One of the archive’s volunteers recently found an autograph book and a receipt book belonging to an Irene V Bridgeman in the collection. Both were from the time of the Second World War. The receipt book is handwritten with small newspaper articles of household hints stuck in. The autograph book has messages and pictures, some beautifully drawn.
We don’t know very much about Irene Bridgeman. She was born in 1927 in Wandsworth. She has put her address in the front of the autograph book as Firs Lane. Her parents seem to have lived in Firs Lane from the 1930s to at least 1964. Her parents were Frederick J Bridgman and Mabel Hurd who married in Longport, Somerset in 1913. Frederick died in 1965 aged 84 and Mabel in 1984 aged 78. Irene never married as far as we can discover and died in Cheltenham in 2002.
One of the drawings is signed by an Eileen Fifield and under her name she has put PGHS (possibly Palmers Green High School) so maybe the names belong to school friends. One is signed M Bridgeman which could be her mother, Mabel.
A couple of the pictures show women in the fashions of the 1940s.
There is a cartoon of soldiers and one picture with a quote from Winston Churchill.
If anyone knew Irene Bridgeman or recognises any of the other names in the autographs we would love to hear from you.
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.
As part of the Enfield at War Project we have been producing war walks for Edmonton, Enfield and Southgate. The Enfield Town First World War Heritage Trail is already available and now the next one has just come back from the printer. The Palmers Green to New Southgate WWII Heritage Trail is an easy walk that takes between 1½ and 2½ hours. It starts at Princes Avenue the site of the highest number of deaths in a single incident in World War Two and takes you through Palmers Green to Broomfield Park, Waterfall Road, Arnos Park, Bowes road ending up at the Grove Road Open Space in New Southgate. The leaflets are available from Enfield Local Studies Library & Archive, First Floor Thomas Hardy House, 39 London Road, EN2 6DS and will be distributed to all Enfield libraries. The map can also be downloaded from the Enfield Council website: http://www.enfield.gov.uk/info/1062/local_studies/3813/second_world_war_palmers_green_heritage_walk . WWII walks for Enfield and Edmonton will be available soon.
During the Great War the increasing numbers of wounded were treated first in France and then shipped back to the United Kingdom. Here extra hospitals beds had to be found. In Edmonton the War Office took over the infirmary of the workhouse in Silver Street and it was renamed the Edmonton Military Hospital.
The first wounded soldiers arrived at Edmonton Low Level Station on 14th May 1915. There were 139 including 98 on stretchers. They were met by large crowds. The sight of these men, some very severely wounded, caused a rise in anti-German feeling and led to stones being thrown at premises with foreign sounding names.
Some of the men who died from their wounds were buried in a specially set aside section of the Edmonton Cemetery.
The continuation of the war meant more hospital beds were needed and many of the big houses in the area were requisitioned.
Arnos House became a 68 bed military hospital and St Mark’s Institute in Bush Hill park provided 50 beds. In 1917 an emergency hospital of 40 beds was set up in Elm House, Enfield.
At Grovelands house there was a gas decontamination room in the basement as many of the wounded were suffering from the effect of poison gas. Roseneath and Tottenhall School in Southgate were both used as voluntary hospitals for the wounded. Those soldiers who had recovered sufficiently were allowed out but had to return to the hospitals at night. They were a distinctive sight in their blue hospital uniforms with white facings.
There were various entertainments laid on for the wounded troops such as the one at Roseneath in May 1915 when some young Winchmore Hill ladies staged a ‘dramatic entertainment’ which raised money for the hospital as well as entertained the wounded soldiers. 500 wounded soldiers were entertained at Pymmes Park in 1916 and there were fetes at Grovelands and Broomfield Park. Local cinemas reduced their prices for wounded soldiers.
Since we acquired new scanners staff and volunteers at Enfield Local Studies Archive have been digitising old negatives. Some of them we had already taken prints from but others haven’t been seen since they were taken. Thanks to advances in technology the quality of the images we are creating is much higher than previously. The most recent photos scanned from the old negatives show the terrible devastation of the bombing during the Second World War. Even those incidents described as ‘minor bombing’ in the ARP log books such as the one in Connop Road on 21st Match 1944 caused a huge crater and destroyed houses as well as causing injury to residents.
On 14th April 1944 bombs fell on Aldermans Hill and Broomfield Avenue. 40 houses and 25 shops with flats above were damaged. 3 people were killed and 1 seriously injured.
The Mapleton Road bomb was a V2 (described in the ARP reports as a ‘long range rocket’. It caused extensive damage to electricity and phone cables. People were trapped in the wreckage of their houses. Search dogs had to be deployed.
The last V2 to fall in the area landed on the sewage farm in Montague Road, Edmonton. One person was killed. Eleven days later the war in Europe was over.
At the time of the Munich Crisis when war seemed inevitable a programme of trench building began throughout the borough. From 1939, as part of the Civil Defence preparations, the local authorities of Edmonton, Enfield and Southgate began roofing over the trenches and building many structures for wartime use.There were trenches on the Library Green in Enfield and in Pymmes Park in Edmonton. There were Auxiliary Fire Service Stations at Pymmes House and Broomfield House.
There was a gun emplacement on fields north of Slades Hill and a searchlight in Pymmes Park. Although some Wardens’ Posts and First Aid Centres were housed in existing buildings such as Broomfield House and under the Methodist Church in Enfield Town many were purpose built. Tank traps were built on railways.
Air Raid shelters were built across the three authorities including a shelter at Weir Hall which still survives. The entrance is now covered by bushes and inaccessible to the public.
The majority of these structures were demolished at the end of the war.
Some survived for many years after. Some still exist.
We want to try and identify any that are left. If you know of the remains of a public air raid shelter, wardens’ post, pill box or any other Second World War structure please let us know.
Although Gallipoli is thought of as mainly involving Australian and New Zealand troops many other nations took part. One local man described to the Southgate Recorder that the troops were truly international with English, Irish, Welsh, Scots, French, Jews, Indian and Senegalese as well as the Anzacs.
Wounded & missing
British Empire *
* excluding Anzacs
By 1915 the situation on the Western Front was a stalemate. Churchill hoped to break the stalemate by forcing Germany to fight on two fronts. By capturing Gallipoli on the western side of the Dardanelles the Allies hoped to remove Turkey from the war and possibly persuade some of the Balkan states to come in on the Allies side.
It was originally intended to be a naval operation. The attack began on the 19th February 1915. Bad weather caused it to be abandoned after three battleships were sunk and others damaged.
The delay allowed the Turks time to prepare defences and re-inforce the troops.
On 25th April troops started to land. The Australian and New Zealand Troops forced a bridgehead at Anzac Bay. The British tried to land at five points around Cape Helles but were only able to establish a foothold on three before having to call for re-enforcements. French troops landed at Kum Kale after launching a feint at Besika Bay.
After this very little progress was made. Anzac Bay was surrounded by steep cliffs which kept the Australian and New Zealand troops penned up on the beach at the mercy of Turkish shells and sharp shooters.
Conditions were appalling. In summer it was extremely hot and in the winter months freezing cold. There was an inadequate supply of fresh water. It was difficult to bury the bodies of the dead due to the rocky terrain and the constant shelling of the Turks. Hot weather and putrefying bodies produced swarms of flies. This and the lack of clean water contributed to the spread of diseases such as dysentery, diarrhoea, and enteric fever. Of 213,000 British casualties 145,000 were from disease.
The end came with the evacuation of the ANZAC bridgehead and Suvla Bay (10th-19th December 1915) and the evacuation of Cape Helles(10th December 1915 – 6th January 1916).
We don’t know exactly how many local men were at Gallipoli. We have the names of some of those who died there:
Private John Robert Akers, 2nd Royal Fusiliers
Albert Howard Andrews, 6th Lincoln Regiment
Frank Gilderoy Batters
Sergeant Garnett Arnold Baughan, 1st Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
Private WP Bryant of the 1st Lancashire Fusiliers from Edmonton
JM Findlay Dickson son of RS Dickson of Palmerston Road
Geoffrey Frangcon-Davies, Honourable Artillery Company
Sergeant Austen Campbell Dent
Lance Corporal AG Dring, 2nd Royal Fusiliers
Victor Gadd went down with the ‘Goliath off the Dardanelles
Private WH Hartridge
Private SV Loveday, 21st battalion Royal Fusiliers
Jack Maller, New Zealand Army
Corporal William Ernest Miller, son of Daniel & Emily Miller of 6 Allandale Road, Enfield Wash
Ernest Verrill Nunn
Sergeant WJ Piggott, 1st London Field Company
Corporal Gordon Robinson, RAMC son of Benjamin and Mary Ann Robinson of 160 Chase Side, Enfield
Sub Lieutenant Eric Vyvyan Rice son of Sir William Rice of Grasmere, Bowes Park (one of six brothers serving in the armed forces)
Herbert James Wigg
If you know the names and stories of any others who took part in the landings at Gallipoli we would love to hear from you.
There will be a commemorative event to mark 100 years since the start of the Gallipoli campaign in the War Memorial Garden at Broomfield Park, Aldermans Hill on 26th April from 15.00- 17.00