Joan Miriam Smith (nee Polley) was brought up in South Weald and came to Chelmsford after her marriage in 1929. She was killed in May 1943 with her husband when a bomb was dropped and exploded close to their Lower Anchor Street home.

Joan was born in South Weald in 1891, the daughter of the carpenter Thomas John Polley (1853-1927) and Louisa Polley (nee Cowling) (born 1853). Her parents had married in Coggeshall on 3rd September 1881.

The 1901 census found nine year-old Joan living with her parents and three siblings at St. Vincent’s Hamlet in South Weald. A decade later she was recorded by the 1911 census working as a kitchen maid in the household of the head teacher William Edward Lord in Brentwood.

On 3rd August 1929 Joan married Henry William Smith, at St. Peter’s Church in South Weald, Essex. At the time he was 40 years old, a bachelor, employed as a slinger, and lived at 73 Waterhouse Street, Chelmsford. His bride was aged 38 and lived in South Weald.

In 1943 Joan and her husband were living at 24 Lower Anchor Street in Chelmsford. The property was an old terraced house on the road’s northern side between The Orange Tree and The Queen’s Head pubs. In the early hours of 14th May that year Chelmsford experienced what was to prove to be its heaviest air raid of the war. 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 52 year-old Joan, one of eight people who died as a result of a 250 kg high explosive bomb which scored a direct hit on 22 Lower Anchor Street. Her husband was also killed, as were William Judd and Mary Judd at number 19, Sidney Arthur Westrip, Cissie Kezia Westrip, June Westrip and Gwendoline Iris James at number 22.

The bomb demolished numbers 21, 22, 23, 24 & 25, while numbers 19, 20 & 26 were damaged beyond repair, and numbers 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 27, 28, 29, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36 were seriously damaged. Across the road the explosion seriously damaged numbers 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96 & 97 which stood opposite the scene of the bomb.  

Joan and her husband were buried in grave 5505 at the Borough Cemetery on 21st May 1943.


Joan Miriam SMITH (nee POLLEY), Civilian

Killed during an air raid at Lower Anchor Street, Chelmsford. Aged 52