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The Great War Centenary - 1917

From Front Line to White Lund

How Wagons Full of Shells Were Saved
Shunted Amidst Fire and Shell Fragments

Morecambe Gazette 8th March 1939

A distant echo of the now famous explosion at White Lund filling factory, Morecambe, on 1st October 1917, when Morecambe was evacuated for a day and fire brigades from all over Lancashire and Yorkshire rushed to the scene, is contained in a letter from Mr Henry Pearson of 88 Chapel House Road, Nelson, who states that with three more men, he helped to save about fifty wagons full of shells at the risk of their lives.

At the time he was a fireman on an engine called “The King’s George” which did all the main shunting work in getting the shells away.

“I can well remember the night of the explosion as though it were yesterday”. He proceeds “I had finished work at 5.30 Monday evening and later went to the Tower to see that great picture “The Birth of a Nation.” Waking home to my lodgings at Clarendon Road and passing the Midland Station, I saw what I thought was a fire, which however, flared up and died down quickly. This seemed strange as I had never seen anything like it before. When I got to the top of West End Road I saw the first explosion go up to twenty-five minutes to eleven.

“At the first bang I can recall people coming out of their houses, some in their night dresses and most only half dressed. I told them to get away from their houses on to the sea front away from danger of the explosions and flying shells. I went to Heysham cliffs thinking I would be safe there – this would be about three o’clock in the morning – when I had a feeling I was wanted at the works.

“With another man, we made our way through the fields to White Lund and when I got there they said my driver, Thomas Kew, who lives near the Battery bus station, wanted me on the engine. As I went forward I can well remember the scene of destruction that met my eyes. The offices had been wrecked – only the foundations remained – and what were formerly charge houses was like a great lake.

“Our engines had been run as far as possible to the Lancaster end, past the paint shops and we were told that we had to get as many wagons away as possible. We got up steam and with the help of two other men, coupled up the laden wagons and shunted them out of danger, but in the process it was a miracle we were not blown to smithereens, as with flying shells and fire all around there was every possibility of the shells and the wagons exploding.

“We were on the job about three of four hours and I believe we saved about fifty wagons, being filled to the top with shells ready for France, were valued at £1,000 a wagon.

“After the explosion I worked for a short time clearing up the mess at White Lund and then went to work at the Projectile Factory at Lancaster, and afterwards to France, being at Lille when the Armistice was signed.”


© 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