Munitions hero awarded OBE

Ernest Hansell OBE

It was announced in February 1919 that the medal of the Order of the British Empire has been awarded to Mr Ernest Hansell, of 21 Francis Street, Luton, for bravery during an explosion at the Chaul End Munition Works. The Luton News (February 20th) reported that intimation was contained in a letter from the Home Office which stated that the Lord Lieutenant of the County would communicate with Mr Hansell with reference to the actual presentation of the medal.

Mr Hansell had been engaged in mixing and drying high explosives at the factory of George Kent Ltd at Chaul End for something like three-and-a-half years, “a most extraordinary man on a job highly dangerous and also injurious to health”.

In November 1918 the room in which Mr Hansell was working was suddenly blown away. Although badly shaken, he was left uninjured, however, and as soon as the debris could be cleared he immediately got on with his work again. It was at a time when the War Department were wanting all the material that could be turned out, and Mr Hansell showed great bravery in the way he went on with his work.

The Lord Lieutenant (Mr S. Howard Whitbread) and the Beds Chief Constable (Col Stevens) arrived dressed in khaki at Luton Town Hall on Tuesday, April 15th, 1919, to make the presentation to Mr Hansell in the presence of Luton Mayor Henry Impey and members of Luton Town Council.

The Lord Lieutenant said it was a great satisfaction in Luton that the people had not been found wanting in helping the war effort. Mr Hansell's work was always extremely hazardous and anxious, and he performed the work admirably, while in a sudden emergency. Although severely shocked, he calmly and courageously rose to the occasion.

For such acts of high example, the King had instituted the OBE, and had acted kindly in commanding the Lord Lieutenant to present the decoration in the towns where it was earned so that the recipient's colleagues and the public could realise the honour conferred by these crave persons upon those places.