The privately-owned Holton Mill, near Halesworth, stands within leafy trees as the longer days make Summer feel well under way.

The Wenhaston Millions

menu
The Wenhaston Millions

The Wenhaston Millions by Keith Johnceline

On 2nd February 1934, the Daily Mail announced that the great ‘Wenhaston Millions’ bubble had burst. What was all this about? It was a fraud perpetrated by a ‘Major Crane’ on a few unsuspecting and, one must say, gullible Suffolk gentlemen.

It all started some months before when this Major Crane had told a man from London, together with one from Blythburgh and two brothers from Wenhaston, about a mortgage he had obtained from one of the London joint stock banks for £5000. He claimed that one of his cheques had been refused payment by the bank, although there had been plenty of funds in his account. He had sued the bank, but they had tried to settle the case out of court for a few hundred pounds. Realising that he could claim more, Major Crane pursued them asking for thousands of pounds compensation. He claimed that the bank had taken fright and had obtained backing from the Bank of England, no less.

It seems unbelievable, but Major Crane persuaded the four men that the Government was now taking interest in that they had crossed swords with the joint stock bank and therefore they were backing the major! He produced documents to support his claims – they were all forged. He then advised our locals that it was now in the hands of the High Court and that the modest thousands he had originally claimed for damages had run, including interest, into millions. The Official Secrets Act was quoted as being the reason that all this sorry tale had not been made public and they were sworn to abide by this Act. He would telephone the Bank of England and pretend to speak to Mr Hahon, the Chief Cashier. He also claimed to be in touch with the Lord Chancellor, Lord Sankey. Each participant was asked for £5000 so that he could continue the case, which the noble four cheerfully paid up, as they were promised returns totalling over a million pounds each.

Major Crane at last announced that Lord Sankey had agreed damages of one hundred million pounds, and the major would receive forty–five million as his share of the loot. Unfortunately, however, the amount had been held up, and Crane produced for the local eyes to see a document seemingly signed by King George V (!) addressed to Major Crane.

It all fell apart when Major Crane expressed his wish to marry a Mrs Duke at Southwold. She was already married but our major stated that he could obtain a special licence dissolving the marriage. The vicar told the major he was suspicious of the document (forged with Lord Merrivale’s signature) and Major Crane disappeared.

Investigations into his activities brought the whole sorry tale to light. It had all been a massive hoax. In the Daily Mail of 9th February it was announced that Major Crane was in fact David Percy Caprice. He was a married man with three children and he had tried to fake his suicide by leaving his clothes on the beach at Newhaven. Documents collected by the police included a passbook showing a balance of four hundred million pounds!

The major’s birthday was on 11th February and on that day his father died from heart failure. His mother pleaded in the paper for her son to give himself up. On 19th June he was arrested at Hackney selling vegetables. At the end of his trial in November 1934 he was found guilty of fraud and sentenced to four years. However, he continued to maintain that he was worth millions, but not for our unfortunate local friends.

Sources:
Daily Mail, 2 to 11 February, 28 June, and 12 July 1934.
The People, 11 November 1934.

Keith Johnceline, Wenhaston, March 2000.
Back to the History Index

Back to our Featured Reports

Some Favourite Websites For June 2019:

Chris Pretty MountaineeringRock Climbing/Mountaineering Instructor and International Mountain Leader

Chris aims to give you an experience which ensures you are taught to the highest national standards and to ensure that you actually learn the skills required to rock climb, trek, navigate and otherwise move around the mountainous environment autonomously. The teaching is delivered by an expert team who are tried and tested in both their personal skills and their ability to teach and ensure learning with an emphasis on personal progression.

Singtong Neeyom Thai RestaurantDelicious authentic Thai Cuisine

Take a look at Singtong Neeyom Thai Restaurant in the centre of Halesworth, for a range of delicious and skillfully prepared Thai dishes created by their own native Thai, Piek.

Lima Cottage FlatA spacious get-away retreat for two, in the heart of Walberswick, close to the beach and the village green

Situated in the picturesque coastal village of Walberswick, Lima Cottage is a self contained, self catering, first floor holiday flat. This holiday home - sleeping two - is close to the beach, local pubs and gift shops.

Stoneware BirdsLife-sized handmade and unique British birds, now available to buy online.

A charming unique gift or a treat for oneself. See the website to know how each one is made. Now available to buy online. Each bird is an individual creation, varying in choice from the perky wren to the plump bullfinch together with other well-loved British birds. Which will you choose?

Rookyard Cottage, HoltonEco-friendly self-catering cottage near Halesworth with private heated indoor swimming pool available

Set in over two acres Valley Farm offers two self-catering cottages, Rookyard Cottage and Swallow Barn, both with eco-friendly features and each sleeping up to four people + cot. Rated AA 4 Stars. WiFi. Private heated indoor swimming pool available. Ten miles from seaside at Southwold. Pets not accepted.