I Witness The Aftermath Of A Tragedy

A Memory of Hereford.

Around 1957 I was walking around High Street, enjoying a meander from my route home to Bradbury Lines when I saw the wife of an officer from the Army Camp, Lt Richard Vincent, in great distress with some policemen outside the grocery shop...I believe it was a Sainsbury's on the near left hand side.

She had left her small baby in the pram outside the shop while she went inside to shop .. in those days this would not have involved the kinds of risks that it would today.. at least it shouldn't have!

Something about the scene told me that something had happened to her baby and I went home and told my step parents what my thought was. Since they considered me a ne'r do well who knew nothing at all they scoffed at me as if I was an idiot.

It didn't take long for the activity I had seen in High Town to spread out to Bradbury Lines where she and her officer husband were billeted. My stepfather came back from the Officer's Mess looking pretty serious with the terrible news (that I had accurately perceived) that a woman who had escaped from the mental home had snatched the baby, taken it to the old Roman bridge and tossed it into the river, where the child obviously perished!

They found the child the next day floating among the tall underwater weeds near the river bank.

This affected me a lot as I had to cross the bridge twice a day on foot on my way to and from the High School and the sight of the slowly waving weeds used to give me the creeps. (I already had an over-ripe imagination borne out of a lot of fear, punishment and abuse that I suffered from my step parents).

It was a terrible tragedy which was all over the news for weeks. I think the woman who did it could not be charged as she was insane, apparently. No doubt the couple never truly got over the loss. How would you ? It impacted my life greatly and added to my becoming a very protective parent.

PS: I must sincerely thank David Hutchinson (who was one of the young soldiers under the very popular Lt. Richard Vincent's command at Bradbury Lines at that time and who read the above memory and responded to me) for letting me know that, following this terrible personal tragedy, Lt. Vincent did progress in the British Army and even rose to command NATO . He retired as Field Marshall Sir Richard Vincent in 1996 and was given the Nato Medal for his services.

If he ever reads this I am sure that David will join me in expressing, all these many years later, our profound sorrow at he and his wife's terrible loss. It was felt throughout the Bradbury Lines community.

PPS: In 1979 I took my first trip back to Britain after having emigrated to Canada in 1966. I made a point of revisiting Hereford and Bradbury Lines (which I believe had become an SAS training facility). The house we lived in was empty and I managed to get a look inside the window, without getting arrested, and was amazed that our family of five had ever lived in such tiny quarters, especially by North American standards!

There is now a brand new bridge across the River Wye which , to my mind spoils the view, however necessary. The old Roman Bridge remains.

With thanks to Dylan Rivis for this memory of Hereford

Added 28 January 2008


Comments & Feedback

Correction: The old bridge wasn't built in Roman times but in Medieval times, completed, I believe, in 1490.

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