Key Figures and Heroes
The role of secretary has always been central to the village, involving the overseeing of the day-to-day life of the community. The secretary would traditionally be the first point of contact when it came to both the well-being of the residents and the practicalities of housing maintenance and repairs.
Until the arrival of the modern era, the role had always been held by former commissioned officers of the Armed Forces. The secretaries would ensure that standards were maintained, with some more notorious than others for running the community in a militaristic fashion. The wives of many of the secretaries also became important figures, organising fundraising and social events and looking after the well-being of the women and children.
Among the more notable characters to hold the post was Captain John Fraser Dawson, the first to take on the role and a man who is said to have looked upon Westfield “as a child”. The challenge of overseeing the birth of the village took its toll, and the father of three suffered two heart attacks. Appointed in 1919, he was dead by 1926.
Following two more incumbants, including the long-standing Major Connell (left), Lieutenant Colonel Harper and his wife arrived. Heavily involved in the social life of the village and all welfare issues concerning the tenants, the pair set the template that others were expected to follow. Colonel Dundas and his wife Kay had the job of succession, and immersed themselves in the community – she organising fund-raising bazaars and social events, he patrolling the village at least once each day to ensure that everything was “as it should be”. Colonel Dundas retired in 1976, one year after the death of his wife.
Military men continued in the post until the village entered its new partnership with the Northern Counties Housing Association. Alan Webster, a former senior police officer, was given the title of Estate Officer and was to be replaced by Jean Woodhead; the first female in the post. Mrs Woodhead was an employee of Northern Counties, but in a clear demarcation of the role, her 2003 replacement was, and remains, an employee of the Westfield charity. Mrs Mandy Stretch is, as such, responsible for looking after the charity’s administration, tenant welfare and social cohesion on the village.
Westfield Bravery Medals
Albert Halton (VC):
Albert Halton was born in May 1893 at Warton, Carnforth, and working for a building contractor when he enlisted in the local Territorial force of the 5th Battalion of the King’s Own in August 1915. He was sent to France as part of a replacement draft in 1915 and was wounded on the Somme in October 1916. After recovering from his wounds on British soil, Albert was sent back to the Western Front the following year as part of a draft for the 1st Battalion of the King’s Own.
On 12 October 1917 the battalion participated in an attack at Poelcappelle, Belgium, as part of the Third Battle of Ypres and Albert was to win a Victoria Cross for the part he played. His citation for the highest medal for bravery read: “For most conspicuous bravery in attack. After the objective had been reached Private Halton rushed about 300 yards under very heavy rifle and shell fire and captured a machine gun and its crew, which was causing many losses to our men. He then went out again and brought in about 12 prisoners, showing the greatest disregard of his own safety and setting a very fine example to those around him.” The medal was presented to Albert by King George V.
After the war Albert worked at the Lansil silk works in Lancaster until his retirement in 1961. From 1939 until his death in July 1971 he had lived at 20 Storey Avenue, Westfield. His medals, including the VC, were presented to the King’s Own Royal Regiment Museum in Lancaster by Albert’s family in 1993. A plaque to mark his residence on the village was unveiled at 20 Storey Avenue as part of Westfield’s commemorative events to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in 1995.
Francis Joseph Bradshaw (DSM)
Francis “Joe” Bradshaw grew up on Westfield Village as a result of his father – a First World War veteran called John – having successfully applied for a property in the early years. Joe and his wife Winifred moved on to Westfield themselves in the Sixties.
At the outbreak of the Second World War Joe’s brother John signed up for the merchant navy and his ship was sunk, although he survived. Joe had wanted to join up as well but his father wouldn’t let him as he was too young. However, at the age of 17 Joe finally got his wish and went to sea with the Royal Navy.
Ordinary Seaman Francis Bradshaw found himself seconded to a specialist unit, and was soon in training on the Sussex coast with landing crafts. Unbeknown to the teenager, he and his comrades were preparing for the D-Day landings in northern France. It was for the part that he played in this operation that Joe was to receive the Distinguished Service Medal (DSM, right). Notice of his award (left), posted in December 1944, reads: “I am commended by the Lord Commissioners of the Admiralty to inform you that they have learned with great pleasure that, on the advice of the Fleet Lord, the King has been graciously pleased to award you the Distinguished Service Medal for outstanding skill, endurance and devotion to duty shown in HM LCT925 in transporting men and supplies to the Normandy beaches.”
A modest and private man, Joe has never been keen to speak of the events that earned him the DSM, but it is known that he was helping to land American troops on to Omaha Beach on 6 June 1944: this being the operation infamously recreated in the opening scenes of the film Saving Private Ryan. On the day that he went to Buckingham Palace to get his medal, the war came to an end and he and his family were caught up in the London celebrations.
Cyril Campion (MM)
Cyril Campion and his wife Margaret moved into the property called Burma, at 9 Porritt Avenue, Westfield, in 1973. It was an apt residence for the then 61-year-old who had served with distinction in the Second World War as part of the Burma Campaign.
Cyril had enlisted with the 9th Borders in July 1940 and was sent overseas in 1943 to take part in General Slim’s operation to draw enemy troops away from work being undertaken to create an Allied railway line through the mountains north of Burma.
On 22 March 1944, the battalion’s history states that the men attacked the Japanese above a village called Sakawang, adding: “Lance Corporal C Campion, in spite of being wounded whilst leading his section, carried on. A second wound prevented him from using his weapon, but n spite of this he continued to command his section until he collapsed.”
Cyril was awarded the Military Medal. He had suffered gunshot and shrapnel wounds to his left forearm and back. The shrapnel was from an enemy hand-grenade, and he would carry bits of it in his body for the rest of his life. He had lost the use of two fingers, suffered shooting pains up his elbow and had trouble gripping items. This was problematic for a skilled artisan who had been employed in silk printing: after the war he was employed at the lesser-skilled level of silk process worker.
Cyril’s daughter Susan recalls that it had always been her father’s dream to live on Westfield, and while he and his wife had only recently purchased a property in Lancaster, they saw it as fate when the property called ‘Burma’ became available. They never ended up living in the home they had earlier bought.
Cyril’s son Colin says that during his father’s time on Westfield the Military Medal got mixed up with the rubbish during “a clear-out” and ended up being dumped on a local tip. Fortunately, a man ‘scratting’ on the tip, who knew Cyril personally, found the medal, saw his friend’s name on the edging of it and duly returned it to its rightful owner.
The Campions lived on the village until 1986, when Cyril’s ill-health resulted in their decision to move into sheltered accommodation. Cyril passed away in 1987, and his wife more than a decade later.