Private William Podmore was a manager of the Co-operative Laundries in Wallsend and Durham. When a member of his staff was called up to fight, a man with a widowed mother solely dependent on him, Podmore, in an act of supreme self sacrifice, suggested to the Military Service Tribunal that he serve in place of his employee. The Tribunal agreed to Private Podmore’s proposal and he joined the Royal Fusiliers.
When his regiment went into action, Private Podmore was injured but he refused to withdraw, insisting he would see the thing through. Two to three days later his gun team were given a dangerous task to perform and they came under very heavy enemy fire. Men were quickly put out of action and Podmore was, quite literally, the last man standing. When last seen on 7 October 1916 he was only twenty yards from enemy lines, working his gun alone. Escape from such a position was impossible, and Private Podmore was reported to have crowned his previous act of heroism by making the supreme sacrifice, facing the foe, unflinchingly.
Co-operative News, date unknown, page unknown.
WWI co-operative voices
This post is part of ‘WWI co-operative voices’ which shares the stories of co-operative workers and members during the conflict. In order to mark the centenary of the WWI, the Rochdale Pioneers Museum is staging an exhibition entitled ‘From shop floor to front line’ and the accounts of these soldiers, shop workers and conscientious objectors will run alongside it. They are tales of death, duty and of those who chose not to fight.
Through ‘WWI co-operative voices’ we will be releasing new posts about these individuals throughout the duration of the exhibition (due to open mid-May 2015 and run until May 2016). Read about the co-operative movement’s involvement in a war that shook the world by selecting a name from the column on the left. You can also follow us on social media for regular updates.
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We wish to thank the Heritage Lottery Fund for supporting the ‘From shop floor to front line’ exhibition and project.