October 22, 2017
If you’re familiar with my blogs then you know that they are always about people that were famous or semi-famous back in their day, although most of them are now forgotten people. This one will be different in that it will be about two infamous people from one sad event.
After my last blog I had planned on doing the next one on the aviator Ed Musick. Although the research was complete, I had postponed the writing of it until I could obtain one last piece of information that I felt was necessary.
Recently though, I stumbled upon an article about the cemetery in the picture above. Actually, that picture is of just one section of the cemetery. The name of the cemetery is the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial. It is an American military cemetery located in northern France and over 6,000 Americans who died in the area during the First World War are buried there.
Later on (some time between 1945 and 1949) American soldiers that had been executed during World War Two for heinous crimes were removed from their various prison graveyards around the world and placed here in a separate section called Plot E. There are currently 94 of these men buried there. These soldiers had all been dishonorably discharged prior to being executed and are now known as the dishonorable dead. Plot E is hidden and not on the official maps and guides for the cemetery. No American flag is allowed to be flown there. More good info on Plot E at the Wiki page for it here.
For my blog subjects, I chose one story at random. It concerned a Corporal Ernest Lee Clark and a Private Augustine M Guerra, both of whom were executed for the rape, strangulation and murder of a 15 year old girl named Betty Dorian Pearl Green in Ashford, Kent, England on 22 August 1944. Here are the newspaper items I found first.
...Giving up temporarily on Ancestry, I went back to some creative Google searching and discovered a few sites, forums and articles that gave me a small trickle of information. Namely this turned out to be that Clark had been born in Clifton Forge, Virginia and Guerra in Cibolo, Texas. Hopefully I now had enough to get started. I am going to cover Clark first. Considering Guerra’s being Hispanic and the poor records for them during the time-frame involved, I suspected he would be more difficult so I saved him for later. My biggest break came when I found the actual records of the court-martial trials. This also gave me the full story, forensics, testimony and such, including the birth dates and birth places for all three people. I’ll provide a link later in the blog. For now we’ll cover the genealogy.
Ernest Lee Clark was born in Clifton Forge (Alleghany County), Virginia on 10 August 1920, so he had just turned 24 when the crime was committed. His parents were James William Clark and Euna Rosa Pollock. James was born on 22 August 1887 in Virginia, which means the murder was committed on his birthday. Euna was born on 9 April 1894 in Missouri. They had gotten married in Clifton Forge in 1912 and began having their five children. These were Robert Dorman in 1913, Mattie Virginia in 1915, James Jr in 1917, Ernest in 1920, and finally Henry Lewis in 1924.
The first document on Ernest is his appearance with his family in the 1930 Census done on April 22nd. Beginning on line 85, we see James Sr. He’s 41, and he is a plumber with the railroad. Next is Euna, 36 and it shows her parents as being from West Virginia. Their first marriage ages verify their 1912 marriage date. The children are next, with Robert Dorman now 17 and a coner at a rayon plant. Then Mattie, James Jr, Ernest and Henry.
Two years later, on 18 July 1932, Ernest’s mother died from tuberculosis at age 38. Ernest was 11 years old. Less than two years later, on 4 February 1934, Ernest’s father died from acute heart failure at age 46. Ernest was now 13.
The family was all split up after this apparently. By the time of the 1940 Census, the oldest son (Robert) was 26 and living with another family as hired help. I was unable to find Mattie until she got married in 1942. James Jr turned up in the census in one of the local Civilian Conservation Corps camps. Little Henry was just 15 and turned up in the census at the Industrial School and Farm for Homeless Boys and Mountain Children in nearby Covington, Virginia. I wasn’t able to find Ernest in the census.
On 16 Feb 1942 he turned up again when he filled out his WW2 draft card. He is living in Covington with his aunt Nora, who had been married to his father’s brother, Albert before he passed away a few years earlier. It also shows that he is now working at a Naval Ordinance plant in West Virginia. The document also shows he was almost six foot tall and weighed 188 lbs. Draft Card 1 Draft Card 2. A few months later, on 17 September 1942, Ernest enlisted in the Army in Roanoke, Virginia. Eventually he ended up in the Army Air Corps and assigned to the 306th Fighter Control Squadron, based in Ashford, England. This is where we stop for now and cover some odd items about his family and a brief synopsis of his family members’ lives.
Ernest’s mother had five brothers. One of them, William Ernest Pollock, had a wife named Grace Flack. In March of 1937, when she was 34, she suffered an acute heart attack and died. A few months later, in October, William poisoned himself to death with strychnine. Next, James Harry Pollock, worked for the power company in Arlington, Virginia and when he was 51 he was accidentally electrocuted to death there on the job. Another one, Walter Nichols Pollock, at age 29 used a shotgun on himself. His uncle John Hamilton Pollock was killed at age 59 in a homicide with a shotgun. I got into the Clark side also but nothing unusual stood out...
...As I mentioned earlier, I had a hunch Augustine’s tree was going to be more difficult. Unfortunately, I was correct. Unlike Ernest, I was unable to confirm 100% the Army’s info on Augustine’s birth date, birth place, or his date of enlistment. Going by the Army’s records though, Augustine Miranda Guerra was born in Cibolo (Guadalupe County), Texas. His parents appear to have been Demascio Guerra and Vicenta Miranda. Demascio was born in Mexico in about 1882 and Vicenta was born in Texas on 19 Feb 1893. They got married in 1909 and proceeded to add many children to the family, at least 12 by my reckoning, the last two being a set of twins (male and female). These children are Pedro, Pablo, Francisco, Gerarda, Francisca, Pandeta, Demascio Jr, Augustine, Santos, Elisia, Maria and Jose. Although they moved around some, they mainly lived in the San Antonio area for the vast majority of their lives, as did their children. In the 1910 Census Demascio and Vicenta are freshly married with no children. I was unable to locate them in the 1920 Census but found Vicenta and the kids in the 1930 Census in Uvalde, Texas. She is shown as a widow but they are back together for the 1940 Census.
Back to the 1930 Census, she has already borne at least 9 of her children, though not all of them are living. With her are Pedro, Pablo, Gerarda, Pandeta, Demascio Jr, Augustine and Santos. Now here’s the odd one. The following year, on 8 September 1931, Vicenta gave birth to Elisia. Her birth certificate shows that she is illegitimate. No father is listed however. I assume that Vicenta and Demascio were separated for some time (there’s a four year gap between her previous child and Elisia). Regardless, by the time of their 1940 Census they are back together and living in San Antonio. They have Pedro, Demascio Jr, Augustine, Elisia, and Santos with them, too.
This brings us to the synopsis part for Augustine’s family:
I never could find what happened to his father, but his mother died 1 March 1953 in San Antonio from leptomeningitis.
Pablo died in San Antonio in 1973.
Francisco died at age 3 in 1918 from dysentery.
Gerarda married Angel Escamilla and she died in 1981 in San Antonio.
Francisca died at age 18 from some lung ailment in San Antonio.
Demascio Jr married Nora Trinidad and they had at least 7 children. Demascio died in 1970 and Nora just last year, both of them in San Antonio.
Santos died in 1999 in Louisiana.
Maria died in 1935 at the age of 3 months.
Jose died in March of 1990...
...This is it for Augustine until later. Now on to Betty.
Before getting started on Betty, keep in mind that British genealogy is a bit different than American. They heavily use indexes instead of the original records. Indexes have limited information so it’s harder to confirm you have the right person. They also use a lot less exact dates, instead preferring dates in quarter-year. For example, look up a birth and it might be listed as Jan-Feb-Mar 1924. Lastly, the British waiting period for censuses is 100 years, so their latest census available is from 1911. In the US it’s a 72 year wait so the latest available is 1940. With all that being said, let’s get started.
Thanks to the Army trial records, I found Betty’s actual birth date. She was born 1 April 1929 in Ashford, Kent, England to William Ernest Green and Sylvia Alice Kate White. William was born in 1895 in Newington, London, England and Sylvia was born 11 Apr 1902 in Willesborough, Kent, England. They got married in Ashford in 1920 and had three children; John William B in 1921, Edward Albert Frank in 1924, and Betty. At the time of the murder, they were living at 180 New Town Road.
Due to the lack of record-finding there isn’t much I can tell about her family overall so I’ll just add it all here briefly. Her father died in Ashford late in 1966. Her mother didn’t pass away until late in 1990 in nearby Maidstone. As far as her brothers, John got married late in 1949 to Annie Adamson. He died in Maidstone 5 November 1992. Edward got married in Ashford on 11 August 1945 to Doreen Lilian Mary Stoker. I don’t know how many children Edward and Doreen had, but they did have a son named John Andrew that was born in 1955 and died in Ashford in 1997. Edward himself passed away in 1977 in Ashford and Doreen passed away there in 1998.
And now for the crime. Betty had returned home from work at Norman’s Cycle Works about 5:45 pm and left again an hour later. She was wearing a silver cross, a brooch and a hair-slide. She walked with a friend from work named Peggy Blaskett and went to a fair in town, where they met two American soldiers. One named George Williams was with Peggy and one named Eddy was with Betty. The girls later departed alone about 9:45 and headed for home. After splitting up near Peggy’s home, Betty headed for hers. She was about 300 yards from the corner of New Town Road and Black Path when she was spotted by a railroad worker that knew her at about 10:20 pm. He stopped and they talked.
About 7:15 the next morning, another railroad worker noticed something in the old cricket field located near the corner of New Town and Black Path. He called to another employee that was closer to the scene. This employee investigated and found her body. He did not touch the body but contacted police, who arrived within a few minutes. The police took photos of the body and surroundings. They found the cross at her side, the brooch about four feet away and the hair-slide about 24 feet away. Betty’s father identified her about 7:45 that morning and again at 3:15 pm. He also identified the cross, brooch and hair-slide.
When the police had arrived they found that her skirt was lifted up to the waist band, her knickers were raised up to her waist, the left seam was torn, and the crotch was torn away in front. The crotch region and adjacent private parts were exposed and bloodstained. Several hairs from various locations on the body were recovered also.
The body was examined at about 8:30 am by a local medical practitioner, who felt she had been dead from six to twelve hours. An autopsy was later performed and she was determined to be a healthy girl and used to sexual intercourse. There was a single bruise to the right side of her neck which could have been from a thumb and four bruises down the left side of the neck. There was bruising behind the voice box. Death was shown to be from asphyxia. There were many other bruises and scratches and a vaginal swab showed evidence of semen.
Her father had been at the Smith Arms Pub the evening of the murder, which was located about 150 yards from where it occurred. He was later able to identify Augustine as one of two American soldiers that had been at the pub together and had left at about 10:15 pm.
During the trial, according to Ernest, he and Guerra had gotten a pass to leave camp and that they did so that afternoon. They went to a movie and from there to several pubs, where they drank considerably. They ended up at the Smith Arms Pub. From there they went through the Black Path and came near the railroad bridge. Augustine had stopped but they saw a girl approaching and Ernest went over and asked where she was going. She told them home. They talked for about 5 minutes and he asked her to go for a walk. He put his arm around her and proceeded with her towards the gate of the cricket field. He picked her up and carried her through the gate, with Augustine following. After Augustine covered her mouth with his hand she struggled, trying to say something. While this was happening Ernest carried her further onto the field and laid her on the field while she was still struggling. Augustine raised her dress and tore her knickers apart. She started to scream so Ernest covered her mouth while Augustine had raped her. After Augustine finished they swapped places and while Ernest was finishing up he suddenly felt her relax her resistance. Ernest went on to say they felt her heart beating but that she was unconscious. He also said that as they were leaving he went back and checked on her again and her heart was still beating. He figured she had fainted and would be fine after a rest.
Augustine’s account during his trial pretty much corroborates Ernest’s account, with some detail differences that could easily be attributed to two drunk men trying to relate one event from their perspectives.
They were both found guilty and hanged together on 8 January 1945 at Shepton Mallet Prison in Shepton Mallet, Somerset, England by brothers Thomas and Albert Pierrepoint. They were initially buried in Plot X of Brookwood Cemetery in Sussex, another Dishonored plot. Later they were moved to the one called Plot E in France. Ernest is buried in grave # 68 and Augustine is buried in grave # 44.
As promised earlier, here is the link to the Army records of the trials. It is in PDF format. You’ll find Ernest’s on page 199 and Augustine’s on page 209. The page numbers are at the top of the page. Army Records
In the end, I’m fairly sure they didn’t mean to kill her. Essentially two young men, far from home, with way too much liquor in them and a night that went horribly wrong. Regardless though, Betty didn’t deserve it and justice was at least served for her to some degree. I had hoped to find out more on her, at least her grave-site, but had no luck with it. Maybe someone in England can help.
Thank you EHT for quite a lot of detail on these men. Again, I would like to, in a future life, tour this site as part of a tour of the European theater of operations. Not America's finest, to say the least, but still part of World War II history.