well seem mentally disturbed. For instance, George Reed, a widower, successfully pled insanity when he murdered three of his four children in 1920, despite the fact that he did so after his aunt told him she could no longer keep them, and he thus had an economic motive. Reed had fought during all of World War I, losing an eye at the Somme. He claimed not to remember his crime, and the jury found him guilty but insane. A long service record and a history of being a respectable, loving husband and father made the difference.34 Pole’s war wounds and exposure to gas might have been enough to get some mitigation, but his was not a crime of desperation as much as revenge, and revenge murders of children traditionally carried heavy penalties.35

The Unemployed Veteran

Archibald Crockford’s case offers an interesting contrast to Pole’s. Crockford was born in 1902, but his father deserted the family when he was eighteen months old, so he grew up with his grandmother to the age of seven. At that point, his mother began cohabiting with another man, and Archibald lived with them, leaving school when he was fourteen. He was not yet sixteen when he joined the army in 1918, and he served for over a year, being discharged in 1919. Before he left the army, he met Annie Adams, and the two “kept company” for two years. Annie lived with her mother while working as a machinist. Crockford did not have a distinguished war record, probably because he had joined the army too late to see much action. To compound his difficulties, he could not find a job after his discharge. Except for a brief period working in a coffee shop, he had no regular paycheck between 1919 and 1922. For a year, he was on the dole, but it ran out in July 1921. Thus, when Adams became pregnant, the couple did not marry. Annie hoped they would eventually do so and continued to see Crockford after she gave birth to their son in November 1921. Archibald, though, despaired at ever being able to support the family, and Annie’s mother became increasingly dissatisfied with him. On 28 April 1922, Annie went to visit Archibald’s sister, Rose, and met him there. He asked to hold the baby, and she left them together to walk out with Rose. When she returned, Crockford was gone but her son was lying on the bed, foaming at the mouth and with a velvet band around his throat. The baby died a half hour later.36

As with Pole’s case, the identity of the murderer was never in doubt. Crockford did not deny his guilt, was arrested immediately, and went on trial in June 1922 at the Central Criminal Court. The facts of the case were so indisputable that the defense barrister tried a plea of temporary insanity. Crockford testified that he was “down and out and half starved” and did not remember killing his son. This was not an unreasonable defense, but it was unsuccessful. First, the doctor sent to evaluate Archibald’s mental condition saw no sign of insanity: “He agreed that hardships and semi- starvation might affect the mind, but he could not find that accused had been so affected.” Second, Archibald wrote two letters confessing to the crime to Annie, hardly the actions of a man who did not remember what he had done. Third, during cross-examination, he could not explain why he left the house before Annie returned if he did not remember killing the boy. He finally said he did not want to upset her. The prosecutor jumped on this admission, asking, “You mean because you had strangled the child?” to which Crockford replied, “Yes.”37 All these factors showed that he had deliberately strangled his young son.

Indeed, Crockford’s letters to Annie and his statements show that he had rational motives for the crime. Archibald blamed Annie’s mother for much of the trouble. Mrs. Adams refused to let him see her daughter anymore; she was disgusted by his inability to help with the child. He also accused Mrs. Adams of making Annie’s life difficult: “Annie … used to tell me of her troubles it upset me very much because I was not in a position to help her. … This is what made me strangle the baby the first chance I had as Annie said she was going to run away with it. Annie was very disheartened because her mother used to tell her that she hoped the baby was not born alive.” In a note he wrote to Annie immediately after the murder, he explained, “I murdered the baby to give you your ‘freedom’ as I know it comes very hard on you now.” This note had irrational parts, including barely veiled threats to Mrs. Adams and Annie herself, but it did disclose a real motive for the crime. Any hope of Archibald going to an asylum rather than a prison was scotched by his own statements.38

Justice Roche expressed pity for Crockford’s economic problems, but was firm with the jurors about their duty to convict for murder, saying that “it was the law that the intentional killing of another human being, whether young or old, was murder.” The judge also argued against the insanity defense, explaining, “To say a person was insane when he was not insane was contrary to the duty of a jury.” The jury thus found Crockford guilty of murder, but “strongly recommended him to mercy on account of his youth and the hardships he had incurred,” a recommendation that Roche supported.39 Crockford’s war service played little part in the jury’s decision, perhaps because his service was so short. In addition, three years had elapsed since the war, a time lag that lessened the impact of war service. Possibly, the jurors were especially sorry for a soldier who came back from the front and found no work available, but they did not say so openly.

As Crockford’s case went for review, several petitions and pleas for mercy came into the HO. As with the judge and jury, none of these writers stressed his war service as a mitigating factor. Instead, almost all of the reasons given for his reprieve were related to his unemployment. A member of Parliament asked the Home Secretary about a respite within a week of the trial, saying explicitly that he should get particular attention, since unemployment was the root of the problem. The Manchester Guardian referred to Crockford as the “starving father” in a headline on 4 July 1922 and claimed that his case “aroused widespread sympathy” on 8 July. This sentiment was echoed in the petition from the Manchester Society of Friends: “The criminal is the victim of social conditions for which we are all more or less responsible, and it therefore ill becomes us to condemn him to death.” Other petitions “circulated widely,” according to the Guardian, due to Crockford’s “hardships.” Such appeals, in a time of economic stress, were not without effect. Edward Shortt, the Home Secretary, commuted the sentence on the basis of Archibald’s extreme hunger at the time of the crime.40 The few petitions that survive in the file also center on unemployment, indicating that it had overtaken “war trauma” as a major mitigating factor in crimes by soldiers. This fits with Emsley’s work, as he found fewer references to “shell shock” as a defense after the mid-1920s.41

As with the Pole case, the civil servants were not easily swayed by such appeals. They relied on “objective” police reports, and the police were not impressed with Crockford. The Metropolitan Police report submitted to the HO on 1 July 1922 implied that Archibald was a lazy skiver who refused to make anything of himself. For example, the report asserted that “too much reliance cannot be placed on his statement that he slept out habitually, as he doubtless frequently made the statement to enlist the sympathy of his mother, the girl, Adams, and other relations and acquaintances.” The writer was especially disgusted that Crockford took money from Annie, who “is only 22 years of age and when in work as a Machinist earns about £1 to 25/-weekly.” The police also pointed out that Archibald had never contributed to the support of his son. And his claim of having no hope of employment was also not entirely true. He refused sixpence to clean his aunt’s windows; in addition, Mrs. Adams gave him money twice to buy flowers to resell, “but he does not appear to have … appreciate[d] her kindness but preferred to loiter about the railway termini for the purpose of carry[ing] parcels, etc., and thus getting sufficient for his lodging.” The report also claimed that on the morning of the murder, when he was supposedly starving, he had asked for change for two shillings from his landlady, concluding: “When arrested on 21st May, 1922, he was walking in a procession, collecting money for a hospital, and when searched 8 ½ d. in bronze was found in his possession. He stated that he picked up this money whilst walking in the procession, and that was evidently his object in joining it.”42

Instead of a juvenile ex-soldier who had no hope of a better future, the Archibald Crockford the police constructed was a layabout who preferred to steal money from a charity or mooch tips rather than support his family. Providing was a lynchpin of masculinity through much of modern British history, and Crockford’s failure to do so was a major disadvantage to his defense. This was especially true as he took money and food from two women—Annie and Rose—rather than contributing himself. During the interwar period, many people began to understand better the structural causes of unemployment, and the labor movement insisted that most unemployed men wanted to work, but Crockford’s lack of initiative opened him to censure. Particularly, his dislike of work could mean that he had selfish motives for the murder, as he rid himself of a financial burden. Crockford realized he needed to address this issue, so he included details about his inglorious career in his statements. He insisted that he did sell three bunches of flowers, but the rest died before he could get rid of them. He admitted Mrs. Adams had also given him chocolates to sell, but claimed his profit was only two shillings. As with his explanation of his motives, his defense was to blame his pseudo mother-in-law: “When Mrs. Adams gave me the money to buy things to sell she told me not to come to her house again until I got work and could marry Annie. She would give us a home and get us married if I could only get some work, but I was unable to do so.”43

Archibald’s failure to “get on” stressed his impotence in a way he found humiliating. Although he never admitted such a motive, he may have been trying to regain some initiative by striking out in violence. His inability to live up to masculine norms was not, though, the only factor. Again, the intertwining of gender expectations provoked a volatile mix. Annie Adams had not blamed her lover for any of his difficulties, so she could not take on the role of countervillain, as Frances Pole had done for Thomas. Furthermore, like Frances, she provided for herself with factory work (when available), a humiliating contrast to Crockford, but one he could not use as an excuse for violence. Mrs. Adams, on the other hand, was more promising. Her contempt for her would-be son-in-law was obvious, and she was likely the source for the more negative assessment the police gave to the HO. An overbearing, meddling older woman was a common stereotype; it was not as powerful as the unfaithful wife of a war hero, but it was the best Archibald could manage.

Ultimately, Crockford was successful enough with his self-presentation that the HO commuted the death penalty to penal servitude for life. How long he served, then, depended on which explanation of his failures the civil servants believed. Crockford’s attempts to gain his freedom showed an evolution in his own self-presentation, as well as in the bureaucrats’ opinion of him. He first petitioned for early release on 11 July 1924, a bare two years after the conviction. His argument was that prison was warping his character and hurting his mental health. He also insisted, again, that Mrs. Adams had interfered in the relationship excessively. The HO was unimpressed: “[I]f you will pull yourself together and do your best there is no reason you should not leave prison a better man.”44 In addition, the civil servants tended not to support petitions in which prisoners did not accept culpability for their crimes, and Crockford was still blaming Mrs. Adams.

A second attempt at early release occurred in January 1925. Crock-ford’s parents had appealed to his MP, so the latter wrote to the HO. In this instance, the HO responded that two and a half years was too short a time to serve for the murder of a child. They also noted on the file that Archibald was not a boy and should not be treated like one, a remark that indicated that they believed Crockford was still dodging his responsibilities. The third petition came in June 1927, after Crockford had served five years. This time, he stressed the mitigating circumstances; he was, he repeated, in a “poor way” at the time of the crime. As before, he made no effort to plead his war service. Instead, he gave details of his childhood to explain his problems: “I had a cruel Stepfather, and run away from home with my Brothers and Sister when I was very young (less than ten years of age). After that I had to shift for myself as best I could roaming on the London streets.” The HO was not convinced by this appeal to sentiment, perhaps because it contradicted the police report about Crockford’s background. And again, five years was simply too short a time for murder.45 If Pole, with a much more compelling motive, served seven years, Crockford needed to do at least as much.

All the same, when the standard seven-year review period arrived in 1929, the HO gave serious thought to Crockford’s case. In the meantime, Archibald had learned to take responsibility for his actions—or at least to frame his petition in those words. He told the authorities, “I am a better man for coming here,” just the kind of rehabilitative language they most wanted to hear, and a phrase that echoed the letter he received in 1924. Although the HO did not release him immediately, they did let him know that he could expect release in June 1930, eight years after the trial. When the news of his release arrived, Crockford asked not to have to report to the authorities every six months, and the HO agreed. He left prison on 19 June 1930, still not yet thirty. That he was able to find work during the depression is doubtful, but he disappeared from the historical record.46

Based on Victorian norms, child killings by men were more often about inability to provide than jealousy or revenge; thus, Crockford’s situation was more typical.47 Comparison with other economically motivated crimes by soldiers show that Crockford’s punishment was not overly severe. Albert Hobart, described as “recently demobilized” in 1919, helped his lover, Mabel Manser, murder their illegitimate child by slashing its throat. Interestingly, the couple was charged with manslaughter rather than murder, probably because the baby was a newborn, and thus murder was harder to prove. (The forensic evidence of the time was not advanced enough to prove whether newborns were born alive, a necessity for a murder conviction.) At any rate, both received sentences of five years when tried at the Sussex Assizes before Justice Darling.48 Five years was a long sentence for manslaughter of a newborn, which indicates that the judge considered the circumstances aggravating (reports of the crime are too short to know why). Crockford’s eight years in prison for the murder of a five-month-old does not seem out of bounds in comparison.

Most soldiers’ motives for crimes were economic as a result of the high levels of unemployment during the early 1920s; the majority faced charges of theft, begging, and fraud. A survey of crimes involving soldiers reported in the Times in 1919 and 1920, for instance, showed that 50 percent of the crimes reported by ex-soldiers were for theft, while only 17 percent were murders.49 In addition, the problems of returning soldiers in finding work did gain them sympathy. The Times showed its own biases with headlines such as “Homeless Ex-Soldier” and “Starving Ex-Soldier” for cases involving theft or vagrancy, and men who claimed to be unemployed through no fault of their own might benefit from the publicity. The “Starving” defendant of the latter article, George McGowan, charged with stealing a bicycle, got assistance from the probation officer, and the magistrate also ordered two pounds to go to his wife.50 One can see why Crockford chose to plead poverty as the motive for his crime; an ex-soldier unable to find a job got immediate sympathy. One can also understand the HO’s unwillingness to take Crockford’s self-representation at face value. Ex-soldiers might have had difficulty adjusting, but they might also have been overstating their traumas, and ones who committed violence needed enough punishment to deter similar crimes.


These two cases barely scratch the surface in studying the effects of the war on notions of masculinity and violence among soldiers, but they do hit on two of the major difficulties that men faced when the war was over—disrupted marriages/courtships and lack of employment. The long separation of the war caused a number of domestic upsets, and divorce and illegitimacy rates rose in the first years after demobilization. Though the numbers eventually went back down, they never returned to prewar levels. Pole’s readjustment to civilian life could have gone the way of so many other men who divorced erring wives had he not detoured into murder. Still, he might not have considered divorce because of the expense; ironically, his stint in prison helped him get legal aid. Indeed, Pole’s case was just the type that called for divorce reform; as one HO official put it, “This is one of the cases where the marriage bond presses most heavily.” Frances’s description of her state as “married but not married” also summed up the dilemma.51 Governments wanted a return to prewar norms, but this was not always possible; not coincidentally, divorce reforms occurred in 1923 and 1937, reflecting social changes in the wake of the war.52

The influence of the war on conceptions of gender was complex. A war veteran from a recent conflict did have advantages when brought before the criminal courts in the early years after the Armistice. The press and public felt great sympathy for the “heroes” of World War I, especially those who joined voluntarily. Several issues, however, influenced the amount of sympathy given. More support went to men who served the longest and received the most serious wounds. Pole was wounded three times, while Reed had lost an eye in the war, and both got more lenient treatment than Crockford. In addition, war service that resulted in commendations and medals got more support than an uneventful enlistment. The fact that a man joined voluntarily rather than being drafted was influential as well. In addition, class played a part; the British criminal justice system still favored upper-class men, seen as defending their honor in cases involving adulterous wives and more likely to suffer from shell shock. The HO civil servants took war service into account when appropriate, and they helped a man like Pole when they could, but they did not excuse violence or theft altogether.

The different perspectives of the press, the police, and the civil service meant that newspapers diverged from those involved in arresting and sentencing child killers. In other words, the press and public argued that men who killed illegitimate children under stressful situations should get sympathy the way unwed mothers had for decades. They used “war trauma” and “unemployment” as shorthand terms for mitigation without much knowledge of the circumstances of individual cases. Such characterizations potentially presented men as just as irrational and powerless as women. Indeed, the women in these cases were more proactive and independent than their partners. Both Frances Pole and Annie Adams had good jobs, even if unable to live alone because of childcare needs, and both displayed a desire for “freedom.” In addition, Mrs. Adams was obviously the prime mover in the relationship of Archibald and Annie, for good or ill. Partly in reaction, the criminal justice system resisted this gender reversal. The HO and police continued to see men as independent and rational, able to control their actions, despite the experience of a war in which soldiers were notably impotent and a postwar economy with high unemployment levels. In the 1920s, mothers who murdered their illegitimate children continued to play on notions that women were irrational, dependent, and victimized by men’s sexual aggression. Men who killed their own or their wives’ illegitimate children did not get the same consideration. If anything, the emphasis on “family men” in the 1920s made the killing of children more, not less, heinous.53 In short, the HO operated on gender assumptions that predated the war, though with some mitigation for difficult circumstances. In contrast, the press showed sympathy for male child killers who were betrayed by wives or the economic system, diverging from the civil servants more sharply than in the nineteenth century.

Civil servants and police showed more continuity in part because the same people served for decades. Both groups based their decision making on issues that had influenced the prerogative of mercy from the Victorian period: the motives for the attacks, the ages of the perpetrator and the victim, and the need to deter crime.54 The most crucial aspect, then, was the fact that the victims in these two cases were infants. They were not newborns, whose deaths were often downgraded to charges of manslaughter, infanticide, or concealment of birth, but they were too young to have provoked their attackers either. Both were illegitimate, making them even more vulnerable. After a war with brutally high casualties, every new life was important. As Justice Darling said in Hobart’s case in 1919, such children “had nobody to care for them,” so the courts had particular responsibility to give them justice.55 This firmness was more in words than deeds, given the leniency shown to murdering mothers, but the police and the HO did insist on some punishment, even in the face of strong public sympathy. Thus, both these men served years in prison. Though at times the “unwritten law” worked against “uppity” women after the war, this concern did not stop the punishment of violent ex-soldiers who attacked illegitimate children. And as the war fell further into the past, the influence of war trauma counted less and less in the eyes of judges, juries, the Home Office, and even the press.


Niccoletta Gallace, “The Blood of Our Sons”: Men, Women, and the Renegotiation of British Citizenship During the Great War (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002); Susan R. Grayzel, Women’s Identities at War: Gender, Motherhood, and Politics in Britain and France During the First World War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999).


Susan Kingsley Kent, Making Peace: The Reconstruction of Gender in Interwar Britain (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993); Susan Pedersen, Eleanor Rath bone and the Politics of Conscience (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004).


Jessica Meyer, Men of War: Masculinity and the First World War in Britain (Basing stoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009); Joanna Bourke, Dismembering the Male: Men’s Bodies, Britain and the Great War (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1996); Michael Roper, “Between Manliness and Masculinity: The ‘War Generation’ and the Psychology of Fear in Britain, 1914–1950,” Journal of British Studies 44, no. 2 (2005): 343–362; Seth Koven, “Remembering and Dismemberment: Crippled Children, Wounded Soldiers, and the Great War in Great Britain,” American Historical Review 99, no. 4 (1994): 1167–1202; Joanna Bourke, “Effeminacy, Ethnicity, and the End of Trauma: The Sufferings of ‘Shell-Shocked’ Men in Great Britain and Ireland, 1914–1939,” Journal of Contemporary History 35, no. 1 (2000): 57–69.


Lesley Hall, Sex, Gender and Social Change in Britain Since 1800 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000), 82–115; Hera Cook, The Long Sexual Revolution: English Women, Sex, and Contraception, 1800–1975 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 165–206; Simon Szreter and Kate Fisher, Sex Before the Sexual Revolution: Intimate Life in England, 1918–1963 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 229–267.


Clive Emsley, Hard Men: Violence in England Since 1750 (London: Hambledon and London, 2005), 21–22; Clive Emsley, “Violent Crime in England in 1919: Post-War Anxieties and Press Narratives,” Continuity and Change 23, no. 1 (2008): 179–182.


Martin Wiener, Men of Blood: Violence, Manliness, and Criminal Justice in Victorian England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004); Ginger Frost, “‘She Is But a Woman’: Kitty Byron and the English Edwardian Criminal Justice System,” Gender and History 16, no. 3 (2004): 538–560; Ginger Frost, Living in Sin: Cohabiting as Husband and Wife in Nineteenth-Century England (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2008), 32–51; Angus McLaren, The Trials of Masculinity: Policing Sexual Boundaries, 1870–1930 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997); Shani D’Cruze, Crimes of Outrage: Sex, Violence and Victorian Working Women (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1998); Anette Ballinger, “Masculinity in the Dock: Legal Responses to Male Violence and Female Retaliation in England and Wales, 1900–1965,” Social and Legal Studies 16, no. 4 (2007): 459–477; Carolyn Conley, Certain Other Countries: Homicide, Gender, and National Identity in Late Nineteenth-Century England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2007).


Daniel Grey, “Discourses of Infanticide in England, 1880–1922” (PhD diss., Roehampton University, 2008), 429–479; Daniel Grey, “Women’s Policy Networks and the Infanticide Act, 1922,” Twentieth Century British History 21, no. 4 (2010): 441–463; Anne-Marie Kilday, A History of Infanticide in Britain: c. 1600 to the Present (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2013), 183–217. For the Infanticide Act, see HO 45/19230/4392561–45 (1922–1938).


Ginger Frost, “‘I Am Master Here’: Illegitimacy, Masculinity, and Violence in Victorian England,” in The Politics of Domestic Authority in Britain Since 1800, ed. Lucy Delap, Ben Griffin, and Abigail Wills (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 27–42; Conley, Certain Other Countries, 172–184; Cathryn B. A. Wilson, “Mad, Sad, or Bad? Newspaper and Judicial Representations of Men Who Killed Children in Victorian England, 1860–1900” (PhD diss., University of Essex, 2012).


Clive Emsley, Soldier, Sailor, Beggarman, Thief: Crime and the British Armed Services since 1914 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 84–111, 136–147.


Laura King, Family Men: Fatherhood and Masculinity in Britain, 1914–1960 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015); Julie-Marie Strange, Fatherhood and the British Working Class, 1865–1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015).


Pole’s story taken from Manchester Guardian, 27 June 1918, 8; Times, 27 June 1918, 3; 15 July 1918; 3; 1 December 1922, 5; 24 June 1925, 18; Nottingham Evening News, 13 February 1918, 3; 15 February 1918, 3; 26 June 1918, 3; 11 July 1918, 3; 13 July 1918, 3; Nottingham Evening Post, 13 February 1918, 3; 15 February 1918, 4; 26 June 1918, 2; 30 November 1922, 1; 16 May 1925, 1; 23 June 1925, 3; HO 144/4528; Divorce Petitions, J 77/1878/8677. Pole’s citation quoted from Supplement to the London Gazette, 4 March 1918, 2747.


HO 144/4528/9, Thomas Pole to Frances Pole, 12 November 1917.


HO 144/4528/9, Thomas Pole to Frances Pole, undated.


Nottingham Evening News, 13 February 1918, 3.


HO 144/4528/2–6a.; Pole’s statement quoted from item 2, a memorandum about his case.


Emsley, Soldier, Sailor, 148–151, quote: 148.


Emsley, Soldier, Sailor, 148–151; Times, 27 June 1918, 3; Nottingham Evening Post, 26 June 1918, 2.


Ilana Bet-El, “Men and Soldiers: British Conscripts, Concepts of Masculinity, and the Great War,” in Borderlines: Genders and Identities in War and Peace, 1870–1930, ed. Billie Melman (London: Routledge, 1998), 73–74.


Nottingham Evening News, 15 February 1918, 3; Illustrated Police News, 21 February 1918, 1.


Nottingham Evening News, 13 February 1918, 3; 15 February 1918, 4; 26 June 1918, 2; Illustrated Police News, 21 February 1918, 1.


HO 144/4528/9–12, Letter from the Chief Constable to the Home Office, n.d.


Nottingham Evening Post, 15 February 1918, 4.


HO 144/4528, note written on the file.


HO 144/4528/27–42; Nottingham Evening Post, 16 May 1925, 1; 23 June 1925, 3.


HO 144/4528/23–25.


HO 144/4528/19.


J 77/1878/8677; Times, 1 December 1922, 5.


HO 144/4528/20, 30; Richard Morgan, “The Introduction of Civil Legal Aid in England and Wales, 1914–1949,” Twentieth Century British History 5, no. 1 (1994): 36–76; Gail Savage, “They Would If They Could: Class, Gender and Popular Representation of English Divorce Litigation, 1858–1908,” Journal of Family History 36, no. 2 (2011): 181–184.


J 77/1878/8677; Times, 1 December 1922, 5.


HO 144/4528/9–12; Nottingham Evening News, 15 February 1918, 3.


HO 144/4528/30. For Williams’s case, see HO 144/678/101552; Proceedings of the Old Bailey Online (hereafter POBO), 20 October 1902, case no. 735; Times, 12 September 1902, 7, 10; 17 September 1902, 11; 24 October 1902, 7; 12 November 1902, 9. Williams was also a former child molester, so the HO was not swayed by his appeal. In contrast, James Benson was reprieved after killing the product of his incest with his sister, partly because of his war service and his willingness to rejoin the army. HO 144/1005/138459; POBO, 5 March 1906, no case number; Times, 10 March 1906, 4.


Emsley, “Violent Crime,” 182–186; quote: 184.


Gail Savage, “Major Seton in the Dining Room with a Pistol” (unpublished paper delivered at the Mid-Atlantic Conference on British Studies, March 2010).


Times, 22 June 1920, 13.


Frost, “I Am Master Here,” 33–38.


Crockford’s story taken from HO 144/11864; Times, 27 June 1922, 5; 8 July 1922, 8; Manchester Guardian, 27 June 1922, 9; 4 July 1922, 11; 6 July 1922, 10; 8 July 1922, 11.


Manchester Guardian, 27 June 1922, 9.


HO 144/4528/1; Times, 27 June 1922, 5.


Times, 27 June 1922, 5.


Manchester Guardian, 4 July 1922, 11; 8 July 1922, 11; HO 144/4528/1, 9, 12, 15.


HO 144/4528/9, 12, 15, 34; Emsley, Soldier, Sailor, 148–156.


HO 144/11864/1.


HO 144/11864/1.


HO 144/11864/32.


HO 144/11864/35.


HO 144/11864/40, 42, 43.


Frost, “I Am Master Here,” 28–30.


Times, 11 July 1919, 9.


Josh Hartley, “A Proclivity Towards Thievery and Violence: Crime Pertaining to Soldiers as Influenced by Society, Economics, Gender, and Insanity, 1910–1920” (senior thesis, Samford University, 2010).


“Homeless Ex-Soldier,” Times, 7 September 1920, 7; “A Starving Ex-Soldier,” Times, 10 November 1920, 9.


HO 144/4528/19.


Roderick Phillips, Putting Asunder: A History of Divorce in Western Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 525–530.


King, Family Men, 51–122.


Roger Chadwick, Bureaucratic Mercy: The Home Office and the Treatment of Capital Cases in Victorian Britain (New York: Garland, 1992), 135–177; Gail Savage, The Social Construction of Expertise: The English Civil Service and its Influence, 1919–1939 (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996).


Times, 11 July 1919, 9.

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