Harry John 'Perce' Woods was originally from Suffolk and arrived in Chelmsford before the war, where he married and had a daughter. He worked at Marconi's factory in New Street and it was there he was killed in an air raid in May 1941. His home was in Fourth Avenue.
Harry John WOODS, Civilian
Killed in an air raid on Marconi's, New Street, Chelmsford. Aged 27
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.
When Harry’s body was recovered the personal possessions found with him were a micrometer, a ring spanner and seven pence.
Harry's funeral was held with that of close friend George Vowles on 13th May 1941 with burial at Chelmsford Borough Cemetery (grave: 6203) following a service at St. John’s Church, Moulsham. At the time of his death Harry's parents were living in Eye in Suffolk. Harry left an estate valued at £563 6s. 8d. to his widow.
Harry was born in Suffolk in 1913, the eldest son of Harry Woods and Alice Woods (nee Ruth),
On 24th December 1937 24 year-old Harry married 22 year-old Ethel Winifred Chilvers at St. John’s Church, Moulsham. At the time Harry was employed as a capstan setter. Both he and his bride lived at 135 Upper Bridge Road, Chelmsford. Ethel's uncle, , had died in 1915 serving with the Essex Regiment
In 1939 the couple had a daughter. In 1941 Harry was working as a machine turner for the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Co. Ltd. at their premises in New Street, Chelmsford and was residing at ‘Harwin’, 31 Fourth Avenue in Chelmsford.
Harry 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 27 and was killed by a bomb splinter. 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.