Excruciating toothache leads to tragic death of Preston soldier

Local historian Keith Johnson looks back the death of a gunner at Fulwood Barracks in Preston
There were two tragic deaths within the Fulwood BarracksThere were two tragic deaths within the Fulwood Barracks
There were two tragic deaths within the Fulwood Barracks

In early October 1905 Frances Charles Iddenden, aged 27, a gunner in the Royal Field Artillery, who had recently been posted from Colchester to Fulwood Barracks, was troubled by toothache.

The pain became so bad that he visited the Preston Royal Infirmary and had a tooth extracted without anesthetic. That evening the pain was intolerable and after being examined by Quartermaster-Sergeant Jones of the Royal Army Corps – it was arranged for him to have the stump of the troublesome tooth removed by the medics.

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Iddenden shared a barracks room with a young soldier named Anthony Gaucher and it was apparent to him that his room mate was still suffering and he had observed him vomiting out of the window. Eventually, the young lad fell asleep only to awakened by a crashing noise.

Leaping from his bed he dashed to the open window and observed Iddenden lying on the ground 20 feet below groaning in agony. Assistance was soon at hand, but little could be done and Iddenden passed away shortly after midnight.

On the following afternoon an inquest was held inside Fulwood Barracks and the gathering heard that the deceased had a distinctive military record. He had served in India, taking part in the North West Frontier campaign and also in South Africa in the Boer War conflict earning medals in both military campaigns. He was spoken of as a soldier of good character and he had been popular within the barracks since his recent arrival.

Lt-Col Daley, medical officer, who had carried out the post-mortem examination, said in his opinion the deceased had, whilst feeling sickly, stood on a bed close to the window and whilst in the act of vomiting out of the window had accidentally fallen through onto the cobbled path below.

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The jury after a brief consultation returned a verdict of ‘Accidental Death’.

Unfortunately, a few days later another tragic incident occurred within the Fulwood Barracks. On this occasion Driver James Watson, of the Lancashire Field Artillery, after exercising with his battery in the back field, rode back to the stables, at the same time leading another horse. One of the animals suddenly bolted, and Watson was thrown to the ground, and received a kick to the head.

He was immediately taken to the Preston Royal Infirmary suffering from a fractured skull and being only conscious intermittently. Despite hopes of a full recovery and constant medical attention at the Fulwood Barracks garrison hospital he died on the last day of October.

Two such tragedies left the soldiers of the barracks in a mournful mood.