The Prisoner’s Character Was Irreproachable: Busbies and a Barmaid

Introduction[i]

A soldier of some ability and reputation joins the 111th Battalion at Galt, Ontario.

As the 111th Battalion began to fill its ranks its composition was like that of the 1st and 2nd Contingent. Its demographics included a large proportion of men who were born in the British Isles, and of that there were many men with previous military experience. This experience ranged from Militia experience in Canada, participation in the Boer War, or duty with an active British Army regiment.

One such man was Private “Scott” Bartleman, living in Galt, Ontario.

Private Scott Bartleman, reg. no. 730034[ii], was living on Ainslie Street in downtown Galt. At 31-years old he was working as a chauffer and had established ties with the community, especially with St. Andrews Church in Hespeler. There were a few anomalies regarding Bartleman’s life. He emigrated to Canada in July 1911, indicating that he was a farmer with the intent of farming in the Toronto area. There is a notation that he had been a soldier, but he had arrived in Canada without his wife, Victoria. From Quebec City he eventually arrived at Galt, Ontario, just 100 kilometers west of Toronto. When he enlisted at Galt, Ontario on November 15, 1915 his trade was that of a chauffeur, a bit of a divergence of being a farmer.

Consistent with the passenger list containing the note that his was a soldier, he listed that he had former military service with the Scots Guards.

This was true but not at all the full story.

The Scots Guards[iii]

A storied Regiment hundreds of years old

The Scots Guards, formed in 1642, is third in precedence after the Grenadier and Coldstream Guards. It is one of the oldest military units in British service and had amassed the following battle honours: Namur 1695, Dettingen, Lincelles, Egypt, Talavera, Barrosa, Fuentes de Oñoro, Salamanca, Nive, Peninsula, Waterloo, Alma, Inkerman, Sevastopol, Tel-er-Kebir, Egypt 1882, Suakin 1885, Modder River, South Africa 1899–1902. As a Guards Regiment it was replete with history and tradition and is a well recognized unit in the British military because of its historic and valorous contribution to Britain’s military heritage and history.

The Scots Guards are resident at Wellington Barrack in London, England and are tasked, along with other Guards units, the protection of the royal residences.

As a Guards Regiment with such a long and enduring history there is little doubt to the importance placed on maintaining its reputation and traditions during its life.

From whence came Private Bartleman, 111th Battalion, CEF.

This military background stood Private Bartleman good stead as his service card notes the following promotions while he served with the 111th Battalion as it worked up in preparation for war:

Date Promotion
Clerk November 15, 1915
Sergeant, appointed as Orderly Sergeant November 17, 1915 (Daily Order 4)
Quarter-Master Sergeant December 12, 1915 (DO 4)
Reverts to Private at his own request August 1, 1916 (DO 188)
Sergeant August 12, 1916 (DO 189)
Company Sergeant Major September 20, 1916 (DO 231)

 

The military training and practice CSM Bartleman had learned during his service with the Scots was obviously in evidence with his service to his new unit. It is interesting to note that he requested a reversion of his rank to private and one theory would be that he asked for this demotion as he may have thought the battalion was going overseas soon and that it would be broken up as replacements for line units. Being a private he may have been more likely to be transferred to such a unit. He may have been concerned that he would be assigned to a reserve battalion, training the troops in England. Something happened as he was then promoted again to Company Sergeant Major.

This promotion record indicates that the training and skills he learned with the Scots Guards made him an effective, valued soldier of the 111th Battalion.

During this time when his skills and capabilities obtained from the Scots Guards helped him as a non-commissioned officer of the battalion, were people aware that Company Sergeant Major Bartleman had left the Scots Guards under not the most positive of circumstances? And if the officers and men knew of his transgression would they have put such store and confidence in him?

The Bearskin Busbies

A news story shared throughout the British Isles and even at Lahore India. All for the love of a barmaid.

In May 1911, The Times of London, the paper of record for England and one of the most prestigious English-language newspapers in the world published a story titled – Guardsman and Bearskins. This newspaper story reports on a trial relating to the theft of 3 bearskin busbies, the headdress of the Guards regiments, and its outcome. It was the conclusion of a series of events that are recorded to have started at Christmas 1910 and ended in May 1911 – the outcome of which would lead to Bartleman leaving for Canada and a new and different life.

The news articles span March and May of 1911 are[iv]:

  • Value of Missing Bearskins. Henley & Oxford Standard. March 17, 1911.
  • Busbies as Muffs. Bicester Herald. March 24, 1911.
  • A Bearskin Muff. Civil and Military Gazette (Lahore) March 25, 1911.
  • Barmaid’s Bearskin Muff – Sweetheart’s Trial for Theft of Busbies. The Evening News (London). May 12, 1911.
  • The Daily News. May 13, 1911.
  • The Globe. Saturday May 13, 1911.
  • Theft of Guardsmen’s Bearskins. Aberdeen Press and Journal. May 13, 1911.
  • Guardsman and Bearskins. The Times, May 1911.

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Quite a lot of attention for three military garments valued then at approximately 18 pounds sterling (1911).

At the start James “Scott” Bartleman plead his innocence by stating for the record he was not guilty. The resulting trial would determine the truth.

The Hearing

Testimony is given and witnesses are called, one all the way from Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

The hearings in March and May paint a pretty complete picture of the events around the busbies.

The hearing held in March at Westminster Police Court finds the then 27-year-old Staff Sergeant Bartleman of the Scots Guards pleading not guilty to the theft of 3 busbies belonging to private soldiers of the Coldstream and Grenadier Guards. He is identified as being resident at the Wellington Barracks at the time of the thefts. At this hearing it appears that he has no legal representation and that it has been convened to determine if there is enough evidence to move forward with a trial under the charges.

Wellington Barracks, London, England

Present to the court was Quarter-master Sergeant Plumer who testified that the original value of a busby was 5£.10s. and had a life of 9-years and were subject to a depreciation rate of 1-shilling a month. This was important as the prosecution and the defence would like to understand the monetary value of the items stolen as it would help to determine the severity of the crime and affect the sentencing, if any, associated with it.

There was no one present from the Government to protect its interests and it was considered to be, “…most extraordinary,” by the presiding magistrate. He related that the loss of government property was a serious matter and that the soldiers to whom lost the property could be subject to pay stoppages and other discipline measures, which would be onerous given their “scanty pay.” Without proper representation from the government, the magistrate was indicating that the importance of the crime and its impact to the individuals and the state would not be adequately determined. Given the interest of the trial by other parties, particularly the Press, the magistrate must have been quite taken aback to make comment on this aspect during the hearing. This lack or representation was to be remedied at the trial.

One of the key witnesses of the hearing was brought in from Scotland. Mrs. Duncan (Jeannie) McKenzie, Bartleman’s sister-in-law of Aberdeenshire, related she made several muffs and that a stolen bearskin had been sent to her several times. She recollected mailing the muff to Miss Pope. Miss Pope was the girlfriend of her bother-in-law, and she was identified by her actions of making the muffs as the enabler of his object of desire, Miss Pope.

Victoria Pope, a barmaid resident at Halstead Road, Brixton, London, an hour’s walk from Wellington Barracks, “…wearing a large hat and fashionably attired,” testified that she had known Bartleman for 2-years and had been going out with him for 6-months (another article indicated they had been engaged). She produced a large muff and she understood it to be made from an old bearskin that Bartleman claimed he had title to. She had asked him if he could make a muff out of it and he complied as she received it in the mail from Scotland. Pope did not question the source of the bearskin. Under further examination it came to light that Pope did know the source of the muff as it was from Bartleman’s sister from Scotland and that it was sent to her residence, where the defendant was also residing.

This contradictory testimony would not bode well for Bartleman.

The constable-detective investigating the theft, Sergeant Childs, related confronting Bartleman at the Wellington Barracks and related that Bartleman denied stealing the bearskins and having them made into a muff. He further stated that that muffs had come to be acquired by him in a private transaction and that he wished to keep the participants private so not to get them, “…into trouble.”

His fate would be sealed when another witness, an officer of the Guards, suggested to look inside the muff for identifying marks and this being done, the marks were discovered clearly indicating that the muffs had been created from bearskin busbies belonging to two soldiers of the British Army. These marks also clearly linked the busbies to specific soldiers, those of the Coldstream and Grenadier Guards, rival regiments, as it were.

Bartleman was not alone in his defence as Lieutenant Cecil Hamilton, Scots Guards, in a deposition, said “…that, apart from these charges, [the] prisoner’s character was irreproachable.”

Regardless of Bartleman’s irreproachability, he was remanded in custody for the coming trial, and it appears that no one, including his love, Miss Pope, posted bail for him. He was now stuck in jail.

The Trial

A jury of his peers will rule on his actions. Was love worth it?

The jury trial occurred sometime in May of 1911. The trial sat before Mr. Robert Wallace, Kings Counsel, with Mr. Clark Hall as defending counsel, and Mr. Barrington Ward, representing the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Two of the officers of the court had some pedigree to their names.

Mr. Robert Wallace, K.C., had been a member of Parliament for Perth after several attempts to be elected in other ridings and had served as an officer of the court since his call to the Bar in 1874. He became the Chair of the County of London Sessions until 1931. Besides his recognition as a King’s Counsel, he was knighted in 1916.

Mr. Clarke Hall is believed to be Sir William Clark Hall. This man is partially known to have married the artist Edna Clarke Hall (1879-1979). As a lawyer his service led to his recognition as a Knight’s Bachelor in 1932. He met Edna when she was 16-years old, half his age.

The trial outlined the circumstances, bringing to light some more details.

Staff Sergeant Bartleman was, “Smartly attired in a blue serge suit.” He was not wearing his uniform, and the papers do not speculate why. Mr. Barrington Ward was trying only two of the cases, probably due to lack of evidence on one of the counts.

Barrington stated that the, “…evidence disclosed a man of irreproachable character stealing things of trifling value simply to gratify the whims and desires of the fairer sex.”. From there he went to establish that one of the busbies was noticed missing on December 28, 1910 but a Private Bennett. He had noticed two busbies in a cupboard used by the accused at his bunk. They disappeared but one ended up at Mrs. McKenzie’s, according to counsel. That this busby was sent to her and the police were able to identify its source as the regimental number of Private Bennett was recorded inside the muff.

On January 3, 1911, Private Ford, of the Coldstream Guards, noticed his busby missing and he saw Miss Pope, “attractively attired”, on February 3, 1911, inquiring after the accused. In her possession was a bearskin muff. He reported this to the authorities and Police Sergeant Childs investigated by attending to Miss Pope’s place of business and found the muff with Private Ford’s regimental number inside it. It had been sent as a gift from the then Staff Sergeant Bartleman.

The examination of Miss Pope found that she had worn the muff to the barracks on twelve occasions and stated, “I have often heard old soldiers speak about bearskins being made into muffs,” she added, “and I thought there would be no harm in asking for one.”

A Scots Guards sergeant was deposed, and he related that he had taken part in performances of “The Marriages of Mayfair” where twenty-four bearskins were used and that they were theatrical props and not true military busbies because government property could not be used in a performance.

A determination was then made to establish the value of the busbies:[v]

“A sergeant-major in the Grenadier Guards said that a new Scots Guard’s bearskin cost 5£.8s.6d., a Grenadier Guard’s bear skin cost 5£.11s.3d., and a Coldstream Guard’s 5£.11s.9d. The Coldstream Guards bearskin cost more because there was a plume. He added that the depreciation allowed on a Coldstream Guard’s bearskin was 0.75.d a month and a Scots Guard’s is 0.5d. (laughter.) The “life” of a bearskin was about 9 years and one issued in 1902 would in 1911 be worth only 2s.6d.

Mr. Barrington Ward.- What is the value of the Irish Guard’s bearskin?

The witness.- Its rather higher than the Scots’ (Laughter)

Counsel.- Then Ireland is vindicated after all.

Handling one of the skins produced, the witness said its value was 10£.3s.33d. (Laughter.)

Mr. Ward.- Supposing a quartermaster-sergeant in the kindness of his heart would give bearskins away, what would happen?

The witness.- He would not be a quartermaster-sergeant for long. (Laughter.)”[vi]

After this testimony, coupled with the strength of the evidence Bartleman entered a plea of “guilty.” This was noted and the jury returned a verdict of guilty after it deliberations. The evidence was compelling, as well as damning and the newspapers stated quite clearly to the motives of the man. He was entranced by the “a slim attractive” barmaid Miss Jennifer Pope and would risk his army career on obtain the object of his affection, the stylish, slim, attractive Miss Victoria Pope of Brixton.

Barrington Ward, on sentencing, expressed sympathy for Bartleman. He had been recognized for the strength of his character with an officer of his regiment who characterized his behaviour as “irreproachable” and that he had been discharged from service due to the circumstances to which he now was experiencing.

The judge, in sympathy with the defendant indicated “…the loss of the prisoner’s position, gained by honourable service, was, in his opinion, punishment enough, and he therefore found Bartleman over to come up for sentence if called upon.” Thus, if Bartleman was able to not be charged with another crime, typically one year from this sentencing, this case would be held in suspension. The punishment and conviction would only come in force if Bartleman broke the law again, was charged and convicted of another crime. The first conviction would then come into force with the punishment affixed to it.

Immediately After the Trial

Bartleman moves on.

The outcome for the former soldier was not dire, but it was not ideal. Though he married his love to whom became the motivation of his downfall, he emigrated to Canada in September of 1911, without his new bride, Mrs. Victoria Bartleman, later to be recorded in his CEF service records as residing at Norman Villa, Forge Road, Southborough, Kent.

War Service

Return to service.

With his enlistment with the 111th Battalion using Scott as his first name, he did identify that he had been a Scots Guard. It can not be determined if anyone else had any knowledge of the events surrounding him leaving the service of the Guards. The news stories circulating in the United Kingdom may have reached Canada, leading to questions if anyone connect “Scott Bartleman” with the James Bartleman identified in the news stories.

It is a mystery as to why the charges were preferred to civil authority. For some reason, though the thefts occurred on military property, to military property, and involved members of the military, it was tried in civil court. It could be surmised that Private Bennett, a member of another unit, deliberately took the matter outside the military justice system to ensure that the outcomes to Bartleman would lead to his dismissal. He was a Staff Sergeant and at the age of 27 indicates he was well on his way to establishing a career as an influential member of the Scots Regiment, a rival regiment. In an act of “screw you” Private Bennett aired the dirty laundry of a sister regiment which prevented it from informally or formally acting on the thefts. Perhaps Bennett thought the thefts would be swept under the rug, as it were. Given the position of responsibility Bartleman had, this is not likely. One would  suspect that a severe reprimand or discharge from the army would have occurred.

Whatever the case, Bartleman’s life would be changed forever by his actions. He was no longer physically with his barmaid. Now in Canada, driving a car for other, he started a new life that would exist for almost 3-years. He integrated into the community and, though the records at the time of his attestation shows he lived in Galt, was a member of St. Andrews Church, Hespeler as he allocated 30 percent of his death insurance benefit to this institution in his military will. The other 50 percent went to his slim, attractive wife.

As outline previously, Company Sergeant Major Bartleman was a valued member of the battalion and his service with the CEF would return him to his homeland.

He is posted to West Sandling, Kent, close to his wife who is recorded to be residing at Southborough, Kent, approximately 60 kilometers away. During his service in England, he is again recognized for his martial abilities being appointed an Acting Company Sergeant Major (A/CSM) with the 35th Battalion. He reverts to an Acting Sergeant on his own request and then is transferred to the 4th Reserve Battalion, Bramshott, where again, he is appointed A/CSM.

But time and destiny are catching up with him and on June 6, 1917 he reverts to the rank of private as he is taken on strength with the 18th Battalion, a unit fighting in France.

Arriving in France on June 6, 1917 he moves from No. 2 Canadian Infantry Base Depot at Etaples to the 18th Battalion at Barlin, France on June 11, 1917, where the Battalion is currently in the rear, training.

Barely 2-months pass and Private James “Scott” Bartleman is killed at the action at Lens and Hill 70 on August 16, 1917. His Circumstances of Death Card records:

““Killed in Action” Lens Sector: During a counterattack to regain a lost trench, this soldier was hit in the stomach by a bullet from the rifle of an enemy sniper. He received first aid, but died shortly after.”

It is possible he is the one man listed as a casualty in the 18th Battalion’s War Diary entry for that date:

“About noon Lieut. Dougall, L.Sgt. C.E. Routley and 19 o.rs crossed the railway cutting at N.13.b.2.2 and went forward along COTTON TRENCH to N.13.b.5.0 where there were fired upon from ALOOF TRENCH and they could see that ALOOF trench was heavily held by the enemy. Turing about they went Westward along COTTON trench to N.13.c.70.95 where they again encountered an enemy party from the South, turning about again they found that an enemy party from ALOOF trench had followed them and they were practically surrounded.

Lieut. Dougall then sent up his artillery signals and under cover of this fire succeeded in returning to our lines with only one casualty. There was no unusual activity during the remainder of the day.”[vii]

The War Diary makes no mention of this man. He would be lost to history.

Aftermath

Not forgotten.

Private Bartleman’s service record during his entire career with the CEF is spotless. It is likely that he would have distinguished himself with his Battalion if he had lived longer. Given the support that the officers the other battalions gave him resulting in successive and repeat promotions and appointments Bartleman was an excellent soldier and that excellence expressed itself in combat.

He is buried at Dud Corner Cemetery, just north-west of Lens. He is one of the 16 Canadian buried there out of 686 interments. He is the only member of the 18th to be buried there.

His widow was eligible for his medals and his mother, Mrs. Jean Bartleman of Viewfield Road, Ballater, Aberdeenshire, Scotland received his Silver Cross.

Victoria Pope, later Victoria Bartleman, does not stay Mrs. Bartleman awfully long after his death. She marries on June 18, 1919 and is recorded in his pension records as living now at 119 High Street, Peckham, S.E. 15. She is paid out at $95.00 CDN.

Bartleman Crescent is a Poppy Street commemorating this soldier in Cambridge, Ontario.

Private James “Scott” Bartleman appears to be the quintessential soldier until he meets Miss Pope. He joins the British Army and is assigned to one of its most elite and storied regiments and rises to the rank of Staff Sergeant at the age of 27-years. The motivations to present to his love a gift that shows such devotion and endearment is his downfall and he makes a new life in Canada where his connection to his church is so deep he assigns a portion of his death benefit for its advantage – 20 percent is allocated for “general purposes” and 10 percent for “music purchases.” But his experiences in England  with the court system does not deter him. He joins the Canadian Army and serves this institution with a spotless record. He redeems himself and sacrifices his life in action in the face of the enemy. But for some family members that still remember this man, he would be forgotten.

CSM Bartleman’s Will.

Now we can see part of his character. Influenced by more than one motivation, he lived his life large and with passion for the woman he loved, and he gave all to his King and Empire. He rests softly in France and his memory is rekindled because of his love for a woman.

 End Notes

[i] With special thanks to Lorna Felske for sharing the initial news clipping and to Andrew Taylor for contributing all the other news clippings for this article.

[ii] Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 480 – 56.

[iii] Scots Guards. (2021). Retrieved 18 February 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scots_Guards

[iv] These news clippings form the basis of this article.

[v] For illustration a real cost of the busbies is projected to be in 2021 currency of value in 1911 at £5.8s.6d would be £569.40 or $979.96 CDN. Therefore, the total estimated cost would be $2,939.88 CDN in current dollars for the three busbies.

[vi] The Times. May 1911 via Lorna Felske from Facebook Memories of Galt, Preston or Hespeler – Those were The Days, My Friends!

[vii] It is interesting to note that the War Diary is in variance to the actual number of soldiers that died that day. The returns indicate that a total of 8 men died on this date. A cursory look at the data shows that at least 5 of those men perished on that day.

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