1932 : Young man electrocuted while washing his employer’s van

While washing his employer’s van, Frederick Mansfield, aged 18, was electrocuted. From the newspaper reports it would appear that he grabbed an electric light flex, that didn’t have a light bulb in it, and probably didn’t realise that the switch was on. Electricity shorted from the lamp socket across his body to the wet floor on which he was standing.

The story was syndicated nationally and appeared in a number of regional newspapers. Here’s one article from The Scotsman:

LAD ELECTROCUTED

A remarkable fatality occurred at Mitcham on Saturday night, when Frederick Thomas Mansfield (18), a butcher’s assistant, of Homewood Road, Mitcham, was electrocuted while washing a motor car.

Mansfield and another boy were cleaning the car at the rear of the premises of Edwin Birch & Sons, butchers, Church Road, and were using a “flex” attached to the electric light installation of the car for illuminating purposes. Hearing a shout, the manager went to the spot, and found Mansfield lying on his back with the flex in his hand. The manager knocked the wire from the boy’s hand, but when a doctor arrived Mansfield was found to be dead.

Source: The Scotsman – Monday 04 January 1932 from the British Newspaper Archive (subscription required)

At the inquest it was added that the vehicle being washed was his employer’s van.

It was stated at an inquest yesterday on a Mitcham butcher’s assistant, Frederick Mansfield (18), who was electrocuted while washing his employer’s motor van, that he had a flex in his right hand, and must have got the best part of 200 volts through his body. Dr. Henry Love said that Mansfield had exceedingly large thymus gland, which was a contributory cause.

Source: Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail – Thursday 07 January 1932 from the British Newspaper Archive (subscription required)

The postmortem would likely to have been performed in the Mortuary Chapel in the parish churchyard. This building was demolished some time after the formation of the London Borough of Merton in 1965.

The 1930 commercial directory gives E. Birch & Sons, butchers at numbers 36 and 38 Church Road.

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