Thursday, 11 February 2010

Mountnessing: Enemy Action 1945

Extract from “Battle over Essex”*
At Teatime in a Village.
Taken from St Giles’ Mountnessing News
September 1997

Shortly after 5p.m. on Wednesday, the 11th of February 1945, a rocket fell in a field at Mountnessing, ten yards from the (then) main London Chelmsford road.

Half the houses in the village were damaged from the blast; the little Congregational Chapel directly opposite the explosion, collapsed; the day school 80 yards away had most of its windows blow in; and two Chelmsford ‘buses missed a tragedy by three minutes. Within a radius of 200 yards not a ceiling remained intact. But there was not a single serious casualty.

The villagers were sitting down to tea. The rocket made a crater close to New Cottage, a modern detached house, and the residence of Mrs Florence Breedon. Mrs Breedon and her daughter were having tea, when the back and one side of the house collapsed beside them. They were blown from their chairs up against the dining-room wall, the room upstairs just disintegrated, and every bit of glass was blown out. Not a plate, dish, or glass in the house remained unbroken.

A rescue squad, hastily mustered, rushed into the ruined house, expecting the worst, but the two occupants had no more than a few bruises, although they suffered a good deal from shock.

Across the road, Mountnessing’s “shopping centre” presented a sorry sight. From the Post-office down to the Congregational Chapel, every window had gone, every ceiling was down, and furniture inside was all at sixes and sevens. The front of the Chapel had completely caved in, and what was left of the wind organ had been carried outside the building. What remains standing of the walls will have to be re-built. Services have been held there every Sunday for 70 years.

Next door to the Chapel live Mr and Mrs John Sawyer, whose semi-detached house “Bethany” suffered badly. Mr Sawyer, local representative of an insurance society, said: “Everything seemed to turn upside down. We were covered with plaster from the ceiling, wall-paper was ripped off in large streamers, the walls appeared to bellow out and then back again, our piano in the front room slithered all round the floor, and in the process lost all the works inside! Dishes in the sideboard kept their shape, but on being touched, fell to pieces. I got a superficial cut on the head. My wife and I were taken to hospital, but we soon recovered.”

It was the same story up to the Post-office, where despite the damage, it was “business as usual” within a very short time.

The explosion was close to the stopping place for the Brentwood to Chelmsford ‘buses, while the ‘buses going the other way stop outside the Post-office opposite. Only three minutes before the rocket came a loaded Chelmsford-bound ‘bus had passed the spot, while the ‘bus going to Brentwood was almost due.

In fact, there were a few people standing outside the Post-office waiting for it at the time. One of them was Miss Harris (Editor – My Aunt) the Head Teacher. They were almost blown off their feet by the force of the explosion. Miss Harris had a few minutes before locked the school, the damage to which necessitated its being closed for five weeks.

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