Tuesday, 25th June, 1861
The Boy Shot By Volunteers At Wallasey
The adjourned inquest on the body of George Cooper, the boy who was unfortunately shot by a party of volunteers belonging to the 3rd Cheshire Rifles (Captain Chambres), whilst practising on the shore at Wallasey, on the 8th instant, was resumed on Friday, at the Black Horse Public House, Wallasey, before Mr. Henry Churton, coroner. Major Manners, district inspector of volunteers, who had been in communication with the War Office respecting the Wallasey rifle range, was in attendance, although not officially.
The Coroner, in opening the proceedings, reminded the jury that the inquest was adjourned in order that the shooting ground and targets might be inspected by someone appointed by Government. He thought it right to have the ground inspected, inasmuch Captain Chambres was under the impression that the targets were not safe in their present position, and that consequently there might be a recurrence of the fearful accident that had happened a fortnight ago. He had received two letters on the subject from the War Office, the first, dated the 18th instant, intimating that Major Manners had been requested to survey the ground, and to report upon the circumstances under which the accident had occurred. The second letter, which he had received that morning, enclosed Major Manners' report, which had been furnished to the Secretary of War. It was stated in the communication that, in consequence of Major Manners' report, instructions had been given to discontinue the use of the range pending the adoption of proper measures for securing the safety of the public. The report (continued the coroner) would satisfy them of the dangerous nature of the ground from the present position of the targets, and it would appear from the report of Major Manners that he coincided with the opinions offered at their last meeting, not only with regard to the position of the targets, but also as to the very indiscretion of employing a boy of the age of the deceased to occupy such an important position on the ground. He had no doubt that the jury would coincide with Major Manners' report, and after hearing it read he felt convinced they would consider it right and proper to return a verdict of accidental death, because he was of opinion that they could attribute blame to anyone who might have taken upon himself any responsibility on that occasion. With regard to the party responsible, they would recollect that Captain Chambres spontaneously, and much to his credit and honour, took that responsibility upon himself; and he might further state that it was immaterial to the jury to know by whom the fatal shot was fired, although that was impossible to ascertain; but whoever fired the shot, Captain Chambres, as the superior officer, became responsible. They would, however, recollect that Captain Chambres complied in every respect with the particular rules which had reference to extra target shooting. He saw that the signals were hoisted; the ground was clear, and persons were employed to keep it clear; and it was only the unfortunate boy's moving from a place of safety to one of danger that gave rise to the sad occurrence. Captain Chambres was not aware that the boy had place himself within the range of the firing. However, it had been proved since the occurrence that the lad had unconsciously, because he was not able to see the firing party, and those who were firing were unable to see him; so that the whole affair was a pure accident. Therefore, after hearing Major Manners' report, the jury would return a verdict of "Accidental death," exculpating all parties from the slightest blame. He then read the report, as follows:-
TO THE SECRETARY AT WAR
Sir,-- In compliance with instructions in your communication of the 15th instant, received last night, I have the honour to acquaint you, for the information of his lordship the Secretary for War, that I have this day investigated the circumstances under which the accident occurred at Wallasey and having also carefully inspected the range on that occasion, I beg to report that --
1. All the precautions prescribed for the range were used, and even an additional danger flag.
2. The volunteers and others forming the firing party on the evening of the 8th instant were suing the appointed Government practice range and target fixed for the regular troops, and were under proper control and in military formation.
3. With regard to the precautions which have been considered necessary for this range I am of the opinion that as the targets are at present placed, none would render the ground safe, as the immediate proximity of the targets to a large tract of low sand hills, constantly frequented, renders accidents similar to the late unfortunate one extremely probable. >>>