Fatal Accident 1956
Whilst I was at Bruche, in late February or early March 1956, one of my classmates died following a tragic accident in the Gym. He was a Lancs County recruit named Ivor OATES.
I was one of four holding the four corners of a coconut mat and the PTI asked if anyone could do forward somersaults. One Birkenhead recruit said he could, he had apparently represented Cheshire in Gymnastics as a Junior. Anyway the four of us were holding the mat when he came running towards us and did a perfect forward somersault over the mat we were holding and landed on his feet on the other side.
The PTI suggested that if anyone wished to try it they could do so or just do a forward roll into the mat we were holding. The next one down was a Liverpool City recruit who just jumped into the mat and we all ended up in a heap on the floor. A few more ran down, including a couple of Policewomen and just did forward rolls in the mat we were holding and we just tipped them out onto their feet. Next came Ivor, he ran down towards the mat and took off and passed me horizontally, head high, doing a swallow dive, landing some six feet beyond the mat we were holding. He landed, head first on judo mats topped by coconut matting so the matting was about six inches thick. Tragically he fractured his spine somewhere between his shoulder blades and his neck. He lay there on his back saying, “trust me to cock it up, I can’t feel my legs”.
The First Aid Instructor, a Sgt Inman attended as did an Ambulance. No ‘Paramedics’ in those days and the attendants were about to put Ivor on a cushioned stretcher when Sgt Inman almost went berserk and ensured that Ivor was transported to Hospital on the old stiff wire stretcher we used for training.
The accident happened on a Friday and poor Ivor died early on the following Monday morning. The PTI was never the same after the accident and had trouble sleeping and could often be seen, late into the night, sitting on the step of his accommodation..
At the Inquest, the Birkenhead recruit ‘made a lot of friends’ by telling the Coroner that he considered the exercise dangerous for people of our ability. A very sad and tragic accident and Ivor’s seat in class remained unused for the rest of the course.
Charlie Wass (2012)