Mrs Whitwell
Southend-on-Sea
Mrs Whitwell’s Death It was at 120, North Road, that the only fatality occurred. Mr. George Whitwell, with his wife, Mrs Agnes Frances Whitwell, were asleep in their room. A bomb came through the roof immediately over the bed in which Mrs. Whitwell was sleeping, and it is probable that she was either killed outright or rendered insensible by the missile striking her. Her husband, George Whitwell, managed to get out of the burning building, and it was at first thought that Mrs. Whitwell had also escaped. Some time later, however, her body was discovered by Special Constable Dolphin in a corner of the room underneath a quantity of debris. As Dr. Walker described at the inquest, the body was little more than “a charred, mutilated mummy,” and the flames had practically destroyed the trunk beyond recognition. Mrs. Whitwell was 60 years of age, and was a prominent Salvationist in Southend, having been a member of the local corps of the Salvation Army for 25 years. Her husband is a much respected man, and is employed by the Southend Corporation as a carpenter. He received a terrible blow on the head and was also much burned about the neck and shoulders. He was removed to the Victoria Hospital and though his condition is undoubtedly precarious, he is now progressing favourably. Prior to his removal to the hospital he was treated by the St. John Ambulance Brigade. Inquest on Mrs Whitwell The inquest on the body of Mrs. Agnes Frances Whitwell, wife of George Whitwell, of 120, North Road, Southend, was held at the Park Hotel, Southend, on Tuesday by the Divisional Coroner (Mr. C. Edgar Lewis), Mr J. Corbett was foreman of the jury. Miss Amy Whitwell, daughter of the deceased, who wore the uniform of the Salvation Army, said she resided at 6, Junction Road, Camden Town. She had viewed the body at the mortuary. The Coroner: Is that the body of your mother? - Yes, as far as I can tell. And the wife of George Whitwell? – Yes. Who is employed by the Southend Corporation as a carpenter? – Yes. What is her age, 68?- No, sixty. Crispin Whitwell, son of the deceased, who resides as 120, North Road, Prittlewell, stated he lived with his father and mother. The Coroner: When did you see your mother last alive? – On Sunday night, between 10 and 10.50. Was she then going to bed? – Yes. Which room did she occupy? – The front bedroom upstairs. With your father? – Yes. At 2.45 on Sunday morning were you asleep? – Yes. Where were you sleeping? – At the back of the house in a room above the landing. What did you hear? – I heard a noise like the rattling of slates. What did you do? – I opened the door, and all I could see was smoke. Did you hear anything more? – Yes, I heard someone calling. Who was it? – My father. Where was your father? – On the landing. What did you do? – I called to mother. Did your mother answer you? – No. Did you then go into the next house? – Yes. The Foreman: Did you hear the whistle from the Corporation yard at all? – No, I did not. William Dolphin, of 173, North Road, Prittlewell, a member of the Special Reserve Police, said about 2.55 a.m. on Monday he was in bed. The Coroner: What aroused you? –Father. He called me and I got up. Why had you been called? – Father told me there was a fire nearby. Did you go to 120, North Road? – Yes. And found it on fire? – Yes. Did you go upstairs? – Not directly. I went up after I had got the furniture out. You did go upstairs after the furniture was taken out? – Yes. What did you first find? – We found a lot of debris in the corner, and there was a body in the corner covered with debris. That was in the front bedroom? – Yes. Anywhere near the bed? – About four feet from the bed. What was the object in getting the furniture out first? – We wanted to save as much as we could. Was it known that anyone was in the house? – We were given to understand that no one was in the house. And after you removed the furniture you found the body? – Yes. Did you find anyone else? – No, sir. The Coroner (pointing to the remains of a bomb): Did you find this thing? – No, sir. A Juror (Mr. Hogsflesh): Was the Corporation whistle heard? – Yes, I heard it after I turned out. The Foreman: How long after? – Ten minutes or a quarter of an hour after. I could not tell exactly how soon. The Foreman remarked that there was considerable complaint in the town as to the sounding of the hooter. The Coroner: I do not think it is a matter for me to enquire into. That is a matter for the Corporation to ascertain. Supt. Ellis: There was a big rush on the telephone at this time. Probably they gave the alarm as soon as they received it. The aircraft dropped one very near the works soon after. The Coroner enquired who found the portion of the bomb in Whitwell’s house. Inspector Clarke replied that it was picked up by a private individual and handed to P.s. Gossett, of the Special Police Reserve. P.c. Brown stated that the bomb was handed to P.s. Gossett outside the house. That was the first time it was seen. It was taken by P.s. Gossett to the Central Police Station. Special Sergt. Gossett (a juror) said the top part of the bomb was handed to him by one of the helpers. One of the military found the lower half of the bomb and handed it over to the authorities. It was found in the bedroom. The Coroner said as Mr Gossett was a member of the jury he would discharge him from the jury so he could give evidence. He would like to have evidence where it was found. George Gossett, of 108, North Road, Prittlewell, a sergeant in the Special Police Reserve, was then called. The Coroner: Where did you see this bomb first: - It was handed to me, being the sergeant, by Mr. Jeffreys. When and where? – As soon as the fire was put out and as soon as we got into the room. Do you know where he procured it from? – From the side of the bed. It had fallen off the bed. He told you so? – Yes. Was the place on fire when you went into it first? – No, out. No one in the house when you went there? – No. A Juror: Were you told that no one was in the house? The question was asked by several bystanders if anyone was in the house, and it was said that no one was there, and that was why the furniture was got out first. A Juror: Where was the husband? The Coroner: He was injured and taken next door. P.C. Brown, stationed at Prittlewell, said on Monday, about 4.30 a.m. he visited 120, North Road, Southend. He went into the front bedroom and there saw a large hole in the roof caused by the entry of a bomb. The hole penetrated into the bedroom. The Coroner: Was the body still in the bedroom? No. The bed was standing with the head towards the wall, and there was the hole in the roof immediately above the bed. You found the body in the adjoining room and conveyed it to the mortuary? – Yes. A Juror: The hole in the roof was immediately over the bed? – Yes. Dr. J. F. Walker, of Royal Terrace, Southend, said about 5.30 on Monday afternoon he viewed the body. It was nothing more than a charred mutilated mummy. The Coroner: Death was due to burning? – Yes. The Coroner, addressing the jury, said with the evidence before them he thought they were now in a position to arrive at their verdict. There was only one thing they could do under the circumstances, and that was to say that the deceased woman died from burning, the result of incendiary bombs dropped from hostile aircraft. The Foreman: Can we not return a verdict of murder? The Coroner: I don’t think it will do any good. I am very pleased to say that Dr. Hinks tells me that the husband is getting on very well considering, and we all hope he will make a complete recovery. The jury returned a verdict in accordance with the Coroner’s directions, and expressed sympathy with the family.

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