Forgotten Lancaster female heroes of the war

Some of the women and children of Westfield, Lancaster in the 1940s.
Some of the women and children of Westfield, Lancaster in the 1940s.
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Think of heroes of the First World War and most of us picture soldiers in trenches knee deep in mud, but a new project in Lancaster is looking at a group of forgotten female heroes.

Lancaster is looking at a group of forgotten female heroes.

Entitled ‘The Women of Westfield – Picking up the pieces after the First World War’, the project is looking at the vital and demanding role the wives of disabled veterans and female fundraisers played on the Westfield War Memorial Village in Lancaster after the war had ended.

The village, which is situated off West Road on the outskirts of the city centre, was funded by philanthropists after the war to support married local men who had returned with life-changing injuries.

Much of the fundraising was done by women.

Built on a former estate of the well-known Storey family of Lancaster, disabled men and their families faced stringent tests before gaining tenancy on Westfield, but would then enjoy peppercorn rents and first-class housing which might have otherwise been beyond their reach.

The village was designed by the internationally renowned landscape architect and town planner Thomas H Mawson.

However, while the sacrifices of the men who lived on the village were being honoured, the sacrifices of their wives and those who played a key role in building the settlement were often overlooked.

The Westfield project is being managed by historian Dr Martin Purdy, who said: “Many of the women of Westfield faced real hardship too.

“Their men had returned home from war physically and mentally damaged, and they often found themselves acting as chief breadwinners, full-time carers for their husbands, as well as having the lead role in parenting.”

Those who may have something to share, or who are simply interested in following the project, can email Dr Purdy via martinpurdy@talktalk.net.