A war veteran has described working at an airfield during the Battle of Britain and dodging bombs in Walthamstow 75 years later.

Norman Roach wasn’t evacuated from Chapel End School like his classmates on the outbreak of the Second World War staying behind to work with his father instead.

As a 14-year-old he helped transport any materials that could be detected by German planes from North Weald airfield in the build-up to the Battle of Britain in August 1940.

He worked around aircraft hangars disguised as semi-detached houses on Epping Road complete with painted on windows, movable hedgerows and fake chimney tops.

“You couldn’t tell until you were really close up that they were made of metal”, the 89-year-old said.

“I was never scared during that period because you were so busy you barely had time to think.

“After the battle I saw a load of smashed up Hurricanes that never got off the ground but no casualties, I wasn’t there for the raids.

“Two of the hangars were hit badly you could see straight through them.

“I never met any pilots because they kept to themselves but a lot of the workers at the base used to smoke and joke around at the local café. It was all strangely relaxed considering how much pressure we were under.”

Despite working on an active air base the closest he came to being injured was during a German bombing raid on Walthamstow on September 16, 1940.

At exactly 3.17pm sixteen high explosive bombs were dropped in a raid on the St James Street neighbourhood claiming the first Walthamstow life of the war in Hazlewood Road.

Norman was working at his father’s yard at the time.

He said: “The clouds were really low that afternoon, you couldn’t see if the barrage balloons were up. Just wires leading to the sky and disappearing.

“I was filling up a barrel of tar when I heard this awful metallic sound coming from behind me.

“I turned the tar tap off and started running. I only made it about half a dozen steps when it exploded.

“I was right underneath the first two bombs, I was actually running toward the second one when it went off.

“I will never forget it. I could hear it coming down swooshing through the air and not many people are alive to say that.

“It took out the last two houses on the street in an explosion of debris and plaster. Yet people somehow managed to drag an old boy out of it.

“I made it to an Anderson shelter and I was told a woman had been killed in the first blast. I remember feeling really cold from the shock.

“My father rushed back.

“He didn’t say anything but he looked pleased to see me because he knew I was working here.

“We stood there watching the people scurrying around the crater from over the fence.”

When Norman Roach came of age he served in the army as a specialist marksman in India and Burma.

He said: “On the last day before I shipped out my Dad advised me, ‘never volunteer for anything son’ but he didn’t have to say that, I knew.”

Norman Roach lives with his wife Joyce in St Johns Road, Walthamstow where they have helped raise one daughter, three grandchildren and 9 great-grandchildren.