Tuesday, 2 July 2019

A wartime car chase

There were shortages of just about everything in WW II. Including some very basic items.

Like beer glasses. They were difficult for pubs to replace because of a general shortage of glass. Which may explain the rather extraordinary actions of this one publican.

At Wells City Sessions on Tuesday, Albert Frank Hicks (18), Preston Cottage, Chewton Mendip, and a 16-years-old Binegar lad, pleaded guilty to stealing two half-pint beer glasses, valued 2s., and the property of Richmond Loxton, licensee of the Brittania Inn, Bath-road.

Mr. A. Dixon, prosecuting, said on April 9th last the two lads called at the Brittania Inn and asked to be served wth two lemonades. They were served by Mr. Loxton in the passage. Mr. Loxton returned to the bar, and five minutes later went back to the passage and found that the lads and the glasses had gone. Mr. Loxton got into his car and drove up the Bath-road and overtook the lads, who were cycling, some tHree-quarters of mile up the hill. They admitted taking the glasses but refused to give their names and addresses, and Mr, Loxton, with assistance, got the lads into his car and brought them to the police station.

Mr. Dixon said that although the glasses were of small value he asked the Bench to take a serious view of the case on account of so much of this pilfering of glasses going on. Glasses were very difficult to replace and it was also very difficult to catch the people who take the glasses.

Mr. Loxton, giving evidence, said when he found the lads had gone with the glasses he got into his car and drove after them, taking with him a friend, Mr. George Clare. When stopped the lads at first denied having taken the glasses, but he felt their pockets and each lad had a glass. As the lads refused their names and addresses he got them into the car and drove them to the police station.

Witness said during the past 12 months he had lost over seven dozen glasses.

The lads expressed their sorrow and said they would do nothing of the sort again. In placing the lads on probation for two years, the Mayor reminded them that they had rendered themselves liable to imprisonment. He hoped this would be a warning to them not to do anything dishonest again. He ordered them to pay the costs, 30s. and £2 2s. 0d. towards the advocate’s fee, a total of £1 16s. 0d. each. Asked if they wanted time in which to pay the lads replied, "No,” and paid before leaving the court."
Wells Journal - Friday 05 June 1942, page 3.
Of course, shortages of glasses meant that punters werer far more likely to walk off with a few. I definitely get the impression that a lot more glass stealing went on during the war. Or perhaps it was just reported more as it was seen as a more serious offence than in peacetime.

But chasing after a couple of lads for nicking two half pint glasses does seem a little on the extreme side. They say the glasses were of little value but, at a shilling each, they were worth around double the half pint of beer inside them.

The threat of a custodial sentence for such a small theft does seem pretty extreme, wartime or not.

The Britannia Inn still exists.

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