There is a report in the Express & Star on 26 October 1914 about the case of a 16-year-old errand boy, Stephen Patrick Williams, who was charged at Wolverhampton Borough Police Court with having stolen 3s. 6d. He had stolen the money from a collecting box for the Express & Star Prince of Wales’ Relief Fund. The box was stored on the premises of his master, John Thomas Jones, butcher at 11 Worcester Street.
Mr Jones had stored the box in a drawer at the back of the shop. On returning to the drawer two days later, he had found the box broken open, and money removed. Williams had been working for his employer for five weeks “and had been a good lad.” On being apprehended by Detective Constable Churchward, Williams had admitted to the theft, stating that he wanted to buy a flash lamp battery. Mr Jones confirmed that he would re-employ Williams if he would promise not to repeat the offence. Williams was cautioned, and bound over for six months “to be of good behaviour”. The article goes on to say that:
An enterprising police constable, anxious to make up the loss, went round the court with the repaired box and collected 2s.
Stephen was born in Wolverhampton on 31 August 1898, the son of John and Ann Williams. In 1911 they were living at No 9 House, 2 Court, Littles Lane, along with Stephen’s brother James Henry and sisters Ann and Alice May.
Stephen himself later enlisted in the army, first on 31 August 1916. He transferred to the 7th Battalion of the Labour Corps (number 195343)on 2 May 1917, by which date his trade was given as “Plater’s assistant” at Chillington Tool Works. Apparently his first regiment was in the 25th (Works) Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry (number 38558), but there is some correspondence from October – November 1919 in his service records stating that this regimental number is incorrect and that he cannot be traced in the D.L.I. That regimental number in fact belonged to a man named Ernest Edward Glass. Stephen himself claimed that the documents were taken off him when he transferred to the Labour Corps, “and I have not seen them since.” He does not appear to have ever served overseas.
In terms of his conduct within the Army, Stephen was four times found to be absent from his duties, in 1918 and 1919, and was fined 3 days’ pay on each occasion. More seriously, and linked to his earlier offence, he was also found to have stolen property from five of his fellow soldiers on 10 April 1917, and was awarded 28 days’ detention.
Stephen survived the war, and married Clara R. V. Leaver in Wolverhampton in 1927. The couple had five children – James S., Patricia, Doris, Clara E. and Christine – between 1928 and 1946. Stephen died in Wolverhampton in 1972.