Gertrude Lily BYFORD (nee SHUTTLEWOOD), Civilian

Killed during an air raid at Victoria Crescent, Chelmsford. Aged 62

Gertrude was born in Stebbing in 1881, the daughter of Alfred James Shuttlewood and Maria Shuttlewood (nee Swallow). Her parents had both been born in Stebbing - her father in 1839; her mother the following year. The couple had married in 1865.

Gertrude’s siblings (all born in Stebbing) included: Esther Ellen Shuttlewood (born c1862), Harry Shuttlewood (born in 1867), Alice Shuttlewood (born in 1870), Herbert Shuttlewood (born in 1873), and Sidney Shuttlewood (born in 1877).

In 1881 the census found the infant Gertrude living with her parents and four siblings in Stebbing. Her father was an agricultural labourer. Four years later her father died and in 1891 the census recorded ten year-old Gertrude libing with her mother and three siblings in Stebbing.

In 1898 Gertrude married James Townsend Richardson Byford in Stebbing. The couple had four children: Bessie Lilian Byford (born in Bradwell in 1900), Francis James Townsend Byford (born in Broomfield in 1903, died in 1956), Marjorie Gwendoline Byford (born in 1913) and Daphne Joy Byford (1918-2005).

Gertrude was listed by the 1901 census, aged 20, with her husband and daughter at The Green in Stebbing. He was described as a 'retired farmer'. Two years later they were living in Broomfield.

In 1911 the census recorded Gertrude, her husband and children at 24 Glebe Road in Chelmsford. At the time her husband was a dairyman on a farm. Within two years the family moved to 4 Victoria Crescent, Chelmsford and in 1913 and 1918 her husband's occupation was recorded as milkman.

Gertrude’s mother died in 1933.

By 1943 Gertrude, her husband and children were living at 4 Victoria Crescent in Chelmsford. 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.

During the raid a pair of parachute landmines, apparently intended for Marconi’s factory, narrowly missed the factory and struck residential areas. One fell south of the factory exploding in between Townfield Street, Chapel Place, Mill Lane and Railway Street. The other parachute landmine fell to the north-west of the factory and scored a direct hit on 8 Victoria Crescent, leading to the deaths of nine people, including 62 year-old Gertrude and her 42 year-old daughter.

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 & 16, demolished.

All the dead came from those properties.

Several of those killed are believed to have been burned alive after being trapped in their Morrison air raid 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,  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.

Gertrude's husband survived the incident.

Gertrude and her daughter's funeral service was held at the London Road Congregational Church on 20th May 1943, with burial afterwards at Chelmsford Borough Cemetery. Bessie is commemorated by the Essex County Council War Memorial at County Hall, Chelmsford.

A Chelmsford newspaper reported:

"THE DOUBLE FUNERAL of Mrs. G. L. Byford and Miss B. L. Byford, of 4 Victoria Crescent, whose deaths were reported last week, took place on May 20, service at the London Road Congregational Church preceding interment in the Writtle Road Cemetery. The Rev. H. Stock officiated.

Mr. H. W. H. Harvey, Mr. A. W. Greenwood, Mr. J. H Bover, Mr. W. A. Andrew, Miss Baker and colleagues of County Accountant's Typing Department, Mr. L. L. Edwards (General County Department), Miss A Shrimpton (Central Report Centre), Miss Clay (Chelmsford Gramophone Society), Major and Miss Wilks, Miss H. Sorrell, Mr. W. Harris, members of the Tuesday Meeting and London Road Bible Class and many other friends and neighbours.

The floral tributes included those from: County Accountant and staff; office pals; members of the National Association of Local Government Officers; London Road Bible Class; the Tuesday Meettng; Central Report Centre; staff of Fred. Taylor and Co.; staff of Marks and Spencer; Gramophone Society. The funeral arrangements were by Messrs. A. J. Andrews'and Son."

Gertrude lef an estate valued at £47 10s. 9d.

Her husband died in 1955; her son three years later.


Gertrude Lily Byford (formerly Shuttlewood)  was the daughter of an agricultural labourer and was born and grew up in Stebbing. She married there in 1898 and went on to have three daughters and a son. After periods living in Bradwell and Broomfield she settled in Chelmsford where her hsuband was a milkman. She and her eldest daughter were killed in May 1943 during the 'Chelmsford Blitz' when their home in Victoria Crescent was demolished by a German parachute landmine.

The mourners were: Mr. F. Byford, son; Mrs. Quinlivan daughter; Mr. H. Shuttiewood, brother; Mrs. F. Byford, daughter-in-law; Mr. Quinlivan, son-in-law; Mrs. Herbert Shuttlewood, Mrs. Harry Shuttlewood, sisters-in-law; Mrs. Huckson, Mrs. A. Smith, Mrs. Ratcliff, Mrs. Harrington, nieces; Mr. L. Shuttiewood, Mr. Ratcliff, Mr. Madle, nephews; Mrs. K. Russell, Mrs. Wainwright, Mrs. Carver. Miss Q. Smith, Mr. and Mrs. G. Moore, Mr. and Mrs. Swallow, cousins; Miss N. Brown, Mr. B. E. Wood, and Mr. and Mrs. Tom Steele, friends. Mr. J. T. Byford (husband) and Mrs. K. Hayes (sister) were unable to attend, owing to illness.

Others present were: Mr. H. Collis (county accountant), Mr. E. Sorrell (deputy-county accountant), Mr. F. Barrett,