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.