VIDEO: A POPPY cascade has been made to commemorate the death May Westwell – the only Warrington woman to have died on active service during World War One – 100 years ago today!
Miss Westwell, who served as a nurse, was aged just 30 when she died on a ship which was struck by a torpedo in the Irish seas as she was travelling home to make a surprise visit to see her parents back in Warrington.
She had previously worked as a teacher at Evelyn Street Primary School – and the poppy cascade was organised by St Barnabas Primary School, in Colin Street.
A special service was led by the Archdeacon of Warrington, the Venerable Canon Roger Preece and involved children from local schools and members of the British Legion.
Miss Westwell was the only daughter of the late Mr. W. W. Westwell and of Mrs Westwell, of Lovely-lane Warrington. Before she joined the forces, as well as teaching locally she was part of the congregation of St.Barnabas Church in Lovely Lane Warrington.
She joined the Queen Mary’s Auxiliary Corps to support the War effort in April 1918.
After spending some time in Belfast in an administrative post, she was transferred to the headquarters of the Irish Command in Dublin. She died tragically aged 30 on October 10, 1918 when the HMS Lenister ,the ship she was travelling on, was struck by a torpedo in the Irish sea.
Miss Westwell had decided to use her short leave to travel back to Warrington to surprise her family and friends. They were all totally unaware of her being a passenger until they received the tragic news.
The courage, bravery and valour of Miss Westwell during this terrifying event was noted by a surviving passenger.
A letter to her family at the time stated: “There was a Canadian Major who was amongst the rescued, and the first remark he made was that of all the things that impressed him most at the time, was the behaviour of the Q.M.A.A.C. on board. Their courage was magnificent. Your daughter was the one referred to as she was the only woman officer travelling and there were few women in uniform on the boat.”
Karen Longden, a teacher at St Barnabas School, who helped organise the Poppy Cascade, made from plastic bottles, said: “We want to promote how Miss Westwell is a positive role model to children, especially girls, within our community and by using bottles, link the project to current issue of single use plastic around the globe.”
During the service Canon Preece revealed that the German U-boat responsible for sinking HMS Lenister, was a few days later destroyed by a sea mine, with loss of all crew.
A special plastic silhouette of Miss Westwell was created to be displayed in the church, kindly donated by Chris Hackney of Creative Signs.