Cecil Val Roberts Cutts was born in Maldon where he spent his early years before moving to Hatfield Peverel where he married in 1921, going on to have two sons. By 1941 Cecil was working at the Marconi factory in Chelmsford and still resident in Hatfield Peverel. He was killed at the factory in May 1941 when it was bombed by the German air force.
Cecil was born in Maldon in 1900, the son of Reuben Cutts (1871-1919) and Sarah A. Cutts (nee Ruffell, c1870-1936) who had married in 1892. He was baptised on 16th December 1900 at All Saints’ and St. Peter’s Church in Maldon - at that time his father was a platelayer.
Reuben's six siblings (all born in Maldon) included Emma Cutts (born 1894), Percival Albert W. Cutts (born in 1895), Dorothy May Cutts (born in 1898), Douglas Edward Cutts (born 1902), and Ivy Murial Cutts (born in 1907).
The census of 1901 recorded eight-month old Cecil living with his parents, three siblings and grandfather ay 39 Mount Pleasant in Maldon. Cecil's father was a platelayer. In 1911 the census found ten year-old Cecil living with his parents, four siblings and a boarder at 12 Cherry Gardens in Maldon. Cecil's father was a platelayer for the Great Eastern Railway.
By 1921 Cecil was resident in Hatfield Peverel. Four years later, on 25th May 1925 he married Dorothy Alice Davey Thurgood in the village’s parish church. At that time he was aged 24 and employed as a labourer. His wife was the same age, resident at Hatfield Peverel, and the daughter of Isaac Thurgood, a horseman.
A Chelmsford newspaper reported:
"At the Pariah Church on Saturday Cecil Cutts, son of Mr. and Mrs. Cutts, of Spital Road, Maldon, was married to Miss Dolly Thurgood, eldest daughter Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Thurgood, of Hatfleld Peverel, the Vicar, the Rev D. B. Barclay, officiating. The bride was given away by her father, who has held office as parish clerk for 21 years. The bridesmaids the Misses Ida and Evelyu Thurgood, sisters of the bride, and Miss Ivy Cutts, sister of the bridegroom. The brides cousin Master Jacky Darey, also attended. The bridegroom's brother. Mr. Douglas Cutts, was best man. Miss D. Hewitt was at the organ. Many presents were received, including cutlery from the Rev. D. B. and Mrs. Barclay. and a tea service from the Consul of Roumania. who wired his congratulations."
The couple went on to have three sons, including Douglas Isaac P. Cutts (1928-1993) and Donald E. Cutts (1939-1956).
Cecil Val Roberts CUTTS, Civilian
Killed in air raid on Marconi s factory, New Street, Chelmsford. Aged 40
The bombs that hit Marconi’s fell at the western end of the main factory building. One, thought to have been a 250 kg. DH high explosive, exploded in the centre of machine shop which occupied the southern half of the building. Another, a 500 kg. DH high explosive, fell on its northern half, through the first floor carpenters’ shop and detonated on the floor of the SWB8 transmitter erection shop beneath it. This bomb ignited a drum of cellulose in the carpenters’ shop and the fire rapidly spread across debris into the neighbouring paint spray shop. There, dope was ignited and several men, who had survived the initial explosions, were trapped behind a blast wall and killed by the fire before rescuers could reach them. The fire was eventually brought under control by 5 a.m., though not before flames had spread to Ridley’s flour mill in neighbouring Townfield Street. Damage there was extensive with a very large number of roof slates lost, timbers charred and internal linings destroyed.
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.
Cecil's funeral took place at Hatfield Peverel, with burial afterwards at Maldon Cemetery. He left an estate valued at £159 5s. 3d. with probate granted to his widow.
On 30th October 1928 Cecil appeared before the Witham magistrates. A local newspaper reported:
"Apples and Cabbages.— Roger Thurgood, 20, and Cecil Cutts, 23, labourers, Hatfield Peverel, pleaded guilty to stealing three pecks of apples, value 5/6, from an orchard belonging to Miss Hannah May Dixon, on Oct. 13, and for stealing two cabbages, value 3d., belonging to William E. Wadley. — P.c. Moss said he met the defendants carrying a sack at 9.30 pan. It was very dark, and on examining the sack he found the apples and cabbages. Defendants admitted stealing them, and Thurgood said, "I will give you 10/- if you will let me off." Thurgood was formerly employed by Miss Dixon. — Insp. Girt said there had been a lot of complaints of apples being stolen at Hatfield Peverel. These apples were grown in a field half a mile from where defendants lived. The Chairman said defendants were old enough to know better. Thurgood would be fined 30/- because he offered to bribe the policeman. Cutts would be fined 20/-; both defendants could consider themselves lucky."
In 1941 Cecil was working for the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Co. Ltd. at their premises in New Street, Chelmsford and was residing at 6 Council Houses, Maldon Road in Hatfield Peverel.
Cecil 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 40. 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.
Of the factory’s 3221 workers, some 390 were engaged on the night shift at the time of the raid. They had been on duty since 8.15 p.m. the previous evening and were due to finish at 7.30 a.m., with the day shift taking over fifteen minutes later. The air raid warning had interrupted work of the two hundred or so employees in the machine shop The men there had taken shelter behind an internal blast wall, whilst the women had gone to the strong rooms below the main office building.