On 5th July 1878 a sad case came before the Magistrates' Court at Easingwold. It involved a Stillington Lad, John Ward aged 24, a Private in The Army Reserve attached to the 8th Regiment of Foot.
The facts laid before the court were these. John had returned home to Stillington to visit parents on 11th June telling them he had been furloughed until the 15th. However, he left his parent's house on the 19th and it was supposed that he had returned to Sheffield.
On the 27th June Peter Ward, the father, discovered someone had entered the house by an open window at the back of the house, had gone into his bedroom taking two silver watches that he kept in a drawer and had left through the back door leaving it open.
This information was given to Inspector Ellerby by the father who had no reason to suspect his son. Ellerby investigated and one watch was found in a pawnbroker's shop in York run by one Mr Hardcastle, who described the seller. The second watch was pledged in Mr Middleton's pawnbrokers in Leeds.
John Ward was arrested on the 29th June in Leeds. He pleaded guilty before the Magistrates before being sent to York Assizes for sentencing.
Ward appeared before the Assizes on the 17th July wearing his uniform, including his two good conduct badges. It was reported that Ward was a boy soldier who had served 6 years with the 68th Regiment, most of it in India. When he returned to England he was put in The Reserves which upset him greatly as he had good service with the 68th Regiment.
After he had visited his parents he decided not to return to his posting but hid in the neighbourhood returning to his family home during the night to take the watches, which he thought his father would not miss. Unfortunately his father had noticed and called the police not realising his own son was responsible.
A plea came from the inhabitants of Stillington, its Churchwardens and Clergyman to show mercy to Ward due to his former good conduct.
The Judge commended their pleas for leniency. He sentenced John Ward to six weeks imprisonment with hard labour.
John Ward was baptised at Stillington on 21st October 1853 the eldest son of Peter Ward, an agricultural labourer, and Mary.