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Life for the ordinary British Tommy serving in the Western Front trenches in France must have been a horrendous task with casualties mounting up daily and, with no end in sight to this mindless carnage which would claim the lives of some 565,000 British lives, a staggering amount of casualties, is it any wonder that any Tommy lucky enough to have survived this long would be entitled to let his hair down when or if, he was lucky enough to be given a 14 day leave pass from the trenches.

History With Flynn

In February 1918, Private Thomas Tierney aged 27 was about to let the Salford Magistrates Court know exactly what his feelings were in gaining this slight respite from the madness of the war.

Tierney had been arrested on Cross Lane, Salford by P.C. Lamb and was charged with being drunk and disorderly, and was bailed to appear at the Magistrates Court at Bexley Square.

Cross Lane at this time was a hub of activity and a magnet for anybody looking for a proverbial good time, it could boast of having 18 pubs, two music halls, a cattle market, army barracks and a no doubt very busy police station.

On the day Tierney was due to appear at the Magistrates Court, there was no sign of him, had he skipped bail and gone back to his unit in France?

Detective Inspector Clark told the Court that Tierney who had been bailed by the Salford police force had gone straight to Manchester, were true to form he was again arrested for being drunk and disorderly.

Mr Foyster the Magistrates Clerk suggested that the police should contact Minshull Police Court and ask for this charge to be taken into consideration there, and decided to mark the court records, "No evidence given"

Suddenly, Tierney walked into the court and proudly introduced himself to the Stipendary Magistrate with no apology or explanation for his absence.

Detective Clarke took the initiative and asked him how he had got on at Minshull Street Court.

He breezily replied, "Oh it was a total washout, a waste of everybody's time, chucked the case out"

Hardly the explanation the court or the police were expecting.

The case against him was allowed to continue and as it progressed I have to admit that I found it quite funny and took a shine to Private Tierney.

P.C. Lamb took the stand and told the court that he was on duty on Cross Lane, when his attention was drawn to a group of women and men, cheering and laughing loudly.

Further inspection found Private Tierney to be dressed in women's clothing, dancing about whilst wielding a Claymore sword over his head, which you must admit is quite an interesting spectacle.

Private Tierney went into the witness box and seemed quite aggrieved at what he had just heard and told his version of the events.

"I was doing no harm to anybody, yes I did have a woman's dress and bonnet on, doing the 'sword exercise' but I was only acting the goat"

Now in full swing, he carried on, "I had only 14 days leave from France and I wanted to enjoy myself without losing a Saturday night in the police cells"

"They take no notice of this kind of behaviour in France, but in England, they 'wheel you in' which I think is shameful, I was only having a bit of fun and didn't harm anybody"

This explanation must have taken the court by surprise, no doubt expecting a grovelling apology from the hapless Private Tierney.

The Stipendary using the wisdom of Solomon told Tierney, "You brave fellows don't seem to understand how seriously we take things here, you may go and fight for your King and Country but please don't play the fool here"

Tierney was discharged without a blemish on his character and left the court a free man, he should have been given ten bobs to buy a pint in the nearest pub in my opinion.

I do hope that he survived the bloodshed of the Western Front and came home to a hero's welcome were he could let his hair down in peace and no doubt indulges in a bit of Highland Dancing!

Tony Flynn

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