The Warwickshire newspapers of 1936 bear witness to a saddening tale of love and heartbreak in the long aftermath of war.
The tale revolves around Francis Arthur Roughead, occupant of Wasperton House. He was a veteran of the First World War and had reached the rank of lieutenant before he was retired for ill-health and diagnosed with neurasthenia (a broad term for a mental condition involving fatigue, anxiety, irritability and depressed moods). In 1931, he began treatment with a Dr. Stanley Barnes, who described him as ‘of a nervy temperament’. He suffered what was described as ‘a psychological outburst’ following an operation in 1934. His new specialist, Mr. McDonald, stated that ‘Roughead’s great difficulty was in getting into friendly contact with his fellow men’, but that he had been getting ‘very much better’ in this regard.1
He certainly appeared to be more comfortable with the company of one man in particular; Frederick George Latham, an employee at Wasperton House. He took an interest in Latham initially ‘because he had heart trouble’, and a ‘friendship’ developed between them.2 In 1935, Roughead dismissed Latham from his service, but immediately began to visit him; ‘he took him out frequently in his car and commenced to write letters to him. He used to call for him almost every day of the week, and for no apparent reason. He also started to pay Latham £2 per week although the latter was not working for him.’3 Roughead called Latham ‘dearest’ and ‘darling’, and Latham called him ‘Pop’.4
Unfortunately, such a relationship between two men was not considered acceptable at the time and they were not able to keep their secret. The pair were followed by the police on a number of occasions when they took drives in the country. On 19th August 1936 they visited Glass House Wood, near Kenilworth, together. They were shadowed by police and photographed. A warrant was issued on 20th August and Roughead was arrested on 21st August.5
‘I still want to stand by him’
Roughead’s response was a noble one. He asked whether Latham had made a statement, and what it said. When the police would not tell him, he said ‘I do not want to put all the blame onto Latham’. Instead, he wrote and signed his own statement saying ‘I admit it; I cannot say anything else… If it had not been for me this would not have started. I still want to stand by him.’6 It is clear that he feared the blame would fall on Latham and he was not willing to betray his friend.
Latham was not so eager to stand up for his companion. Whatever his reasons, he denied any interest in Roughead and instead gave evidence for the prosecution. Latham stated that ‘he had intended to get all the money he could out of the man’.7 The letters he had from Roughead were read aloud to court, and were found to be ‘couched in suggestive terms’.8 Roughead alone was charged with attempting to procure the commission of an act of gross indecency.
We cannot imagine how Roughead would have felt at such a betrayal. It is made particularly poignant when we remember his mental health, the difficulties he had with personal contact and how much progress he had made. The judge, upon discussion with Roughead’s doctor, was inclined to be lenient; he stated that ‘sending you to prison would retard, perhaps for all time, improvement in your health.’9 Roughead was instead ‘bound over’ for two years, as long as he continued to see his specialist. Here, the story in the newspapers ends. We may never know how his life turned out, and whether he ever recovered from this incident.
1 ‘Mr. F. A. Roughead Bound Over’, Warwick and Warwickshire Advertiser, 5 December 1936.
2 ‘Committed to the Assizes’, Leamington Spa Courier, 4 September 1936.
3 ‘Mr F. A. Roughead Committed for Trial to the Assizes’, Warwick and Warwickshire Advertiser, 5 September 1936; ‘Committed to the Assizes’, Leamington Spa Courier, 4 September 1936.
4 ‘Mr F. A. Roughead Committed for Trial to the Assizes’, Warwick and Warwickshire Advertiser, 5 September 1936
5 ‘Mr F. A. Roughead Committed for Trial to the Assizes’, Warwick and Warwickshire Advertiser, 5 September 1936.
6 ‘Committed to the Assizes’, Leamington Spa Courier, 4 September 1936; ‘Mr F. A. Roughead Committed for Trial to the Assizes’, Warwick and Warwickshire Advertiser, 5 September 1936.
7 ‘Mr. F. A. Roughead Bound Over’, Warwick and Warwickshire Advertiser, 5 December 1936.
8 ‘Committed to the Assizes’, Leamington Spa Courier, 4 September 1936.
9 ‘Mr. F. A. Roughead Bound Over’, Warwick and Warwickshire Advertiser, 5 December 1936