Children of Dagenham factory worker dead from asbestos-linked cancer seek answers from her former colleagues

Florence Holland, 86, died from asbestos-related cancer last April. Picture: Family handout/Irwin Mi

Florence Holland, 86, died from asbestos-related cancer last April. Picture: Family handout/Irwin Mitchell - Credit: Family handout/Irwin Mitchell

Children of a former factory worker from Dagenham are searching for their mum’s old workmates to help explain how she contracted the cancer that killed her.

Florence with her son Matthew, taken in the 1950s. Picture: Family handout/Irwin Mitchell

Florence with her son Matthew, taken in the 1950s. Picture: Family handout/Irwin Mitchell - Credit: Family handout/Irwin Mitchell

Florence Holland died in April after being diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer which only develops decades after exposure to asbestos dust, three months earlier.

Now the 86-year-old’s two children want to speak to her former colleagues at Pritchett & Gold’s battery factory in Dagenham Docks to find out whether working conditions exposed Florence to the harmful material.

Their appeal follows that of Gerald Palmer, a 97-year-old terminally ill with the same condition. Palmer, a great-grandfather who was an RAF engineer during the Second World War, says the manufacturing process at the plant involved asbestos.

“Before the illness, my mother was in good health, was still able to drive and was very independent,” said Florence’s son Matthew.


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The 60-year-old said Florence “started to develop shortness of breath” a year ago and “slowly became less active”.

“It was awful to see my mother, who had been so active just a few months earlier, in so much pain at the end of her life,” he added.

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Florence left school in 1945 at age 15 and started working at Pritchard & Gold shortly afterwards.

While working as a separator inspector at the factory, which made batteries for aircraft, submarines and the automotive industry, she met her husband Ron, who later became plant manager.

The couple lived in Dagenham before moving to Harold Wood in 1953 and Southend eight years later. Ron died in 2011.

Before her death, Florence told her children she remembered one occasion where she was required to help with work at a workshop. This, she believes, may have exposed her to asbestos.

“Matthew and I now just want to know how our mum came to be exposed to asbestos which took her life,” said her daughter, Samantha, 52.

The pair are considering legal action.

Anyone with information on the working conditions at Pritchett and Gold between 1946 and 1951 can contact Lacey St James on 0203 040 3445 or lacey.stjames@irwinmitchell.com.

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