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Cockermouth Post Article November 2011

Most people will be aware that the Kirkgate Centre was the former All Saints’ School. We have recently been told about a pupil of the school, who was honoured for her bravery as a young woman, receiving the Military Medal from King George V at Buckingham Palace on March 3rd 1917.

Florence Williams was born in February 1897 to Annie (nee Greenhow) and Robert Williams at Herbert’s Court in Market Place (a courtyard to the left of the present Allerdale Court Hotel). She attended All Saints’ School, where her headmaster would have been Mr Postgate. An entry from the School Log Book for the year Florence would have started her education reads as follows:

“There are fresh cases of Mumps reported this morning; the attendance is very poor – 177 with 206 on the books. Miss White (teacher) is absent from School with a sore throat” (27th Oct. 1902).

Three days later Mr Postgate reports that the mumps epidemic is spreading, and maybe Florence too would have been affected.

Then their father Robert, a sergeant in the Border Regiment, was posted to Dublin. 1916 saw the Irish Rebellion and, on the first day of fighting (16th April) Florence watched as rebels waited to ambush the soldiers. She was unable to warn them but, under constant fire, managed to rescue several soldiers. For her bravery she was awarded the Military Medal, one of only two civilians ever to have received this award. Her Citation reads as follows:

“For service rendered to wounded soldiers in Dublin whom she assisted from the street to her mother’s house, being repeatedly under fire. She also rendered valuable assistance throughout the rebellion (14-29 April 1916) by bringing bread, medical supplies, bandages, etc. for these wounded men from the Adelaide Hospital, on every occasion being under fire from rebels.”

Florence, just 18 years old, described her experiences:

“Outside the Castle gates Pte W Walsh was lying bleeding, helpless, and shot through the lungs … shots were pattering around, one striking the wall within a few feet of me. I dragged him along, and managed to get him into our house … then I went out again and found Lce Corpl. Cox lying wounded in a hallway with a bullet through his right eye and all covered with blood. I helped him to our house and the people in the lower rooms attended him. My mother went out and found Pte Thompson. He was shot through the heart and dying … we gave him a drink of water and did what we could for him. My mother and I assisted 4 more wounded soldiers…”

Her former headmaster, Mr Postgate, would undoubtedly have been very proud of his former pupil.

Gloria Edwards

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