Thursday, 6 December 2012

The Queens Shilling

1856 saw William Burns recruited by Robert Worsley, a private in the 73rd Regiment of Foot.  Worsley asked Burns if he was willing to serve her Majesty for 10 years and Burns replied yes.  Burns was given a shilling by the recruiter as a sign of the deal.  Burns remained with Worsley in St Albans on the Thursday and Friday night but disappeared about noon on Saturday.   On the same day he disappeared John Thompson, a sergeant in the 58th regiment, saw the prisoner at Dunstable.  He had heard the prisoner wished to enlist and went to him and asked if he was willing to serve Her Majesty in the 58th Regiment.  The prisoner replied yes.  He asked the Burns if he had been in the army before or if he had been enlisted.  Burns replied no.  He enlisted him in the name of Andrew Swaney and again he was given a shilling.  However, Worsley had pursued the prisoner and that evening advised Thompson the prisoner had enlisted before.  In the prisoner had no alternative but to acknowledge he had.  In his defence, Burns claimed Worsley had promised to enlist him as a civilian for the term of 10 years in the 73rd Regiment and promised to have him sworn in on Friday, so he could be send away.  During the time he was there, Worsley never even given him a billet for the 3 nights and had made him pay for his own lodging.

In December of the same year, the case of William Spacey came to trail.  Spacey lived at Milton Bryan and was a labourer.  On 11 December, PC Alfred Ing was at Woburn and saw the prisoner who he knew well.  The prisoner came to him and said he would like to be a soldier and if he saw a militia man he would enlist in the Bedfordshire Militia.  Ing told Spacey he was able to enlist him if he wished to join the militia.  Spacey said he knew of no impediment as to why he should not join the service and he said he was free able and willing to serve.  As a result, Ing gave Spacey a shilling and told him to come to Woburn the next morning.  Spacey didn't show.    However, Police Superintendent William Ralph Young also knew the prisoner.  Young was aware Spacey had already joined the Bedfordshire Militia but had been discharged for some defect which rendered him unfit for service, possibly a crooked toe.

Both men were found guilty, with Spacey imprisoned for 3 months and Burns for a month.


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