The Great War Centenary - 1917
From Front Line to White Lund
White Lund Disaster
Two Coronation Seats for White Lund Hero
Drove 49 trucks of live shells away from magazines
Lancaster Guardian and Observer 22 May 1953
A man who received the King Edward medal for his services in the
White Lund munition works explosion in 1917 has been awarded two
Coronation tickets – one for himself and one for his wife. He is Mr
Thomas Kew, aged 73, of 21 Hale Carr Grove, Heysham, but he may not be
able to go because of his illness.
He was awarded the King Edward Medal for driving 49 railway trucks full
of live shells to safety during the White Lund explosions.
If it had not been for Mr. Kew’s bravery the trucks would have blown up
and ignited the nearby ammunition magazines. At the time of the incident
it was stated that the saved a quarter of a million shells from blowing
A native of York, Mr Kew, was employed as an engine driver at the
On the night of the explosion, 1st October 1917, Mr Kew had been to the
Tower Cinema. He returned to his lodgings in West View Terrace and was
about to have his supper when he heard a terrific bang. He knew at once
that it was the factory and went straight there. When he arrived shells
were flying in all directions.
Not far away from the loaded trucks was a big magazine. Without
hesitation Mr Kew jumped on to the footplate of the shunting engine and
started to move them away. As he draw them down the line four of the
trucks blew up. He told a ‘Guardian’ reporter: “They were thrown into
the air like footballs”. By that time they were clear of the magazine.
After he had got the trucks clear he helped put out smaller fires.
At one stage a flying shell went clean through a raised water tank from
which firemen were drawing their water supply. It made a clean round
hole in the bottom of the tank.
Mr Kew climbed up to the tank to repair the hole and managed to block it
up so that the firemen could continue playing their hoses on the fire.
For three days and nights Mr Kew did not leave the factory, nor have a
wink of sleep nor anything to eat.
He said: “I prayed all the time. Even if they had offered me food I
would not have been able to eat it. I was ill for about three weeks
after the incident.”
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