Lilian Annie Mengell, later Arnold, was born and brought up in south London. She married there just before the end of the First World War and went on to have two daughters. By 1943 she was living in Victoria Crescent. She was killed along with her two daughters in May 1943 during the 'Chelmsford Blitz', when their home was destroyed by a German parachute landmine.
Lilian Annie ARNOLD (nee MENGELL), Civilian
Killed in an air raid at 10 Victoria Crescent, Chelmsford. Aged 42
& 16, demolished. All the dead came from those properties: Gertrude Byford and her daughter Bessie Byford were killed at number 4; Lilian Annie Arnold and her daughters Margaret Louisa Arnold & Lilian Ivy Taylor died at number 10; and George & Sarah Newman and their children Alfred & Elsie Newman were killed at number 14.
Several of those killed are believed to have been burned alive after being trapped in their Morrison shelters. Five other people were reported to have been injured in the incident.
The remaining six houses on the western side of Victoria Crescent, numbers 18, 20, 22, 24, 25 & 28, were seriously damaged. Across the road numbers 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17 & 19 were damaged beyond repair, while the last six houses, numbers 21, 23, 25, 27, 29 & 31, were seriously damaged. In the streets close to Victoria Crescent, blast seriously damaged 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 & Homeleigh Cottage in the northern portion of Glebe Road; and 94, 96, 98 & 100 Marconi Road.
The loss of his wife and daughters was not the only tragedy to befall Lilian’s family during the war. Lilian’s sister-in-law, Dorothy Violet Mengell of 70 Landells Road, Camberwell, was killed when a German V-1 flying bomb landed at the Co-op shop at the corner of Northcross Road and Lordship Road in East Dulwich on 5th August 1944. Dorothy died along with her eight year-old daughter, Beryl Dorothy Mengell and 21 others.
Lilian’s mother died in London in 1954. Her father died in Kent in 1963.
Among the dead were Lilian and her two daughters, who along with eight others died when a pair of parachute landmines, apparently intended for Marconi’s, narrowly missed the factory and struck residential areas. One fell to the north-west of the factory and scored a direct hit on 8 Victoria Crescent. The explosion there led to the deaths of nine people, the highest total from any incident within Chelmsford during the raid. Two others died when the other device exploded off Townfield Street.
The brunt of the blast from the Victoria Crescent landmine was felt by the terraced houses on the road’s western side, with numbers 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14
Lilian was born in Deptford, Surrey in 1901, the daughter of Leopold Mengell and Ann Elizabeth Mengell (nee Dowding). She was baptised at St Chrysostom’s Church in Peckham, London on 7th June 1901. At the time her father, who had been born in Camberwell, London in 1877, was working as a baker and lived in Peckham. Lilian’s mother had been born in Bermondsey, London in 1878. Her parents had married at St Philip the Apostle’s Church, Camberwell on 6th August 1900.
Lilian’s siblings included Beatrice Maud Mengell (born in Deptford on 20th January 1903), and William Leopold Mengell (born in Camberwell on 17th November 1905).
In 1911 the census found Lilian living with her parents and two younger siblings at 38 Seldon Road in Peckham. Her father was a coal carman.
Lilian married Charles William Arthur Arnold at St. Mary’s Church, Peckham on 16th September 1918. At the time she was said to be 18 years old, living at 36 Seldon Row in Peckham, and her father was working as a carman. Her husband, who lived at the same address, worked as a motor driver and was the son of Charles William Arnold, also a carman.
Lilian and Charles had two children: Lilian Ivy Arnold, born in Camberwell in 1919, and Margaret Louisa Arnold, born in London in 1924.
By 1943 Lilian was living in Chelmsford and her husband was serving in the Royal Artillery.
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 lasted for just over an hour, the 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, and led to the deaths of more than 50 people.