Dastardly Deeds on the Home Front, Episode 1

Debbie Cameron, one of the volunteers for GM1914, has uncovered an amazing tale. In the best tradition of serialisation, this will be published in parts over the next few weeks, and I defy anyone reading to guess where the connections will lead.

All will be revealed, so read on…


Trial lasted 15th – 18th February 1918

I found details of this trial when I started looking through some of the court records for 1918, hoping to find something linked to World War 1. I noticed a very bulky “book” of papers that contained documents relating to a fascinating trial of two fraudsters (one of whom turned out to be a serial offender!) who had tried to “obtain money by false pretences” by pretending to be a director and engineer linked to the building of aircraft in Manchester for the war effort. Not only did they try and con large sums of money from some clearly wealthy people, but also from some who were obviously far from wealthy.

There were only minimal details of the trial, so I decided to look for information about it in newspapers of the time and “flesh out” the details. I found quite a few details of the scoundrels involved! In addition, I wanted to find out more about the lives of some of the victims of the con. In doing so I found some really fascinating information, which goes to prove what we all know – EVERYONE has a story to tell!

I was also thrilled to find out the name of the arresting Detective Sergeant – (one rather upright-sounding DS Charles Henry Haughton) – and I was able to trace details of his career in the Manchester Police. It all added up to a fascinating portrait of the background and lives of people on both sides of the law in Manchester during the years of WW1, who came together for 4 days in February 1918.

Incidentally, I also found in the same records, reference to one Hannah Yates, who on 13th January 1918 – one month before this trial – was sentenced to TWO AND A HALF YEARS under penal discipline, for stealing five pennies! And yet the two rogues who tried to swindle folk out of thousands of pounds got a maximum of only 10 & 15 months hard labour! I think a crime by a working class girl was looked upon more seriously than a“white collar” crime by two men. A case of gender and class discrimination. Criminal!!

Police Outside Strangeways Prison, 1900

Perhaps this was the sight that greeted the defendants when they arrived at prison.

One thought on “Dastardly Deeds on the Home Front, Episode 1

  1. Tina

    I strongly object to the tone you have taken in this piece, and the subsequent ones. Edward John Johnson was my grandfather – and he wasn’t a “rogue” at all. And yes, I have copies of all the papers you hold about this in your archive, having made a trip there to see them, as well as various newspaper reports. I will also comment on each of these episodes – to show just how wrong you are in most of what you say about him, and the trial.

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