Winifred Kate Stokes was born in Great Waltham and for many years worked for the Chelmsford department store Messrs. J. G. Bond. She was also a singer and an active worker for the Cathedral. She was killed in May 1941 when her flat in Coval Lane was destroyed by a German bomb in the early hours.

Winifred Kate STOKES, Civilian

Killed in an air raid at Coval Lane, Chelmsford. Aged 38

By 1941 Winifred, who was unmarried, was living at 28 Coval Lane in Chelmsford, one of a block of ten flats, with her uncle William Howard (widow of Emily Howard nee Stokes).

At 12.50 a.m. on 21st May 1941 she was one of six people who died as a result of a heavy calibre bomb dropped by a German aircraft onto the block of flats where she lived.

What the intended target may have been is unclear. The resulting explosion demolished the block. Sleeping residents, many of them elderly, were buried in the debris.

The rescue services, consisting of three stretcher parties, four ambulances, a sitting case car, police wardens and fire brigade were quick to arrive on the scene. Five seriously injured and three slightly injured people were rescued from the wrecked flats. However, five bodies were recovered and a sixth was to die in hospital later. Some 244 properties in the area suffered some degree of blast damage.

The other deaths were of Esther Meggy killed at 18 Coval Lane, Lucy Emma Coulcher killed at 22 Coval Lane, Barry John Gowen and Winifred Gowen, killed at 26 Coval Lane, and Winifred's uncle William Howard, who was injured at 28 Coval Lane and died later in hospital. Ellen Barritt of 24 Coval Lane died on 29th May 1941 having been buried in her home until rescued.

Despite the large number of deaths in the Coval Lane incident and that at Marconi’s New Street factory two weeks earlier, none of the emergency graves, which had been dug in the Borough Cemetery for such contingencies were required.

The Coval Lane bombing would prove to be Chelmsford’s last major bombing incident for more than a year. Indeed there were to be just three more occasions when bombs would fall on the whole Chelmsford district in the rest of 1941.  

Winifred was buried at the Borough Cemetery on 26th May 1941 after a funeral service at the Cathedral (grave: 4175).  At the time her parents were living at Howe Street.

Winifred left an estate valued at £236 11s. 5d. .


Winifred was born in 1903 in Great Waltham, the daughter of George Mason Stokes and Daisy Jane Stokes (nee Oliver). Her parents had married at St.Luke's church in Kilburn, London on 8th May 1898 1898. At the time her father was a 21 year-old baker living at Howe Street, Great Waltham; his bride was four years older and live at 257 Portnall Road in Kilburn

Winifred's siblings included Constance Lilian Stokes (1898-1990) and Mabel Irene Stokes (1901-1994).

In 1900 Winifred's father had been accidentally shot in the arm at his uncle's blacksmiths in Great Leights by 14 year-old William Brown who was shooting with a pistol in the field opposite. The offending bullet was later removed at Charing Cross Hospital in London.

Winifred's mother who lived at Howe Street, Great Waltham, died in 1908 and was buried at the Church of St. Mary & St, Lawrence in Great Waltham on 14th March 1908.

In 1911 the census recorded eight year-old Winifred staying with her uncle and aunt William and Emily Howard at 13 Weight Road in Chelmsford.

Winifred worked for many years at Messrs. J.G. Bond in Chelmsford's High Street. She was an active worker for the Cathedral for many years and a talented singer who took part in recitals at the Cathedral.