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.
During the First World War local authorities were unprepared for air raids on civilian targets. Enfield Urban District Council did not provide air raid shelters instead advising people to stay in their homes. Southgate set aside parts of Bowes Road and Winchmore Hill schools as shelters. Edmonton allowed people to shelter in the Town Hall and later in the railway arches on Bridge Road. Some people constructed their own shelters in their back gardens.
With the advent of the Second World War local authorities were much more aware of the danger to the civilian population from air raids. Preparations began at the time of the Munich Crisis in 1938. Trenches were dug for people caught in the open to shelter in.
People used many existing structures as shelters: the Underground, caves, basements and railway arches. Companies were legally required to provide shelters for their staff. In January 1939 a programme of shelter building began. The open trenches dug at the time of the Munich Crisis were lined and covered over with concrete or steel. The standard varied greatly. Some were dirty, smelly and prone to flooding. One of the better ones was beneath the car park of the Regal cinema in Edmonton.
For private shelters there were two main types. The Anderson shelter was like a miniature Nissen hut made of corrugated steel and sunk three feet in to the ground in the back garden and covered in earth. Two and a quarter million Anderson shelters were provided by the government before the blitz. They were free to people earning less than £350 a year. They were prone to flooding and cramped but could withstand anything but a direct hit. By October 1939 Enfield had delivered 4719 Anderson Shelters to local residents.
For those who didn’t have a garden there was the Morrison shelter. This was a steel framed box which could be used as a table during the day. Although this provided protection from falling rubble and flying glass during the Blitz it was no use against the V1s and V2s later in the war.
At the outbreak of War it was assumed that a gas attack was almost inevitable. Local authorities had to make provision for dealing with mass casualties. The plan below was intended for a church in Southgate. The centre of the plan shows provision for 66 bodies and there is a designated bay for dealing with contaminated bodies. Fortunately the expected gas attack never happened and although there were deaths not in the numbers anticipated.
Between June 1944 and March 1945 a total of 35 flying bombs fell in the three districts of the present day London Borough of Enfield: seven in Edmonton, twenty two in Enfield and six in Southgate. The first V1 recorded for the area was on16th June 1944. It crashed near Ferney Hill farm in Hadley Road causing only slight damage to crops and farm buildings. The first V1 to cause serious damage fell in Baker Street. Twelve people were seriously injured and four others slightly hurt. About four hundred houses were affected by the blast. At first any mention of flying bombs was censored to avoid panic. The government also wanted to prevent the Germans knowing how much damage they were causing. September saw the appearance of Long Range Rockets (V2s) launched from sites in Europe.There was no warning of its approach. Nine fell in Edmonton, eight in Enfield and four in Southgate. The first V2 was a mystery. It is recorded in the ARP reports as ‘missile, type unknown’. Parts were found in Warwick Road and York Road, Southgate. The last V2 to fall in this area was on 27th March 1945. It fell on the sewage farm in Montague Road. It killed one person.
We are looking for people to share their wartime memories. if you have a story to tell please get in touch. Details are on the flyer right.
The existence of airships and planes brought the war to the civilian population in a way not experienced in previous conflicts. The number of street lights was restricted and others partly darkened. The first bombs dropped in the area fell on the night of 2/3rd September 1916. At about 1.30 am airship SL11 dropped bombs on the Stud Farm at Clay Hill killing three horses. Bombs were dropped at Worlds End Lane, Chase Road and other areas of Enfield and Ponders End. The airship was shot down by Lieutenant Leefe Robinson and crashed in Cuffley. From 1917 the Germans used the long range Gotha bombers for raids on the country.
We only have a couple of photos of bomb damage from the First World War. As well as the one above we have a photo of a nurse pointing to the crater made by a torpedo.
If anyone has any other photos showing the effects of bombing in the First World War we would love to see them.
The Enfield Town First World War Heritage Trail is now available from all Enfield libraries.