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General Election of 1918 too close to call and Spalding prisoner of war tells his story

The most gigantic guessing contest ever known in the district was going on with regard to the result of the General Election in the Spalding-with-Boston division.

Never, even in a division associated with close contests, had it been harder to pick a winner.

In previous times, there would have been no doubt, whatever the result, but the election expert surveying the prospect would have argued that in the old Spalding division, the balance would have been in balance of the sitting Liberal Member. The advantage would have been increased by the inclusion of Crowland, which had always voted more Liberal than Conservative.

But the inclusion of Donington district, where the majority had always voted Conservative, and Boston, redressed the balance in favour of the Conservative candidate, leaving them fairly even.

Therefore, the advent of a Labour candidate, drawing more votes from the Liberals than the Conservatives, would put the Conservative – or in this case, Coalition – candidate in the winning seat.


Gangmaster Fred Scott, of Long Sutton, was accused of keeping monies which were due to workers.

He was charged with convertion to his own use, moneys of Kenneth Hugh Beargley, of Little Sutton, which would have been paid to the boys who had been potato picking.

Thomas Wilkinson, farm foreman for Mr Beargley, said defendant came to his house to arrange the potato picking. the terms agreed upon were 6s 6d a day for the boys and 18s a day for himself as gangmaster.

They had been picking for five days when the labour accounts were presented and he paid on bahalf of his master £33 4s – £28 14s for the boys and £4 14s for himself.

Defendant, who pleaded not guilty, said he paid all the boys and when he came to reckon up, was 10s short.

The magistrates, after having retired only a few minutes, were unanimous in finding the defendant guilty and fined him £5 or one month in prison and he was given 14 days to pay.


Private Walter James of the 7th Norfolks, the youngest child of Mr and Mrs T James of Albion Street, Spalding, told of being captured by the Germans.

Private James was captured near Cambrai on November 30, 1917.

He told the Free Press: “There were six of us in that portion of the trench, I was the only one left. I had just walked down the trench to look over the top when three minenwerfer fell close to the spot where I had been standing and killed the rest.

“I was absolutely cornered.

“When I tried to get to the support line, I found the Germans had overrun the ground and were bombing at the back as well as the front.

“The first German I saw pointed his rifle at me; he had just shot a fellow in front of me. He did not shoot – possibly he had used up all his cartridges – but struck me with the butt end of his rifle. “The blow caught my tin hat.

“I got away and ran into a crowd of Germans – Saxons by the look of their hats. They sent me further on, till I came to a dug-out full of Germans and thought it was all up, but there was a very badly-wounded German there and I gave him a dressing, which seemed to make things all right.

“After a few minutes, four more prisoners were brought up. As we were going behind German lines, we had our photos taken dozens of times by German officers in motor cars, who seemed greatly excited at the sight of English prisoners.

“We were put in an open wire cage in a field and lay there all night. We were given no food until the following morning, when we had a slice of black bread. They never offered us a drink of coffee or even water. We were marched along the road about 10 miles to a railway siding and placed in cattle trucks. All that day and night we had no more food.”

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