Local news over the Easter weekend in 1937 was dominated by reports of a fatal shooting.

This took place in the Hour Glass public house in Sands, when local man Albert Boddy shot and killed Mrs Katherine May Godby.

The Incident

The shooting took place late in the evening of Saturday, March 27, but the events leading up to it began earlier that day. Mrs Godby and her husband Robert, who were lodging in Mill End Rd, were regular patrons of the pub. On that Saturday they went there for a lunchtime drink, Mrs Godby joining in with the couple’s landlord Albert Green and two other men for a game of darts.

At about 1.30 pm Albert Boddy, who was friendly with Mr and Mrs Godby, came into the pub and joined the group. At the initiative of Mrs Godby another darts match was arranged for later that day at 6.30pm. It was agreed that Mrs Godby should partner Boddy against Hill and Green, with Ernest Bates as the scorer.

Mr and Mrs Godby then left the pub, whereupon Boddy altered the arrangements, saying that he should partner Hill and Green should partner Mrs Godby. The reason Boddy gave for this change was that “Green was jealous”, and he asked Bates “to announce the change to Mrs Godby at 6.30”.

That afternoon Boddy, who was a frequent poacher, went into Hell Bottom Wood, in the West Wycombe Estate, and spotted some pheasants. He decided he would return to the wood with a gun under cover of darkness and try to poach them.

Just after 6.30pm he left home and walked the short distance to join his friends at the Hour Glass for the darts match. Immediately Mrs Godby said to him “What is the idea of you not wanting to partner me at darts”. The match went ahead but relations between Boddy and Mrs Godby were clearly strained. After the match he asked Mrs Godby what she was annoyed about, she replied “Through you”. He then bought her a glass of sherry, whereupon she responded by simply telling him to go poaching!

Boddy, who had had his gun licence withdrawn, then went out of the pub to fetch a gun. First he asked his sister if he could borrow her son’s gun. She refused and asked him in for supper, which he declined. Next he went to the house of a Mr and Mrs Gray at 34 Lane End Rd. They agreed to lend him their son’s gun and handed him four small cartridges (each cartridge would typically contain around 80 small pellets). However instead of immediately going to poach the pheasants he decided to go straight back to the Hour Glass “because I thought I might get another drink and have a chance to speak to Mrs Godby”.

It was just on closing time at the pub and as Boddy entered through the lobby door he had the gun to his shoulder, which he pointed at Mrs Godby. The gun went off, shooting her in the face and she slumped forward onto a table. Boddy then uncocked the gun and handed it to the landlord saying “now shoot me”.

The Godbys

Robert George Rhodes Godby had a privileged upbringing. He was born in Hanover Sq, London in 1900, the son of solicitor Michell J Godby and his wife Ada. Shortly after his birth his father retired and the family moved to Eastbourne.

Robert does not appear to have served during the Great War but enlisted in the Royal Air Force in December 1921. He was granted an honorary short service commission as a 2nd Lieutenant. His assessments as to his flying abilities were mixed– in 1925 this was “Flying was very doubtful from the first … and was quite unfit to start on any service-type machine”. But two years later he was described as a “Capable pilot whose general flying and landing abilities are good. Suited to 2 seater fighters, category 2”. He completed his RAF service in May 1929.

Later that year he married Katherine M Comberbach in London. Her upbringing was a world apart from Robert’s. She was born in Blackburn in 1910 the daughter of Robert and Catherine Comberbach, who were employed as an “iron dresser” and a “cotton rover”. Her father enlisted in the Scottish Rifles in July 1914 for service during the Great War, but after only 44 days was discharged as “not likely to become an Efficient Soldier” with “lumbago and deficient teeth”. He died later that year.

Catherine Comberbach was now a widow with seven children to support and was pregnant with her eighth child. In 1921 Catherine was employed as a cotton spinner, as were her three eldest daughters, with her eldest son also working in a cotton mill as a ring doffer.

It is not known how Robert Godby and Katherine Comberbach met, but after marrying in 1929 it does not appear that they had any children. By 1931 they had moved to live at Booker Hill Farm House, before having to downgrade to live in lodgings at 49 Mill End Rd in Sands.

Albert Boddy

Albert was born and bred in Sands. He was born on April 2, 1906, the eldest son of James and Eliza Boddy. James worked in the chair-making industry as a “cane seat framer” and died in 1918 leaving Eliza to care for several children.

This included Albert aged 12, and by the age of 15 he was working as a machinist for the firm of Large & Son in Jubilee Road. This was just over a mile away from the family home opposite Bottom Farm in the Lane End Road, less than 100 yards from the Hour Glass pub.

Sometime later Albert decided to change his job, becoming a bricklayer. After his mother died in 1924 he went to live with a sister. He had owned a gun since leaving school and had been convicted of poaching a total of four times, as a result of which his gun had been confiscated on March 20, 1927. It was said that poaching was his hobby!

The Trial

Albert Boddy first appeared at High Wycombe Police Court on Monday March 29 accused of the murder of Mrs May Godby. A large crowd had gathered outside the Court. The proceedings were short, with only sufficient evidence being offered to justify that Boddy be remanded in custody. Mr Allan Janes appeared for Boddy, saying that he had no objection to a remand but asking that his client be granted a legal aid certificate “He is a person entirely without means, a bricklayer, has no savings and is a single man”. The certificate was granted.

Boddy made a further appearance at Wycombe on April 14, at which the police officer who had apprehended him told the court that he declared after the shooting “there was something which she (Mrs Godby) said to me that no-one will ever know. I shall not let her down. I shall never tell.” He continued “I loved her. She was a bad woman.” He was committed for trial on a charge of murder.

The trial took place at the Bucks Assizes in Aylesbury, beginning on May 20, 1937. The Judge was Mr Justice Singleton, with Mr P E Sandlands K.C. and Mr T Norman Winning prosecuting for the Crown, and Mr A J Flint (instructed by Mr Allan Janes) appeared for Albert Boddy. The basic facts of the incident were not disputed and the outcome of the trial appeared to hinge on Boddy’s state of mind at the time and whether or not he knew that the gun was loaded.

It came out during the trial that Robert Godby was in a delicate state of health and had had to leave the RAF as a result of a crash. He and his wife had only returned a few days before the shooting from a trip lasting several months to New Zealand to see his mother

Boddy admitted to prosecuting counsel that he loved Mrs Godby but also said that she liked “the friendly company of other men”. He also said under cross-examination that he expected Mrs Godby “to go out with him that night”.

Boddy, said to be an inoffensive young man, claimed that he did not know that the gun was loaded. This claim was strengthened by the statement from the Grays that they had given him four cartridges and that was the number of cartridges found on him when he was searched by the police after the shooting. By holding it out as he entered the Hour Glass Boddy said he only intended to show Mrs Godby that he really was going poaching, and he pulled the trigger accidentally.

In his summing-up the Judge firstly warned the Jury that they must give the same careful consideration to what the defence counsel and witnesses had said as to what been said by the prosecution. He then said that they had to make up their minds on two points: “What was the state of Boddy’s mind, and what exactly did Boddy do.” The second point presumably referring primarily to whether he did pull the trigger accidentally.

He next reviewed the basic facts of the case and then explained the difference between murder and manslaughter. Was it, he asked, established beyond reasonable doubt that Boddy fired at Mrs Godby either to kill her or cause her serious bodily harm. If not so established, then they must not find him guilty of murder. Manslaughter was the unlawful killing of a person without malice aforethought.

The Jury then retired to consider their verdict, returning after only 40 minutes. They found Boddy not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter. The Judge said he agreed with the verdict and went on to say to Boddy that he could not help thinking that there was some reckless handling of the gun in the room that night.

He passed a sentence of three years penal servitude.


After taking into consideration the time Albert Boddy had already spent in custody and remission to the sentence for good behaviour, he would have been freed after some two years’ imprisonment. By September 29 1939 he was already back in Wycombe. Still working as a bricklayer, he was living with his sister Coral Langley and her family at No 7 Jubilee Road in Downley. He married in 1946, and the couple having three children. Albert Boddy died in 1989.

Robert Godby also went to live with one of his sisters, at 55 Manchester St, W1, in London. He died there on February 4, 1954, when his personal effects amounted to just £236.