Edward Medal finds permanent home in city

18 November 2014

A rare bravery medal is now on permanent display at Lancaster City Museum.

It is a silver Edward Medal, awarded to Police Sergeant Thomas Coppard for his courage during the devastating White Lund munitions factory explosion of 1917.

Rarer than the Victoria Cross, only 25 silver Edward Medal were awarded between 1907 and 1949, four of which related to the White Lund explosion.

Heather Dowler, Lancashire County Council's manager at the city museum, said: "This medal was awarded locally for extraordinary bravery, so we're thrilled to have acquired it for our permanent display.

"When we heard that the medal was coming up at auction we knew straight away that we really wanted to acquire it as the White Lund explosion was such a major event in the area's wartime history.

"The Friends of the Museum have done a fantastic job in raising just over £3,250 so far, leaving us just £400 or so to find from our acquisition budget. Their support is invaluable because it helps us to purchase important items we couldn't otherwise afford.

"It feels right for the medal to come back to Lancaster. The explosion was a terrible event, with ten men killed, and both munitions staff and rescuers showed enormous courage."

On behalf of the museum's Friends, Alan Sandham said: "Helping to bring such a rare and important piece of history back to Lancaster is exactly the sort of initiative the Friends are here for. We are very happy to see this ambition fulfilled."

The Edward Medal, introduced in 1907, was awarded for bravery in two categories, mines and industry, with each type having a silver and bronze version. The industry medal was awarded only 188 times, 25 silver and 163 bronze, making it one of rarest British gallantry awards. Only posthumous awards were made after 1949.

The explosion happened on 1 October 1917 at the White Lund munitions factory, an enormous complex covering 400 acres where shells were filled with explosives. The cause of the explosion was never ascertained.

Ten men were killed, mainly those fighting the fire. The blast was felt as far away as Burnley, shrapnel travelled as far as Quernmore, and windows in Morecambe and Lancaster were blown in.

The four silver Edward Medals for the White Lund explosion were awarded to:

Engine driver Thomas Kew, who shunted 49 ammunition trucks holding 250,000 live shells out of the danger zone; Thomas Tattersall, works fireman, for bravery Abraham Clark Graham, munitions  orker, for bravery Police Sergeant Thomas Coppard, for saving a number of lives amidst fire and explosions. The City Museum is run by Lancashire County Council on behalf of Lancaster City Council. Opening hours are from 10am to 5pm, Monday to Saturday. Admission is free.

For more information about Lancaster City Museum, please phone 01524 64637 or email [email protected].

Alternatively, please visit www.lancashire.gov.uk/acs/sites/museums.


Notes for Editors: PIC CAPTIONS Photos attached show Police Sergeant Thomas Coppard, and the Edward Medal.

For further information please contact: Sue Becker on 01772 533679

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