David Easton Davidson was born in Scotland but grew up in metropolitan Essex. He married in 1925 and went on to have four children. By 1941 he was living in Willingale and working at Marconi's works in New Street, Chelmsford. It was there that he was one of 17 people killed in May 1941 when the factory was bombed by the German air force.
David Easton DAVIDSON, Civilian
Killed during an air raid on Marconi's factory, Chelmsford. Aged 39
Of the factory’s 3221 workers, some 390 were engaged on the night shift at the time of the raid. They had been on duty since 8.15 p.m. the previous evening and were due to finish at 7.30 a.m., with the day shift taking over fifteen minutes later. The air raid warning had interrupted work of the two hundred or so employees in the machine shop The men there had taken shelter behind an internal blast wall, whilst the women had gone to the strong rooms below the main office building.
The bombs that hit Marconi’s fell at the western end of the main factory building. One, thought to have been a 250 kg. DH high explosive, exploded in the centre of machine shop which occupied the southern half of the building. Another, a 500 kg. DH high explosive, fell on its northern half, through the first floor carpenters’ shop and detonated on the floor of the SWB8 transmitter erection shop beneath it. This bomb ignited a drum of cellulose in the carpenters’ shop and the fire rapidly spread across debris into the neighbouring paint spray shop. There, dope was ignited and several men, who had survived the initial explosions, were trapped behind a blast wall and killed by the fire before rescuers could reach them. The fire was eventually brought under control by 5 a.m., though not before flames had spread to Ridley’s flour mill in neighbouring Townfield Street. Damage there was extensive with a very large number of roof slates lost, timbers charred and internal linings destroyed.
During the day, whilst clearing up operations continued at the factory, a worker reported hearing tapping sounds from beneath the debris of the wrecked paint spray and transmitter erection shops. Immediately, workmen with crowbars and shovels began frantic attempts to locate the source of the sounds but despite their efforts no one could be found and it was decided to terminate any further rescue work as it was concluded that anyone still buried would be dead by then.
On the following day, Saturday 10th May, the large pile of debris was cleared and somewhat alarmingly the source of the tapping sounds was clear to be seen by all - a third 500 Kg delayed action high explosive bomb, lay there unexploded but still ticking. Its serial number Ex 536 could be clearly seen. The Bomb Disposal Squad was immediately called in and the factory and surrounding streets were evacuated. Such was the nature and position of the device that the B.D.S. were forced to detonate the bomb where it lay. A warning was put out to this effect, and at 10.30 a.m. on Monday 12th May the bomb was exploded in situ. Further damage was inflicted to the factory, but fortunately there were no further casualties.
The fourth bomb, a 250 Kg. high explosive, narrowly missed the Marconi works and fell onto houses in Marconi Road, where two people received fatal injuries. A terrace of six houses near the junction with Bishop Road suffered most as a result, with three demolished (nos. 70, 72 & 74) and two others believed damaged beyond repair (nos. 76 & 78). The sixth house, no. 80, was seriously damaged as were five others (nos. 62, 64, 66, 68 & 82). The combined effects of blast from all four bombs affected around 375 other properties within a quarter of a mile radius with damage mainly confined to windows, doors, roofs and ceilings.
David's funeral was held at Shellow Bowells Parish Church on 17th May 1941. He was described as a quiet man left and an estate valued at £177 3s. 7d. with probate granted to his widow, who died in 1992.
David Easton Davidson was born at 13 River Street in Montrose, Scotland on 26th September 1901, the son of Alexander Allan Davidson and Elizabeth Davidson. Alexander's father was an iron merchant's manager, and had been living with his wife in Walthamstow in the year before David was born.
David was baptised at Walthamstow Presbyterian Church on Christmas Day 1901.
David had a brother, Alexander Davidson, born in Leyton in 1906, and five years later the census recorded the family of four living in Leyton at 43 Liverpool Road.
In 1925 he married London-born Louisa Rosina E. Torode and the couple went on to have two daughters and two sons between 1926 and 1937, all born in the Walthamstow area.
By 1941 David was working for the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Co. Ltd. at their premises in New Street, Chelmsford, with his home in Shellow House, Willingale, some six and a half miles west of Chelmsford.
David died on 9th May 1941, one of 17 workers killed when his workplace was bombed in a skilled raid by the Luftwaffe. He was aged 39. A further 20 people were seriously injured and 18 others slightly hurt in the factory.
A red air raid warning had sounded the previous evening at 11.24 p.m. but all was quiet until 2.22 a.m. when an enemy Junkers Ju 88 approached the town. Eyewitnesses saw the raider clearly in the almost full moonlight, as it dived to within a few hundred feet of roof tops, released two bombs, circled and dropped two more, before rising rapidly and escaping towards the coast. The aircraft had in fact come so low that those who had seen it thought it likely to hit Chelmsford Cathedral's spire.
Three of the bombs which were dropped scored direct hits on Marconi’s, whilst another went astray and struck residential properties in Marconi Road which ran along the northern side of the factory. Marconi’s was an obvious target for the Luftwaffe. The New Street factory carried out vital work for several Government departments - designing, testing, developing and producing wireless instruments for the Admiralty, Air Ministry, Ministry of Supply and the Crown Agents.