Louisa Mary Crozier came to Chelmsford from Writtle and married a carpenter in 1904. The couple went on to have three children. She was fatally injured in May 1942 in Navigation Road when a Home Guard excercise went disaterously wrong - an improvised explosive unexpectedly exploded as she watched on. Her widowed husband died as a result of an accidental fall less than two weeks later. Their home was in Roman Road.
Louisa was born in Writtle in 1881, the daughter of John Crozier (1851-1898) and Louisa Crozier (nee Bonnington). The couple had married in 1875. Louisa's siblings included John William Crozier (born in 1876), Agnes Crozier (born in 1877), Florence Emily Crozier (born in 1879), Annie Crozier (born in 1883), Arthur Crozier (born in 1886), Ethel Crozier (born in 1887), and Lily Alice Crozier (born in 1890).
In 1881 Louisa was recorded by the census living with her parents and three siblings at Deadman's Lane in Writtle. Her father was an agricultural labourer. A decade later the next census found that the family had moved to 30 Lower Anchor Street in Chelmsford. The household consisted of Louisa, her parents and seven siblings. Louisa's father was a labourer - platelayer.
In 1901, three years after her father's death, 20 year-old Louisa was living with her mother and four siblings, still at 30 Lower Anchor Street. Louisa was a domestic servant.
Later that year Louisa’s mother married Charles Plastow who was the father of George Christopher Plastow who would lose his life in the First World War.
On 15th June 1904 Louisa married Frederick John Rolfe at St. John’s Church, Moulsham. At the time she was 23 years old and lived at 89 London Road, Chelmsford (renumbered since). Her 29 year-old husband, who had been born in High Easter in 1876, was a carpenter and lived at 29 Bridge Row (later Upper Bridge Road) in Chelmsford. The couple produced three Chelmsford-born children: John William Frederick Rolfe (1906-1997), Winifred Ethel Mary Rolfe (1907-1964) and Kathleen Florence L. Rolfe (1914-1999).
The 1911 census recorded Louisa, her husband (an engineering carpenter) and their two children, living at 29 Roman Road in Chelmsford. Louisa and her husband were still living there in 1942.
On Tuesday 5th May 1942 an evening exercise being undertaken by members of the 6th Battalion of the Essex Home Guard went disastrously wrong when an unexpected explosion claimed the life of Louisa and also injured fourteen other people, some seriously.
As part of the exercise several members of the Home Guard were briefed to capture numbers 36 and 37 Navigation Road, a pair of empty houses opposite Brockley Road which had been damaged by enemy action during August 1940. At 8.45 p.m. a Home Guardsman placed two ‘smoke bombs’ on the road surface, one a regulation army type and the other, a home-made device. The former functioned correctly, but the latter, made from an old tin can failed to do so. After around thirty seconds it suddenly and unexpectedly exploded with devastating results. Louisa, aged 61, was struck in the chest by flying fragments of the device as she stood outside number 35 Navigation Road, the home of her daughter Winifred (who had married Ivor Harrhy in 1940). Louisa's injuries were so severe that she was to die the following day at the Chelmsford & Essex Hospital.
A number of children who had been playing in the street and members of the Home Guard were struck by shrapnel. Those detained in hospital included Kathleen Fisher aged 15 of 58 Navigation Road, Frank Joslin aged 10 of 5 Hill Crescent, Derek Saville aged 14 of Wharf Road, and the following members of the Home Guard; Major William Nield aged 51 of Little Dunmow, Captain Frederick Scheidweiler aged 54 of Longfield Road in Great Baddow, 2nd Lt. James Low of Grassmere, Links Drive, Sgt. John Anderson aged 25 of Bouverie Road, Sgt. Joseph Eve of Galleywood, Pte. Christopher Anthony of 17 Mildmay Road, Pte. John Bicknell aged 60 of Widford Road, and Pte. Laurence Ketley of 30 Vicarage Road.
Four others were allowed home after treatment including Police Sgt. Harry Warnes of Elm Road, who had been commended earlier in the war for rescuing a mother and her two children from a bomb damaged house. The wife of one of the injured Home Guardsmen was reported to have been less that sympathetic to his injuries. On being told that his arm had been smashed she was said to have snorted and replied ‘Serves him right, playing soldiers at his time of life’!
Louisa Mary ROLFE (nee CROZIER), Civilian
Fatally injured in a Home Guard excercise in Brockley Road, Chelmsford. Aged 61
The blast damaged several properties in the vicinity including numbers 17, 18, 19, 22, 35 and 41 Navigation Road. Subsequently, the inquest into Mrs. Rolfe’s death was to return the verdict of accidental death. It appeared that the second ‘smoke bomb’ had in fact been an improvised high explosive mine, thought to have been one of many home made by members of local Bomb Disposal Squads from materials salvaged from dismantled German bombs. The device had lain in the Home Guard store for some time and had not been clearly labelled and it had mistakenly been presumed it to have been a harmless smoke bomb.
Mrs. Rolfe’s funeral service was held at St. John’s Moulsham on 9th May with her interment at the Borough Cemetery afterwards (grave: 5215). Sadly that was not the end of the tragic episode. Mrs. Rolfe’s 66 year-old husband Frederick was to return to his carpenter’s job at Hoffmann’s ball-bearings factory in Chelmsford on 18th May 1942 but a day later he was discovered dead at work, his skull having fractured in a fall down stairs. He had been depressed since his wife’s death and his inquest was to record a verdict of accidental death. He was buried in his wife's grave on 23rd May 1942.
Louisa's death is not commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Louisa’s nephew, Douglas Crozier, was killed in north Africa in 1943.