War dead Female Born 11/4/1890 Died 11/10/1940
Nurse, killed in WW2 air raids in Hoxton. The name of the Hoxton War Memorial on Holy Trinity Church, 3 Bletchley Street, London, N1, shows her name spelt incorrectly as S. Witchells.
Sophia Olive Witchalls was born on 11 April 1890 in Limehouse, the eldest of the nine children of Frederick William Witchalls (1866-1919) and Sophia Witchalls née Tyer (1868-1946). The 1891 census shows her living at 60 North Street, Limehouse, with her parents and her father's occupation was recorded as an eel vendor. By the time of the 1901 census she is listed as residing at 52 Elsa Street, Limehouse, with her parents and four siblings: Elizabeth Witchalls (1891-1967), Lillian Emma Witchalls (1893-1974), Frederick Charles Witchalls (1895-1955) and George Witchalls (1897-1969). Her father gave his occupation as a general dealer in greengrocery.
On the 1911 census she is shown as a cup machinist living at 456 Hackney Road, Bethnal Green, the home of her aunt and uncle, Olive and Alfred Ashley, their five children and a female domestic servant. Her uncle was a pickle manufacturer. She is also shown on electoral registers up to 1937 as living at this address but on the 1939 England and Wales Register she is listed as an assistant nurse with the British Red Cross Society living at 52 Elsa Street, Stepney, with her mother and her sister Olive Ellen Witchalls (1901-1976).
She died, aged 50 years, on 10 October 1940 at St Leonard's Hospital, Nuttall Street, Shoreditch, as a result of a German air raid and she was buried on 16 October 1940 in a family grave in Square 12 of the City of London and Tower Hamlets Cemetery, Southern Grove, London, E3 4PX. Administration of her estate was granted on 18 December 1940 to her mother and probate records confirm that her address remained at 52 Elsa Street, Stepney and that she died on 10 October 1940 at St Leonard's Hospital. Her effects totalled £190-19s-11d.
She is also commemorated in the Civilian War Dead Roll of Honour, located just outside the entrance to St. George's Chapel at the west end of Westminster Abbey, London, which confirms her date and place of death.
Together with Margaret Brown and Mary O'Neill Dowell she is commemorated on a wooden plaque that is now housed in St Bartholomew's Hospital Archives and Museum, West Smithfield, London, EC1A 7EB. Confusingly, this plaque states she died at St Matthew's Hospital on 8 October 1940. This hospital was at 79 Shepherdess Walk, London, N1 and was hit with high explosive bomb that killed 50 male patients, 33 female patients and 3 nurses on 8 October 1940. It is therefore probable that she was mortally injured at St Matthew's Hospital and died two days later in St Leonard's Hospital.