Charles Herbert Francis was born and brought up in Galleywood, the son of an agricultural labourer. He served in the military during the First World War and married in 1916. During the Second he worked in the transport department of the Chelmsford Co-operative Society and living with the Smith family in Skinner's Lane, Galleywood. In October 1940 he was fatally injured in Skinner's Lane along with several other people by a string of German bombs dropped from an aircraft.
Charles was born in Galleywood in 1887, one of ten children of George Francis (1850-1921) and Eliza Francis (nee Crabb) (1851-1922). His parents had married in 1872.
Charles' siblings included John A. Francis (1873-1951), Benjamin H. Francis (1879-1967), William George Francis (1879-1953), Alice Jane Francis (1882-1913), Samuel James Francis (1885-1945), Joseph Newman Francis (1891-1966), and Stanley Thomas Francis (1895-1981).
The 1891 census recorded four year-old Charles, five siblings and his parents living at Lower Green, Galleywood, where his Rettendon-born father was a general labour. A decade later the census found 14 year-old Charles living with his parents and six siblings still at Lower Green. His father was an agricultural labourer. The family were still there when the 1911 census took place, with 23 year-old Charles employed as a horseman on a farm.
Charles served in the forces during the First World War and married Scott in 1916. The couple had no children.
By the Second World War he was working in the transport department of Chelmsford Co-op. In 1940 he was living at 'Rosedale' in Skinner's Lane in Galleywood with George William Smith, his wife Alice Louisa Smith and their adopted daughter Nellie Lodge.
On the rainy evening of 30th October 1940 Charles was at 'Rosedale' when at 9.20 p.m. an enemy aircraft, hidden by low cloud, released several high explosive bombs. Both 'Rosedale' and neighbouring bungalow ‘Maylin’ felt the full force of the bomb explosions which were felt some way off.
The two bungalows were demolished and half a dozen other properties in the vicinity suffered extensive damage. Skinner's Lane was blocked by debris, gas and water mains were badly damaged and telephone and electricity cables were severed.
Rescue services were quickly on the scene and almost immediately rescued three people from the rubble and discovered two more who were dead. Others were believed trapped so efforts went on through the night to reach them.
Charles Herbert FRANCIS, Civilian
Fatally injured in an air raid on Galleywood; died in Chelmsford. Aged 53
The rescuers, who were to receive widespread praise for their efforts, managed to recover the last of the victims by around 3 a.m.. Four people had been killed and five others injured, including two seriously.
Three of the dead lived at ‘Rosedale’ in Skinner's Lane. They were 65 year-old George William Smith, his 55 year-old wife Alice Louisa Smith and 29 year-old Nellie Elizabeth Owers. Mrs. Owers was married to Walter Owers of Stepney in east London and had ironically moved from there to Galleywood ‘to be safer’. She is believed to have been pregnant when killed. The other victim was 70 year-old Elijah George Saveall of the adjacent bungalow ‘Maylin’. He was well known and highly respected in the village, having spent his whole life there. For more than thirty years he had been associated with the Galleywood Methodist Church and for many years he had been a gardener for Mr. P. Buckton until illness had forced his retirement 12 months previously. Mr. Saveall was married with a son and daughter and his daughter was one of those people injured in the bombing and detained in hospital. 13 year-old Nellie, who was recovered alive was to die as a result of her injuries the next day at St. John’s Hospital, Chelmsford.
On 2nd November 53 year-old Charles succumbed to his wounds at the Chelmsford & Essex Hospital.
All the victims’ funerals took place at St. Michael’s Church, Galleywood, with the building filled to capacity on each occasion. The first funeral was Elijah George Savaell’s, held on 4th November, followed by George William Smith and Alice Louisa Smith’s, Nellie’s and Nellie Elizabeth Owers’ on 6th November 1940, and finally, Charles’ on the 7th November 1940.
All six are remembered on the Galleywood war memorials at St. Michael’s and the 2010 memorial at Keene Hall in the village centre