Percy was born on 1st October 1896 at 86 Golborne Road in the slums of London. His father was a self employed cycle dealer on the Portobello Road. By the time of the 1901 census, the family had moved to nearby 204 Ladbroke Grove and they were still living there ten years later with Percy carrying out office work, possibly for his father. Although all these roads are close to some awful overcrowded slums in nearby Southam Street and Paddington, it seems the family were not nearly as badly off as some, as they were living in 8 rooms according to the 1911 census which, compared to some, was palatial.
The Great War was a chance for those young men from the slums to escape and make something of their life. Like many others, Percy signed up for the Territorial Army early on in November 1914. He was five foot four and a half inches tall and eleven stone - not a big lad. He gave his occupation as a "mechanic and engineer" which was probably why he was assigned as a driver with the 2nd Military Division Supply Column. In September 1915 he became Acting Sergeant.
Having been promoted to Sergeant in April 1916, the following month he embarked on the SS Lydia (steam ship) bound for Rouen in France with the British Expeditionary Force. He was deployed with the Royal Army Service Corps as a 'Heavy Driver' and at that time reports were good :
- Reliable - yes
- Intelligent - yes
- Sobriety - yes
- Good driver
- Fair NCO
Soon after being demobbed, Percy married Florence Davis in 1919 and they had a son, Peter Sandford Howard Haskins, in 1923.
Drink continued to be Percy's undoing after the War when in November 1922, now aged 26, he was convicted at the West London Police Court of being drunk in charge of a motor car and of dangerous driving. He was sentenced to twenty one days imprisonment which was reduced on appeal to fourteen days.
The Coroners Inquest was reported in the local newspaper (quotes in mauve). It seems the motor cycle combo had earlier overtaken a lorry driving between Barnet towards South Mimms and Manning's motor cycle combination overtook him travelling at about 16 miles per hour. The collision took place about 35 to 40 yards in front of witness's lorry. The motor cycle combination was on its near side at the time of the collision. The light car was on the wrong side of the road. He saw the light car travelling along the road before the collision, and it was then on the wrong side. It came round the bend on the wrong side, although there was no reason for it to do so.
The collision, added witness, resulted in the girl in the side car and her mother being thrown on to the road. Manning was "jammed up" into the radiator of the car. The front forks and leg guards of the motor cycle were fixed on the radiator. I pulled up and attended to the injured persons. I saw the driver of the light car but I did not have any conversation with him. He thought the driver of the car had had more to drink than he should have while in charge of a mechanical vehicle.
- It appeared to me as though he had had some intoxicating liquor by the appearance of his eyes. He looked sort of heavy and sleepy.
- the driver appeared to be lolling back in his seat as if in an armchair.
- in my opinion, he smelt strongly of drink.
- he smelt very strongly of drink, and was unsteady in his gait.
The Coroner (Mr. T. Ottaway) having summed up, the Jury who consulted privately, found that Manning died from the result of injuries received in the collision, and that "considering the evidence, we are of the opinion that Haskins had ample time to have drawn into the near side after passing the lorry, and he showed gross and culpable negligence in not doing so.” The Coroner said their verdict amounts to one of manslaughter and he then committed Haskins for trial but granted him bail.
In mitigation, Percy said that this was his first accident and that he had been driving for four years in France in the Mechanical Transport Division. "No one was more sorry for the accident than himself".
Defendant, who was recommended to mercy, was sentenced to twelve months imprisonment.
The defendant was Percy Lewis Haskins (40), a garage proprietor, of Ladbroke Grove. It had been alleged that Haskins, shortly before midnight, drove up to a coffee stall near Ladbroke Grove Station and offered a youth ride in his car. He was alleged to have driven this youth up and down Ladbroke Grove at a speed of between 60 and 70 miles per hour. Haskins said that at the time referred to he was at the house of a doctor. Not only did the doctor corroborate Haskins’s evidence but the main complainant, Samuel Jacobs Field of Lancaster Road, Westbourne Park, said that he rode up and down Ladbroke Grove several times with a man who drove so fast that he was frightened. The man was not Haskins. The Jury, after a retirement of four and a half hours, were unable to agree a verdict and were discharged. The case will be re-tried.
What makes me suspicious about Percy's guilt is because when an application was made for bail, the prosecution revealed that threats had been made against one of the witnesses and police protection had to be given. The chairman of the Court said this is getting too frequent. Exactly the same thing happened in this court earlier in the week. It has got to be stopped. He decided to allow bail, but said that it would be very serious if further threats were made.
Was Percy threatening the witness or witnesses ? It seems that three weeks later Percy is back in Court and has now pleaded guilty to driving a motor car in a manner dangerous to the public. The chairman of London Sessions, declared that he could not see why there should be two sets of motorists - that those who drove cars in their occupation should be let off disqualification of their licences and that others who did not should be disqualified. He fined Percy £50, and ordered his licence to be suspended for twelve months. Haskins was also ordered to pay taxed costs. His defense barrister said that Haskins had had to pay £1,500 as compensation for the death of the man in the previous case, and was still paying that sum off. He was a garage proprietor employing a number of people. The Court declined to interfere with the disqualification of the licence, and said: "The only thing this Court has to do is protect the public." He allowed Haskins 14 days in which to pay the fine.
Nothing more is known about Percy other than he died aged 75 on 21st February 1972 at 59 Cambridge Gardens, Kensington. Hopefully he rebuilt his life and did something positive - his death certificate just says he was a retired company director, which could mean anything. His son was the informant and one of the causes of death was said to be "Cirrhosis of the liver (non alchoholic)" - I don't think !