Bombs dropped in the ward of: Lower Edmonton
Total number of bombs dropped from 7th October 1940 to 6th June 1941 in Lower Edmonton:
- High Explosive Bomb
Number of bombs dropped during the week of 7th October 1940 to 14th of October:
No bombs were registered in this area
Number of bombs dropped during the first 24h of the Blitz:
No bombs were registered in this area
Memories in Lower Edmonton
Read people's stories relating to this area:
Contributed originally by Julian Barrett (BBC WW2 People's War)
As I was only 3 at the outbreak in September 1939 my strongest memories are of the latter stages of the war.
So I have no recollection of September 3 even though I have two memories from earlier: one was to do with a visit to the seaside, but the other was relevant to this account because we visited relations in Southampton over a Bank Holiday (probably Easter '39) and my father and a couple of cousins were playing around with the wireless. They stumbled across a foreign station which was probably German and I recall being petrified and bawling the place down. Which shows the effect of propaganda on even the young: I had no idea of who these 'Germans' were other than that I had good reason to be frightened of them.
Later I learned that on the morning of 3 September, my mother was returning from church when the air raid siren went following Chamberlain's broadcast announcing the declaration of war. Apparently she was about a quarter of a mile from home and by her own account ran in a panic faster than she had ever done before or subsequently.
We lived in Edmonton, North London, and though this was not directly in line of air attack we were sufficiently close to Lea Valley industry and the East End for me to have a recollection of the Blitz. I remember being woken night after night and carried by my father to a neighbour's Anderson shelter, with constant noise from the bombs and ack-ack guns (there was a battery nearby on the pre-war Saracens' rugby ground), while the dark sky was pierced by the searchlight beams.
This was comparatively early in the war so this shelter was just that, a hole in the ground covered over with corrugated sheeting and earth, with a cold, damp and gloomy atmosphere. Later I would occasionally stay a night or two with my great-aunt and uncle who lived a mile away and by then they had installed bunks with some bedding and had tried to create a little comfort with a small rug and a drape over the entrance such that these visits were quite an adventure for a small boy.
In 1941 the bombing continued but was not as intense, and it was time to start school. There would be occasional daytime scares but I cannot recall my trips to or stay in school being severely disrupted by air raids. My abiding memory is of the long tedious walk generally accompanied by a cousin (my mother had had a second son the previous year and was pregnant again) to the convent in Palmers Green, I was not a happy walker at this time.
Shortly before that, however, there had been a family crisis the full measure of which I only learned many years later. I had an ear infection which would not clear up and which puzzled our family doctor. Eventually he sent me to the North Middlesex Hospital where I was given M&B (I believe), the seemingly magic cure-all of the time and kept in a room at the end of a large ward away from all other patients, my parents were not allowed in the room, they could only wave through the glass partition from several yards away. Although I was in a half-drugged state it was very frightening but probably not exceptional for that time. What was different in wartime was that staffing in hospitals was difficult, and not all nurses in civilian establishments were of a high calibre.
On one occasion I had wet the bed and the Matron (or Sister, I did not know which) called me all the names under the sun and gave me a thorough verbal going-over. After 7 or 8 days of this, apparently my parents were informed that I had 24 hours to live which must have been acutely distressing for them.
However, that same night I coughed with an unusual sound. I had suppressed whooping cough and after this I was moved to a children's ward, stayed another couple of days, went home and the infection took its course.
My life took on a steady routine as it did for many others as the air raids receded. In late '42 we moved to a rented house in Southgate, the owner having moved out to live with his mother in the safety of the country for the duration of the war. I continued to travel to school in Palmers Green but now by bus, usually on my own, though friends would join en route. Nothing out of the ordinary then, but almost unimaginable for a 6-year old today.
My main memory of the buses was of many lady conductors, still something of a novelty then, and the restricted view from the windows: there was a small clear diamond only, the rest of the glass being covered with a tough gauze to minimize shattering from bomb blast.
As in hospitals, so in schools staffing was difficult and the quality was patchy to say the least. In spite of this, in spite of the fact that there were some teachers who were fishes out of water, I and many like me were taught by some wonderful people who, having known better times pre-war, could not have found life easy and yet they were able to impart a love of learning and school in general.
In my case I made great strides and eventually at the age of 7 went on to the Preparatory section of a grammar school in Finchley, mostly with 9-year olds and remained the ‘baby’ for another 6 years. This pushing of children into older groupings was not unusual at that time.
At the ‘big’ school we developed a bravado, such that when an occasional air raid siren went off we had the option of making for the (brick) shelters in the grounds or staying in the classroom, and mostly we stayed put.
In 1944 came the pilotless flying V-bombs and I remember the papers being full of the awe which greeted these ‘robots’, just the sort of dirty trick you would expect the dastardly Germans to get up to. Certainly their spluttering low engine note was scary but no more so than the eerie silence which followed the engine cut-out and which meant they were falling from the sky and about to explode.
This was something we experienced at first hand on 1 July 1944.
It was a Saturday and my mother had done her shopping in the morning, but, when she returned, she thought the meat she had bought with precious ration coupons was ‘off’.
My father who had volunteered for the army in ’39 but was rejected as not being fit. had kidney problems which always gave him considerable back trouble and after two spells in hospital, in ’43 he had one removed. This was an almost life-threatening operation at this time and he took a long time to recover. However, he was a clerk in the old Covent Garden fruit and veg market and, on this Saturday, returned from work around lunchtime as was customary in most jobs. After dinner, as we called it then, my mother went back to the butchers. I and my brothers were playing in the garden, Dad was clearing up in the kitchen. The air raid siren sounded and shortly after we could hear a ‘buzz-bomb’ drone. Dad called us in, my younger brothers obeyed, I being of the very advanced age of eight, wanted to carry on playing, nothing had happened before, so why should it happen now?. There was a knock on the front door, it was my mother hurrying back. Dad rushed to the front to let my mother in, usually the man of the house was the only person in possession of a key, then returned to the back and almost dragged me inside bodily. Mum scrambled under the kitchen table together with my small brothers. I can still see her swagger coat spread out over the floor and her hugging the deep wicker shopping basket.
Still in arrogant mode I refused to join the babies. Our house was quite modern then, John Laing 1935 construction, with a lot of long rectangular glass panes in what were then innovative Crittall metal frames. The bomb’s engine stopped. Dad had his back to one of these windows by the sink, facing me and with a hand on my shoulder as a sort of protection. He said: ‘this is one of ours’, and seconds later there was a fearful explosion, together with a the clatter of glass, tiles, and falling masonry.
My earlier cockiness vanished in an instant. My young mind could not comprehend everything and I was convinced the bomb had landed directly on our house and was working its way downstairs and would explode again. With all 3 children crying in fear, Dad led us through the debris. The front door where Mum had been standing just a minute or two earlier was blown off its hinges, and we emerged into the street where already neighbours had gathered. We were led down the road to a friendly cup of tea but Dad, we learned later, had glass splinters in his back, still not fully healed from his two previous operations, and he passed out when he reached the street. And all in the cause of shielding me.
We lived on one corner of a crossroads, and the bomb had fallen on the diagonally opposite corner, demolishing a large three-story building of flats in which another family of five were all killed.
We went to stay with my grandmother in Edmonton for a few weeks. In the meantime, the windows were covered up, the roof had tarpaulin thrown over it, the door was re-hung. Then a government official inspected the damage, pronounced the house as unfit and in need of demolition. There being a shortage of labour to carry out this work it could not be done immediately. Which was just as well. My father and the owner contested this decision and 60 years later the house remains repaired and intact, which says something about wartime conditions as well as about bureaucracy at any time.
A few weeks later, with the horse having bolted, Dad decided to close the stable door and applied for us to be evacuated. This time mothers were allowed to accompany their children, in contrast to the difficulties at the beginning of the war when children had to be sent away without their parents.
Early on a Sunday morning late in August we trooped off to New Southgate station, and stood for a very long time (probably around a couple of hours, good preparation for my later National Service) in a very long queue. A rumour went down the line that we were going to be shipped to Cromer. Now I had no idea where or what Cromer was, and Mum’s grasp of English geography, after a sheltered upbringing in the West of Ireland was shaky to say the least. I had been learning Latin for a year by this time and ‘Cromer’ had a foreign sound to it. But that was a puzzle, why would we be going abroad, surely that was not allowed unless you were in the services?
The rumour persisted and it became clear this strange place was on the coast somewhere. At which I badgered Mum for us to go back and fetch my bucket and spade, which she made clear in no uncertain terms was not going to be allowed by the man (or men) in charge. How this rumour took root I shall never know. It was difficult enough with all the coastal defences for locals to gain access to towns by the sea never mind a gaggle of refugees from V-bombs.
Anyway, eventually we boarded a train which made a stately progress north and I remember seeing the brickworks which I was told were in Peterborough and I also remember the vast railway yards at Doncaster. I kept asking when we were going to be in Cromer, and not getting a satisfactory answer. Eventually we pulled into Leeds Central and were bussed out to Bramley, where we were gathered in a hall. Here the kind ladies of the WVS (as it then was) arranged cups of tea and allocated billeting with various volunteer householders.
The numbers kept shrinking as one after another family was fixed up until we were the only ones left. Apparently almost all the others were in groups of 3 at most whereas we were 4 and finding room for 3 children was proving near to impossible. In the end the organising lady, a Mrs Fieldhouse, a very natural Yorkshire soul took us in and for the next 10 weeks we all slept in the same room.
This period was relatively uneventful. I was intrigued by the fact that the back doors looked out onto the street where the washing was hung, whereas the front doors looked out over small gardens and wasteland. I made friends with local lads of my age and in general they were very welcoming of this rather reserved southerner.
When the school term was due to start I was told I would be going to the nearby ‘council’ school. This was almost exotic to my young ears, though I had a shock when the headmaster did not believe that I was 2 years ahead of most of my peers. However, he decided to give me the benefit of the doubt but said he would test me with some long division. I enjoyed arithmetic from the beginning and found a lot of fun in solving problems for many years after but on this occasion, I froze completely and I have no idea why. I was sure I detected a slight smile of satisfaction on the headmaster’s face at the comeuppance of this smarty-boots ‘intruder’. Whatever, I was placed amongst boys of my own age and became very bored as I was going over things I had left behind long since.
In due course, Mum couldn’t cope with being cooped up in one room in someone else’s house and eventually persuaded Dad to bring us home. The house was habitable, Dad had requisitioned a Morrison shelter which went into the dining room and while the end of the war was not certain it was nevertheless in prospect.
From my point of view evacuation had been a big adventure. Trips to Roundhay Park on the trams were a treat, the accents were fascinating to my southern ears, and I had been indulged by Mrs Fieldhouse and her friends and family, though it was another 30-odd years before I visited Cromer for the first time!
Along the way one memory stands out: one Saturday morning I barged into the kitchen only to be quickly ushered away. However, I had heard enough to understand that the husband of a friend of one of MrsFieldhouse’s daughters had been killed and I heard the word ‘Arnhem’. It meant nothing then but many years later I learned bout the fate of many Yorkshire Light Infantrymen at that failed bridgehead.
The remaining months of the war passed relatively quietly as far as I was concerned, though certain things stay in the mind: asking my Dad what would be in the newspapers in peacetime when there was no war to report, seeing him bring home his ‘cotchel’ every week; ambling home from school one day with a clear sky overhead and seeing a V-2 rocket blown up in mid-air a few miles away (which turned out to have been over Barratts sweet factory at Wood Green). seeing my aunt’s grief on learning that her Canadian airman boyfriend had been killed in a raid over Germany.
However, I suppose my time during the war was really characterised mostly by ordinariness and a little bit of luck. Two events afterwards, however, made a big impression.
The first was on the morning of Christmas Day ’45, Germany had surrendered in May and Japan had thrown in the towel in August. I usually walked to the church at Cockfosters where I had become an altar-server and would often be joined by one or other of the lads who lived nearby. We were down for the 11.30 Mass and as we emerged onto Bramley Road a small squad of German POWs was being marched in the same direction. They came from a camp which had been set up just off Cat Hill. We tried to keep in step but they were too quick for us. A few minutes later we arrived at the church and discovered that these prisoners were also at the Mass. This was a surprise, after all, weren’t these the agents of the devil as we had been led to believe? They were seated at the back under guard. Later during the distribution of communion they stood up and gave the most beautiful and moving rendition of Silent Night (in German, naturally) I had ever heard or have heard since. Here was a group of men we had been told to hate and yet even to my young and inexperienced ears they had presented something exquisite. I was not into any philosophical thoughts at the time but gradually down the years it taught me a lesson about the utter waste and futility of war, that we are all human beings, and all of the same race.
The second event happened a couple of years or so after the end of the war. The radio was on and a play was about to start on the Home Service. The opening sequence included an air raid siren. I was only half-listening but immediately I was riveted to the spot and broke out in a sweat of fear.
A sound about which we had become almost complacent through the war clearly had had a much deeper effect than we knew.
Contributed originally by closemansfield (BBC WW2 People's War)
Life became as normal as possible in a war situation food rationing provided many moments of exictement popular
items were in short supply, so when a shop had a supply of what was considered to be a luxury item word would spread like wildfire and a queue would form even if it were not true. Life became as normal as possible in a war situation, food rationing provided many Moments of excitement popular
I was still attending school and at lunchtime I would get on a bus and go to a transport café where my mother had arranged for me to have a meal all paid for. I disliked it intensely it was called Lils Café, and Lil never smiled she wore what I realise now were BI-focal glasses and her eyes looked massive particularly when she looked at me, I also disliked sitting with complete strangers being much smaller than they were.
On one occasion a friend and I went to the local park to swim in the pond and while we were thus engaged we heard roar of aeroplanes engines on looking up we saw a spitfire chasing a German aircraft. At that moment a warden run across the park shouting for us to take cover, my friend and I hurried to leave the pond but our feet kept sliding on the algae at the bottom of the pond. At that moment we could hear bullets hitting a school roof next to the park we finally left the pond, but that was my scariest moment.
People were now much more efficient in the ways of civilians at war; the highlights of their days were when they heard from loved ones in the forces overseas. It was now nineteen forty-four and there was much optimism among the population. The battle of Britain had been won, the Luftwaffe had stopped the nightly air raids, and the Germans were suffering in the Russian winter. Surely now the end of the war was in sight, little did we know what was to come? We very soon learned it was labelled the V1, the flying bomb. These were aircraft without pilots the noise from the engine was horrendous. I was to have first hand experience of this weapon. My family had stopped going to the communal shelter when the battle of Britain ended and things had quietened down we decided to stay in bed unless raids got worse. My sister had by this time joined the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) my brothers were abroad in the army my parents and myself were at home.
We had retired to bed and as usual the air raid siren sounded but where previously things had remained quiet, this time I heard a drone that got louder and louder until it sounded right overhead then silence. I wanted to get up but I could not move I lay tense waiting for what was to happen suddenly there was an almighty explosion and I felt a heavy weight cover the bed, the room was thick with dust. I jumped out of bed and I heard my mother screaming Bob are you alright, answer me I called out I was ok, but I was walking on plaster and glass and I was aware of how cold it was. We were lucky none of us was seriously hurt, my Father had gone downstairs before the Bomb struck and was about to open the back door when it came away from its frame and struck him at the side of his face. By this time all the people were out in the street trying to see the damage in the darkness, one old lady was kneeling in the road praying. Our next door neighbour run into my mother, crying help me it’s Sandra,
She was a three year old little girl and a piece of glass had sliced into her lip but amazingly she wasn’t crying I realise now she was in shock. The Emergency services were soon on the scene giving first aid to the injured and handing out hot drinks. Workmen were already boarding up windows and clearing debris from the houses, it was about 1am and everybody joined the workmen in getting the houses fit to occupy. But nobody went to bed that night; it had been a flying bomb that had dropped it had fallen about a hundred yards away from our house. The following morning people on essential work went to their jobs, everyone else stayed to clear the houses and street of debris including the children, who not realising the gravity of the situation thought it very exciting and anyway it gave us a day off from school. Gradually things got back to normality. I left school that year and was directed by the employment department to work in the Royal Small Arms Factory as a messenger between the departments of this vast factory, I felt quite grown up But slightly apprehensive. On my first day I was stopped at the entrance by a factory policeman who asked me for Identification once satisfied he directed me to the reception office.once inside I was escorted to the Managers office, where my duties were explained and a tall gangly youth was detailed to escort me round the factory to show me where certain departments were situated, as we were leaving one workshop there was a shout and an older boy followed us out and punched my escort in the face he then returned from whence he’d come. why didn’t you stop him hitting you I asked his face went Red and he mumbled a reply and carried on walking I then decided that diplomacy was the better part of valour when entering that department.
I soon learned my way around and carried out my messenger duties to the satisfaction of my superiors. I also discovered the Air raid warning system consisted of coloured lights, Yellow meant be prepared and Red was the signal to evacuate the department and take cover. On one occasion I was between departments when the Red light flashed and I heard the familiar sound of a flying Bomb. I ran to a brick shelter and stood at the door I saw it fly over the factory toward London its engine drowning any other sounds then soon after a second one followed. There were several Air raids that day and twenty flying bombs were recorded In London and the Home counties. During Air raids the managers were informed of where the bombs had fallen, anyone living in those areas could go home immediately.
Everyone working in the Small Arms Factory was issued with a pass to enter and leave, we also had to carry our Gas mask in a cardboard box, hundreds of people worked there the work force consisted mainly of women. The men who worked in the factory were either to young or to old for conscription. On reaching the age of eighteen men were called up for the armed services, women were not required to join the forces but they could volunteer and many did.
I enjoyed my work but at times I did not have enough to keep me occupied I had to sit in an office and wait for memo’s to deliver I became very bored and wished I could leave and work in the open air.
The following day was a lovely summer morning so I suggested to Derek a friend I met every morning, that we skip work and cycle out into the country he readily agreed so with spirits raised we set off cycling toward the Cambridge road. as we cycled we discussed what we would say to our employer the following morning.( continued )
7 We had been travelling for about one hour when we stopped for a rest and sat on a farm gate at the side of the road there were no houses in sight and we agreed this really was the countryside. Suddenly we heard voices coming from the direction of the adjacent field we looked to see some men building a haystack we decided to ask them if we could help. We got closer to them and realised they were speaking a foreign language and we felt very unsure of ourselves, we were about to turn away when a voice asked in perfect English what we wanted. I looked and saw a man sitting close by, I replied we would like to help build the Haystack you can if you like he replied but you won't understand that lot he said, pointing to the other men because they are Italian prisoners of war and cannot speak English.
Having given us this information we joined the men, who we learned were soldiers, and that he was the farmer. I suggested to him that they might escape he replied there is no fear of that because they are safe here and they did not want the war anyway.
The farmer then provided us with pitchforks and we joined the Italians building the Haystack. After a short time the Farmer blew a whistle and all the men walked to a large hut with Derek and I following. Once inside the hut one of the prisoners served what looked like hot water but was probably soup. He then opened a large tin labelled Spam and proceeded to slice up the contents and walking round the table placed it in the hot soup it looked awful but the men ate hungrily, my friend and I declined the offer to join them.
After lunch we returned with them to the Haystack, the sun was high in the sky it was a beautiful day and was the first time I had worked outside a building since leaving school we said our goodbyes to all the men and was about to leave when the farmer called to us to wait a moment he walked over to us and gave us two shillings each
(10 pence in the decimal system) we were thrilled and thanked him profusely because at our work in the factory we were paid fourteen shillings for a forty hour week, and at the farm we had worked about four hours in total. The experience at the farm made me realise how unhappy I was at the Small Arms factory and I was determined to leave I wanted to work outside to enjoy the Summer, and witness the seasons changing instead of being entombed in four walls every day. The very next day I applied for my release from the Factory and handed the letter to my superior he expressed surprise saying he was disappointed with my decision to leave, but he would submit it to the labour office. After work that day I cycled home feeling very happy and told my parents that I was going to change my job. I was nearly Fifteen years old and the news from the battlefields was good, but life at home was still very hard with people worried about their loved ones fighting abroad, rationing was still acute and we still had the blackout blinds to avoid giving enemy planes a target. The streets would clear whenever BBC News was broadcast on the radio, and every one in my street dreaded to see a telegram boy cycle down our road, It usually heralded bad news for someone. (Telegrams were telegraphed letters in yellow envelopes used frequently by the War office to inform families of the fate of their loved ones) It was in fact a Telegram that informed my Parents that my brother Harry was missing in action. My mother collapsed into my father’s arms.
The bad news soon spread and neighbours rallied round to give support to my family.during the following weeks my mother lost a great deal of weight and looked very ill My father and I did all we could to console her.
Contributed originally by closemansfield (BBC WW2 People's War)
One day there was a knock at the door I opened it to see a Telegram boy standing there my mother was in the kitchen and had not heard the knock, I felt the colour drain from my face and I remembered how my mother had reacted to the last Telegram. So I took the envelope offered to me and hesitated before ripping it open, tears streamed down my face and I ran to where my mother stood holding out the letter for her to read my brother had been found with another Regiment and would be coming home on leave. I ran outside and told all my friends, who in turn told their parents, and in no time at all
All our friends and neighbours were embracing my parents who were shedding tears of joy. The news seemed to cheer everybody, and I saw my parents smile for the first time in many weeks.
Life for my family returned to normal, I had been waiting at work to hear if I would allowed to leave my employment, and when a secretary told me I was wanted in the office, my heart raced with anticipation, I hurried to the office where the manager met me at the door his face gave no indication of what I was to hear. I'm sorry son he said your release has been refused, I hope you change your mind and stay because you have made good headway in your work, but I've noticed how miserable you have looked lately, so don't give up, apply for your release again in a few weeks.
I left the office and walked slowly back to my post dejected but still determined to leave.In fact I was refused for a second time, but after several more weeks at the third attempt I was allowed to leave.
My Grandfather and uncles had all been Bricklayers, so it seemed natural to my father that I become a builder. I went to the labour exchange and showed them my release papers from the factory, and told them I would like to work in the building trade. They sent me to a local builder short of labourers, I was started immediately because all able bodied men were in the forces. I was very thin as a lad and not very muscular, so when my employer loaded this massive builders barrow and told me to push it about half a mile through traffic, I was to say the least nervous. I struggled with the weight
And found it difficult to maintain a straight line. I arrived at the nominated address one hour later feeling very tired The tradesmen were waiting for the materials I was transporting, and were not very pleased at having to wait. I continued my work with the builders, and one day I went with some tradesmen to work on bomb damaged houses. a V2 Rocket had hit them, these were the German follow up to the V1 flying bomb, and could not be seen nor heard, they just fell from the sky.
One of my tasks was to make tea for the men also to light the fire. It was on a very cold January day that I crossed the road where we were working to fetch some fire wood from a bomb damaged house I was in there for about ten minutes. I left the derelict house and was halfway across the road when there was an enormous crash with dust and debris flying every where. I ran in fright, and turned to see what had happened, to my amazement the house had completely collapsed, had I waited there any longer I would have been underneath the rubble. That was my luckiest day.
The war in Europe was now near its end our forces had bombed the rocket sites so our homes were safe The Germans were retreating and trying to end the war by sending leading members of the Nazi party to try to engender terms suitable for them to surrender. Eventually on the 8th May 1945 the Germans surrendered, our forces in Europe started to come home.
In my family we waited to see my brother Harry who had been missing, we knew he was on his way home,My brother Arthur was in Burma and that war was still being fought so we would have to wait longer to see him. My sister Joan was stationed in Colchester so she came home on leave immediately.
Every one in Britain came into the streets cheering, hugging each other, some crying with happiness, but the celebrations could not be held officially till Japan surrendered.
It was a Saturday morning when looking out of the window of my house, I saw a soldier walking down our cul-de-sac I felt the blood drain from my face I called to my mother
Here’s Harry, Don’t tell lies she replied, for some reason I couldn’t reply which was unlike me. My mother hurried to my side and looked out of the window until he reached the garden gate then she rushed to open the front door throwing her arms around him and crying. His first words after six years abroad with the Desert Rats was don’t panic.
All this time I had not moved I was just staring, Because I suddenly realised that I did not know him I was eight when he joined the army, I was now fifteen. I did not know how to react to him. We said hello to each other, but he must have felt the same toward me because the moment passed we were like strangers.
Harry was affected by the war it was hard to get close to him, My father was closer to him than anyone. I regret to this day that I never felt at ease with him, I believe the age difference was the probable cause. Harry was demobbed (left full time service in1945) but still had to serve 5 years in the Territorial Army, during that period he was again called up for the Korean war, but after having his medical he was discharged as being no longer fit for further military service.(Korean War: 25-6-1950 ---- 8-7-51. 25000 Americans killed. UN contingents 17000 men killed. Total number of people killed around 4 million)
Japan officially signed the surrender documents in September 1945. Arthur came home as did all our remaining troops abroad, and street parties were held throughout the country. People now had the task of rebuilding the country and their lives
I was still employed at the bomb damaged house opposite the collapsed building from which I had a lucky escape, one day I was called up stairs to where a carpenter was working installing new floors. He was sitting on the floor joists of a bedroom from where he asked me to hand him some nails, he warned me to walk carefully on the open joists, as there was an eight feet drop below. As I carefully stepped on to the first joist carrying the nails, the carpenter addressed me, I looked up in the middle of my next step forward and missed the joist. I fell between the joists, as I fell I tried to save myself and my arms became wedged between two joists Taking the skin off both arms my legs were hanging in the room below. The carpenter shouted for help, and the other workmen ran up and lifted me back on to a safe floor. While recuperating at home my parents suggested that I should leave that job I readily agreed. My father applied on my behalf to the local authority Edmonton Borough Council, who built houses using direct labour and eventually I became an indentured apprentice Bricklayer, and as such was not allowed to undertake any labouring work. I was required to attend Tottenham Technical College on day release. In winter students were required to attend College from 9am until 9pm, it seemed a very long day but I enjoyed it, at last I felt I was achieving something.
My employers paid for any tools I needed, but you had to have a good report from the College otherwise you were expelled and subsequently lost your job. I made many friends as a student and my social life changed as a result. My first wage as an apprentice was sixteen shillings and eight pence per week, but as all my new friends were paid likewise our social life was usually activities that did not need large sums of money. As a teenager and working I started my young adult life, (18.3.1946) but thats another story.
Postscript: When my father died in 1979 I realised I knew nothing about his younger life, I felt sad, and decided to write a factual account of my life as a child. For my Sons and Grandchildren God bless them.
Bob Hooper 23rd May 2005.
Contributed originally by CardboardShoes (BBC WW2 People's War)
When the war began I was due to take the "Scholarship" and became entitled to attend a grammar school, as all my sister had done.This was in Edmonton, North London. At the same time the evacuation of all schoolchildren from London was to take place. My mother refused to allow me to be evacuated. As the youngest of six children she thought it would be far better, if we were to be bombed, for us to die together rather than for one small boy to be left on his own. I cannot think that she was wrong.
As the schools left London with the evacuees I did not go to a grammar school: in fact for much of a year I did not go to school at all. There were very few other children to play with and I roamed around the parks and spent a lot of time in the public libraries, where there did not seem to be any restriction on what books I borrowed. After about ten months, children began to drift back into Edmonton and schools began again, in a small way. I remember one starting up in someone`s house, and then I was enrolled in a Central School which seemed to have a new sort of curriculum, in that instead of Latin and classical subjects there were commercial subjects like book-keeping, typing and shorthand for those who were destined for office work, and machine drawing and suchlike for the factory fodder. I chose the office subjects.
About the same time as this drift back to Edmonton, the Blitz started and the Alcazar cinema in Edmonton High Street, where I saw my first film, was completely destroyed. A lot of bombs fell on Edmonton and even more on the Tottenham indistrial estate, where my father worked as a toolmaker. Most nights we slept in the Anderson shelter in our garden, which I hated. It was damp, over-crowded and smelly: the only heat was from an oilstove which was another discomfort. After a while, like most people, we stayed indoors and only went out to the shelter if there was a particularly heavy raid.
I do not recall being frightened during the Blitz. I was probably too young and most children take it for granted that they are going to live for ever. But one night we could hear German `planes overhead among all the anti-aircraft guns. German `planes had a special engine note which we had all learned to recognize and their bombs hd a gadget attached to one of the fins that sounded a high-pitched whistle as it came down, always, it seemed, as if it was making straight for you. Psychological warfare. As I say, on this particular night it did strike me that this was not some kind of a game. I had the conscious thought that men were flying above who were trying to kill me.
During the day I cannot remember anyone going into their shelters. What I do remember are the dogfights: some time in 1940, I think September, one gorgeous sunny afternoon I was out in the street with another boy. There were no cars in streets then and we were standing in the middle of the road watching Spitfires attacking German `planes. It was like a film because `planes did not flash by as they do now: guns were banging away in the local parks and spent machine bullets were bouncing off pavements and smashing into roof tiles. It never occurred to us that we should not be there and then a window went up and Jimmy`s mother stuck her head out and shouted to us, "Jimmy, you little bugger, come in here. Do you want to get run over?"
Most of the time we just lived our lves. It must have been my mother who had the worst of it, juggling the food, the rationing and all the rest of it. My brother had joined the army at the start of the war and at the time was guarding Hornchurch aerodrome, my four sisters were at work and wrote, or did not, to their various boyfriends. I cannot remember the day-to-day events. What you do remember are snapshots.
One was a stick of bombs being dropped across our street. A German bomber was caught in searchlights and let go his bomb load to escape, the whole line of them went acrosss four streets and Pymms Park and two of the houses in Warwick Road. In the morning that end of the street was blocked off by heavy demolition men, and I had to go round the other way. When I got to school the first thing was the ritual of marking the register and my teacher read out the names. When she got to the boy who lived in the bombed house I can still hear my voice piping up, "He won`t be coming to school any more, Miss. He was killed last night." I can remember her face as she looked at me, and said, very thoughtfully, "Are you sure?"
"Oh, yes Miss, the men digging his house out told me that everyone in it was dead."
When I still roamed around the streets during the day and there was an air-raid warning, quite often women came out of their houses and took me in to the shelters. They seemed to be old to me, but looking back they were not much more than thirty-odd. I suppose that they missed their own children. Occasionally there would be a milkman down there as well, who would have tied his horse to a tree or railing.
Another memory I have is of my father who worked in a factory on the Tottenham industrial estate. He was a toolmaker and like all the men of non-military age became one of the street`s fire-watchers. As the raids became more and more frequent there were a lot of fires to watch. Now, when my father came home from work, he had a little ritual. He changed from his work clothes and washed very thoroughly, getting rid of the dirt and oil of his day, so that when he sat down to his evening meal he was a new man, so to speak.
On this evening, just before he sat down to eat, there was a knock on the door and the chief fire-watcher, Mr. Lagdon, had called for "Mac" as my father was known, to take part in a fire practice that Mr Lagdon had arranged. Mr.Lagdon seems to have been a self-appointed chief and I don`t think my father thought much of him. I once heard him refer to Mr.Lagdon as "all teeth and trousers".
I was intrigued by this and when I went out to watch I was astounded to see my dour father lying full length in the gutter, holding up a hose-pipe towards a ball of newspaper marked "fire-bomb", while another idiot pumped a stirrup-pump up and down in an empty bucket. This went on until my father became aware that he was lying in a dollop of horse manure. He got up and said a few words of which one was "Lagdon". He went back home and slammed the front door so hard that the whole frame rattled. I ran across the road and knocked, the door was opened by my mother and before I could get in she held her hand up and said "Don`t you dare say a word." I didn`t.
Further along Warwick Road lived Mrs. Lemon whose son Johnny was a contemporary of my brother, they went to the same school and played football for the same team. My brother joined the army and Johnny Lemon went into the Royal Navy.
Sometime in 1942 I heard my mother talking about Mrs. Lemon, who had woken up in the middle of the night because she could hear Johnny called for her. She told several women and she got in touch with the Red because the Navy had nothing to say to her. The Red Cross could not help her either. It was months before she got a telegram to tell her that Johnny was missing in action and must be presumed dead. And, it was a lot longer after than, a year or more, before she learned that his ship had been sunk by the Japanese. When more facts came to light, it became clear that the ship he was on was attacked at the same moment as his mother had been woken up to hear him screaming. There were other stories like that during the war.
In 1944 the flying bombs started and after them the V2s. My closest encounter with them was whilst I was cycling to school after lunch down Wilbury Way. On one side was the high blank wall of the North Middlesex Hospital and on the other were allotments bordered by a wire fence. I recall nothing of any explosion but I came to with my head in the middle of some cabbages, and when I staggered back on my feet I found that I was in the allotments with no memory of how I got there. My bicycle was out in the road and when I got back, with some difficulty, over the fence, I saw that the handlebars and front of the frame were heavily scraped. It turned out that a V2 had come down in the grounds of Tottenham Grammar School, and that the blast had travelled down the roads that were roughly in line all the way to Wilbury Way, Edmonton.
Thinking about it now, the odd thing is that when I got to school I did not tell anyone of what had happened. I can`t think why - did I think that no one wold believe me - was I suffering from shock? But I remember being puzzled as to how I ended up in the cabbage patch instead of being slammed into the fence, or sent the other way into the brick wall of the hospital. I can only think that the blast lifted me some four feet in the air and then sent me another ten or fifteen feet sideways. All very odd. A mystery.
On the 6th June 1944 the invation of France took place and everyone knew all about it by the time that I got to school. The wireless broadcasts were on all day. Apart from cheering on our troops the main relief was that the rocket sites would be captured and the V2 attacks would stop.
At Easter 1945 I left school with the School Certificte and through some placement system I got a job as a junior clerk in barristers` chambers in the Temple, off Fleet Street, while almost all of my schoolmates went to work on the line at Fords.
A month or so after I began work, Hitler was dead and the war was over and the whole of London erupted in a kind of madness. I remember a couple of soldiers and some girls jumping about on the roof of an old taxi in Fleet Street, so that the roof caved in. I joined the crowds and got swept along the Strand and into Leicester Square. Someone was throwing sweets out of a window of South Africa House, and a couple of drunk RAF pilots poured whisky out of the top window of a hotel/restaurant while some old boy tried to catch some of it in his hat. I somehow got to Whitehall and in the crowd outside (I think) the Ministry of Health there was a shout as men came out on the balcony: one was said to be Churchill. He was far above me but it did look like him. I can`t remember how I got home that night.
A month or so later and I went up Middle Temple Lane inhto another great crowd where there was an open carriage with horses stationed at Temple Bar, abnd I saw Eisenhower and Tedder get in it to be trotted off to the Mansion House where they were given the Freedom of the City of London.
Contributed originally by BBC Southern Counties Radio (BBC WW2 People's War)
THE CAT KNEW BEFORE WE DID.
I suppose the very first incident of seeing a German plane was being told by my Dad to come and watch a dog fight between one of our boys and a German Plane one Saturday afternoon at the front gate of our house in Edmonton, North London. We watched this for a while and my Dad was chuffed to bits when our boy won.
Another incident I remember was at Christmas 1940. We had had our roof blown in during a German raid. Mum had made some Christmas Puddings and they were still boiling on the stove and not damaged but the kitchen was full of plaster and debris. Mum was in a right state and the whole war was beginning to make her ill. Dad made her pack in work to try to help her cope. It didn’t help that we had to sit in the air raid shelter night after night. The couple downstairs had bunk beds but we had to make do with chairs so we hardly got any sleep.
Our cat used to jump into the cupboard under the sink just before the raid happened. She knew when they were coming before anybody else did. Then we could hear them. It was a very faint and distant noise. A sort of jerking noise that got louder and louder. Then the searchlights would come on and the guns would start firing. They were just at the back of our house so you could imagine how noisy they were. One night the Germans dropped something like hot tar bombs which set everyone’s hedges alight in the street.
That was enough and my Dad decided that he would take us away from London. He wrote to his Father who was living just outside Rochdale and he managed to get us an empty house to live in. So the last night in London was spent with family in Finchley. I didn’t want to leave my friends but I had to obey. On the way to our new home in a small village called Milnrow, I had to sit up front with the driver of the removal van. When we got there he said that it would drive me mad to be in such a desolate place. For a young girl coming from London, he wasn’t wrong.
Eventually I was to do some war work for GEC Electrics. I had to clean and measure the Tungsten wire for use in valves for our bombers. I also had to take my turn doing fire watching in the evenings. This meant that I had to climb onto the roof via the fire escape.
This story was submitted to the People's War site by Keith HArtwell on behalf of Alice Macdonald [the author] and has been added to the site with his permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.
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