01 January 2020 - Andy Begent
Chelmsford in the Second World War
Andy who runs the website http://chelmsfordwarmemorial.co.uk/ and who wrote ‘Chelmsford at War- a chronicle of the county town of Essex during the Second World War’ gave us a detailed account of what happened in Chelmsford. I think that all of us were surprised by the amount of bombing that happened and to see photographs of the devastation caused. Andy had photos of the Chelmsford area taken from German reconnaissance planes. At the beginning of the war Chelmsford was not targeted and any bombing was random. Chelmsford was on the planes’ route to London and a year into the war the Hoffman’s and Marconi’s factories started to be targeted.
Within a week of war being declared 1400 evacuees were brought to Chelmsford. No bombing happened here during the early weeks, but public shelters were built – the smallest for 60 people and the largest for 400. There were also ‘trench shelters’, which were just trenches, in public parks – the biggest being in the recreation ground for 1200 people. In May 1940 the Home Guard was formed. The main roundabouts in the town had removable barriers – the barriers were to prevent German tanks getting into the town. As Baddow Meads was an ideal place for the Germans to land planes, barriers were erected there, too.
In May 1940 on two consecutive days random bombs were dropped and people were killed. But targeted bombing started a year later. If you want to read about one of the worst incidents at Hoffman’s and see some of the photographs have a look at http://www.chelmsfordwarmemorial.co.uk/second-world-war/chelmsford/ww2-unknown.html. There is a large memorial to these Hoffman’s workers in Writtle Road cemetery.
As the war continued incendiary bombs were dropped – one caused the Suet factory in New St. to catch fire and the melted fat spread across the road, making it difficult for people to get to work at Marconi's factory next morning. The bus station was bombed thus stopping people getting to work for the war effort. We saw photographs of many houses that were destroyed or damaged.
On D Day there was fake radio traffic around Chelmsford to convince the Germans that there were many troops around here.
When the war ended there was dancing in the streets of Chelmsford.
Andy is revising his book and hopes that the new version will be ready for VE Day.