On 8 May 2020, a series of events were due to take place to commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE Day, however they were seriously disrupted by the lockdown and the necessity for us all to maintain a safe distance from each other. So, I’m taking time to honour the civilians on my family tree who died in enemy bomb attacks.
On 20 March 1945, Marjorie Manners and her sister-in-law, Ada, were seriously injured when a German V2 rocket hit near their home on Footscray Lane in Sidcup, Kent. Ada, aged 48 years, lived in Craybrooke House with her husband, Cecil, who was a dairyman. I’m not sure whether Marjorie, aged 54 years, was living with them permanently or just visiting but her address was recorded as being Craybrooke House on her death notice. Marjorie and Ada were both taken to Queen Mary Hospital but Marjorie died later that same day. Ada died two days later.
Sidcup was one of many towns along a flight path from Germany to London collectively known as Bomb Alley as bombs were dropped there on their way into London and jettisoned on the way back. The bomb that landed that night in Sidcup was a V2 rocket, the world’s first long-range guided ballistic missile developed by a team of German scientists, including Wernher von Braun who later helped develop rockets for the US space programme. When the rockets hit their targets, they led to a massive loss of life and an estimated 2,754 civilians were killed in London with another 6,523 injured. When British Intelligence fed false reports to Germany that the rockets were not hitting their intended targets in London, the Germans responded by recalibrating them which had the intended effect of them missing the densely populated areas of London altogether, however it sadly resulted in the rockets hitting less populated areas in Kent instead.
Marjorie and Cecil were the children of George Thompson Manners (1862-1945) and Margery Ann Robson (1861-1936) and they were part of a large family of twelve children. Marjorie Alice Manners, the fourth of eight daughters, was born in Bishop Auckland on 5 January 1891 and she was employed as a governess on 1911 UK census. Marjorie appears on the 1939 Register as a dairymaid on Abbots Farm in Norfolk where she was working as part of the Women’s Land Army (WLA). The WLA was created in June 1939 to provide a solution to the shortage of men available for farm work and there were 80,000 members by 1944. Commonly known as Land Girls, these women would do jobs normally undertaken by men to keep food production going during the war. The farmer on Abbots Farm, Roger Kidner, was married to Marjorie’s sister, Florence, and still seems to be owned by the Kidner family today.
Cecil Manners, the youngest of the children, was born on 16 February 1902 and he married Ada Jackson in Manchester on 20 April 1927. Cecil and Ada had three children: Michael (1929-2016), Christopher (1934-1936) and Rosemary (1937-2011), and are living at 1 Rectory Lane along with Cecil’s father, George, and his sister, Leila on the 1938 Electoral roll for Chislehurst. Incidentally, George was the son of the same Thomas Manners who founded the building company I spoke about in my previous post. Ada was born in Prestwich, Lancashire, on 4 July 1896 and was the daughter of Walker Allen Jackson (1867-1914) and Clara Lancashire (1868-1942).
Although Europe was in the last few weeks of the war, March 1945 would prove to be a sad month for Cecil as the month would begin with the death of his father, George, aged 83 years, on 3 March 1945. Just three weeks later, Cecil would lose his wife and sister. Now, I have seen some family trees on Ancestry claiming Ada was the daughter of Thomas W Jackson but this is an error. A man named Thomas William Jackson was killed in the same bombing as Ada but he was not her father. Ada’s mother, Clara, died in Craybrooke House on 6 January 1942 as per a family notice in the Manchester Evening Times and it confirms she was the wife of the late Walker Allen Jackson. The name of her father is further corroborated on Ada and Cecil’s marriage entry in the Manchester, England, Marriages and Banns, 1754-1930 records.
Sadly, Cecil died, aged 44 years, on 27 March 1946, leaving his son and daughter as orphans. On the 1939 Register, little Rosemary is living with her paternal aunt, Leila Manners, on Parsonage Farm in Herefordshire so it is safe to assume the children were moved to the country for the duration of the war. Leila is listed on the 1945 electoral roll as living on Stanhope Rd, Sidcup, alongside her brother, Cecil, so she may have moved in with him to help care for the children when the war ended. Craybrooke House was only partially hit by the bomb but it had to be demolished in the summer of 1945.