Robert Gladstone Moore was Witham-born and like his father entered the building trade, in his case as a bricklayer. He had moved to Chelmsford by 1901 and eight years later he married, going on to have two children. By 1942 Robert was living in Baddow Road, Chelmsford and still in the building trade. In December that year he was carrying out construction work in Chelmsford's Recreation Ground (today's Central Park) when he was killed by an accidental explosion of a Home Guard improvised explosive device.
Robert was born in Witham in 1880, the son of the carpenter and builder Robert Moore (1850-1926) and Fanny Moore (nee Humphreys) (1849-1927). The couple had married at St. Peter's Church in Bethnal Green, Middlesex on 2nd April 1872 and moved to Witham around 1874. Presumably Robert's middle name was a reference to William Ewart Gladstone who won the 1880 general election.
Robert's siblings included: Julia Rebecca Moore (1873-1950), Stanley Humphrey Moore (c1875-1943), Amy Louise Moore (born in 1876), Emily Moore (born c1878), Maurice Moore (1879-1971), Ralph Moore (born c1882), Hephzibah Moore (1885-1976), and William Edward Moore (1887-1977).
In 1881 six month-old Robert was recorded by the census living in Newland Street, Witham with his parents, four siblings and boarder. His father was a builder employing three men and two boys. In the following census in 1891 ten year-old Robert was living with his parents, seven siblings, a servant and a lodger in Albert Road, Witham. His father was a job master.
The 1901 census found 20 year-old Robert living with his parents, four siblings and a visitor at New London Road, Chelmsford. Robert was a bricklayer. Two brothers were carpenters, another was a plaster.
On 20th December 1909 Robert married Emily G. Leavett at Tollesbury. She had been born in the village 22 years previously. A Chelmsford newspaper reported:
"MR. R. G. MOORE AND MISS E. LEAVETT. The marriage of Miss Emily Leavett. eldest daughter of Mr. W. F. Leavett, Hall Cottage, Tollesbury, with Mr. Robert Gladstone Moore, son of Mr. Robert Moore, of Chelmsford, took place on Monday, the Parish Church, Tollesbury. The bride, who was given away by her father, wore a travelling costume of mole - coloured material, with hat to match, and was attended by Miss Lilian Leavett. her sister. The latter wore a cream-coloured costume, with hat to match. The bridegroom's brother acted as best man. The Vicar, the Rev. W. Carter, officiated."
The couple had two sons Edward William Moore (1912-1936), and Bernard Jack Moore (1915-1987).
In 1911 Robert and his wife were recorded by the census living at 140 Moulsham Street in Chelmsford. He was still working as a bricklayer.
By 1942 Robert was still in the building trade and was living at ‘Louiseville’ in Baddow Road, Chelmsford. On 11th December that year, shortly before 11 a.m. an explosion at the Recreation Ground in Chelmsford killed Robert and two soldiers from the Royal Corps of Signals, and injured another five, who were carrying out construction work in connection with the establishment of the new anti-aircraft Home Guard Rocket Battery.
Robert Gladstone MOORE, Civilian
Accidentally killed in an explosion at the Recreation Ground, Chelmsford. Aged 62
Afterwards it would emerge that the explosion occurred when the men discovered a pieced of galvanised iron tubing, eight to ten feet long and two and a half inches in diameter, lying amongst weeds beneath a nearby broken wall. The tubing, which bore no distinguishing marks, appeared to the men to be an old water pipe with one end sealed with wax and the other with a wooden plug. A pipe was required through which cables could be threaded and the tubing seemed to be the perfect for the job. One of the soldiers cleared the wax away with a penknife and a brown substance, said to resemble a bread roll, fell out.
An attempt to force the cables through the pipe failed and as a second attempt was made the pipe suddenly exploded. 23 year-old Driver Walter James Wilkinson from Ealing and 62 year-old clerk of the works Robert were killed outright by the blast. A large piece of human flesh was blown 200 yards to the north and descended onto barrage balloon site 22 in the north-west corner of the Recreation Ground. This grisley object was later removed by personnel from the Rocket site. A third man, Sgt. Robert Henry Orriss, aged 21 from Gillingham in Kent, was rushed to hospital but he died a few hours later from his injuries. Those injured included C.S.M. Alfred Batchelor, aged 46, of Sutton., L/cpl. Robert Price, aged 21, and 31 year-old Signaller Christopher Slennett of Walthamstow.
At the subsequent inquest verdicts of accidental death were recorded for all three men. The inquest also revealed that the innocent looking piece of tubing which had exploded had in fact been a makeshift weapon known as a ‘Bosche Bump’ similar to that which had claimed the lives of five people in Ramsden Heath at the end of October 1942.
During the invasion scare of 1940 thousands of the devices, packed with gelignite, had been hurriedly made ready for use against the invading Germans. In May 1941 the War Office had ordered their withdrawal and most were dumped into the North Sea. However, not all had been collected and some had remained in Home Guard and army stores, not clearly marked and easily mistaken for scaffold poles. The coroner was scathing in his criticism of the army’s laxity and told the inquest that he would bring the matter to the attention of Chelmsford’s M.P forthwith in order that strong representations could be made by him to the army to ensure that there was no repetition of the incident.
Robert was well known in the local building trade and was a brother to Maurice, the Moore in Messrs Trigg and Moore of Baddow Road. In his younger days he had played football for Chelmsford Swifts and was a keen angler. His funeral service was held on 17th December 1942, with a service at Baddow Road Congregational Church preceding burial at St Mary’s Church in Great Baddow. He is not commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Robert left an estate valued at £807 10s. 1d. to his widow who died in 1949.