Last week in my piece on Pte. Maxwell Scott of Fogo, I concluded that the Court of Enquiry assembled to investigate the circumstances under which he met his death, determined that he had committed suicide. What next now?
One would assume that had he been killed in action, or died from some disease, the proper protocol would have been straight-forward.
We know that shortly after his death a telegram was sent to the Records Office in London, England, to the extent that #3379, Pte. M. Scott had died on July 31, 1917, but that the cause of his death was not given.
On August 21, 1917, Mrs. Elizabeth Scott received this telegram from R. A. Squires, Colonial Secretary, St. John’s, Newfoundland: “Regret to inform you Record Office, London, today reports No. 3379, Pte. Maxwell Scott, died in France, July 31st; no cause given.”
This note was appended for the telegraph operator in Fogo: “This message is not to be sent until receiving office notifies that message to Reverend Mr. Scott, has been delivered and acted upon.” (Note: I am assuming that the Reverend Scott mentioned was the Methodist minister in Fogo at that time. The Scott family was Presbyterian, but it seems that they were worshipping members of the Methodist congregation in Fogo.)
On Sept. 1, 1917, a Major Timewell sent a coded telegram to the Governor of Newfoundland stating that the finding of the Court of Enquiry regarding the death of Maxwell Scott, was suicide by shooting.
You will notice that in any of the previous reports regarding the death of Pte. Scott, no cause was given. This must have seemed unusual for the family as most likely if someone was killed in action, succumbed to wounds, or died of some disease, the family would have been notified of such. No such information was given to Mrs. Elizabeth Scott, and so her son, Robert, on Aug. 28, 1917, wrote this letter to the Honourable R.A. Squires, Colonial Secretary, St. John’s, NFLD.:
Dear Sir, Your message of August 21st, received notifying my mother, Mrs. Elizabeth Scott of the death of my brother, #3379, Pte. Maxwell Scott. Could you inform us whom we could communicate with for the object of getting more definitive information as regards his death. An answer would greatly oblige his mother and myself.”