Vera Audrey Muriel Dale was Chelmsford born and raised. She married in 1926 and made her home in Upper Bridge Road. Divorced in 1939 she was killed in May 1943 along with her father when a bomb exploded close to his home, also in Upper Bridge Road.

Vera Audrey Muriel WILLIS (nee DALE), Civilian

Killed during an air raid at Upper Bridge Road, Chelmsford. Aged 40

Vera was born in Chelmsford in 1903, the daughter of Ernest Alfred Dale (1879-1943) and Mary Ann Dale (nee Spinks) (1880-1963).

In 1911 the census recorded Vera, aged eight, living with he parents at 108 Upper Bridge Road in Chelmsford. At the time her father was an engineer's clerk, working for the electrical engineer's Crompton & Company in Chelmsford.

On 14th January 1926 Vera, then aged 23, married Frederick Charles Willis (1900-1973)  at St. John’s Church, Moulsham. He was the son of the publican Albert Willis. At the time of their marriage Vera and Ernest were living at 115 Upper Bridge Road. They went on to have one child, a son Barry, born in 1926.

However, the marriage was not to last. On 20th April 1939 Vera was granted a decre nisi with costs against her husband who did not  

In 1943 Vera's parents were still living at 115 Upper Bridge Road. In the early hours of 14th May 1943 Chelmsford experienced what was to prove to be its heaviest air raid of the war. In a sharp attack that

German air force, the Luftwaffe, dropped a large number of high explosive, incendiaries and parachute landmines which caused extensive damage to residential, commercial and industrial properties in the town.

The raid led to the deaths of more than 50 people, including Vera and her father. They were both killed at her father's home by a 250 k.g. bomb, probably intended for Crompton's nearby factory, struck the tarmac pavement outside 109 Upper Bridge Road, close to the corner with Cherry Garden Lane. The explosion, which left a crater 9 feet across by just 2 feet deep, caused extensive destruction.

On the eastern side of Upper Bridge Road, numbers 109, 110, 111 & 112 were demolished, number 108 was damaged beyond repair and numbers 100, 101, 104, 105, 106 & 107 seriously damaged. Across the road, 113, 114, 115, 116 & 117 Upper Bridge Road were all demolished, while number 118 was damaged beyond repair and numbers 119, 120, 121, 122 & 123 seriously damaged.

The explosion cracked the gas main in Upper Bridge Road and water from the adjacent water main entered and flooded the whole of the mains in the local area - some 281 properties were affected and the water was not cleared until 18th May 1943.

Blast from the device swept across the railway and badly damaged the offices at Crompton’s. However, the general production of electric motors, switchgear, instruments and generators at the factory was not affected

Vera and her father were buried together at Chelmsford Borough Cemetery (grave 5488) after a service at St. John's Moulsham on 22nd May 1943. A Chelmsford newspaper reported:

"THE LATE MR. E. A. DALE. —The funeral took place at the Writtle Road Cemetery, following a service at. St. John's, of Mr. Ernest Alfred Dale, and of his daughter, Mrs. Mary Willis, whose deaths were recorded last week. Mr. Dale, who was 64, was the youngest son of Det.-Insp. Dale, of the Essex Constabulary. and was on the staff of the Essex County Council, previous to which he was for 32 years with Messrs. Crompton Parkinson, Ltd. Mrs. Willis was 32.

The mourners were: Mrs. Dale, widow Mr. B. Willis, grandson ; Messrs. W. and S. Dale, brothers; Mr. and Mrs. C. Ludlow, brother-in-law and sister-in-law; Mrs. H. Parker, Miss Hilda Dale, Mr. and Mrs. S. Ludlow, nephew and nieces ; Mr. W. Spinks and Miss L. Uridge, cousins; Mr. Crowe, Miss June Crowe. Mrs. Rule, and Mrs. Hillman. —The funerals were furnished by Messrs. A. J. Andrews and Son. 20 Duke Street."

Vera's son was killed in Westway, Chelmsford in 1962 when the car he was driving was in collision with a lorry. He was 36 years' of age.


contest a charge of desertion. The case for Vera was that soon after their marriage her husband had to go to a sanatorium in Warwickshire, and he left that institution in December 1926. From that time he never lived with her or provided her with a home.