On Monday 21st September the Archive will be holding an Open Day. This is the second open day held as part of the Enfield at War Project. The first one back in January was a great success and we hope this one will be too. We will have on display the WW1 books of remembrance and you will be able to see our new interactive kiosks in action.
The interactive kiosks will have pictures and test illustrating what was happening in The Borough of Enfield during both World Wars. On them you will also be able to listen to the reminiscences people who lived in Enfield during World War Two and watch a filmed retelling of the shooting down of the Cuffley airship in 1916
As part of the project we have been producing war related walks around the Borough of Enfield. The latest one has just been published. This is for Edmonton in the Second World War. You will be able to pick up one of these and the others at the open day. There will be one more walk to come for the Enfield area which is due soon.
We would also like to hear from anyone who has personal memories of the Second World War as we are collecting oral histories for the project
The soldiers fighting in Burma, Malaya, Hong Kong and other parts of the Far East are often described as the Forgotten Army. Events in this theatre of war were certainly reported less frequently than events in Europe despite local residents being involved.
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7th December 1941 was followed by the attack on Hong Kong on 8th and the sinking of the British ships HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales on 10th. The Enfield Gazette for 12th December 1941 made no mention of Pearl Harbor but in ‘Late News’ reported that 2000 survivors of the Repulse and the Prince of Wales had reached Singapore. There was also a report that the Japanese had landed at Kuantun on the East Malay coast.
The 1st Middlesex Regiment (The Diehards) were at Hong Kong. The ‘Diehards were a machine gun battalion. According to the Enfield Gazette 500 of the men came from Edmonton, Enfield and Tottenham. All but a hundred of them were regular soldiers who had been abroad for ten years. A dozen school friends from Bush Hill Park had joined the ‘Diehards’ together in the 1930s. Two were brothers Reg and William Law of Sixth Avenue. Another BHP resident was Fred Carpenter who wrote four long letters a week home to his mother in Third Avenue, providing news for the whole district*. On 26th December the Gazette reports that the defenders of Hong King were still fighting. News that Hong Kong had surrendered on 25th December had not yet reached home. In the edition of 2nd January 1942 the Gazette reports that the ‘Diehards’ and the Royal Scots were forced to surrender when the Japanese bombed the water pipe supplying the garrison.
For many families in Enfield that was the last they heard of their relatives for several years. Some families only found out what had happened to their relatives after Japan surrendered and the POW camps were liberated. Ray Stubbs, who lived in Southgate, wrote a book about his time as a prisoner of the Japanese. In it he described how it was two years before prisoners were allowed to write home. They were given postcards but had to stick to standard phrases such as that they were being well treated and had plenty to eat. When the cards were collected the Japanese guards burned them all in front of the prisoners. Stubbs’ was twice reported ‘missing’ to his family.
Some news did come through: Lance Corporal Wilfred Arthur Martin age 21 of the 2nd Battalion of the Cambridgeshire Regiment was reported killed in action on 25th January 1942. He was the eldest son of Mr and Mrs WJ Martin of Enfield Wash. He was educated at Enfield Grammar and had been employed as a dispatch clerk to WJ Spear & Sons of Brimsdown. Private Leslie Andrews, age 23, who was reported missing in January was found to be a Prisoner of War in Japan in July 1942. Before the war he had worked for Bellings. The paper quoted his parents saying they hoped he would be home for his twenty fourth birthday. Sadly the Commonwealth War Graves website shows an entry for Private Leslie William Andrews of Enfield Lock in October 1942. The parents of Corporal Kenneth Bethell on the other hand had no news from their son after a letter in October 1941 telling them of his move to Malaya. He seems to have made it home.
A tragic case reported in the Enfield Gazette on 13th March 1942 was of a woman whose life was so ‘shattered’ by her husband’s death in Singapore that she jumped into the River Lea with her four year old daughter so that they could be reunited. The woman was saved but the child drowned. The woman was found guilty of the murder of her daughter and sentenced to death. The sentence was later commuted.
After the surrender of the Japanese was announced there was a two day public holiday celebrated with parties and bonfires. Two Edmonton men witnessed the Japanese surrender. CFN (Craftsmen REME) J Matthews of St Joan’s Road saw the Japanese envoy’s plane land in Rangoon. It was escorted by eight Spitfires. The Japanese planes were ordinary transport aircraft painted white. Ordinary Seaman Leonard Warnell also witnessed the Japanese surrender: See Below:
In Edmonton Mrs Webb of Cuckoo Hall Lane made a flag featuring the ‘Angel of Peace’ which she presented to the Council. There was a victory parade which started in Bounces Road. Led by the Mayor, Alderman Preye, it included bands arranged by Walter Tyrell with contingents from ex-servicemen’s organisations, National Fire Service, Civil Defence, Women’s Voluntary Service, Nurses from The North Middlesex Hospital and many other organisations. The parade went along Fore Street to Pymmes Park where a service of thanksgiving was held led by the Reverend WB Davies of St Martin’s.
Most POWs held in the Far East missed the celebrations at home. As many of the camps were in remote areas it took time for them to be liberated. Even then some of the prisoners needed hospital treatment before they were strong enough to be flown home. It was also with the end of the war that local families began to receive official notice of relatives who had died.
*All three Bush Hill Park boys appear on the CWG website.
Recent research has unearthed the story of a local man Private (air mechanic) Arthur Tom Harman of Edmonton who won the Distinguished Flying medal for his part in shooting down a Zeppelin in 1918.
Arthur Tom Harman was born on 27th September 1894 in Edmonton. The 1901 Census shows him living at 2 Galmer Cottages, Maldon Road. He is living with his father Arthur, his mother Louisa and sister Louisa, age 3. His father’s occupation is given as a general labourer. Arthur Harman was a pupil at Latymer School. By 1911 his mother is described as a widow. She is working in a restaurant as a cook. The family are living in Balfour Road. Arthur is sixteen and has left school and is working as a printer. Prior to joining up he worked as a mechanic at the South Metropolitan Gas Company in Rotherhithe
On his service record he is described as 5ft 10½ in with brown hair and grey eyes. His next of kin is recorded as his wife Elsie Howard who he had married in 1917. She was the daughter of a Detective Sergeant Thomas Howard who was in the CID at Edmonton. He joined the navy in January 1916 and transferred to the RAF in April 1918.
The action for which he received the DFM took place off the north east coast on 5th August 1918. A squadron of Zeppelins attempted a raid on the coast. One of the Zeppelins was L70 which was one of the latest X class on its maiden flight. On board was Fregattenkapitan Pieter Strasser Chief of the Naval Air Division. Two of the planes that went up to tackle the Zeppelins fired on L70. In one plane was pilot Major Cadbury and Captain Leckie and in the other Arthur Harmon and probationer Lieutenant Ralph Keys. Between them they succeeded in destroying the large German airship. It was actually Harman who shot down the airship while Keys concentrated on piloting the plane. The Zeppelin fell into the sea with the loss of all 28 of the crew. According to the Tottenham & Edmonton Weekly Herald the commander of the Zeppelin had a ‘record of baby-killing in England’. Due to a fault in the plane’s instruments Keys thought he was at 500ft when in fact he was a 50ft and commenced a nose dive. The plane crashed and both Keys and Harman were injured. Fortunately both recovered. The loss of Strasser who was the driving force behind the use of Zeppelins meant that this was the last Zeppelin raid on Britain during the First World War.
Over the last two years volunteers and staff at the Enfield Archive have been working to produce a list of those who died in the First World War. This has involved many hours searching through newspapers, school records and the Commonwealth War Graves website and matching names to addresses.
If there is anyone we have missed we would love to hear about it so that their names can be included. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 0208 379 2724 or write to us at Enfield Local Studies Library and Archive, 1st Floor Thomas Hardy House, 39 London Road, Enfield EN2 6DS. Or just pop in and tell us and you can see what else we hold about the impact of both World Wars in Enfield. We are open 9.30 – 5pm Monday to Friday. The photos are of a few of the local men who laid down their lives during the First World War.
Also added to the website (see link above) is the film of the dramatized re-telling of the shooting down of the Cuffley Airship which was brought down by William Leefe Robinson in 1916.
The Enfield at War Open Day took place on the 10th January at the Local Studies Archive in London Road. About 150 people attended to view our photos and other war time material such as bomb maps, ARP records, newspapers, diaries and other ephemera. The large bomb maps proved to be of particular interest.
More people were identified who are willing to be interviewed about their memories of Enfield in the Second World War.
Over 50 people saw Colin from Spectrum Drama give his performance as Cecil Arnold a reporter who saw the Cuffley airship shot down. It was also the last weekend of Enfield Museum’s First World War exhibition on the the ground floor of The Dugdale Centre.