Denis WYATT, Civilian. Killed in Chelmsford

 

Denis Wyatt was born around 1914, the son of Mr. & Mrs. E. Wyatt.

In 1938 he married Phyllis J. C. Burch, the daughter of Christopher Burch and Ethel Burch (nee Hinds) in London. Denis and Phyllis had a son born in London in 1938.

In 1942 Denis was working for the Tentest Fibreboard Company and living with his wife's maternal grandmother, Ellen Hinds (nee Farrance) at ‘Hartest Villa’ in Beehive Lane in Galleywood (Hartest was the village in Suffolk where Ellen had been born in 1865). Meanwhile Denis' wife and son were living at 136 Lordship Lane, East Dulwich, London.

On 19th October 1942 28 year-old Denis was one of a group of outside contractors from the Tentest Fibreboard Company who were working on the roof of the Cage & Assembly Shop at Hoffmann's ball-bearings factory in Chelmsford when it was attacked by the German air force.

At 10.59 a.m. a lone German Dornier Do 217E aircraft approached Chelmsford from the east at an altitude of around a thousand feet. Taking advantage of low cloud and poor visibility, typical of a misty autumn morning, the aircraft dropped to around a 150 feet to make a bombing run on Hoffmann’s approximately along the line of one of the factory’s railway sidings. Almost immediately Hoffmann’s light machine defences opened up on the raider, but other army posts were unable to fire their Bofors guns at the aircraft because of its extremely low altitude - the gunners would have been firing in the direction of nearby buildings and people. The Dornier was able to release two 500 Kg SC high explosive bombs on the works, with delayed actions of about twenty seconds, and machine gunned the ground. With its bombs released the aircraft turned north-eastwards, circled to the north of Chelmsford and made off due east towards the coast, apparently unscathed.

Those on the ground were not so fortunate. One of the bombs scored a direct hit on the factory. It penetrated the roof and exploded in the recently completed Cage & Assembly Shop, (part of Hoffmann’s ‘C factory’, to the north of Rectory Lane). As a result Denis was seriously injured, along with two colleagues, and was to die later the same day in the Chelmsford & Essex Hospital. Three others died as a result of the bomb at Hoffmann’s, six were seriously injured, and 43 men and 16 women were slightly hurt. Casualties would have been far higher but for the excellent civil defence arrangements at the factory which meant that many of the factory workers were inside air raid shelters when the bomb struck.

The other bomb deflected off the factory’s roof and exploded amongst houses in neighbouring Henry Road where five people died as a result.

Denis' funeral was held at St. Michael’s Church, Galleywood on 24th October 1942. He is remembered on the village’s war memorial.

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