Rank or Title
War time / or Pre War occupation
Place of Birth
World War I Address
Place of Death
Soldier or Civilian
In late August 1917, munitions worker Violet Golding, aged “sweet 17,” became one of the youngest people named to receive the newly constituted Medal of the Order of the British Empire. The award followed an accident at George Kent's Chaul End munitions factory the previous June.
The accident, caused by a detonator exploding as the then 16-year-old leaned over to take it out of a press, resulted in a finger and thumb of her left hand having to be amputated and extensive burning to her arm.
She was a patient in Luton's Bute Hospital for three weeks and was off work for three months but then returned to a job in the department where the accident happened.
The Luton News of Thursday, August 30, 1917, reported that youngest daughter Violet was born in Wood Green, London, in 1900 but for the previous six years since 1911 had lived at Cross Street in Dunstable with her mother and stepfather (Mr Sinfield). She was educated at Ashton School, Dunstable, afterwards being employed at Waterlow's Printing Works until, in 1916, “she responded to the call to feed the guns”.
When a reporter asked the teenager if she could do the same job she did before the accident, she replied: “I used to be an inspector, but now I'm a Jack of all trades.”
The first Violet knew about her honour was when her name appeared in the newspapers. She had received no notification from any Government office, and said: “I could not believe my eyes.”
Her first written confirmation was in a letter from Miss Edith Hammond, who superintended the welfare of the girls at the Kent's munitions factory.
Miss Hammond wrote: “The Ministry of Munitions are distributing some medals to munitions workers who have rendered good service. I see in The Times newspaper that your name is among those to be honoured in this way. We always thought it plucky of you to come back to work as you did. I am very glad that you should be the girl here to get this medal. Please accept my congratulations.”
The Luton News remarked that it understood there were other munitions workers who had been marred by serious accidents such as the loss of hands, and they too had returned to the firm. It was to be hoped that they would be included in the next honours list.
Violet's courage so impressed the George Kent directors that they also awarded her £50, part of which she used to buy a bicycle to use instead of walking to and from work.
And when King George V visited the factory on November 13, 1917, Violet was introduced to the monarch. The King congratulated Violet on her medal and asked: “Is your hand better?”
The King asked another youngster in the workshops how many of the detonators she turned out in a day.
The girl replied shyly: “ I don’t know, sir. We don’t count. We just carry on.”
“Capital,” replied the King.
Violet was formally presented with her medal at Dunstable Town Hall in 1918 by the Lord Lieutenant of Bedfordshire.