Alfred Horace Offord was a Suffolk man who married there in 1897 and had five children. He worked as a carman and fishmonger before arriving in Chelmsford by 1930. That year one of his sons drowned in the River Chelmer. Thirteen years later Alfred was living in Dixon Avenue and it was there he was killed in May 1943 during the 'Chelmsford Blitz'.
Alfred was born in Eye, Suffolk around 1875, the son of Alfred Offord and Mary Alice Offord (nee Balls). His siblings included Rose Offord (born c1864), Edith Mary Offord (born 1870), Ada Laura Offord (born 1876), and Harry Offord (born 1878).
In 1881 the census found five year-old Alfred living with his parents, four siblings, four half-siblings and a boarder at the Black Swan in Eye in Suffolk. His father was a mail contractor and publican. A decade later the family were still living at the pub. Alfred was a draper's porter.
In 1897 Alfred married Eliza Martin in Suffolk. The couple had five children: Mabel Agnes Offord (born c1898), Bessie May Offord (born 1900), Gertrude Eliza Offord (born 1902), Alfred Lewis Offord (born 1905), and Leonard Offord (1909 - 1930).
In 1901 Alfred, aged 25, was recorded by the census living at 3 St. Leonard's Road in Colchester with his wife and two young children. Alfred was a carman. In 1911 the census found 35 year-old Alfred living with his wife and five children at Denmark Street in Diss, Norfolk, where he was a fishmonger.
By 1930 Alfred was living in Chelmsford. On 30th August that year one of his sons, Leonard, was drowned in the River Chelmer near Hoffmann’s bearings works in Chelmsford. A local newspaper reported:
DROWNING FATALITY AT CHELMSFORD PLUCKY RESCUE ATTEMPTS
A sad drowning fatality occurred at Chelmsford on Saturday. Leonard Offord, aged 21, of Rectory Lane, Chelmsford, and his brother Reginald were bathing in the river near the works of the Hoffmann Manufacturing Co. Reginald, a good swimmer, swam across the river and back. As he was returning, his brother, who could not swim, waded out a little to meet him, but apparently lost his footing and went under.
Reginald at once went his brother's assistance, but Leonard caught him round the neck and struggled, causing both lads to get into deeper water, They went under several times.
Eventually Reginald managed to free himself from his brother's grasp, and was pulled out in an exhausted condition. Reginald collapsed on the bank, but recovered after receiving attention.
Leonard had disappeared, but was got out by Mr. Sweeting, groundsman at the King Edward VI. School, who dived in five times before finding him. The lad's pulse was still beating, and artificial respiration was tried. On the arrival of the ambulance he was hurried to the Chelmsford Hospital, where everything possible, including the administration of oxygen, was done to save his life, but without result. The deceased, a single man, had been employed a machinist Hoffmann's.
Mr. Coroner C. E. Lewis held the inquest on Monday afternoon. Reginald H. Offord, Rectory Lane, brother of deceased, told the story of the tragedy. He said: "My brother and I went down to the lock-gates near Hoffmann's for a bathe. l am a fair swimmer. My brother could not swim. After I had entered the water he waded in and stood at the side. I swam across the river, and as I was returning I saw him wading towards me. The next thing I knew he was clinging to me, and we went under. We came back to the surface. My brother kept kicking, and as a result we went to the middle of the river into about 12ft. of water. He continued to struggle, and we went under three times. When we were going down again he let go of me and I managed to swim to the bridge. I turned and saw his head come up again. I went back to him, but he interlocked with me and we went down again. I knew no more until after I had been dragged out. There was someone fishing on the bridge, but he could not swim. I called to him for help, but he said that he thought I was joking."
The Coroner: Do you think your brother was going to walk across the river you ?—Witness : No he must have slipped in the mud. If he had not struggled could you have got him out?— He weighed 12 stone and stood six feet.
Alfred Horace OFFORD, Civilian
Killed during an air raid at Dixon Road, Chelmsford. Aged 67
Dr. R. W. Willcocks, Springfield Rd., Chelmsford, said he saw deceased at Chelmsford Hospital. Artificial respiration had been tried, and was continued after witness’s arrival, but with no success. Death was due to suffocation by drowning.
Harry Sweeting, King's Road, Chelmsford, groundsman of the King Edward VI. School, said he was working about 300 yards from the lock gates when saw a number of men running towards the lock. He got on his bicycle and rode after them. Someone called out, " A boy has gone under," and witness quickly undressed and jumped in. During his second dive he touched the body, which was lying in about 8ft. of water. After five dives he managed to raise deceased, and with assistance got him out of the water. Artificial respiration was tried until deceased was removed to Hospital.
Nurse Aitken, employed by the Hoffmann Manufacturing Co., said that when she arrived deceased was lying on the bridge. She rendered first-aid. The Coroner: Was there any sign of life?— Witness: I think he was alive.
H. Snelling, Great Baddow, stated that, accompanied by workmates, he rushed to the scene of the tragedy. When they arrived they thought there was only one swimmer in difficulties, and they pulled him out. Then they discovered there was another. They aided Mr. Sweeting after he had raised the deceased.
Detective-constable Mitchell, Chelmsford, said artificial respiration was administered for an hour and a quarter. The river was 40ft. wide, and at the spot there was much mud and weed. Verdict: Accidental death.
The Coroner said that there was no legal responsibility on the fisherman to render assistance, but help might have been forthcoming from him. The Coroner added : "All three witnesses—the brother, Mr. Sweeting, and Mr. Snelling —acted in a commendable way. Mr. Offord did his best to save his brother, and the other two did their best to recover him."
By 1943 Alfred was living at 30 Dixon Road 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, later referred to locally as the 'Chelmsford Blitz'. 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.
Among the dead was Alfred, aged 67, killed at his home, 30 Dixon Avenue, possibly as a result of one of several incendiaries that fell close to the property. Alfred was buried in grave 5418 at Chelmsford Borough Cemetery on 28th May 1943. His widow died in 1961, aged 84, and was buried in her husband's grave on 27th November 1961.