Station Sergeant Thomas Green taken from a group photo We are very grateful to Bourne Hall Museum (Opens in a new window) for permission to use this image.
Copyright images courtesy of Clive Gilbert 2006
Police Sergeant Thomas Green, to quote from his gravestone "found death in the path of duty".
Hostilities in the Great War ceased at the 11th hour of the 11th Month 1918. From that date life very slowly started to get back to normal. But 'slowly' it was indeed. Many millions of men had been mobilised for the war effort from the United Kingdom and her Great Empire, and of course the USA. Returning all these men to their homes and civilian life presented a huge logistical problem.
Epsom, since the start of the war had provided a home for many soldiers. Epsom Downs was used extensively to train and accommodate soldiers as was Woodcote Park. The Grandstand at Epsom racecourse was even used as a hospital for wounded soldiers during the early months of the war, as were the asylums in the famous Epsom Hospital complex.
The war was over and Epsom was host to some 400 Canadian soldiers. The Canadians were regarded as a tough bunch, generally bigger and fitter than their UK cousins. The had endured terrible casualties on the battlefields of France and had won 'Glory' for their homeland, particularly at Vimy Ridge where the huge monument to their missing was erected.
Now, imagine how a group of 400 tough, fit, battle hardened young men must have felt when some seven months after having completed their part in winning the war they were still thousands of miles from their homes, their wives, their children, and all that was dear to them. A disaster waiting to happen?
The Rifleman Copyright image courtesy of Clive Gilbert 2006
During the evening of 17 June 1919 some of the Canadians were drinking in the Rifleman public house when a fight broke out amongst them. The police were called and they arrested a soldier. On the way to the Police Station, for trying to intervene, another Canadian was arrested. By the time the two were in police cells, word had got round to the other 398 Canadians, and the inevitable happened. A determined mob stormed the police station, doing a pretty good job of wrecking it, and liberated their comrades. Very regrettably during the brawl that took place Station Sergeant Thomas Green "found death in the path of duty". His head had received a severe blow, probably by a blunt instrument, possibly an iron bar wrenched from a police cell window.
Epsom Police Station before the riot We are very grateful to Bourne Hall Museum (Opens in a new window) for permission to use this image.
No one was ever charged with murder but five men were convicted for their part in the riot. They served about five months in prison and were released. Why were they treated so leniently?
Canada had been a staunch ally, sending many thousands of her men to fight, die, and be maimed for the motherland. The Prince of Wales was to soon make a tour of Canada, which could be viewed as a thank you gesture from a grateful nation. How would the judicial hanging of a Canadian 'son' have affected such a goodwill visit?
This is a brief outline of events. For a much more detailed and authoritative exploration of the events surrounding the demise of Sgt Green there is useful booklet written by Edward Shortland which is available from Bourne Hall museum shop.
This article was researched and written by Clive Gilbert, 2006
Read all about it.
The Funeral procession for Sergeant Green Please note that this rare image is from the Epsom Herald. It was found in a scrap book of newspaper cuttings.
Why not read the contemporary local newspaper reports of the riot? These editions of the Epsom Advertiser are avaiable on microfilm at Epsom & Ewell Local & Family History Centre (Opens in a new window). (Unfortunately early editions of the Epsom Herald are not available.) However microfilms are not always very legible so we have transcribed them and created the following files
(You may need Adobe Reader to view them, this software can be downloaded free from Adobe):
A booklet on Sergeant Green and the Riot, written by local author and historian Bob Ferris, is available from the Bourne Hall Museum Shop or may be viewed here(You may need Adobe Reader to view this file, this software can be downloaded free from Adobe).