Pictures of a mother and two daughters killed in a devastating ‘Doodlebug’ attack in London in the Second World War are published here for the first time – thanks to a chance discovery of an article about the tragedy.
Gary Hicks – a great-grandson of the mother who died – was researching his family history for a school project for his son, when he came across the story on the Roberts and Arscott family history website.
Widow Mary Hannah Wyburn Hicks and her daughters, Annie Priscilla and Frances Lucy died when their home, 231, Plashet Grove in East Ham was torn apart in a V1 Rocket explosion on July 17, 1944.
‘It is my understanding that the V1 struck Suffield Road, Walworth, Southwark, SE17 (it no longer exists) at 0513hrs on that day,’ Gary told me.
‘The blast demolished 40 houses, damaged 150 and killed 17 people. It was the highest loss of life from a single V1 strike that month in the area.
‘Mary’s second eldest daughter, Grace Emily, lost her right leg, I think in the bombing and had pieces of shrapnel being forced out of her body until the day she died.’
Gary revealed that Mary’s son, James or ‘Jim’ (Gary’s grandfather), was serving in the 109th Light Artillery in Normandy at the time of the attack.
‘Jim was given compassionate leave in August 1944 due to the bombing, but when he got back to London his mother and sisters had already been buried.’
Mary, a 62-year-old widow, Annie, 36, and Frances, 34, an ARP volunteer for the British Red Cross Society, were buried together seven days after the attack, at Rippleside Cemetery in Barking.
Gary said: ‘Jim tried, numerous times to arrange for the grave to be tended, but as he didn’t own the plot, and there appeared to be no records of who did, he was unable to ensure the grave was kept in decent good order.
‘It appears now, however, that the grave is now being tended; although who owned the plot and paid for the funeral will now almost certainly remain a mystery.’
Mary Hicks (1882-1944), born on April 5, 1882 in Islington, married Albert Nathaniel Hicks (1874-1914) on April 13, 1903 in Bethnal Green, London.
Albert born on February 22, 1874 in Mile End Old Town, London, died in 1914 in London, aged 40. He was buried on June 29, 1914 in the City of London and Tower Hamlets Cemetery.
Mary and Albert’s eldest daughter, Mary Lavinia Hicks (1904-1920) was just 16 when she died in 1920. She was buried on May 11, 1920 in the City of London and Tower Hamlets Cemetery.
Grace Emily Hicks (1906-1989) died on December 23, 1989 in Hornchurch, Essex, aged 83. She never married.
James ’Jim’ Edwin Edgcomb Hicks (1913-2010) was born on January 15, 1913 in Mile End Old Town. He married Phyllis Mary Lazzam (1915-2002) on September 10, 1939 at St Mary’s Church, Becontree, Essex. Jim died on October 25, 2010 in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, aged 97.
Mary Hicks was a great-great-great granddaughter of William Roberts (1738-), who was my great-great-great-great-great grandfather.
Mary and Albert had two more children:
- Albert Nathaniel (1905-1907), who was just two when he died in 1907. He was buried in London on December 11, 1907.
- Emily Jeanette (1911-1937), who was born in 1911. She is believed to have died in Romford, Essex in 1937, aged 25.
READ MORE ABOUT THE 1944 DOODLEBUG ATTACK ON https://www.robertsandarscottfamilyhistory.co.uk/blitz-and-doodlebug-raids-killed-five-members-of-my-family/
Pictures below (supplied with thanks by Gary Hicks)
From left: Grace, Mary, Frances and Annie Hicks, pictured at their home in the 1930s or 1940s.
From left: Grace, Frances, Mary, Annie and Phyllis Hicks (Jim’s wife) in 1936.
Mary Hicks on the beach in Hastings in 1938.
Jim Hicks in 1927/28 and aged 21.
Jim and Phyllis’s wedding on September 10, 1939.
A family gathering in the garden in 1935 (including Mary Hicks, far left, Grace Hicks, third from left, Frances Lucy, fourth from left, Phyllis Hicks, second from right and Emily ‘Emmie’ Jeanette, far right).