Plaque marking 75 years since Colchester air raid unveiled by survivor
A plaque in central Colchester to mark the site of a Second World War air raid has been unveiled by a survivor of the bombing.
Positioned on Southway, at the corner of Chapel Street, the commemorative stone was revealed 75 years to the day of the raid, which took place on September 28, 1942.
Eight people were killed and 28 taken to hospital due to the German attack, with 30 houses destroyed and a further 275 damaged.
But one of those who survived was heavily pregnant Rose Marchant, who gave birth two weeks later to son Dennis.
Dennis Marchant had the honour of unveiled the plaque during a short service yesterday – which included a minute’s silence just before 11am to coincide with the exact time the bomb fell.
Mr Marchant, 74, explained: “We were at 21 Chapel Street, and my mum was looking after Mrs Daldry’s baby while she went shopping.
“She heard the airplane, picked the baby up, and next thing she knew the roof came in.
“Fortunately she – and the baby – was sheltered and were dug out during the course of the day. I think Mrs Daldry must have been a bit worried though, and she went to live with in-laws in Ipswich Road.
“Mum then went on to have me on October 13.”
The Chapel Street air raid, carried out by a lone Dornier 217 bomber, was the worst in Colchester on a residential area during the conflict. Surrounding streets were also hit.
Colchester High Steward Sir Bob Russell helped to organise the plaque and conducted the unveiling service, which included a prayer, and which was attended by dignitaries including Colchester mayor Gerard Oxford and Essex County Council chairman John Aldridge.
Sir Bob said: “I am grateful to The Hunnaball Family Funeral Group who has generously donated and installed the commemorative granite rock, with support from Anglian Water and Balfour Beatty for associated highways works. Essex Highways have also been of great assistance in making this all possible.”
Tales from the raid
The raid is described in a book Essex at War which was published in September 1945.
Among the details are 84-year-old Mrs Buckle, whose daughter Mrs Barham pushed her under the table and who escaped without injury.
Soon after the raid the landlord of a nearby pub cleared the debris from his bars and proceeded to serve customers – rescue workers and relatives of the casualties.
There was also a scare of an unexploded bomb in one of the houses, and ARP wardens cleared the area after ticking was heard.
It was later discovered the cause was a grandfather clock.
Gas, water and electricity men had all services restored by 5.30pm that evening.
Joan Smith, now Watson, was seven and a pupil at the nearby St John’s Green School when the bomb fell.
She said: “As we heard the terrible explosions we all dived under our desks as we had been taught. Mothers, who heard the screams, feared the school had been hit and rushed to take their children home.
“I remember walking home along South Street to my home at the top of West Street through smoking debris and seeing the fire engines spraying water on the rubble.”
Lewis Buckingham was three at the time. He said: “I remember sitting in the cupboard under the stairs with my mother, in West Street where we lived.
“My grandmother lost her life in the raid. My grandfather survived because at the time the bomb fell he was in the workshop at the bottom of their garden in Essex Street. My Aunt Hilda was buried for some hours before being dug out.”