06.1.3 Milk Factory
THE MILK FACTORY BOMB The final group of names on the Somerton memorial are those of the nine people who were killed when a German bomber dropped three or four bombs on the Cow & Gate milk processing factory in Etsome Terrace on 29th September 1942. The factory employed a large number of people in the town, and was placed centrally with houses all round it, so the devastation must have been great.  Many people were wounded, many houses were damaged, and the shock to the whole village must have been enormous.There is a memorial stone in the Memorial Garden in Etsome Terrace, and those who died are buried in Somerton graveyard on Behind Berry. Those who died were: Gladys M Bennett who was 38;  she lived with her husband in Etsome Terrace. Stanley Maurice Childs was 30, he lived in Langport Road, and was the brother-in-law of Austin Greaves, who also died in the bombing. The Childs had been in Somerton since late Victorian times, running a gardening business from premises in West Street. Dennis Cook was injured in the bombing and taken to the East Reach Hospital in Taunton where he died. He lived in Etsome Terrace. Harold Gerald Cribb was 42 and he lived in Etsome Terrace. Henry James Moore Gardner was 44, the husband of the landlady of the New Inn in New Street (now called the Somerton Hotel). On the day the bomb fell, H J Gardner had changed shifts with another worker at the Milk Factory; otherwise he would have been at home at the time.  His daughter later married the son of William Surmon, who also died in the incident.The Gardners came to the New Inn in 1928 from the King’s Arms, Shepton Mallet, with their son, Ralph. Their daughter, June, was born in Somerton. Ralph was serving in the Royal Air Force when his father was killed.  Mrs Gardner retained the licence of the New Inn until 1958. Austin Arthur Greaves was 26. He lived with his parents in Northfield. The family were related to the Childs and to the Johnsons and the Pattemores. Charles J Phear was taken to Taunton Hospital after the bombs fell. He died there some time later. Survivors said he had just left the building when a cowl  fell on his head.  William James Surmon was 48 and lived in Sutton Road. The family had a bakery in Sutton Road, and later in New Street for many years. He had served in the Army Service Corps in the Great War, and was the brother of Herbert Surmon who was killed in WW1 (see West face).Maurice Surmon, his son, learned from his brother who was in the Milk Factory on the day the bomb fell that four bombs were dropped as a cluster. They were 30-second delay bombs so the workers had a slight warning. Some were in the Mess Room at the rear of the building and had rushed out into an alley when the explosion happened. Others were in the engine room and milk drying room and some of them got out in time. The older men were pushing the youngsters ahead of themselves to give them a better chance. However, a bomb in the engine room brought down the glass-block floor of the drying room above and killed the men who were still in that part of the building. Reginald Jack Tanner was 40 when he was killed by the bomb, and he lived in Behind Berry.  Apparently he was in the engine room when the glass floor of the milk drying room above fell in. The Milk Factory was never re-opened. The site was used for the Fire Station, the infants school and a small factory which at one time employed women to make bras for Marks and Spencers.  Some houses have been built on part of the site. The Cow and Gate Company gave part of the area for a children’s play ground in perpetuity, and it is there that the memorial to the bomb victims stands. The Memorial Garden was redesigned and equipped in 2006 with monumental gates and nine trees chosen by the families of the victims. A new plaque was made and fixed to an upright slab of blue lias stone near the entrance to the garden.