|Rushden Echo, 7th August 1942, transcribed by Kay Collins
Flares Dropped 1942
Family Trapped in Bedrooms
Raid Victims in E. M. Town – Father, Mother and Daughter Dead
|Trapped in the bedrooms when a flare crashed into the house, a family in an East Midlands town suffered heavy loss during a brief air raid early on Monday.
Mr. Cyril Abbott (50), a cab proprietor, and his 12-year-old son, Reggie, escaped by jumping through the bedroom window, but Mrs. Abbott (45) and the daughter, Marion, aged eight, were asphyxiated by fumes when sheltering in a bedroom, and lost their lives.
Badly burned and injured, Mr. Abbott survived until 11a.m. on Thursday, when he passed away in hospital.
’Planes were heard flying low over the town, and a few seconds later parachute flares descended over an area comprising several streets, throwing a brilliant, garish light over the scene.
Falling portions pierced several roofs and at the home of the Abbott family a big flare broke through and penetrated to the foot of the stairs.
The heavy metal broke the gas meter, and when the flare detonated the house filled rapidly with smoke, fumes and gas, while flames shot through the roof.
Bombs Missed Town
Meanwhile there came the thud of high explosive bombs, but these fortunately missed the town, and craters—two of them very large—were discovered in the fields.
An N.F.S. crew with pumps rushed to the burning house and stopped the fire within a comparatively short time, no other property being involved.
Mr. Abbott and his son had already jumped out of a small upper window, and, badly burned and injured, were in the care of neighbours.
Climbing through the front bedroom window, Leading Firemen D. Whiteman and E. Hart plunged through choking smoke and fumes to find the mother and daughter. They got them out and took them down the escape ladder, but it is doubtful whether they were then alive.
Mr. Abbott and his son were passed on to the County Hospital, and yesterday the boy’s condition was still serious.
Told to Jump
Mr. C. Wesley and his brother-in-law, Mr. J. F. Wheelaham, who arrived on Sunday from a “blitzed” area for a holiday, told us a graphic story.
“Some flares were very close,” said Mr. Wesley, “and then there was a sudden crash on the roof. The next thing we were dressing—it could not have taken us more than 12 seconds, and by the time we got out into the street the flames had reached right above the house next door. The boy who had jumped out of the window was lying across the road, quite naked, by Mr. Abbott was hanging from the small window. He was already burned and the flames were coming up the wall on the inside. We got hold of his feet, told him to let go, and caught him.”
“There was a certain amount of explosion,” said Mr. Wesley, “for all the chairs in our room were turned round.”
Asked if the fire-watchers had turned out quickly, Mr. Wesley said: “It was marvellous: people with buckets turned out from all the entries. Even the women turned out.”
It was explained that the N.F.S. has some difficulty with the hydrant nearest the house and water had to be taken from another hydrant further up the road.
“When they did get going,” said Mr. Wesley, “They really played the game.”
A county councillor’s household had a narrow escape, portions of a flare with cords attached piercing the roof. No fire occurred however, and the wardens soon cleared the rafters.
Flare cases and burnt-out “candles” were collected from several streets and backways and heaped in the county councillor’s garden. Two parachutes were found on graves in a cemetery, and one was located in a tree.
It is a sad circumstance that the dead girl was to have taken part in a dancing display at a local fete on Wednesday.
According to some observers, British fighters were chasing a ’plane over the town and had every prospect of bringing it down.
“Last night,” said the Berlin military spokesman on Monday, “German bombers continued their attacks on Britain. Attacking in several waves, the German ’planes dropped their bombs from a low level on war objectives in Bedford.
Funeral of Victims
The mourners were Mrs. G. Chettle and Mr. W. Abbott (Mrs. Abbott’s mother and brother-in-law), Mrs. H. Whiting and Mr. S. Chettle (brother and sister), Mrs. A. G. Adams, Mr. L. Chettle (brother and sister), Mr. J. E. Chettle and Mrs. W. Abbott (brother and sister-in-law), Mrs. S. Chettle and Corpl. H. Witing (sister-in-law and brother-in-law), Mr. A. G. Adams and Mr. L. Willmott (brother-in-law and nephew).
A wreath and sprays were carried by Marion’s young friends of the dancing class.