Huddersfield Factory Fire
The youngest victim was just 14, one of many young girls among the 49 workers who perished in the H. Booth and Son factory on October 31 1941.
Investigations revealed that it had been a smouldering pipe stuffed thoughtlessly in a jacket pocket that had started the blaze, but the real cause of the tragedy was the careless conversion of the five-storey building on John William Street from a warehouse to a clothing factory.
It seems incredible now, but no fire-escape was provided for the building's users. Two internal staircases had been added, but they proved of little value. Even the chance to scramble down the building on drainpipes was denied the desperate men and women trapped by the flames - the drainpipes were flush to the wall and offered no grip. At least two women died after they threw themselves from upper storeys, surely knowing that they had little chance of survival, but with a slower and more horrible death inevitable if they remained in the factory.
Booths employed 150 men and women, and 49 of them died that day. Most were buried in a mass grave in Edgerton Cemetery in the town, their memorial stating that they died at their duty: this was wartime , and everyone was regarded as being part of the national struggle. But it is evident that they should not have died at all.
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