Date: 13 Feb 1956
Place: River Mersey, Warrington
Gordon Pilling was found in the River Mersey on Monday 13 February 1956. He was a soldier and had disappeared from his barracks on 10 January 1956.
He was a private in the South Lancashire Regiment and it was heard that he had been worried about a forthcoming kit Inspection and that he could not quite lay his kit out properly. He had been based at the Peninsula Barracks in Warrington.
A training officer at the barracks had described Gordon Pilling as a quiet type, shy and a man who kept himself to himself. He said, 'He could not quite lay out his kit properly. He had been checked for it before'.
However his father said that Gordon Pilling had never complained to him about being ragged or ill-treated in the Army. However, it was said that two days before he had disappeared from his barracks that he had arrived home in a distressed state saying that he was fed-up. It was said that his main worry was a kit inspection, but it was said that after a talk he had brightened up and returned to the barracks.
His father said that two days later, on 3 January 1956, he received a postcard from Gordon Pilling with the message, 'Help me' and that soon after he heard that Gordon Pilling had disappeared.
Gordon Pilling's mother said that Gordon Pilling had been a wheelwright at the viaduct works in Earlstown until he had joined the Army in October 1955 and described him as having been of a quiet disposition. She noted that he had never been away from home until he had joined the Army to do his National Service.
Before his body was found his disappearance was described as a mystery. It was thought that he might have 'thumbed' a lift on a long distance lorry going south near Warrington Bridge in Warrington.
His body was found in the River Mersey at Warrington on Monday 13 February 1956.
An open verdict was returned at his inquest.
Four witnesses gave evidence at Gordon Pilling's inquest to say that Gordon Pilling had been worried about the kit inspection that was due to take place on the day he disappeared, 10 January 1956.
A private who was thought to have been the last person to have seen Gordon Pilling alive said that when he saw Gordon Pilling on the morning of his kit inspection that he had looked worried. He said that he had asked Gordon Pilling if he was short of kit and said that Gordon Pilling made no reply. He said that Gordon Pilling made up his bed pack in an unusual way and that someone pointed that out to him. He said that he then went off to breakfast, but that Gordon Pilling didn't go and said that when he returned he saw Gordon Pilling standing at his locker and that that was the last that he saw of him.
The coroner said that the evidence heard did not reveal any evidence of bullying or horse play and noted that Gordon Pilling's had been well thought of by his superior officer and all other ranks, noting that the only evidence before the inquest was that Gordon Pilling had been unduly apprehensive about his kit inspection.
He said, 'There is no evidence that he threatened to take his life and it would be quite wrong to assume that he did. No one has told me how he came into the water and no one can'.
Following his death, Gordon Pilling's father declined to have a military funeral. An adjutant to the South Lancashire Regiment called on Gordon Pilling's father on Wednesday 15 February 1956 to offer a full military funeral but he declined although he accepted the offer of four bearers and a bugler to sound the Last Post at Gordon Pilling's graveyard.
Gordon Pilling's father was said to be planning to see his MP with a view to having an investigation made into certain alleged happenings at the barracks before Gordon Pilling disappeared on 19 January 1956. Gordon Pilling had been called up for National Service just ten weeks before he died.
Gordon Pilling was from 352 Wargrave Road in Newton-le-Willows.
see Bradford Observer - Wednesday 22 February 1956
see Liverpool Echo - Wednesday 22 February 1956, p14
see Bradford Observer - Saturday 18 February 1956
see Lancashire Evening Post - Wednesday 15 February 1956
see Liverpool Echo - Tuesday 21 February 1956