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Devon County

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A number of members of the Home Guard were injured through an explosion which occurred during instruction with live ammo at a weapons training school, with fatal results in the case of one man, Frederick William Freeman, aged 46, a Great Western engineman of Woodland Avenue Tywardreath, Par, Cornwall.


At the inquest, held last evening by Barnstaple Coroner, Mr. S. A. Copp, evidence of identification was given by Mr Nathaniel Green of Clinton Road, Barnstaple, who said Freeman was his first cousin.


Dr. N. Blumenfelt, house surgeon at the North Devon Infirmary, said the deceased was admitted to that institution on October 9th, suffering from severe multiple injuries, sufficient to account for his death, which occurred next day.


After evidence that everything was done properly in regard to the instruction and and that, after the explosion happened, all the gun crew were thrown to the ground, the Coroner returned a verdict of "Accidental Death due to the explosion of a gun being used for firing practice and found there was nobody whatever to blame.


Others were injured at the same time and taken to the North Devon Infirmary: they were


Sergeant Douglas Road, of Bicester Home Guard (who has since recovered from his injuries)

Corporal John Barry Stapley of the Whitchurch (Hants) Home Guard

Staff Sergeant Douglas Rogers, a serving soldier from the Instructional Staff. The latter two men are still in hospital.


"It does make one fell very uneasy to think that an occurance of this sort could take place at all. " observed Barnstaple Borough Coroner at the resumed inquest at Barnstaple yesterday on Robert William Jones, aged 20, a serving soldier who died in the North Devon Infirmary from gun shot wounds stated to have been sustained during a gun demo in which no ammunition was being used, Deceased's home address was Bryn Derwen, Conwy, Wales.


A Staff Sergeant said he examined the magazine used and passed it as correct, but in reply to Superintendant Melhuish admitted that it looked as though the only solution was that a live round was left in t he magazine. When, however, he inspected it, he was definite the magazine was empty.


A Lance Corporal in charge of stores said he inspected all the magazines that day and to his knowledge the Staff Sergeant also inspected them. "It was not  possible for one of the magazines to have contained a live round" the witness added.


A soldier who was taking part in the gun demo, said he was standing about a yard in front of the gun, with deceased standing behind him, Witness felt a shot penetrate his left arm and the deceased was hit in the stomach and fell to the ground.


House Surgeon Dr. N. B. Blumenfelt said deceased was admitted to  the Infirmary suffering from gunshot wounds in the abdomen and died a few hours later.


After a lengthy inquiry, the Coroner said he did not think he ever remembered an inquest where the improbabilities were ever supported to his knowledge to such an extent. One thing was quite evident, while the system outlined appeared to be perfectly good if it were carried out, in that case illustrated there was a great deal of carelessness somewhere.


"I hope whatever else may be the result of any inquiry which may have been held, a much more serious inspection will be ordered of these magazines.


The verdict was one of "Misadventure".


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