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100 years ago: ‘Hell of a fight’ on Kersal Moor sees battered bobby deck deserter

Stories of miscreants being treated roughly by police when resisting arrest are no uncommon thing when looking back through the pages of the Salford City Reporter.

But the one thing you can count on is that the force usually end up on top.

This case making the headlines in Salford in August 1916 shows this all too well.

William Marshall, of no fixed abode, appeared at Salford Magistrates Court charged with “being on enclosed premises for the purpose of burglary”, and unlawfully wounding PC Blakeley.

Marshall appeared in court with his head swathed in bandages and nursing a broken jaw, injuries he sustained during his arrest.

The court heard that the police had been tipped off that thieves were stealing poultry from land near the old Manchester Golf Club Links at Vine Street in Broughton.

PC Blakeley, along with a Mr Bond and Mr Rylance, lay in wait watching a hen coop for the return of the thieves.

At 11.20pm two men were seen approaching the henhouse: this is when PC Blakeley sprang into action and tried to seize William Marshall by the legs.

Marshall had ‘come equipped’ to some degree and was not ready to be taken down lightly.

He smashed the constable on the back of his head with a glass bottle, felling the officer to the mud.

Undeterred, the plucky copper picked himself up and collared the fleeing felon, throwing him to the ground, where a fierce fight ensued.

All the time PC Blakeley was blowing his police whistle – not a euphemism – which echoed shrilly across the fields.

Mr Bond chased the second suspect but he managed to escape over the fields and into Broughton.

By the time he returned, the fight between the officer and William Marshall was, incredibly, still going on.

Mr Bond went to PC Blakeley’s aid and joined in the fracas which lasted for some 20 solid minutes.

It must have been one hell of a fight.

It emerged later that PC Blakeley had suffered a serious head wound leaking blood which caused him to eventually collapse, not before overpowering William Marshall in a particularly forceful way.

But it would be the whislt that would save the battered and bruised officer’s life.

Five soldiers recuperating at the nearby Vine Street Military Hospital heard the ear-splitting screech and arrived, out of breath, to the officer’s aid.

They found PC Blakeley on his knees with blood pouring from a gaping wound.

Marshall was spreadeagled on the ground, unconscious and lying flat out.

PC Blakeley handed his handcuffs to Mr Bond and told him to “put the snips on him and don’t let him go”.

I assume snips is an archaic slang word for handcuffs, I have also heard them called ‘bracelets’ and ‘derbies’.

Both the officer and his suspect were taken to Salford Royal Hospital for treatment to their injuries and were examined by Dr Gosh, the house surgeon.

The PC had sustained a cut to his head two and a half inches long, with another cut half an inch long on the other side of the head.

He was also found to be suffering from shock caused by loss of blood.

Strangely enough there are no details of how William Marshall came to suffer a broken jaw and several injuries to his head and body.

I think we can safely assume that PC Blakeley gave him a severe thrashing ably assisted by the five soldiers from the Military Hospital. It was certainly not William Marshall’s night to get in a fight.

In court the heavily bandaged Marshall said that his intentions on that night were to sleep rough in the field when he was savagely attacked by PC Blakeley and ‘other men’.

But then the bombshell really dropped.

It came out in court that William Marshall was a deserter from the Royal Navy, where he had been serving as a stoker.

His name was being circulated by the military authorities and there was a warrant out for his arrest – with that in mind it’s no surprise Marshall put up such a fight

The Stipendary Magistrate, Mr PW Atkin, sentenced William Marshall to three months imprisonment with hard labour, after which time he would be handed over to the naval authorities who would no doubt come up with even more punishment.

So, all in all, not the best of evenings for William: thrashed by the police and several soldiers, suffering a broken jaw and numerous injuries, as well as being sentenced to Strangeways and facing a dreaded return to the Navy.

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SalfordOnline.com's Local History Editor and Senior Reporter.