Rescue workers and here may be added word of praise for their splendid efforts while walls were still tottering around them—were told that at least Mr. and Mrs. Roper were in the ruins. With great care they searched, and then in what few minutes before had been a trim little living-room, they found the body of Mrs. Roper.
She had evidently been killed instantly.
The A.R.P. workers kept at their task, now aided by the chairman of the Borough A.R.P. Committee (Cr. J. T. Bellamy), who had motored to the spot. All around was scene resembling a shelled area in France in 1915. Broken telegraph wires were dangling in confusion overhead, pieces of clothing and child's chair, blown skyward by the explosion, had been caught in some of the wires, the roadway for 150 yards was cluttered with debris, a house near by had a gaping hole in its side.
The work of the searchers went on, and then, just before dark, two of the A.R.P, workers, hoisting up with their shoulders a heavy beam, saw Mr. Roper lying face downwards, obviously very badiy injured. A doctor in waiting rushed to his aid; the man was breathing and murmuring, "My wife, my wife." Tenterly he was placed on a stretcher, lifted into waiting ambulance, and the young woman driver - how cool and steady they work in these stressful moments! - reached the hospital matter of seconds.
Mr. Roper died soon after admission to hospital.
A young woman staying with the Ropers, Miss Jackson, who was thought to be in the house, was found to have gone earlier to work than usual. It is a remarkable coincidence that Miss Jackson's own home in London was bombed a few weeks ago, and she came to lodge with the Ropers, to be, as she thought, "safe and away from it all."
Neighbours of Mr. and Mrs. Roper were speaking to-day of the couple's devoiion and love for each other. While Mrs. Roper never spared herself in tending to the every want of her invalid husband, on his part tried to do all he could to save her trouble. "It is a blessing after all that they are still united,' said one of the neighbours, "for if either one of them had survived, the shock would have been too great to endure. It is as they would have wished it—together life, undivided in death."
There were some curious effects of the explosion. While windows of houses 100 yards away were smashed, most of those just across the road and the large plate-glass window of a shop no more than 15 yards away were undamaged. A large quantity of straw probably from mattresses in the wrecked houses were strewn over pathways and gardens for a quarter of a mile around. Shortly before the two bombs were dropped, others, believed to be from the same machine, fell in fields in village just over two miles from the town. These caused no casualties."
The funeral service for the Ropers, conducted by the Rev. W. J. Brownless, was held at St. John’s Church, Moulsham on 27th November 1940, with the burial of the couple together at the Borough Cemetery afterwards (grave: 6187).
Emily Sarah Harvey arrived in Chelmsford from Bowers Gifford by 1901 to work as a domestic cook. She married the same year to a bricklayer and the couple went on to have three daughters. By the outbreak of the war the couple were living in Upper Bridge Road. in November 1940 she was killed by a German bomb which struck their house. Her husband was fatally injured and died soon afterwards in hospital.
Emily was born in Bowers Gifford in 1879, one of five children of William Harvey (1853-1937) and Sarah Walker Harvey (nee Atkins) (1853-1949).
The 1881 census found one year-old Emily living with her parents, three siblings and a lodger at Rookery Cottage, Bowers Gifford. Her father was an agricultural labourer. A decade later, aged 11, she was recorded living with her parents and four brothers at a cottage near the church in Nevendon, where her father was a general labourer.
By the time of the census in 1901 Emily had moved to Chelmsford and was one of two servants for Frederick Wells and his family at 30 New London Road. She worked as a domestic cook.
Later that year Emily married Edmund Roper. The couple had three Chelmsford-born daughters up to 1911: Doris Maud Roper (1901-1985), Cissy May Roper (1903-1988). and Evelyn Roper (born in 1908).
In 1911 Emily, her husband and daughters were living at 18 Upper Bridge Road, Chelmsford (renumbered as 28 by 1916). Her husband was a journeyman bricklayer an occupation he continued until his retirement.
Emily and her husband were killed in an air raid on Chelmsford on 21st November 1940. At 2.30 p.m. a lone German aircraft dived out of the clouds above Chelmsford and dropped several high-explosive bombs, apparently aimed at Crompton’s factory in Writtle Road. The bombs fell in the vicinity of the junction of Upper Bridge Road and Bradford Street, killing the couple at their home at 28 Upper Bridge Road. Their house was demolished and the couple buried under tons of debris. Rescue parties promptly on the scene first recovered the body of Emily and soon afterwards found her badly injured husband. He was to die soon after reaching hospital.
Some 34 properties were damaged, including three that were demolished. The water, gas and sewage utilities were all broken, telephone and electric cables severed, and both roads strewn with wreckage.
Next door to the Ropers’ house, 27 Upper Bridge Road, occupied by Mr. A. Salmon was also demolished. Number 26, home to Mrs. E.E. Allen, had its front portion and contents severely damaged. In fact the main structure was so badly affected that demolition was thought to be necessary. Around the corner at 1a Bradford Street the house and its contents were totally destroyed, though miraculously its occupiers, Mrs. Bannister, her 12 year-old daughter and an eight year-old evacuated boy all escaped serious injury. On hearing the enemy aircraft Mrs. Bannister had rushed the children and herself under the stairs as seconds later the bomb demolished the house around them. All three were rescued by the A.R.P. services and taken to hospital suffering from shock and minor injuries. A member of the Auxiliary Fire Service was also taken to hospital. Rescue work at the incident was complicated by the presence of three suspected unexploded bombs. Other bombs were believed to have fallen nearby in the vicinity of Writtle Road, though no casualties or damage were reported there.
The Essex Newsman reported:
"DEVOTED COUPLE KILLED BY LONE RAIDERS BOMB. INVALID HUSBAND'S CALL FOR HIS WIFE AS HE LAY DYING
An elderly couple, described by their neighbours as one of the most devoted couples in the town, lost their li\es when their home and the house adjoining, situated in a woiking-class district of an Essex town, were demolished by a bomb dropped by enemy aircraft which dived out of cloud on Thursday afternoon.
A second bomb did not explode, but made hole in some adjoining gardens, and precautions were taken in case the missile was a delayed-action bomb. The aircraft, after carrying out its murderous mission, soared up into the clouds again, and quickly disappeared. No " alert " signal had been given.
The two houses demolished were situated only about two hundred yards from where six people were killed by a bomb last month.
From one of the houses A.R.P. workers got out three persons (Mrs. Bannister, a 12-year-old girl, and an 8-year old boy), lhey were found to be not seriously injured, and were taken to Hospital with cuts and' shock. To-day (Friday) they were much better. They probably owe their lives to the instinctive action of Mrs. Bannister, who, hearing the hum of the aircraft overhead, rushed with the two children (one of whom is an evacuee from a London district) into a cupboard beneath the stairs, and thus escaped the full force of the explosion.
Mrs. Bannister was able to direct the rescue workers to the spot where she and the children were crouching under the stairs, with the result that they were soon got out. They had an extraordinary escape; for over the stairs and all around them lay piles of bricks and broken timber.
In the other wrecked house the position was not so fortunate. The occupants, Mr. and Mrs. Edmund Roper, both over 60, had lived in the house for several years. Latterly Mr. Roper had been an invalid, devotedly attended to by his wife. Shortly before the bomb dropped on the two houses, Mrs. Roper had told a neighbour she was going to make a cup of tea for her husband, who had a bed in a downstairs room. Then came swift tragedy.
Emily Sarah ROPER (nee HARVEY), Civilian
Killed in an air raid at Upper Bridge Road, Chelmsford. Aged 60