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The Great War Centenary - 1917

From Front Line to White Lund

White Lund Disaster
Local Workers Honoured - Mr Graham and Mr Kew
Edward Medals in Silver Presented by the King

From a Newspaper, 1918

On Friday Morning Mr Abraham Clarke Graham, of 9 Fleet Street, Lancaster, was presented by his Majesty the King at Buckingham Palace with the “Edward Medal in Silver,” for conspicuous bravery and resourcefulness on the occasion of a fire and explosion at a national factory on 1st October 1917. Mr Graham is a widower with six children. We have already briefly referred to the splendid bravery of Mr Graham, when the announcement was made. Since then gold watches have been presented by the Ministry of Munitions to other workers at the factory for their courage and devotion to duty on that terrifying night and succeeding day, but the greatest act of courage, standing out even amongst a large number of courageous actions was that of Mr Graham. When the alarm was given, he was at home, and he at once made his way to the place of danger, from which the employees were fleeing in terror. His occupation was that of a shunter, and he saw a train of wagons in the fire zone filled with shells, some of which were exploding. Very soon the whole lot would have been enveloped by the fire that was raging, with fearful results that may be imagined, though hardly describable, even at this length of time from the event. Graham sought up the engine driver, Thomas Kew, now of Blackburn, and together they determined to draw the wagons and shells out of the fire. Graham coupled up the wagons, whilst shells were bursting and shrapnel was flying about. He seems to bear a charmed life, for he escaped injury and so did Kew. By coolness and courage long sustained, the two men got not less than 49 wagons (laden with shells) away out of 57, drawing them out of the raging fire in successive journeys, and thus averted an even more terrible disaster than really occurred. It meant risking their lives over and over again, but they stuck to their self-appointed task with a determination and grit that amazed all who saw what they attempted and accomplished.

Their bravery was reported, and both men were awarded the Edward Medal in silver, which has not inaptly been described as “The Victoria Cross of Civil Life.”

Mr Tom Kew is a nephew of Mr Harry Kew of Morecambe. He not only drove the train of shells through the fire zone but also mended a water tank under great difficulty. Mr Kew was formerly an engine driver on the North Eastern Railway.

Mr Graham and Mr Kew were both received by His Majesty the King on Saturday morning. His Majesty was evidently well acquainted with the circumstances, for he soon put the men at their ease, chatter with them for a few minutes, complimented them on their brave actions, and thanked them for averting a very great danger.

His Majesty pinned the medals on the breasts of the two men, shook hands with them very cordially, and inquired sympathetically about their present life and occupations. He said the country was proud of such men. Mr Graham and Mr Kew thanked His Majesty for his kind words, and assured him they were proud to have been able to do what they did. There were heartily cheered as they left the Palace by a crowd of people who had gathered in front of the gates.


© Images are copyright, Trustees of the King's Own Royal Regiment Museum.
 You must seek permission prior to publication of any of our images.

Only a proportion of our collections are on display at anyone time.  Certain items are on loan for display in other institutions.  An appointment is required to consult any of our collections which are held in store.

© 2017 Trustees of the King's Own Royal Regiment Museum