Endymion Road, Hatfield

Bomb Census 9/10 October 1944, Hatfield
Off Acc 113 Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies
Map showing bomb site
Hatfield at War, Brian G Lawrence
Endymion Road, Hatfield 10 October 1944
Hatfield Library
Endymion Road, Hatfield 10 October 1944. Back of St Audrey's School
Hatfield Library
St Audrey's School 10 October 1944
Hatfield Library

On the morning of October 10 1944 Endymion Road, Hatfield was awoken at 04.49 by the exploding of a flying bomb (doodlebug).

The Herts Advertiser of 12 October 1944 headlined it as Flying bomb hits rural town as places were not allowed to be put in newspapers incase they got into the wrong hands.

Eight people were killed and 30 were seriously injured. The article was as follows:

  Flying bomb hits rural town

Residents killed and others injured

Rescued people praise civil defence workers

Many people were trapped in wrecked cottages when a flying bomb fell on a small rural town in southern England early on Tuesday morning. They were however speedily rescued and an outstanding feature of an incident which was attended by casualties – eight of them fatal – and considerable damage was the rapidity with which the various ARP services got into action and the efficiency with which they worked not only in recuing the injured and attending to their wounds, but in salvaging the belongings of the people whose homes had been demolished, providing food, lodging or other accommodation for the homeless, rendering first aid repairs to make weatherproof the large number  of less-seriously damaged houses and to provide assistance for the people who remained in those houses.

“I heard the missile coming” said an official who was on duty a short distance from the spot where the bomb fell. “it was alight and seemed to illuminate the district. As soon as i saw it I flopped straight down on the ground. Then came the big bang. The bomb had exploded about fifty yards from the spot where i had flopped down. I was very lucky to escape with a scratch or two on the head and a small wound in the thigh. There was a creaking and then the crash of debris from the badly-damaged houses”.

“Some people began to clamber out of the wreckage: others were in the bedrooms and unable to get down. They were soon rescued by means of ladders by Police, ARP and NFS men who were on the scene with surprising speed. Then they lost no time searching among the debris. They found some dead and a number of injured. Medical officers were on the spot an ambulances whisked the injured off to hospital with all possible speed. Others less seriously injured were taken to the first aid post”.

“Touched some trees”

” I think it touched  the top of some trees otherwise it would have passed over us” said another man who was in the vacinity.

Mr Curtis, an old soldier of the last was, and his wife were among those who lost their lives. Mr Curtis was well known to local residents as the caretaker of the Public Hall. At the outbreak of the present war, as a member of the Civil Defence Service, he took up full-time ARP duties and was storekeeper at the local ARP stores. Mr H Sanderson was killed in his home, but his father and sister who were sleeping in the same house,were rescued alive and were taken to hospital.

Mrs Skeggs, a septuagenarian, who had lived in the district practically all her life was killed and Mr Dodsworth, a married man whose homeis said to be at Spalding, died on the way to hospital. He had been directed to employment in the district and lodged with Mr and Mrs Morgan, both og whom are in hospital.

Some people were treated at the first aid post and most of them returened to render what assistance they could to the ARP workers and other helpers. Others more seriously injured were taken to hospital.

Baby Colin Wilson, who was eighteen months old, died in hospital on the night following the incident.

Mr Pinder, who was about 38, and a married man with one child, died from his injuries the next day. His wife and child had reached safety in the shelter afforded by the pantry at their house, escaped unhurt, but Mr Pinder, an employee of the local Gas Company, was struck by a flying door blown from its hinges.

“The rescue parties did great work and they did it very quickly”. said one man who, with his wife, had been extricated from a pile of debris with nothing more than a nasty shaking.

“The ceiling and everything fell on top of us” said Mrs Webb, who was in a house which was shattered, with her husband, son, daughter and seventy-four-year-old aunt. “when we scrambled out we found that the front door had been blown up the staircase. My son slid down that and we got out. My aunt, who had comedown to us because she had been bombed out of her home in London, has now gone back there”.

“We were almost completely smothered in debris, but we managed to scramble out somehow”. said Mr Webb, who was badly shaken and was being cared for in a rest centre.

“Heard it coming”

We heard the flying bomb coming” said a young married women. “after the explosion the roof collapsed, but a beam prevented us being squashed beneath it. We were trapped in the bedroom, but the rescue parties soon got us out”.

” I jumped out of bed when i heard the bomb coming”. said Mr Challis, a widower. “As soon as i did so, the explosion occured and the bedroom door, which was blown off its hinges, hit me in the back. Mr Davis, his wife and their little son, George, who live with me, were covered with rubble. Little George had only come out of hospital in London last Saturday, now he is back in hospital again and his father is with him”.

Mrs Wyld and her two children were among those rescued from a much-damaged house, while the members of the Wilson family were among others extricated from a shattered home.

“We have no windows, no doors, on ceiling and very little roof” said Mrs Ostler, “but we were very lucky, as no one was really injured in our house. We heard the bomb coming. My husbandand I jumped out of bed and bent over our baby’s cot. The ceilingin the bedroom fell, but the fact that we were bending over the cot saved baby from injury. When we eventually managed to get downstairs through the mess, we found ARP people on the scene and they have been most helpful”.

Residents in the affected area were high in their praise of the work of the Civil Defense Service, NFS, Police and all who joined to help them. The Incident Report Centre had been set up within a few minutes of the incident occuring, and the staff, with the experience of dealing with a somewhat similar occurance recently, immediately got to work in arranging for the welfare of the people suffering as a result of this enemy attack.

WVS mobile canteens, the county ARP canteen and a NFS canteen were soon on the spot dispensing hot drinks. A rest centre at a conventwas speedily opened up, and a number of persons who were renderedhomless were received, provided with hot drinks and later with breakfast. Minor cuts etc, sustained by some of those people were attended to and a substantial mid-day meal was served not only to the homeless, but also those from houses where cooking facilities were temporarily out of action. Then the voluntary staff proceeded to make arrangements to provide sleeping and other accommodation for the homeless people who had nowhere else to go that night.

The British Restaurant also played its part in providing feeding facilities for both bombed out people and Civil Defence workers, etc, who came from other districts to help

Work of salvage

The work of searching the debris was prolonged because a two-year-old child could not be accounted for. It was traced to hospital and then the task of demolishion, clearing of debris, salvaging furniture proceeded apace, and by nightfall all that could be retrieved of the belongings of the people who occupied the houses which were destroyed or were no longer habitable had been removed to store.

While work was in progress, a dog which had been trapped beneath debris for nearly ten hours was released, little worse for its ordeal and searching eagerly for its master. In one instance an envelope containing a considerable sum of money in bank notes was found among the debris, and in another house an old iron boiler was unearthed. Little attention was paid to it at first, but on scrutiny it was found to containwhat is believed to be a family’s life savings, amounting to £500, with four sovereigns which were wrapped in cotton wool, a five shilling peice and a four shilling piece.

When it was handed over for safe custardy, an official remarked: “Phew, fancy keeping all that money in the house! Somebody has been losing at least £15 a year by keeping that money at home instead of investing it in National Savings”.

Residents of less-seriously damaged houses worked with a will to clear up their homes. They got on with their washing, beat their carpets, carried oy debris fron fallen ceilings and broken windows, while repair squads refitted doors which had been blown off, covered damaged roofs with tarpaulings and fitted in the gaps in window frames, so that before dusk fell these houses had been made habitable until repairs of a more permanent character can be carried out.

By the same time, all the homeless people had been provided with shelterand food. While all this work had been going on, chickens from bomb-damaged houses had been wandering at will through gardens, apparentlyquite unaffected by blast, which in many cases had blown the fowlhouses to smithereens.

School Wrecked

An elementary school was completely wrecked. A Police headquarters and the quarters provided for the married members of the Force were also damaged. Several officers received minor injuries but remaind at duty. “We are knocked about a bit, but we are carrying on as usual,” said a senior Police officer as he worked with constables in clearing the debris and getting the offices into working order once more.

Carrying on as usual seemed to be the aim of everyone, but they could not do it quite “as usual”. A solicitor and his clerk, for instance, worked in an office which was without windowsand doors and had a hole in the roof.

At the council offices, which were in a similar condition, officials were busier than usual dealing with the enquiries and other requirements of bombed-out residents. The food offices had suffered, too, but clerks sat at tables placed on the forecourt to carry out the distribution of baby food, orange juice and cod liver oil. Emergency ration cards were also issued there.

“The babies have got to have their food as usual, and we are not going to let Jerry stop it” said an official.

Shopkeepers in the affeced area made a brave effort to keep business going  – also as usual. The absence of doors and windows, the tiles off the roof and ceilings down did not stop their activities. At the “local” – just a shell of its former self – the usual opening hour was observed. The cellars had escaped, and so thirsty, dirt-begrimed workers were able to get a drink amid the rubble. “We dived under the table when we heard the thing coming”. said the licensee, “otherwise we should not have escaped unhurt”. There were other people who said their freedom from injury was due to the protection afforded by Morrisn shelters.

The congregational Church and schoolroom did not escape. The roof,ceilings, windows and door all suffered damage. amid the debris two ladies were seen arranging flowers which had been specially sent by a member of the congregation to be placed in the porch to bring fragranceamid the desolation.

The towns Court House was another public building to lose most of its window and doors and to receive other damage, much of which was in the quarters occupied by the caretaker and his wife. They were sheltering in the cellar and were not hurt.

The death roll was brought to eight yesterday afternoon, when Mr Hills,who was aged about eighty, died in hospital.

A memorial service for those who lost their lives os to be held in the Parish Church tomorrow (Saturday)at 2pm.

As it mentioned at the start of the article ” a town in South-East England” as places were not allowed to be mentioned in newspapers during the war. We can now, through the advance of technology, find the address where these bombs actually hit and find out more details about the casualties.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission ensures that 1.7 million people who died in the two world wars will never be forgotten.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission owes its existence to the vision and determination of one man – Sir Fabian Ware. At 45 he was too old to fight but he became the commander of a mobile unit of the British Red Cross.

Saddened by the sheer number of casualties, he felt driven to find a way to ensure the final resting places of the dead would not be lost forever. Under his leadership, his unit began recording and caring for all the graves they could find.

By 1915, their work was given official recognition by the War Office and incorporated into the British Army as the Graves Registration Commission. Keen that the spirit of imperial cooperation evident in the war was reflected in the work of his organisation and encouraged by the Prince of Wales, he submitted a memorandum to the Imperial War Conference. In May 1917, the Imperial War Graves Commission was established by Royal Charter, with the Prince serving as President and Ware as Vice-Chairman.

The Commission’s work began in earnest after the Armistice. Once land for cemeteries and memorials had been guaranteed, the enormous task of recording the details of the dead began. By 1918, some 587,000 graves had been identified and a further 559,000 casualties were registered as having no known grave.

The Second World War was different in that it was global. The increased use of air power meant that the casualties were no longer restricted to military personnel. Extending the commissions remit at the request of Winston Churchill, the commission created a roll of honour that commemorated the 67,000 civilians who died as a result of enemy action during the Second World War.

There is much information to be found on the War Graves Commission site for the Civilian dead, the casualties mentioned in the article appear as follows:

Civilian

CURTIS, DOROTHY MAY

Died 10/10/1944

Aged 47

Civilian War Dead

of 15 Endymion Road, Hatfield. Daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Hill, of 7 Homestead Road, Hatfield; wife of Stephen Curtis. Died at 15 Endymion Road.

Civilian

DODSWORTH, JOHN GEORGE

Died 10/10/1944

Aged 33

Civilian War Dead

Husband of Ellen May Dodsworth, of 15 Chapel Lane, Spalding, Lincolnshire. Died at 11 Endymion Road, Hatfield.

Civilian

SKEGGS, JANE

Died 10/10/1944

Aged 78

Civilian War Dead

of 9 Endymion Road, Hatfield. Widow of Joseph Skeggs. Died at 9 Endymion Road.

Civilian

SAUNDERSON, HENRY JAMES

Died 10/10/1944

Aged 65

Civilian War Dead

of 17 Endymion Road, Hatfield. Son of Sarah Sanders (otherwise Saunderson), and of Henry Sanders (otherwise Saunderson). Died at 17 Endymion Road.

Civilian

WILLSON, COLIN RAY

Died 10/10/1944

Civilian War Dead

Aged 18 months; of 3 Endymion Road, Hatfield. Son of Sjt. Charles Willson, R.A., and Ena Alice Willson. Died at 3 Endymion Road.

Civilian

CURTIS, STEPHEN

Died 10/10/1944

Aged 52

Civilian War Dead

Air Raid Warden. Son of the late William Curtis, of Home Farm Cottage, Basildon, Berkshire, husband of Dorothy May Curtis, of 15 Endymion Road, Hatfield. Injured at 15 Endymion Road; died same day at Hill End Hospital.

Civilian

HILLS, WILLIAM

Died 11/10/1944

Aged 81

Civilian War Dead

of 13 Endymion Road, Hatfield. Husband of the late Elizabeth Hills. Injured 10 October 1944, at 13 Endymion Road; died at Hill End Hospital.

Civilian

PINDER, DONALD WILLIAM

Died 11/10/1944

Aged 40

Civilian War Dead

Husband of C. R. Pinder, of 4 Endymion Road, Hatfield. Injured 10 October 1944, at 4 Endymion Road; died at Hill End Hospital.

At Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies there is an index to bomb damage in Hertfordshire under reference Off Acc 364, which lists where the damage happened and whether there are any casualties. This had also been added to the Hertfordshire Names Online website.

 

This page was added on 31/08/2019.

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