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Brian Flowers, RAF Association
Benidorm, Spain.

"A Small Boy"
A Small Boy’s Reminiscences of World War II in North London.

I was born in Edmonton, North London, in August 1938 and my parents, two sisters, brother, and I (the youngest) remained in North London throughout World War II, apart from two months that we spent with relatives in Batley, Yorkshire, in the early part of 1941.

From 1943 onwards, I remember seeing large formations of B17s, and later B24s, flying over North London on their way to Germany. The RAF Lancasters flew on night bombing raids of course, so I didn’t see them so often. German Air raids on north London occurred quite frequently, and if the siren went off whilst my sister, Valerie, and I were walking to school, we either had to run to school or run home, where we had an underground Anderson shelter in our garden. We used to paint pictures of Mickey Mouse etc. to pass the time in the shelter. Most housing estates in Edmonton had one or two houses demolished by German bombs.

In 1944 the V1s (Doodlebugs) started to fall on London. If we heard the unmistakeable sound of a V1’s pulse-jet engine stop, we knew that a loud explosion would follow shortly afterwards. I remember watching a Spitfire dive after a V1 and tip it over, so it crashed into the allotments near our house.

The V2s were much worse than the V1s because they flew at supersonic speed, so you heard them arriving after the explosion. Moreover, they carried much more high explosive than the V1s, and when one hit the Dunlop factory just across the road from our house in the middle of the night in March 1945, the factory was obliterated. Our house was badly damaged, but we all survived OK. One of my school-friends, who lived nearby, acquired a stammer due to the shock of the blast. Another V2 annihilated a whole housing estate in White Hart Lane (of Tottenham Hotspur fame), just down the road from our house.

American tank transporters used to roll along the North Circular Road through Edmonton on their way to or from Tilbury Docks on the Thames.  As small boys we called out, “Got any gum chum?” whereupon the American troops would throw us packets of chewing gum or boiled sweets. These were a real treat for us as we rarely received any sweets, which were not available in Great Britain during and for several years after the war. My parents kept chickens and grew potatoes in our garden, to supplement the meagre food rations.

My father was a cabinet-maker, so he worked throughout the war in a nearby furniture factory repairing damaged wooden aircraft, mostly Oxfords, which were used to train RAF pilots. He was also a member of the Lea Valley Home Guard Unit (Dad’s Army), which was a somewhat more efficient force than the one portrayed by the BBC TV series. He was fully equipped with his Home Guard uniform, a rifle, several knives, and a bayonet. 

“They don’t like it up ‘em!”

Brian Flowers