On Monday we held the second Enfield at War Open Day at the archives. About 60 people attended during the day.
We were able to show the new interactive Kiosks in action. These show aspects of the Borough during both World Wars using photos (including some 3-D images of guns from the Royal Small Arms), memories and videos.
One of the very large bomb maps for Enfield was displayed across several tables just outside the archive. We have three of these maps which record where the bombs fell in the Second World War. Joe Robinson gave a talk using the map as illustration about the bombings, especially the V1s and V2s which he has researched extensively. His findings can be seen on his website http://terrorfromthesky.com/ which is well worth a look for anyone interested in the flying bombs that landed in Enfield.
Also on display were ARP reports and lists of Civilian dead in WW2.
We put out copies of newspapers from both First and Second World Wars.
There were lots of ephemera from autograph books, ration books, cartoons and magazines. The archive’s collection of wartime photos was available for visitors to browse through. Some visitors brought in their own memorabilia to share with us.
Staff were on hand to explain the exhibits and to help visitors with questions about their family history. Several useful contacts were made for future oral history projects.
The general election of 1945 was the first since 1935. It was held on 5th July 1945 but the results weren’t declared until 26th July to allow time for the overseas forces’ votes to be counted. The popularity of Winston Churchill was so great (he had an 83% approval rating) that it was expected to be a landslide victory for the Conservative Party.
However voters were suspicious of the Conservative pre-war record, domestic and foreign. They were largely blamed for the policy of appeasement which had allowed Hitler to grow in power unchecked. Many remembered the return of soldiers after The Great War when they had been promised ‘Homes fit for heroes’ which had failed to materialise and the mass unemployment of 1930s.
The Labour Party under Clement Atlee were seen as supporters of The Beveridge Report which advocated a ‘cradle to grave’ welfare state and which had proved hugely popular with the public when it was published in 1942.
The policies of the Conservative Party which prioritised security were out of step with the public whose top priority was housing. With the end of the war Labour were seen as the party best able to rebuild the country. There was a degree of scare mongering form the Conservatives at the consequences of a Labour victory. Mr Bartle Bull claimed that a Socialist victory would mean throwing away everything they had fought so hard for. At a meeting in Oakwood School a man objected to the candidacy of Beverley Baxter on the grounds he was Canadian. Alderman Pinching said that this was a good thing as Mr Baxter could represent the views of the Empire. ‘If we don’t think in terms of Empire it is God help Old England’, he declared. Labour candidate Ernest Davies said that the main issues of the election were resettlement and reconstruction. The Labour party were accused of disloyalty in forcing an election before the war with Japan was won.
At a meeting in Hazelwood Lane Captain Malandine, the Liberal candidate was asked about sending refugees back to their own countries:
The main issue was housing. At a meeting at Southbury Road School Mr Bartle Bull was questioned by an ex- sergeant major who had lost a leg during the war. When he had first been demobbed he had been unable to find work. When he did he lost money having to go before medical boards. he had to attend 15 and was allowed only 9/- for the loss of a days work. His rent had increased from 15/- before the war to 32/6. There were some strange questions for the candidates:
There were three candidates in each of the local constituencies as follows:
Evan Durbin (Labour) *
Squadron Leader Geoffrey Sparrow (Conservative)
JA Ward (Independent)
Bartle Brennan Bull (Conservative)
John Danny (Liberal)
Ernest Davies (Labour) *
Southgate (then part of Wood Green constituency):
Beverley Baxter (Conservative)*
Captain Edwin T Malandine (Liberal)
Councillor WA Vant (Socialist)
There was a suggestion that the war hero Charles Coward would stand as a candidate in Edmonton but nothing came of this.
The result of the election was a victory for Labour. Labour won in both Edmonton and Enfield. Local people also won seats in other areas. Percy Daines of Chase Green Avenue won for Labour in East Ham North.
Mrs Mabel Ridealgh, a prominent member of the Enfield Highway Co-operative Society won for Co-op and Labour in Ilford North. The results were first reported in the late news section of the paper.
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.
Towards the end of the Second World War more and more reports appeared in the local newspapers about local men (I haven’t found any women yet) being awarded medals for acts of bravery. This is a very random selection taken from the Tottenham and Edmonton Weekly Herald and the Enfield Gazette.
Flight Lieutenant Albert George Willers from Upper Edmonton was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC). One of the actions he was cited for was in August 1944 when he attacked a train near Abbeville and his plane was damaged by anti-aircraft fire. Despite this he managed to fly his aircraft home with great skill and executed a masterly landing.
Colour Sergeant Major SA Brown, Royal Engineers was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for devotion to duty whilst serving in Madagascar. The son of Mrs Dearing of Harman Road, Enfield he was a civil servant before the war and volunteered at the outbreak of hostilities.
Wing Commander Adrian Warburton, DSO and Bar, DFC and two Bars was the most decorated reconnaissance flyer in the RAF. He was reported missing presumed killed in April 1944. He was the only son of Commander Geoffrey Warburton and Mrs M Warburton of Park Avenue, Enfield.
Pilot Officer RG Morgan of Colne Road, Winchmore Hill was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM). He was a former member of the Edmonton Air training Corps. He was an air gunner in a Halifax bomber.
Lieutenant Cyril Henry Bottell of Enfield was awarded the Military Cross (MC) for services in North West Europe. The citation was for an attack on a German Command post in Antwerp. Lieutenant Bottell led his men with great courage, leaping across a two foot wide parapet hurling grenades before him to gain entry. He was severely wounded in the stomach but continued to lead his platoon and then covered the withdrawal being the last but one person to leave the building.
Captain Ronald RD Wigley son of the late Mr TR Wigley and Mrs Wigley of Park Crescent, Enfield was awarded the Military Cross. He joined the army in 1940 and served from Alamein to Sicily. He was educated at Enfield Grammar School.
Flight Lieutenant Beadman, eldest son of Mr and Mrs H Beadman, partner in the firm of Henry Beadman and Son, Baker Street, Enfield was awarded a bar to his DFC for conspicuous gallantry while leading two squadrons of Mosquitos in a daylight raid on Germany. He was an experienced flyer before the war and joined the RAF at the outbreak of hostilities. He was one of five brothers who all served in the forces. A younger brother Sergeant Pilot EAB Beadman was killed in action in June 1941.
Sergeant Tommy Rose of Lea Road, Enfield, son of Mr FS Rose of Bridgenhall, Russell Road was awarded the Military Medal for his service with General Montgomery. He was educated at Lavender Road School.
Bombardier JC Pines of Enfield was awarded the British Empire Medal in recognition of his two and a half years’ service on the Dover cross-Channel guns. The Dover guns played an important part in the attacks on Calais and Boulogne. He attended Chesterfield Road School. Before the war he was a commercial artist.
Flight Lieutenant Dennis Hewitt Pruden from Winchmore Hill was awarded the DFC. The citation records that this officer has set a fine example of courage and devotion to duty.
Sapper Frank Robert Wheeler of Enfield was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for services on the Italian Front. He was commended for operating his ‘dozer’ in order to repair a vital road while being shelled.
Flying Officer Tony Whitehead of Monastery Gardens, Enfield was awarded the DFC. He was educated at St Ignatius College and was an active member of the Riverside Football Club with his brother Lieutenant Bernard Whitehead who served with the Chindits under General Wingate. A younger brother, Cyril was at Dunkirk and then served in Germany.
Captain Arthur Desmond Andrews of Enfield was awarded the MC for services in North West Europe. His coolness and devotion to duty undoubtedly saved the infantry from heavy losses and enabled them to fight their way through the cordon of enemy that surrounded them.
These are just a few of the local men who were awarded medals during the Second World War.
Conscription for women was introduced in December 1941. All unmarried women aged between 19 and 30 (later extended to 43) were required to register for war work. Women could join the services: The Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) or the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF). Although women could not serve in combat roles joining the services meant that women could learn a trade such as mechanics which would never have been open to them in peacetime. Women flew planes and staffed anti-aircraft guns amongst other tasks. Winston Churchill’s daughter Mary served in the 469 Heavy (Mixed) Anti-Aircraft Battery at Chase Side, Enfield.
The ban on married women working as teachers and nurses was lifted as they were essential to replace the number of men who had gone into the armed forces.
They could also work in industry or farming. By December 1943 one in three factory workers were women making munitions, planes, ships and other items essential to the war effort.
In Enfield women took over many postal deliveries. They helped run the British Restaurants and information centres. Women worked in increasing numbers in all the local factories, such as the Royal Small Arms, Ripaults, Belling, The Metal Box and many others.
Women also volunteered as fire watchers and joined the Women’s Voluntary Service (WVS) which helped with billeting evacuated children, providing food and clothing for bombed out families and providing emergency rest centres.
The Women’s Land Army was set up in June 1939. At its peak in 1943 there were over 80,000 Land Girls. Land Girls were employed at Forty Hall, Oakwood Park (see below)and other farms in the area.
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.
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.