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The sisters who survived Second World War bomb in Sawbridgeworth that killed five women and children





Two sisters who survived a German bomb that fell on Sawbridgeworth during the Second World War told a local historian of the tragic night which saw two women and three children killed – including their mother Dorothy.

As reported in the Bishop's Stortford Independent , October 10 was the 80th anniversary of the bombing in Cambridge Road, in which mothers Dorothy Chappell and Alice Fulker, sister and brother Jean and Derek Burrell and evacuee Constance Baker from the East End died.

Chris Finch, of Sawbridgeworth Local History Society, interviewed Eileen Wright and Margaret Pegg (née Chappell) on Facetime from their homes in Melbourne, Australia, in 2019.

Eileen Wright, left, and Margaret Pegg in Melbourne in 2019
Eileen Wright, left, and Margaret Pegg in Melbourne in 2019

Eileen was 13 and Margaret nine at the time of the attack and were living with their family at 108 Cambridge Road. Their house and three neighbouring properties were badly damaged by the blast from the bomb.

Eileen was sharing a bed with her mother. When the bomb fell she had a "brick wall" over her and she had to try to work her way out. Her mother wasn't moving. A local doctor dug a tunnel through the rubble and pulled her out.

Meanwhile, Margaret was in a cupboard under the stairs with their elder sister, Doris, and a cousin.

The Chappell family in about 1939 – back row, Eileen and mum Dorothy, front right, Margaret and, front left, Doris, their elder sister
The Chappell family in about 1939 – back row, Eileen and mum Dorothy, front right, Margaret and, front left, Doris, their elder sister

"My cousin was in the back of the cupboard with me, and because my eldest sister was wedged in by a beam on her head, they had to saw through that before they could get to us," Margaret told Chris.

"My cousin and I were buried for five hours, and because of the bad weather they couldn’t take anyone else to hospital." Ambulances were delayed having to go round the villages due to the huge crater in Cambridge Road and it was a foggy night.

Eileen was one of the last to be taken to hospital. Tragically she went with a neighbour, Alice Fulker, who died on the way to hospital.

Chris told the Indie that after being discharged from hospital Eileen lived for a time with her elder sister Doris’s fiancé’s family in Bishop's Stortford while their father found a new home for the family, eventually settling in West Road. The bombed house had been a council property but the council was unable to provide alternative accommodation.

After the war the two sisters married, Eileen in 1948 to Dennis Wright and Margaret in 1955 to Rodney Pegg. The four of them emigrated to Melbourne in 1956 and have lived there since.



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