Throughout its history, Weymouth’s Red Barracks and Nothe Fort have seen various troops come and go.
Some good, some bad, some just plain bored and a few high spirited.
Their boots marched through the town on parades, they wooed and (sometimes) wed the local girls, or maybe snatched a sneaky bit of feminine fun when they could from those who more than willingly obliged, their money filled the inns and beerhouse coffers.
But for a few of them, their names became immortalised in the columns of the local papers. (Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser 26 Feb 1868)
Such was the case in February of 1868.
Weymouth folk were being plagued by night time mischief makers, namely the amusement of wrenching knockers from off the doors of inoffensive citizens.
Who ever the serial offenders were, they were like invisible “bogeys” and were not to be seen.
As the problem persisted, for those poor old residents who did their damnedest to be sleeping quietly in their beds, it had become very much a case of like it or lump it for some weeks past.
Despite the local policemen’s best efforts to apprehend these young ragamuffins, seemingly thwarted at every turn by their elusive late night knocker nicking, it was a still a case of great numbers of people have been obliged to submit patiently to the annoyance.
Indeed, the problem had gotten so bad and residents so enraged that complaints showered down upon the heads of the policemen.
That was until one cold dank night in February.
Weymouth’s P.C. Apsey had been busy patrolling the town’s streets that night, a bitter easterly wind whipping up through the deserted roads, muffling any sound of his approaching footsteps.
Then, in the distant gloom, his eyes were drawn to the sight of something that piqued his interest, a group of young lads acting more than a bit suspicious.
After a brief chase, P.C. Apsey finally collared an offender, and surprise, surprise, the lusty lad was found to be with a veritable iron knocker in his pocket.
Stood rather nervously before Mayor Ayling in the courtroom next morning was Arthur Denny, Lieutenant of the 13th Regiment, he was charged with stealing a door knocker.
Denny was not alone though, several brother officers were also present, they had arrived in court to ensure fair play, of course, unwilling for their fellow man to take the whole blame, they endeavoured to come to some compromise.
High jinks by a few bored soldiers maybe..but maybe not everyone felt quite so jolly about the whole sorry saga!
Also stood shoulder to shoulder in the courtroom that day, to make sure their got their pound of flesh were several victims, indignant at the manner in which they had been treated
Found guilty that morning, Lieutenant Arthur Denny not surprisingly, received a sound dressing down from Mayor Ayling. He accepted his penance by paying the value of all the knockers that had been wrenched from off the doors for the past three weeks. (Put down at a value of £3.00)
It was also firmly suggested he should give a subscription to the Infirmary to the amount of £2
Sensing the growing anger amongst the courts occupants, the soldiers quickly dug deep to make sure that amounts and costs were paid.
The good old Weymouth folk weren’t going to leave it at that though, they were going to make sure that they voiced their disapproval, the defendant left the hall amidst the jeers of those assembled.
I bet any future extra curricula activities were restricted to within the barrack confines after that.
You’ll find lots of Weymouth’s soldiers stories and much, much more, because living side by side with bored and beer-sozzled soldiers often caused mayhem for the town’s residents.