Our A-Z of The Great War is a weekly feature looking at the people and events of the First World War to mark its 100th anniversary. This week I is for INDUSTRY and the fight to bring home a rare industry medal awarded to a brave policeman.
On the evening of October 1 1917, there was an explosion at the munitions factory on the White Lund estate.
This Thursday, July 24, a medal awarded to Police Sergeant Thomas Coppard for his brave actions that night is being auctioned in London.
Lancaster City Museum is hoping to bid for this medal and needs your help.
Police Sergeant Coppard was one of four men awarded silver Edward medals for bravery that night, for saving a number of lives in the explosion when a raging fire broke out.
Two versions of the Edward Medal, introduced in 1907, were awarded for bravery in mines and industry – with each type having a silver and bronze version.
Of the 188 industry medals awarded, only 25 silver awards were made between 1907 and 1949 – four of which were for the explosion in Morecambe.
A spokesman for the Friends of the City Museum said: “This medal is rarer than the Victoria Cross.
“The top estimate is £1,800 but we feel sure it may well go for much more than that.”
Roger Mace, chairman of the Friends, said: “The explosion was a major event in the wartime history of our district and the opportunity to add the medal to our museum’s collection relating to the event should not be missed.”
The cause of the explosion was never established, but 10 men were killed, mainly those involved in the fighting of the fire. Whilst the explosion itself was felt as far away as Burnley, shrapnel travelled as far as Quernmore and Scotforth, and windows in both Morecambe and Lancaster were blown in.
Very little remains of the munitions works today – but it is featured in the permanent displays of the City Museum.
Four silver Edward Medals were awarded for the White Lund explosion, to engine driver Thomas Kew - who shunted 49 ammunition trucks holding 250,000 live shells out of the danger zone, Thomas Tattersall, a works fireman for bravery, Abraham Clark Graham – a munitions worker for bravery, and police sergeant Coppard, for saving a number of lives when fire and explosions occurred.
The Friends are appealing for donations towards their bid.
If you can help, please contact the Friends of Lancaster City Museum on 01524 64637 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .
Look out for more on the White Lund explosion in a future instalment of the A-Z of The Great War.