James Aloysius Brennan was one of many Irishmen who came to Chelmsford during the war to work at the town's important engineering factories - in his case to work at the Hoffmann's bearings factory. He was killed there in July 1942 when Hoffmann's was attacked by a single German aircraft. His lodings were in Chapel Place, Chelmsford.
James was born in Ireland around 1915, the son of James Brennan.
During the Second World War he was one of a large number of Irishmen and women who came to Chelmsford to work in the town’s factories. In 1942 he was working at Hoffmann’s, the ball-bearings manufacturer with a large factory in New Street and Rectory Lane in Chelmsford. The factory was a natural target for the German Air Force which bombed the site on several occasions.
On 19th July 1942, around 6.15 a.m., a lone German Dornier Do 217 aircraft performed a precise and daring low level daylight attack on Hoffmann’s. The aircraft approached the factory from the south-east over Victoria Road and the railway embankment, and with machine guns blazing it released four 500 Kg SC high explosive bombs before making off into the clouds.
Three of the bombs scored hits on Hoffmann’s, whilst another went astray and exploded amongst residential properties in Rectory Lane killing two people.
Four workers were killed at Hoffmann’s by a bomb that struck the roller lapping shop - amongst them were three Irish labourers including James. The dead were: James Aloysius Brennan, Charles Richard Brett, Daniel Gannon, and Walter Patrick Moffatt.
He was aged 27, and lodged at 7 Chapel Place in Chelmsford. At the time of his death his parents were living at Rathgar in Dublin, Ireland.
A Chelmsford newspaper reported:
"IRISHMAN'S TRIBUTE TO COUNTRYMEN - THEY DIED AT DUTY'S POST. Mr. S. Dwyer, one of nearly fifty Irishmen empioyed at a works which was bombed on a Sunday morning, has written to the Essex Chronicle a moving tribute to his Irish colleagues who lost then lives.
Mr. Dwyei writes: 'I wish, through the medium of your columns, to express on behalf of the lrish workers empioyed at the factory, and on my own behalf, our deepest sympatny with the relatives of our three colleagues, lost their lives as result of this Sunday's bombing.
They died at their post of duty, martyrs in what all of us believe to be the cause ot might against right. They might, with a sense ot personal security, have lived in comparative peace their own country; but with the indomitable spirit of dead generations of Irishmen to do and dare, they chose to take up the cudgels agains the oppressor.
They were loyal companions and fearless soldiers, in the "army without uniform", and they died as they had lived, side by side. They shared each other's sorrows and joys, and when danger threatened they were not found wanting. Their devotion to duty should e an inspiration to us to uphold the best traditions our race. We, their colleagues, shall not flinch from the task we have undertaken, and should the occasion ever arise that the people of this country will be called on to stem the tide of invasion, the Irish workers domiciled here will not found wanting in the wider field of human endeavour.
In the expression ot sympathy with the relatives of our dead colleagues, I wish to couple the relatives of the local victims, and express hope that the injured parties may soon be restored to health. Yours, etc., S. DWER.'
Mr. Dwyer is an old journalist, with years of experience behind him. To use his own words, he has " taken some hard knocks.' - Like many other Irishmen, he came over to England to do his bit in a home works. There are men from Dublin, from Donegal, from Cork. At the works they are called "The Irish Section." They came over through the Labour Exchange, and are proving excellent workers. "We shall not be found wanting in any emergency," said Mt. Dwyer."
The three Irishmen were buried in unmarked graves at the Borough Cemetery on 25th July 1942. Their coffins spent the previous night in the Church of Our lady Immaculate in London Road. A requiem mass was held there prior to interment.
A Chelmsford newspaper reported:
"THREE IRISHMEN BURIED. The funeral took place on Saturday at Writtle Road Cemetery of Messrs. Walter Pattick Moffatt, Daniel Gannon, and James Aloysius Brennan, three Irish victims of enemy action.
James Aloysius BRENNAN, Civilian
Killed during an air raid on Hoffmann's factory, Rectory Lane, Chelmsford. Aged 27
The bodies were taken into the Church of Our Lady Immaculate on Friday evening, and Requiem Mass was held on Saturday previous to interment. The celebrant was the Very Rev. Canon M. J. Wilson, who gave an impressive address.
In the large congregation were the foilowing: representatives of the men's employers Messrs. E. S. Speyer (deputy-chairman of the Board of Directors), T. W. Cooper, C. Pryke (managing directors), W. J. Stone (assistant works manager), T. Dyson-Hughes (deputy assistant works manager), Strutt (departmental manager), and Pritchard (employment officer).
The immediate mourners were Messrs. Gannon, Fields, Fagan. Dorothy. Holnes, Allen, Mr. and Mrs. Hoines, Mrs. Cook, Mrs. Milton, Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Beechlng, Mrs. Taylor. Mrs Dance.
On each coffin were beautiful floral tributes from directors, workmates, and works management, and there were tokens from friends, and relatives.—The funerals were furnished by Messrs. A. T. Andrews and Son, Duke Street."