Sidney Victor White was born and raised in Springfield, the son of a poulterer who had 19 children. Having worked as a mineral water carter he married in Liverpool in 1919 and went on to have four sons, born in Buckinghamshire and Chelmsford. He later worked for Marconi's in Chelmsford and was killed in May 1941 when their factory in New Street was bombed. His home was in Brownings Avenue. One of his brothers was killed in the First World War.
Sidney Victor WHITE, Civilian
Killed in an air raid on Marconi's, New Street, Chelmsford. Aged 50
The bombs that hit Marconi’s fell at the western end of the main factory building. One, thought to have been a 250 kg. DH high explosive, exploded in the centre of machine shop which occupied the southern half of the building. Another, a 500 kg. DH high explosive, fell on its northern half, through the first floor carpenters’ shop and detonated on the floor of the SWB8 transmitter erection shop beneath it. This bomb ignited a drum of cellulose in the carpenters’ shop and the fire rapidly spread across debris into the neighbouring paint spray shop. There, dope was ignited and several men, who had survived the initial explosions, were trapped behind a blast wall and killed by the fire before rescuers could reach them. The fire was eventually brought under control by 5 a.m., though not before flames had spread to Ridley’s flour mill in neighbouring Townfield Street. Damage there was extensive with a very large number of roof slates lost, timbers charred and internal linings destroyed.
During the day, whilst clearing up operations continued at the factory, a worker reported hearing tapping sounds from beneath the debris of the wrecked paint spray and transmitter erection shops. Immediately, workmen with crowbars and shovels began frantic attempts to locate the source of the sounds but despite their efforts no one could be found and it was decided to terminate any further rescue work as it was concluded that anyone still buried would be dead by then.
On the following day, Saturday 10th May, the large pile of debris was cleared and somewhat alarmingly the source of the tapping sounds was clear to be seen by all - a third 500 Kg delayed action high explosive bomb, lay there unexploded but still ticking. Its serial number Ex 536 could be clearly seen. The Bomb Disposal Squad was immediately called in and the factory and surrounding streets were evacuated. Such was the nature and position of the device that the B.D.S. were forced to detonate the bomb where it lay. A warning was put out to this effect, and at 10.30 a.m. on Monday 12th May the bomb was exploded in situ. Further damage was inflicted to the factory, but fortunately there were no further casualties.
The fourth bomb, a 250 Kg. high explosive, narrowly missed the Marconi works and fell onto houses in Marconi Road, where two people received fatal injuries. A terrace of six houses near the junction with Bishop Road suffered most as a result, with three demolished (nos. 70, 72 & 74) and two others believed damaged beyond repair (nos. 76 & 78). The sixth house, no. 80, was seriously damaged as were five others (nos. 62, 64, 66, 68 & 82). The combined effects of blast from all four bombs affected around 375 other properties within a quarter of a mile radius with damage mainly confined to windows, doors, roofs and ceilings.
Sidney’s body was recovered with the following personal possessions: £14 4s. 7d. cash, a purse, his Air Raid Precautions badge, and sundry papers.
He was buried at Chelmsford Borough Cemetery (grave: 6206) on 15th May 1941. The service was conducted by the Rev. Ashby D. Turner. Sidney left an estate valued at £154 10s. 6d. His widow died in 1950.
Sidney Victor White was born at Springfield in 1891, the son of poulterer Henry Thomas White and Susannah Lucy White (nee Daniels). His father had been born in 1847 in Willingale, his mother in 1851 in Galleywood. The couple had married in 1867 in London. In 1871 the census had recorded them and three sons at The Wharf in Springfield. In 1881 the family had been resident in Myers Yard off Chelmsford’s High Street.
He was one of 19 children, three of whom would die before 1911. His siblings included: Henry A. W. White (born c1868 in London), Herbert A. J. White (born c1869 in Baddow), Arthur Alexander White (born 1871 in Springfield), Louisa Alberta M. (born 1873 in Chelmsford), Alice Alma White (born 1874 in Chelmsford), Albert Walter White (born 1876 in Chelmsford), Matilda Rosalia B. (born 1877 in Chelmsford), Charles Albert G. White (born 1879 in Chelmsford), Henrietta Caroline White (born 1880 in Chelmsford, died in 1902), Matilda
Geraldine Laura White (born 1881 in Chelmsford, died in 1898), Frank Sidney White (born 1883 in Chelmsford), Florence Nellie White (born 1885 in Springfield), Ernest Theodore White (born 1888 in Springfield), Maud Elizabeth White (born 1889 in Springfield), Archibald Edgar L. White (born 1892 in Springfield), and Dorothy White (born 1896 in Springfield).
The 1891 census found Sidney aged three months living with the rest of his extremely large family at Springfield Wharf, Springfield. His father and eldest brother were fish poulterers. His sister Alice Alma White was a lady’s help; brother Albert Walter White was a stationer’s assistant.
Ten years later the 1901 census found the majority of the family still living at The Wharf, Springfield. Sidney was ten. His father Henry Thomas White and Arthur Alexander White were employed as poultry dealers. The registers of electors up to 1911/12 show Henry Thomas White still at The Wharf.
In 1911 the census listed 19 year-old Sidney living with his parents and six of his siblings near the basin (canal) in Chelmsford. He was a mineral water carman while his father was a poulterer and feather merchant. Most of his siblings were working in connection with his father's business.
Sidney's brother Ernest Theodore White was killed in action in 1917 while serving with the Essex Regiment.
Sidney married Emma Helen Mabel in Liverpool in 1919 and the couple went on to have four sons between 1922 and 1932. The first two were born in Buckinghamshire; the remainder in Chelmsford,
In 1941 Sidney was working for the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Co. Ltd. at their premises in New Street, Chelmsford and resident at 70 Brownings Avenue in Chelmsford.
Sidney died on 9th May 1941, one of 17 workers killed when his workplace was bombed in a skilled raid by the Luftwaffe. He was aged 50 and killed by a bomb splinter. A further 20 people were seriously injured and 18 others slightly hurt in the factory.
A red air raid warning had sounded the previous evening at 11.24 p.m. but all was quiet until 2.22 a.m. when an enemy Junkers Ju 88 approached the town. Eyewitnesses saw the raider clearly in the almost full moonlight, as it dived to within a few hundred feet of roof tops, released two bombs, circled and dropped two more, before rising rapidly and escaping towards the coast. The aircraft had in fact come so low that those who had seen it thought it likely to hit Chelmsford Cathedral's spire.
Three of the bombs which were dropped scored direct hits on Marconi’s, whilst another went astray and struck residential properties in Marconi Road which ran along the northern side of the factory. Marconi’s was an obvious target for the Luftwaffe. The New Street factory carried out vital work for several Government departments - designing, testing, developing and producing wireless instruments for the Admiralty, Air Ministry, Ministry of Supply and the Crown Agents.
Of the factory’s 3221 workers, some 390 were engaged on the night shift at the time of the raid. They had been on duty since 8.15 p.m. the previous evening and were due to finish at 7.30 a.m., with the day shift taking over fifteen minutes later. The air raid warning had interrupted work of the two hundred or so employees in the machine shop The men there had taken shelter behind an internal blast wall, whilst the women had gone to the strong rooms below the main office building.