Air Raid Shelters

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.

LIBRARY GREEN 1939
Digging trenches on the Library Green Enfield 1939
Oakwood School shelters
Oakwood School shelters

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.

Surface shelter Forty Hall
Surface shelter Forty Hall

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.

Anderson shelter
Anderson shelter

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.

Instructions for assembling the Morrison shelter
Instructions for assembling the Morrison shelter

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.

Plan
Click on plan to see details

Bombing and censorship

The start of the V1 bombing campaign was severe blow to morale. At first the government censored any reference  to the ‘flying bombs’. On16th June Herbert Morrison announced that London was under attach by pilotless planes. The scale of the destruction was hushed up in order to maintain morale and prevent the Germans from knowing how effective the campaign was. There were strict rules about reporting bombing incidents. There was to be no mention of the name of the road until  three months after the incident. Photos of bombed streets had to show an intact building. All identifying signs had to be removed.

Queen Anne's Place showing censor's marks 1944
Queen Anne’s Place showing censor’s marks 1944

Chesterfield Road School was hit by V2 in June 1944. Below is the ARP report:

Date: 27.6.44                          Message Time: 12.25             Incident Time: 12.07

Particulars:     Damage ‘Fly’ Ordnance Road/Chesterfield Road.

Date: 27.6.44                          Message Time: 12.40             Incident Time: 12.07

Particulars:     Damage to school/Chesterfield Road.

Date: 27.6.44                          Message Time: 12.58             Incident Time: 12.07

Particulars:     Further details: – Part of school collapsed (some trapped).

Remarks:        Extensive damage at Bradley Road/Preston Road. Casualties: 3 serious.

 One of the fatalities was a teacher from the school. The Log Book from the school was found in the rubble after the air raid.

Chesterfield Road School
Chesterfield Road School

Chestefield Road School Log Book found in the rubble after the air raid

Carpenter Gardens was another place to be hit by a V2. ARP report:

Date: 7.7.44                            Message Time: 01.09,01.39,02.17Incident Time: 01.05, 01.09,                                           Particulars:     Report ‘Fly’ Highfield Road.

 Big incident. Fire Highfield Road/Carpenter Gardens. 765131. Details to                          follow.

 Many casualties-Some trapped. Mutual assistance in operation. School  damaged and food shops. Rescue 50 reports. Gas main on fire. Rescue operations still proceeding. Homeless accommodated in rest centre.

Remarks:        Killed: 8; Seriously Injured: 10; Slightly injured: 14; Missing: Unknown.

The report makes grim reading.

Wakefield Road, Southgate. Trying to repair the damage caused by a V2
Wakefield Road, Southgate. Trying to repair the damage caused by a V2

V1 & V2 Rockets

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.

Dunlop Rubber Company 3rd March 1945
Dunlop Rubber Company 3rd March 1945
Cuckoo Hall Lane 10th January 1945
Cuckoo Hall Lane 10th January 1945

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