May Westwell was the only daughter of the late Mr and Mrs W W Westwell of 103, Lovely-lane Warrington. She joined the Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps to support the War effort in April 1918. Before that she was a teacher at Evelyn Street Primary school in the town. After spending some time in Belfast in an administrative post, she was transferred to the headquarters of the Irish Command in Dublin.
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 of her loss on the Leinster at the age of 30. The courage of Miss Westwell during this terrifying event was noted by a surviving passenger and reported by a local newspaper.
“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.”
The school is planning to commemorate the life of May Westwell by creating a poppy cascade at St. Barnabus Church, Warrington made from plastic bottles. They aim to promote Miss Westwell as a positive role model to children, especially girls, and by using bottles link the project to the issue of single use plastic around the globe. There will be a service at the church on 10 October to remember the sacrifice of Miss May Westwell and others.
The Holyhead Maritime Museum has been asked to make and send a poppy to the school to mark the link the town has with the tragedy. This we will gladly do.
This link will take you the latest update for the Centennial Commemorations planned at Dun Laoghaire – Bulletin July 2018
With thanks to the RMS Leinster Team at the National Maritime Museum of Ireland.
Now available for sale at the Holyhead Maritime Museum – Philip Lecane’s definitive account of the worst maritime tragedy of the Irish Sea.
RMS Leinster was torpedoed in October 1918 en route from Dun Laoghaire (then Kingstown) to Holyhead resulting in the loss of over 560 lives, including 27 from Holyhead.
As part of the Museum’s contribution to the centennial commemoration, the book is offered at special price of £14.50 (£15.99 on Amazon). Get your copy whilst stocks last.
Philip Lecane of the National Maritime Museum of Ireland recently undertook a special visit to the Isle of Man primarily to visit the graves of six soldiers lost on RMS Leinster and whose bodies were washed up on the shores and buried in island cemeteries.
Private Thomas Cardiff, Royal Air Force, age 18.
Private Horace Albert Cook, East Kent Regiment, age 19.
Private William Herbert Hutchinson, Border Regiment, age 25.
Corporal Michael Carroll, Royal Army Corps, age 25.
Private Arthur Herbert Lott, Royal Berkshire Regiment, age 25.
Private George Lutton, Royal Munster Fusiliers, age 30.
Coincidentally at the time of Philip Lecane’s visit contact was received from Fiona Hutchinson, the grand-niece of William Herbert Hutchinson (listed above). She has kindly supplied a photo of her grand-uncle and has passed information onto Philip Lecane and Brian Ellis to include in the Maritime Museum’s interactive database of those on RMS Leinster when she was lost .
A short ceremony of remembrance was undertaken at the graveside of Privates Hutchinson and Cook, who were buried together. The photo shows Philip Lecane and standard bearer Jim Cottier of the Royal British Legion, Isle of Man.