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Memorial service for victims of 1924 Slade Green Disaster

PUBLISHED: 10:38 24 February 2011

Ethel Louisa Pullen who died in the explosion

Ethel Louisa Pullen who died in the explosion

Archant

A teenager who was killed in a factory explosion 87 years ago had got engaged to be married just a week before her death, relatives revealed at a memorial service.

Cousins Kay Pullen (l) and Gillian Dridge

Ethel Pullen, 18, nicknamed “Topsey”, was one of 12 young women to die in the Slade Green Filling Factory in the disaster which also killed their foreman Edward Jones, 29, on February 18, 1924.

On Friday a memorial service was held to commemorate the lives of the brave workers as family and friends gathered to lay flowers at the restored memorial in Erith Cemetery, Brook Street, Erith.

Gillian Dridge, 61, from Hextable, whose mother, Stella Faulker, is Ethel Pullen’s sister and the only surviving direct relative, said: “She was at school and heard the explosion, everyone was told to get on with their work.

“When she got home her family were in a terrible state but did not tell her what had happened for ages because they were so close and she was devastated losing her sister.

Peter Hickson with a tube for cartridges

“She kept asking when is Topsey coming home and they said that she had gone away for a while.

“Ethel was engaged to be married a week before she died making it a double tragedy for the family.”

Last week Mayor of Bexley, Councillor Val Clark joined residents at the service organised by the Erith and Belvedere Local History Society. On the day of the fatal explosion the women, all aged 16 to 24 years old, were breaking up cartridges used as flares to light up the 
trenches.

The factory, on the Slade Green marshes, was used to produce two inch and six inch mortar shells and to break up and render safe surplus ammunition recovered from the battle fields. Just before 9am, the explosion occurred and a fire broke out in the shed they were working in.

Mayor of Bexley, Councillor Val Clark lays flowers at the restored memorial

Ethel Loiusa Pullen’s niece, Kay Pullen, said: “She was very kind, always had a very good singing voice, she was very happy and always helped people.”

The disaster shook the area prompting Councillor Lyle of Crayford Council to set up the Slade Green Disaster Sympathy Fund. It offers financial assistance to the families of the victims and helped to pay for a memorial.

A business man donated £2 to the widow of works foreman Mr Jones, who was considered to be “in poor circumstances” .

The memorial was restored in 1995 after Peter Hickson from the history society approached the council.

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