Book of Remembrance and War Time Memories

Several elements of the Enfield at War project have now come to fruition.

As part of The Enfield at War Project we asked the public to tell us about their wartime memories so we could record them for posterity. Local people responded and generously gave their time to talk to us. This collection of 33 memories with accompanying images was undertaken between September 2015 and October 2015. You can view this as a free E-book or any of the images from this page as a basic PDF.

Enfield Local Studies Library and Archive has produced a WW1 Book of Remembrance that lists all those who lived within the boundaries of the Boroughs of Edmonton, Enfield and Southgate prior to or during the First World War who lost their lives whilst serving their country. The book is the result of two years of extensive research by Local Studies staff and volunteers; however we believe there are still some names missing so we are asking for your help. If you notice anyone we may have missed please pass their names onto Enfield Local Studies Library & Archive. The Book of Remembrance is available to view at Enfield Local Studies Library & Archive, Enfield Town Library, Ordnance Unity Centre, Palmers Green Library and Edmonton Green Library.

Lastly there are WW1 and WW2 school packs. Although these are aimed at children they contain a lot of interesting information and pictures. They can be downloaded from here.  They cover many of the topics featured in previous blogs: bombing, children’s lives, women’s work, shelters, rationing and lots more.  If you are interested in the history of Enfield during the two World Wars these are a great starting place.

These are the final parts of the project. Staff and volunteers at the Enfield Local Studies Archive have been working on this project for the last  fourteen months and it is hugely satisfying to see all the different elements coming together to create what will hopefully be  a lasting legacy and resource for the people of Enfield and beyond.


Remembrance Day

On the 8th of November it is Remembrance Sunday. There will be a 2 minute silence as we remember the lives of those who died for their country.  The three public war memorials in the former boroughs of Edmonton, Enfield and Southgate will be the focus for remembrance.

There were many other memorials across the borough. Most were originally erected after the Great War. There were memorials in schools, factories, railway stations, hospitals and offices. Some added the names of those who died in the Second World War to these existing memorials. Over time some of these have been lost as factories and town halls have been demolished. Some of these were saved and are kept by the Enfield Museum. Others were moved to new locations.

Even before the end of the Great War some streets put up their own shrines in memory of those who died. So many casualties were buried in foreign countries or had no known grave that these shrines became a focus for the grief of their relatives. The trend grew after Queen Mary visited some of these shrines in the East End.

Interactive Kiosks

As part of the remit of the Enfield At War project we had to create interactive kiosks which would tell the story of Enfield during the two world wars.  These are to be a permanent record of the borough. The interactive kiosks are now up and running. There is one here at the Archive (anyone who attended the Open day would have been able to see it) and  this week another was delivered to the  Royal Small Arms Interpretation Centre at Enfield Island Village. A third kiosk is temporarily on the ground floor of the Ordnance Unity Centre.

These kiosks house a collection of photos, memories, film and facts about the London Borough of Enfield during both world wars.

Some of the pictures of the guns made in the Royal Small Arms Factory give a 360º view of the arms. They can be turned on the screen so you can see them from all angles.

360 RSA photos

The content of the kiosks reflects the subjects I have been blogging about since January: life on the home front, bombings, factories, the lives of women and children in time of war.

Visitors can touch one of the pictures on the screen to explore the information. They can read about local residents’ wartime memories and watch a film of a  dramatised account of the  shooting down of the Cuffley Airship in 1916

Heritage Walks

As part of the Enfield At War project we have been producing a series of war related heritage walks around the borough. They are all fairly easy going walks and can always be divided into sections if necessary.

The final one has now been printed. This is for the Enfield area starting in Ponders End along the Hertford Road to Brick Lane across the playing fields and ending up at Windmill Hill.

We now have a collection of heritage walks around the borough. The maps can be downloaded from the Enfield Council website:  Or a hard copy can be obtained from The Enfield Local Studies Library and Archive at Thomas Hardy House.

There are also pictures to supplement  the walks on the website.

Also on the website is an interactive map showing the location of key events in WW1 in Enfield. Click on the poppies for details.

Trent Park in World War Two

During World War Two Trent Park (a Grade II listed building to the west of the borough) was requisitioned by the War Office as a POW camp. It was to be a camp for high ranking enemy officers. It was run by M19 (later M119) as a Combined Services Detailed Interrogation Centre headed by Lieutenant Colonel Kendrick.

Trent Park before 1912
Trent Park before 1912

Bugging and recording equipment was installed in the basement of the house. There were hidden microphones in six of the bedrooms and five interrogation rooms connected to the ‘M Room’ where Jewish German exiles listened in on conversations.

M Room at Trent Park courtesy of  Dr Helen Fry from her book the M Room
M Room at Trent Park courtesy of Helen Fry

Although there were bars on the windows of the house within the grounds of Trent Park prisoners were allowed considerable freedom. They could use the outside courtyard on the south side and the lawn and the west and north side. Longer walks were allowed when accompanied by a British officer.  As a POW camp it was pretty comfortable. Prisoners could play billiard or table tennis, paint and play music. A tailor visited fortnightly. Guards saluted the German officers. The whole atmosphere was meant to be relaxed and friendly designed to make the prisoners feel safe in the hope they would let fall vital intelligence.

Evidence gained by these methods included information on U-boat tactics, the German radar system, and the development of the V-2 rocket. Some of the first evidence of German atrocities against Jews was also obtained through these channels.

Although Trent Park was used as a POW camp it was still bombed on several occasions. The first time was in October 1940 and then on eight further occasions. Very little damage was done to property and there were no casualties.

Trent Park bombs
Map showing where bombs fell in Trent park

There have been persistent rumours that Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy Fuhrer was incarcerated in Trent Park after landing in Scotland in 1941 on a solo peace mission. No evidence has been found to corroborate this.

A couple of fascinating books about how British Intelligence eavesdropped on German POWs at Trent Park and other locations are:

Tapping Hitler’s Generals by Sonke Neitzel

The M Room by Helen Fry

The Royal Small Arms in WW1

Before the First World War the Royal Small Arms Factory employed 1851 workers. Weapons had been produced there since 1816. The work was comparatively well paid. The site had its own church, school pub and football team.

At the end of 1914 the factory employed 5,000 men. By June 1917 there were 7,040 men, 1,448 women and 1,095 ‘boys’ (9,583 total workers).

The war meant many men left to go and fight and women were employed to replace them.

A Shfit assembling 1 (2)

The Short Magazine Lee Enfield .303 is perhaps the most famous product associated with Enfield. During the war the factory concentrated on producing this rifle. At its peak throughout 1916 – 17 6,000 rifles per week came out of the factory. In all 2 million rifles were made in Enfield during the conflict. The factory also modified and repaired Vickers machine guns.

The outbreak of war caused increased pressure on housing for the additional workers coming to the area. In 1915 the YMCA built 60 huts to house workers who couldn’t find lodgings in the area. Each man had a cubicle with ‘a bed and an easy chair’ costing 17s 6d per week (£38 today). They also built a canteen so that there was somewhere for workers to eat other than the pub

RSAF Canteen
RSAF Canteen

Right from the outbreak of war there was a campaign for temperance. Some wanted all pubs closed and total prohibition. Drunkenness cost money in lost production and shoddy work.   Lloyd George increased the duty on beer and the alcoholic content was decreased. There was a ban on running up a slate or buying rounds for others. There was even a music hall song about the state of the beer:

Lloyd George’s Beer, Lloyd George’s Beer.
At the brewery, there’s nothing doing,
All the water works are brewing,
Lloyd George’s Beer, it isn’t dear.
Oh they say it’s a terrible war, oh law,
And there never was a war like this before,
But the worst thing that ever happened in this war
Is Lloyd George’s Beer.

Buy a lot of it, all they’ve got of it.
Dip your bread in it, Shove your head in it
From January to October,
And I’ll bet a penny that you’ll still be sober.
The importance of the RSA was underlined when King George V visited in April 1915.

There was some ill feeling in the area that young, fit single men were avoiding the armed services and ‘hiding away’ in the RSAF. Workers in the factory were issued with special badges to show they were doing war work.  In 1916 orders were given to de-badge all unskilled and semi-skilled workers under  the age of 41.

Industrial relations were not always good. In May 1917 600 members of the AEU went on strike. This was opposed by the Worker’s Union, who organised counter demonstrations. The strike ended within the month.

In January 1918 floods turned the area in a lake. The factory could only be reached by wading and work had to be suspended.

 Flood near RSAF

At 11 o’clock on 11th November 1918 the official notice came that the war was over. The RASF closed down and everyone came out to celebrate. The end of the war brought an end to overtime and some over-age men were given notice. The factory was ordered to concentrate on repair work only. By Easter 1919 the number of workers at the RSAF had been reduced to 2,700 from a war time high of 12,000

The Two Brewers

This week (Wednesday) saw the 75th anniversary the bombing of the Two Brewers pub in Ponders End.

During the night of 30th September 1940 twelve heavy explosives and three oil bombs fell in Enfield. Incendiary bombs also fell in northern Enfield but they landed on open country and did little damage. Most of the High Explosives fell in Ponders End demolishing shops and severely damaging the Congregational Church in the High Road.

The worst incident was when a high explosive fell on the Two Brewers public house on the corner of South Street and the High Road.

The Two Brewers public house
The Two Brewers public house

The bomb fell just before closing time. When the air raid sirens went off many of the customers took shelter in the pub cellars.  Some were killed outright; others were trapped in the wrecked building. Heavy Rescue teams worked all night to free the injured and recover bodies. In all 20 people were killed. Seventeen bodies were recovered.

After the war the site of the Two Brewers remained empty.

Ponders High Street showing bomb site
Ponders End High Street with bomb site

Local resident Cliff Short who was 14 at the time was a runner for the fire brigade and helped pull bodies out of the wreckage. He campaigned for many years to have some kind of memorial to those who died there.

On 30 September 2014 a memorial garden was opened on the site.

Cliff Short then 89 was there to officially open the garden along with Alfred Dust the son of the only man pulled out of the wreckage alive.

Opening of the Two Brewers memorial garden
Opening of the Two Brewers memorial garden