Buried Alive in The Blitz - The Bombing of 49 Woodcote Grove Road, Coulsdon

Richard Chadwick Hayes served in the RAF later in WWII. You can see the British Empire Medal ribbon on his tunic.
Gillian Hazell
The British Empire Medal awarded to Richard C. Hayes for his bravery during the rescue of the Jewell family on 18/9/1940.
Gillian Hazell
West Sussex Gazette and South of England Advertiser, 17/4/1941

By 18th September, 1940, the Luftwaffe’s attention was firmly focused on bombing London into submission. Local schoolboy, Maurice Allward, who lived in Whyteleafe, recorded no less than six air raid warnings lasting between 15 minutes and 1 hour during the day followed by a night spent sheltering under the stairs as the Luftwaffe’s bombers droned overhead through the cloudless, starry night.

That evening at “Cotswold,” 49 Woodcote Grove Road, in Coulsdon, the Jewell family were sitting around their table. Mr. Morton Jewell, a civil servant, and his wife Annie were both air raid wardens. Their 18-year-old twin daughters were at home and they had been joined by a visitor, John Noel Marston – a 19-year-old Home Guardsman.

At around 10pm, several high explosive bombs were dropped in the area, one of which scored a direct hit on their home, demolishing the front of the house and causing the first floor to collapse onto the debris, trapping the Jewells and their guest beneath four feet of rubble.

Outside, a war reserve policeman named MacDonald was caught in the blast as he passed the house. Once he had recovered his wits, at about 10.10pm, he raised the alarm and managed to rescue one of the twins from the debris. Soon Police Inspector C. MacFarlane arrived with a party from Wallington.

Police Sgt. Edward Cackett had only just arrived for duty with 14 Group Coulsdon, in Chipstead Valley Rd, when they were also called to the devastated house in Woodcote Grove Road. He and Police War Reserve Miller arrived on their bikes at about the same time as the Wallington police party (10.20pm) just in time to see the first of the twins being carried into the ambulance. MacDonald reported to them that there were four casualties in the house and that gas was escaping into the area where they were trapped.

With no time to waste, they started working to free the second of the Jewell twins who was visible through a small gap a couple of feet wide in the rubble. Once Cackett had wormed his way inside by removing the bricks and debris with his hands and passing it back out of the hole,  he could see that there were three other people there besides the girl, who was sitting in a high back wooden chair close to a table pinned down by rubble with the upper floor pressing down on her head. Cackett could only see the feet of the younger man, Marston, who was almost completely entombed by a large heap of brick rubbish. Morton Jewell was badly injured and, like his daughter, was sitting in a chair with his head pinned to the table by the weight of the upper floor. His wife, Annie was trapped in the same manner. It was obvious that if the weight was removed to free Morton, it would be transferred onto Annie. They were all conscious except for Marston.

When Richard Hayes and No.7 Rescue Party arrived, the police withdrew, but Sgt. Cackett was so far under the wreckage that he didn’t hear the order and continued working. Together, Cackett and Hayes removed the loose timber and rubble from around the victims, without disturbing any supporting timber. They were then able to extricate the second of the twins by sawing away the chair and Cackett pulled her out and carried her to a Police car which took her to hospital. The air raid was still in progress and at about this time, the danger was exacerbated as another bomb dropped nearby and failed to detonate.

Meanwhile, Hayes was still beneath the wreckage fixing a 3 ton jack under a collapsed “trimmer” beam to prevent the upper floor from falling any further. They crawled back under the floor and Cackett managed to free Morton Jewell by sawing away the table. He was lifted out of the hole backwards and handed over to a stretcher party. Mrs. Jewell was trapped 10 feet inside the wreckage. They crawled towards her clearing away more of the debris with their hands. Hayes then began to saw away the chair that she was sitting on, while Cackett steadied it with his hands. It was then that they realised her left arm was also trapped. Crawling further under they were able to take the weight off her arm and pull her out through the hole on her back by her ankles. The young Home Guardsman was almost completely buried, and as Hayes and Cackett cleared the debris off him, it became clear that he had succumbed to multiple injuries. They continued to search underneath the collapsed house until they received word that everyone was accounted for. Cackett then went on a fruitless search for the unexploded bomb, which was later discovered in a garden in Howard Road, nearby. Cackett reported that he arrived back at 14 Group, in Chipstead Valley Road at 2am, so the rescue had taken several nerve shattering hours. Their haste was justified at 4am, when the remains of 49 Woodcote Grove Road caught fire.

It was Police Inspector MacFarlane that brought the bravery of Richard Hayes to the attention of the Coulsdon and Purley Sub-Controller, who recommended him for a Gallantry Award. Sergeant Edward William John Cackett was also recommended by the Regional Commissioner.

Police Sergeant Edward William John Cackett had already served as a policeman for ten years at the time of the rescue in Woodcote Grove Road. He was 35 years old and lived at 30 Brighton Road, Coulsdon. Edward was born in Croydon in 1905, the son of John Edward Cackett, a milkman and his wife Fanny (nee Marlow). He had a younger sister, Phyllis May Cackett, and passed away in 1988.

Skilled Rescue Worker Richard Chadwick (Charles) Hayes, was a Master Builder by trade and one of the first recruits to the Rescue Service in the area. He was born in July 1905 and was the son of Charles Richard Hayes and Eva Selina Hayes (nee Witney). In 1929, he married Nancy Muriel Kinsley at St. Andrew’s Church, Coulsdon, giving his trade at the time as a Joiner.  At the time of the rescue at Woodcote Grove Road, he was 35 years old and lived at 85 Woodman Road. He subsequently followed in his Father’s footsteps and enlisted in the RAF at Cardington, after October 1942, serving in a ground-based role (Service No.1866980). Post-war he became a clerk of works. Richard passed away in 1976.
More about Richard’s Father, Charles Richard Hayes, here

Morton Jewell MBE was born in 1880 and spent his working life as a staff officer in the Colonial Office. He married Anne Marion Tanner at St. Andrew’s, Stoke Newington in April 1913. The couple went on to have three children, the twins, Margaret and Christine, born July, 1922, and a son, Lieutenant Clive Morton Jewell, RN, who was one of five killed on 1st August, 1941, when his Swordfish aircraft crashed during landing on the HMS Ark Royal, detonating a 40lb bomb that had hung up on its rack.

John Noel Marston was just nineteen years old when he was killed in the air raid on 18th September, 1940. He was the son of Phyllis Selina Marston and the late J. W. Marston, of 6 Warwick Road, Coulsdon. Rest in peace, John..

We are grateful to Gillian Hazell and the family of Richard Chadwick Hayes, for photos and information.
Surrey Mirror, 11/4/1941
West Sussex Gazette, 17/4/1941
WWII Civil Defence and Gallantry Awards 1940-1949, Cases 300A and 300B.
Birth, Marriage, Death, Baptism, Census and Probate Records.

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