IT WAS October 5, 1944 when an horrific shooting massacre happened in a Kingsclere pub, resulting in three people being murdered.

Seventy-six years after the gruesome triple murder happened, the Gazette looks back at that fateful night, with information from Kingsclere Heritage Association, researched by a relative of someone who was there.

Hushed up by the allied forces for fear it could affect relations with the Americans and be a blow to the morale of civilians, details of the massacre were almost lost to history.

And with conflicting information given in accounts about what happened, the true story may never be known.

The bloodiest moment of the Second World War for Kingsclere came close to the end, delivered by American troops rather than enemies, who wreaked carnage on the blacked-out streets.

Just before closing time on October 5, 1944, 10 American soldiers with a US army engineering unit broke bounds and headed to the Swan pub, where they were stopped by regimental police and instructed to return to camp.

They hitch hiked back to their base at Sydmonton Court where they armed themselves with rifles and ammunition before returning to the village to seek revenge.

The men searched the village pubs, before ending up outside The Crown, where they took up position in the churchyard opposite to wait for their targets to leave.

Coming out of the pub, Private Anderson and another regimental policeman called Brown were confronted by the men armed with rifles, and bullets were unleashed on the pair, hitting Anderson in the chest but missing Brown, who dived back inside.

Anderson managed to get up and run to the corner of the road where he collapsed in a garden and died between two beanpoles.

Bullets fired through the pub’s windows, smashing the frames and revellers quickly fell to the floor in terror while others threw themselves underneath the bar billiards table to take cover.

The men entered the pub firing their rifles and killing another two – Private Coates and landlady Rose Napper whose husband dragged her to the ground when the shooting started, but a ricochet bullet passed through her left cheek, through her tongue and out through the right of her neck.

She died at Newbury Hospital.

A statement from Nelson Miles, of the Dell, Kingsclere, said he was in The Crown with his brother Harry and some others that night.  

He described the moment shots came through the windows, saying: “I dashed for cover, first getting under the table, then under a seat. Shots seemed to keep on flying past. I then heard Mrs Napper scream. I had seen her standing behind the bar. I lay still until all was quiet and when I came from under cover, I saw Mrs Napper lying on the floor, bleeding profusely from a wound in the jaw.”

Frank Butler, who threw himself to the floor, described the scene as “like hell let loose”

The first suspect was caught by 3am, and by October 17th all 10 had been rounded up.

Nine were sentenced to imprisonment for the whole of their natural lives, and the 10th was given 10 years.

Following the massacre, General Eisenhower sent his second in command to apologise personally to Kingsclere villagers for the incident, which was one of many similar to be kept quiet during the Second World War.  

However, Kingsclere residents have a permanent reminder of the bloody massacre, with the gravestone of the landlady in Ecchinswell Road Cemetery, which reads: ‘In loving Remembrance of Rose Amelia Napper. Sweetest memories.’

Paul Fay, the son of Emily Millicent Fay (nee Jewell), who was the daughter of Frederick Jewell, present in The Crown Inn when the shooting took place, collated information used in this article for Kingsclere Heritage Society, from various sources, including The Hants and Berks Gazette.