Airship attack on Hertford, 13th October 1915
By Geoffrey Cordingley
On the night of 13th October there was an airship raid on London. It was one of the worst raids of the war with five Zeppelins flying in formation. There was no blackout in Hertford and one of the airships, Zeppelin L16, was presumably off course and mistook the lights of Hertford for Stratford and East Ham. Around 10pm the airship dropped a total of 44 bombs leaving a trail of destruction from The Meads across Hartham, the Folly, Bull Plain, the Wash, Mill Bridge, Old Cross, St Andrew Street, North Crescent and finishing near County Hospital.
Four men who had been enjoying a drink in Lombard House (Hertford Club) came out to look at this interesting sight. At this point one of the bombs fell on the road outside the club and the four men were killed, They were George Cartledge a draper who ran a shop at 28, Fore Street; John Henry Jevans, Borough Surveyor; J.L. Gregory, organist at All Saints’ Church and E.T. Jolly, a cashier at Barclays Bank, then in Fore Street.
Four other men – A.J. Cox (aged 21), A.Hart (51), C Spicer (30) Charles Waller (43) and one child, George Stephen Game (4) also died in the raid. Twenty people were reportedly injured.
Unusually the names of these people were recorded on the war memorial in Parliament Square. A photograph of the relevant part of the memorial can be seen to the side.
It was reported in the Hertfordshire Mercury that: “On Sunday a muffled peel was rung on All Saints’ bells, and in all the churches of Hertford the ‘Dead March’ was played at the conclusion of the morning and evening services.”
Although there was no mention of this specific incident in the local press, The Hertfordshire Mercury, 16th October did contain two official announcements under a large heading:
GREAT AIR RAID.
LONDON AND DISTRICT BOMBARDED BY ZEPPELINS.
HEAVY LOSS OF LIFE.
One announcement, dated Thursday, 12.10 a.m. came from the Home Secretary. This talked about a Zeppelin raid over a portion of the London area which resulted in 2 women and 6 men (including one soldier) killed, and about 34 injured. The material damage done was small.
The second announcement, timed at 5.25 p.m. the same day came from The War Office. This explained, “that a fleet of hostile airships visited the Eastern Counties and a portion of the London Area last night and dropped bombs.” Anti-aircraft guns were in action and five aeroplanes of the Royal Flying Corps “went up.” Owing to atmospheric conditions no engagement of the airships was possible.
In total fifteen military personnel were killed and thirteen wounded. A total of forty-one civilians (27 men; 9 women; 5 children) were killed and one hundred and one (64 men; 30 women; 7 children) were injured. Of these casualties 32 killed and 95 injured were in the London area.
Whilst making no specific reference to the Hertford incident, the Mercury leading article of the 16th October did allude to it. It began:
THROUGH SACRIFICE TO SUCCESS
The events of the last few weeks, and especially the last few days, must have brought home even to the unreflecting the extreme seriousness of the international situation, and the absolute necessity for being prepared to make very considerable sacrifices in order to ensure success. There is no need to exaggerate the difficulties of the position, or to be panic stricken in regard to it; but it is essential to recognise the need for sacrifice, and to consider it in all its varied bearings.
The Hertfordshire Mercury on Saturday, 16th October did include short obituaries of three of the men who died outside Lombard House. These are reproduced here. The funerals were recorded the following week.
Mr. J. L. Gregory
DEATH OF MR. J.L. GREGORY – We have with regret to record the death of Mr. J.L. Gregory, Mus. Bac, F.R.C.O., and organist at All Saints’ Church. He was a native of Old Windsor and afterwards lived in Lincolnshire. About 1880 he came to Ware as organist of the Parish Church and a dozen years ago obtained the appointment at All Saints’. In the art of teaching he was a most genial and painstaking tutor and as conductor of East Herts Choral Society for the past quarter of a century he was beloved and respected by the whole of the music community for many miles around. He obtained very gratifying success with his choir in the great choral festivals at the Alexandra Palace and it is well known within the memory of our readers that he composed the music for the Hertford Pageant last year. Twelve or thirteen years ago he married Miss Roden, music mistress at Christ Hospital who, together with six young children has suffered a sad bereavement. The sympathy of the whole town and district will go to the widow, and her young family.
Mr. Gregory was a prominent Freemason and had served the office of Worshipful Master of the local lodge. He was 55 years of age. The funeral takes place today.
Further Information: Mr Fenning wrote a letter to the Mercury dated 26th October. In this he suggests that instead of a memorial to Mr Gregory it would be more fitting to set up a fund to support Mrs Gregory and her six young children. For medical reasons Mr. Gregory had been unable to insure his life. “He was entirely dependent on his professional income and always had heavy claims on his resources; and so it comes about that his tragic death leaves his widow and his six children unprovided for.”
John Henry Jevons
THE LATE BOROUGH SURVEYOR – Much regret is felt at the death of Mr. John Henry Jevons, Borough Surveyor of Hertford, at the age of 67 years. He leaves a widow and a son and daughter. He had been surveyor for the past twenty years, and proved a painstaking and faithful servant of the Town council. Mr. Jevons was a native of the Midlands and prior to coming to Hertford was surveyor at Braintree in Essex.
Extra information: John Henry Jevons and his wife were both born in Staffordshire. They had two sons, John Henry and Cyril,18, and a daughter, Florence, 25. John Henry, Jnr had died in 1907 aged 18.
DEATH OF WELL-KNOWN TRADESMAN – It is with regret that we have this week to record the death of a well-known tradesman in the person of Mr. Gregory Cartledge, draper, Fore Street, who was 56 years of age. He had been in business in Hertford for nearly a quarter of a century and had been very successful. A man of a quiet and unostentatious disposition, he did not take a prominent part in public affairs, devoting the whole of his energies to the carrying on of his business. He leaves a widow and two sons, one of whom is at the front with H.A.C.
Extra information: George had been born in Alfreton in Derbyshire whilst Martha (nee Woodward), his wife, hailed from Pembroke Dock in South West Wales. They had two children, twin boys named Eric and Norman who were born on 19th December 1895 and so would be 19 in October, 1915. George had a drapery assistant, Beatrice Lintell, 39, who came from High Wycombe, Bucks.
Martha probably died in 1927 in Chapel-en-le-Frith where she and George had been married.
Eric (Montague George) joined the 1st Reserve Battalion (Infantry Company), Honourable Artillery Company on 25th November, 1914.
Norman (Edward Davies) married Barbara M Smith in 1926 in Marylebone. He died in Fakenham, Norfolk in 1982, aged 96.
Mr. E.T. Jolly
There was no obituary of Ernest Jolly but his funeral was recorded in the Mercury on Saturday, 23rd October.
Funeral of Mr. E.T. Jolly. – The late Mr. E.T. Jolly, cashier at Messrs. Barclay’s Bank, Hertford, whose death occurred last week, was interred at Redbourne, his home, on Tuesday. The deceased was 27 years of age. Two wreaths were placed upon the coffin, one from the parents, bearing a card with the inscription, “Good-night, beloved boy, in God’s good care, through Jesus Christ, from Father and Mother,” and the other from the Rev. H.S.C. Whitehouse, vicar of St. Paul’s Walden, a friend of the deceased. Amongst the mourners were representatives from Barclay’s Bank and the Hertford Conservative Club and the Hertford Town C.C. Wreaths were sent by the ladies of the Hertford Tennis Club, from the bank staffs at Hertford and Hoddesdon, the members of the Hertford Cricket and Tennis Club, and the Conservative Club.
Extra Information: According to the transcription of the death certificate Jolly was actually 29. He was the eighth of nine children born to Thomas (a farm manager) and Millicent Jolly and he was born in Withersfield, Suffolk.
The Hertford Cricket and Tennis Club played both cricket and tennis at Balls Park before the war. After the war cricket continued at Balls Park but Sir George Faudel-Phillips refused permission for tennis to continue there. In 1920 the tennis club was set up in London Road.
The Other Five Deaths
Of the remaining deaths Charles Waller’s was recorded in the Deaths column of the 23rd October edition of The Hertfordshire Mercury.
Arthur James Cox
Arthur Cox was 21 when he died. He came from Yarmouth and was a bombardier in the 2/1st Norfolk Battery, East Anglian Brigade R. F. A. stationed in Hertford.
George Stephen Game
George Game was four years old and lived with his parents at 37, Bull Plain.
Arthur Hart was 51 and a miller at Garratt’s Mill who lived with Elizabeth Frances, his wife at 66 Port Vale. He was born in Walkern to Benjamin and Hannah Hart.
Charles H Spicer
Charles Spicer was 30 when he died. He was a labourer who lodged at 38, Thornton Street.
Charles Waller was 43 years old. He was a labourer who lived with Dorcas, his wife, at 34, Hertingfordbury Road.
After the Raid
A rumour started that Hertford had been wiped off the map and as a result thousands (20,000 according to Hertfordshire Mercury) of sightseers descended on the town causing traffic chaos. “A great body of policemen and specials being required to regulate the traffic.”
Blackout regulations were quickly introduced in the town but not everyone complied with them. On 4th November the first cases of lighting infringement were dealt with at Hertford Borough Sessions. Among those who were fined for allowing a light to show were Frederick Roser, Saracens Head Hotel; Thomas Bird, Dimsdale Arms Hotel; William Brown, Woolpack Old Cross and Frederick Brient a member of the Town Council!
Inquest into the Victims
On the day after the raid , Mr Philip Longmore, the District Coroner held an inquest on the nine victims at the Shire Hall. He began the inquest by saying, “It is very distressing for me to have to summon you together on this painful matter. As you know, no less than nine of our fellow townspeople met their deaths last night. I am sure you will join with me in expressing great sympathy with all the members of the families concerned in this terrible calamity, and also our revulsion and horror at the terrible act which has been perpetrated against them. I do not think it is necessary or that it will serve any useful purpose for us to go very closely into this matter, because we cannot do any good….”
The jury comprised Mr. W Waller (foreman), Harry Harvey, John Higgins, Henry Reeks, Herbert Nightingale, Arthur Whinnett, Walter Lewsey, Charles Vale, Ernest Cornell, Arthur Hunt, Charles Law, Henry Scragg, and Alexander Upcraft.
Evidence of identification was given by relatives along with Lieutenant Francis John Taplin for Arthur Cox and Dr. Robert Odell described the wounds, often horrific, each sustained.
Two witnesses, Edward Douglas Thorne and Walter Stanley Hoare described how they had each been with friends at the Conservative Club [now the Hertford Club] in Bull Plain when they had heard aircraft overhead. They had gone out onto the lawn to watch the Zeppelin. There had been a group of ten or so men and when they realised that bombs were being dropped they scattered. After the raid they discovered Gregory, Jevons, Cartledge and Jolly were all dead.
Catherine Ellen Bailey, 28 Thornton Street said that her lodger of 18 months, Charles Spicer (30), a labourer, had left the house at 7:30 last night. He was thought to have been standing in Bull Plain when he was hit.
James Game, 37 Bull Plain, who was very upset, described how his son George Stephen (4) had been sleeping in the back bedroom next to his ten years old brother. After an explosion Stephen had been taken to the County Hospital but died half-an-hour after arriving there. His brother did not have a scratch on him.
James Woodcock, a warehouseman of 23, Wellington Street, and Frederick Abbey a miller’s packer of 6, Byde Street each described how they had been on guard with Hart and Waller in the Garratt’s Mill yard when they had heard a loud explosion. They had all taken cover against the mill gate and afterwards Hart and Waller were found dead.
Benjamin George Laws a shoeing smith in the same battery, described how he and Cox were walking with two ladies near St. Andrew’s Church when Cox who had been 20 yards ahead was hit.
The Coroner in summing up said: We all view this horrible thing with great revulsion and we cannot but have the greatest hatred for those who have brought it about, but it does not seem to me that any useful purpose will be served on your part by bringing in a verdict of murder, because it would be absolutely useless and have no effect. The people who perpetrated these monstrous deeds will have to be punished in some other way. I am perfectly certain that such deeds can only make us Englishmen all the more determined to see this war through and ensure that the perpetrators of these horrors on defenceless citizens are punished. I suggest that you return a verdict that these unfortunate person were killed by bombs dropped from hostile aircraft and leave it at that.
The jury did as he suggested.
After the verdict had been given, Ernest Jolly’s father said that he hoped the authorities would see that the lighting was controlled in future. The Coroner said “I hope within a few days a lighting restriction order will be made and it will be strictly enforced when it does come in.”
The detailed account of the event was only published in the Mercury in January 1919 after reporting restrictions which had been in place during the war had been lifted.
Letter from Owen Wightman, Bengeo, Oct.21 1915
MILL BRIDGE – A SUGGESTION
To the Editor of the Hertfordshire Mercury
Sir, Would not the present be an opportune time to take in hand the widening of Mill Bridge.
I am aware that it would be difficult, and perhaps impossible to induce the Local Government Board to sanction a loan for the purpose until after the War is over; but is there anything to prevent the Corporation coming to a temporary arrangement with the adjoining property so as to facilitate the settlement of the question on some more suitable occasion?
I suggest that the idea is one which all parties concerned might give their earnest consideration.
Oct. 21 1915
Personal Injury due to Aircraft
This risk is not covered by an ordinary Personal Accident Policy, and to supply the necessary insurance the LONDON GUARANTEE AND ACCIDENT COMPANY, LIMITED (established 1869)
of Nos. 20, 21, & 22 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC.
Will grant a policy to any British Subject of either sex between ages of 12 & 70 whilst resident in the UK of Great Britain & Northern Ireland against Death or Injury directly caused by Aircraft (hostile or otherwise) including bombs, shells, and /or missiles dropped or thrown therefrom or fired thearat, on the following terms:-
A Premium of 5/- for Six Months
or 7/6 for Twelve Months
or 10/- for the Duration of the War,
will secure the following benefits:-
£500 payable in the event of Death;
£500 payable in the event of the Loss of Two Limbs or Two Eyes, or a Limb and One Eye;
£250 payable in the event of the loss of One Limb or One Eye;
£2 per week payable during Temporary Total Disability, for a period not exceeding 13 Weeks.