Continue We want you to get the most out of using this website, which is why we and our partners use cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to receive these cookies. You can find out more about how we use cookies here.

Wednesday, 08 July 2015

Subscriptions  |  evouchers  |  Jobs  |  Property  |  Motors  |  Travel  |  Dating  |  Family Notices

Joseph helps ex-pat Jean piece together her family history

A RECENT trip back home to Whitehaven from Sydney prompted ex-pat Jean Jackson to dig further into her family history.

She wanted to know more about the circumstances surrounding the death of her grandfather, John William Tunstall, who had died in a works accident at the Drigg ordnance factory in 1944.

As the work and the very existence of the Drigg factory was of a secret nature during wartime, incidents that occurred there often remained shrouded in mystery and went unreported publicly.

Jean, now 68, was just a child of six when her parents, John and Irene Tunstall, decided to emigrate to Australia in 1949, but she still had childhood memories of the family home at Fleswick Avenue, Woodhouse.

Now, with help from local historian Joseph Ritson, the truth about what happened to Grandad Tunstall has been unearthed. Joseph, who researches wartime casualties from the area, referred to a brief official wartime history of Drigg ROF which does not give names but states there were three fatal accidents during the war, which isn’t quite correct. None of these three accidents seem to match up with any of those we now know lost their lives there.

John William Tunstall, who had been working as a boiler cleaner at the factory died a week after his accident, aged 59, having suffered a fractured skull, so technically he did not die on site so may not have been recorded. Jean would only have been a baby at the time.

References in the local press to accidents were left rather vague eg “at a North-West factory’’ and even now it is not always straightforward to find out what happened there during the war years, says Joseph.

“Usually, it is easier to trace wartime service casualties as they are commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Civilian casualties, such as Jean’s grandfather, engaged in ‘essential war work’ are not commemorated by the Commission.’’

An inquest report was tracked down by Joseph which told how Mr Tunstall had been cleaning out a boiler prior to inspection. Some construction work was being done and some pipes nearby had been secured vertically but not laterally, as this could not be done until the pump was in position. A witness saw Mr Tunstall overbalance and grab at the pipes. He fell about four feet down into a pit and the pipes fell on top of him.

At the inquest, which recorded a verdict of accidental death, Mr O F Ormrod of the Ministry of Supply said that Mr Tunstall had been “an excellent workman, a splendid type of man, and held in very high esteem by all at the factory’’. Sympathies were extended to his family.

In September, Jean, together with her husband Don, was able to meet up with long-lost relatives, including cousins Lawrence Tunstall, of Arlecdon, and Miriam Goldsworthy, of Kells, when she called at Whitehaven during an extended holiday. The family had been brought together again thanks to the internet.

Said Jean: “Our grandfather had been killed in an accident and not as the result of an explosion at the ROF as we had first thought so it was interesting to read some contemporary accounts about what really happened.

“We have been back home in Sydney several weeks now and are finally settling down and enjoying the 3,500 photographs we took! It sure was a wonderful trip giving us some great memories to share.’’

The Jacksons have four children and five grandchildren.


Hot jobs
Search for:
Whitehavennews Newspaper