I am once again indebted to Steve Taylor for sharing these photos below. I recently posted a blog about an oval B.R.O. patch. Steve's battledress with Cornwall area title shows this Bomb Reconnaissance Officer (BRO) badge being worn along with an "I.W." which is assumed to be Incident Warden (a very early naming of the Incident Officer as it was to become, the script version of this worn above). The person also has a first world war wound stripe in red.
I saw this badge in the flesh and my gut reaction was that is was a private purchase Bomb Reconnaissance Officer sleeve patch. The style of construction and colours does tie into the Civil Defence Services during the war.
Update: see this blog for an identical badge in place on a battledress sleeve.
Thanks to Chris Ransted for sharing the images.
We've seen this fake London Transport badge before. It appeared on a Zuckerman helmet and also as a plain badge but here we have it with blue "enamel". It has the common rear associated with all fake ARP badges.
Sir Duncan Oppenheim (1904–2003) was for many years employed by British American Tobacco and rose to become the company's chairman. During the war he was a Civil Defence warden in London and painted a number of pictures relating to this. The one below is entitled "Boredom: Air Raid Wardens on Duty". Many of his pictures are held in the IWM archives.
It's well worth reading his obituary that appeared in the Independent.
A fine study of an ARP warden from Finchley. Early war bluette overalls with the lower red diamond and bar sleeve insignia. Behind him is a wall chart describing German incendiary bombs.
Interesting Warden's Household Register from the County of Warwick. Going by the A.R.P./W/2 notation on the cover I assume these were issued nationwide but they appear to be quite scarce. A warden's sector would cover a few streets and the details of the households in the sector would be noted down (there is also space for detailing the issue of respirators). Following an air raid incident it would be used to find out how many people were to be expected to be found at each address.
Currently doing the rounds are these fake helmet visors. Several have appeared on the tat bazaar this year. Usually they are extremely rare items to find. They are often attached to Zuckerman helmets but this sale has one on a warden's helmet. The usual dodgy sellers are flogging these items and they have all the hallmarks (the acid-dip staining being the prime forger's trademark) of the fake First World War tank crew visors.
Prices have been ridiculous on eBay and people are being regularly fleeced. Please do your research, join a few forums or Facebook groups to get up to date regarding a whole host of military fakes and forgeries.
A rare showing of the Civil Defence rainbow (more often seen on the armbands) on a WW2 helmet.
Currently up for sale on eBay is this enamel sign. There are quite a number of designs made during the war but these yellow ones appear to be particularly scarce.
These Cumberland badges would appear to have similar colours to insignia issued by the Civil Defence Services during WW2 and the later Civil Defence Corps. Several numbered versions are in evidence but to date no definite identification has been found. They may of course have nothing to do with Civil defence. If you happen to know more, please contact me.
I've been after a copy of Terence H. O'Brien's History of the Second World War - Civil Defence for several years. It was published in 1955 by the Stationery Office as the official history of Civil Defence in the UK and is a whopping 729 pages. The level of detail is remarkable. The planning for ARP from the 1920s and through the 1930s is particularly interesting. Every area of Civil Defence is covered and for those wanting the chapter and verse on the Civil Defence Reserve I've not read anything better.
My copy was a withdrawn edition from a library and was just £8 on eBay; a bit of a bargain for a book that is quite rare to lay your hands on these days. The first 180-odd pages are available to read on the Internet Archive website.
I have a section on the site where I post a few shots of WW2 Civil Defence re-enactors. The below was recently shared on a Facebook group and I did a little aging in Photoshop (noise, dust, scratches etc) and added a vintage style frame. Warden Hodgson's impression is most impressive.
I am indebted to Michael Hodgson for sharing the below images. The Royal Life Saving Society ran courses to train people in artificial respiration. Many members of the Civil Defence Services qualified via these courses. Upon completion a specific 2" square badge (introduced in 1941) could be worn on the right breast pocket of battledress and Pattern 71 tunics . On civilian dress a plain metal badge was also available (at least one photo shows the coloured badge being worn by a warden very early in the war - possibly issued pre-war - see photo towards the bottom of this page).
A small certificate was also issued (see below). Below are the Respiration Service "RS" badge and certificate issued to Eugene Jennings. The issue number on the box is of interest as it allows for some understanding of other numbered examples being wartime dated. It looks like the owner hand painted parts of their badge in red.
An author is seeking any information regarding the bombing of an ARP Depot in Bexley. There are a few photos pertaining to the event but alas very little detailed information. If you have any information about this, please send me an email.
With the potential of a high number of fatalities caused by the enemy bombing of cities, local authorities implemented schemes to handle the bodies. Volunteers were sought from local undertakers and those employed at mortuaries and cemeteries to collect bodies and transport them to makeshift mortuaries. Initial estimates of fatalities were in the hundreds per day.
Volunteers drove hearses (more often adapted vehicles for the purpose) with CWD written on them. Volunteers wore the same CWD letters on helmets. The below is assumed to be a supervisor but black helmets with white lettering are also known to exist.
It was envisaged it would be a dangerous job, out and about after raids, with unexploded ordnance and fires hampering roads etc. The role of the Civilian War Deaths groups isn't that well documented but it appears that all local authorities had schemes to deal with the envisioned high number of fatalities caused by enemy bombing.
Thankfully, we haven't seen too many of the fake ARP badges on the tat bazaar lately. However, this London Transport Underground Public Shelter badge recently cropped up. It was last seen stuck onto a Zuckerman by a well-known shyster of military fakes. The seller perhaps doesn't know the background to these ARP fakes.
Have to admit I'm a bit on the fence with this badge. It was claimed to be a WW2-vintage Fire Guard badge for Keighley on eBay. Measurements were 6.8 cm x 4.5 cm. It certainly generated a lot of interest and late bids took its hammer price to £91 (plus shipping).
It does have the look of a WW2 badge but a couple of items had me a little confused. Firstly, the use of a red thread is very peculiar on the backing. It seems odd (and a waste) to use such as colour on a bobbin thread. Hessian can be used as a backing but this is a tad coarse for the purpose. From the measurements given I assume it was intended for placement on the battledress pocket like the CD badge.
It may well be genuine and needs further research, and if the real deal it's a very rare survivor. Clearly a couple of bidders were in no doubt about the badge's veracity.
These images were sent in of a hand-cracked air raid siren made by Leach. I believe these were the type issued pre-war. A very similar one appears on a pre-war exercise photo (see bottom of this page). Although Carter sirens are often mentioned as being made during the war, little evidence currently backs this up.
An interesting little booklet of the Gospel of St. John with ARP logo to the frontispiece. Similar editions were printed for the AFS and other volunteer services during the war.
With the ever-growing threat of war building in the late 1930s, the government prepared the nation with a series of booklets and pamphlets. In January 1939 a guide was sent to every household detailing the various voluntary organisations that could be joined as well as information on the armed services and mercantile marine. Below are the pages relating to recruitment to the Air Raid Precautions Service.
If you're in the Leicester area you have just one week left to see the Leicester Blitz exhibition at the Newarke Houses Museum (free entrance from open 11:00 - 16:30). The exhibition marks the 80th anniversary of the bombing of the city. The exhibition closes on Sunday 4th July 2021, so get your skates on.
See a video of the exhibition
Perhaps understandably the Air Raid Precautions (ARP) services created in the late 1930s initially attracted few female recruits to their ranks. In spring 1938 Lady Reading, widow of a former Governor of India who had a long record of voluntary charity work, was asked by the Home Office if she could help set up an organisation to assist Britain’s local councils in interesting women in the work of these new ARP services. In June 1938 Lady Reading launched the Women’s Voluntary Services for ARP – a cumbersome title quickly shortened to WVS - with a radio broadcast on the BBC and the following January they featured prominently in the National Service recruiting guide distributed to every home in Britain.
Local authorities proved keen to make use of those women who volunteered for work with ARP and the organisation quickly outgrew its original purpose of acting as a recruitment agency, WVS members being involved in many aspects of the preparations for war. In February 1939 the WVS, recognising this change of role, amended its official title to the Women’s Voluntary Services for Civil Defence. When war broke out seven months later the WVS was already viewed by the government as an auxiliary service to ARP in much the same way as the WRNS, ATS and WAAF were to the armed services.
As the WVS’s original role was to encourage volunteers to join the ARP services, it was not envisaged that a distinct WVS uniform would be needed but, following the example of the ARP services, in November 1939 a simple lapel badge for wearing on civilian clothes (below right) was introduced for those who having volunteered for service had then undertaken a series of lectures "to prepare themselves to carry out their duties"
WVS greatcoat, felt hat, two-piece suit and maroon blouse
Within a few weeks of the Home Office’s June 1939 announcement that ARP volunteers were to be issued with uniforms, a standard greatcoat in the WVS colours of green and grey which was to be worn with a green felt hat, became available for purchase ‘by badge holders, at their own expense’. For indoor work members could also buy a simple green overall, the letters WVS embroidered on the breast pocket. By the outbreak of war a two-piece suit - designed by a leading fashion house - worn with a maroon blouse was available, Lady Reading encouraging members to wear it to raise the public profile of the WVS ‘if convenient and not distasteful to you’. On the right cuff of the suit jacket members wore an embroidered version of the WVS badge (below), a bar below indicating the county from which the member came.
WVS and evacuees
The WVS made their first impact on the nation with the evacuation of children from Britain’s cities in the summer of 1939. WVS ladies, many wearing their distinctive, newly-introduced uniforms were foremost in ensuring that the evacuation worked smoothly. At railway stations in the cities from which the evacuees left and in the country districts where they arrived, WVS volunteers laboured tirelessly to make this traumatic dispersal work as smoothly as possible. When the children arrived in the country WVS members not only used their local knowledge to arrange billets but helped both children and “foster parents” adjust to the new challenges caused by such an upheaval. That no children were lost or injured in the course of such a massive undertaking owed much to the work of the WVS.
WVS and welfare
As the war began to affect the whole country the variety of tasks the WVS was called on to perform multiplied. Having helped to evacuate children to the country they became involved in providing social clubs and nurseries there for mothers and babies. To provide for the welfare of the numerous service personnel moving about the country they opened canteens and refreshment stalls at the railway stations through which they travelled. At the beginning of 1940 as shortages of raw materials for industry began to be felt the WVS were asked to assist local councils with the running of their salvage campaigns and in many areas the campaigns were run successfully by the WVS for the entire war. When the autumn of 1940 brought air raids the WVS were to the fore in equipping and staffing the hastily-improvised Rest Centres established to help the bombed-out. With many losing the entire contents of their homes, the WVS provided advice at the centres on how to replace such essential wartime items as identity cards and ration books and how to go about obtaining compensation for air raid damage.
WVS assistance at air raids
As air raids struck Britain’s cities and the civil defenders worked all night to extinguish fires and rescue those trapped, mobile canteens, many bought with funds from overseas but staffed by the WVS, went to the site of air raid incidents where they served tea to cold, wet and tired firemen and rescue workers. In April 1941, when the Ministry of Food established the system of emergency feeding convoys known as Queen’s Messengers to be sent to badly bombed cities like Coventry, they were staffed almost entirely by WVS volunteers.
WVS bar brooches, berets and armbands
Although the WVS did not have a rank structure in April 1940 it introduced a series of bar brooches showing the posts held by members. Originally worn on the lapel of the uniform jacket they replaced the metal WVS badge which became the hat badge. With a green beret available as an alternative to the felt hat from February 1941, the metal badge was authorised for wear in this as well, the cloth badge worn on the arm suggested as a more suitable alternative. Members without uniform wore the brooch immediately below the WVS badge on the left lapel. By 1942 a need for economy in all materials saw WVS uniforms restricted to essential users who needed a permit to buy uniform items and much greater use was made of simple, locally-made armbands.
WVS Housewives' Service
The WVS quickly realised that many women willing to work as volunteers had domestic or family commitments preventing them from doing so full time. They could however help their local air raid wardens by having detailed knowledge of the residents in their streets and assisting with the care of casualties at an incident before the arrival of the first aid services. The title Housewives' Service for these on-call volunteers which originated in Barnes on the outskirts of London in early 1940, quickly spread throughout the London CD Region and later the country. By 1943 there were 265,000 members of the service nation-wide, their presence shown by a blue WVS card placed in a convenient window. On duty, especially in the flying bomb raids in the summer of 1944 Housewives Service members wore distinctive armbands.
WVS rationing, clothing exchanges and British Restaurants
Yet more jobs were undertaken by WVS volunteers as the war progressed, many connected with wartime rationing schemes. After the introduction of clothes rationing when new clothes could only be bought with a ration book, the WVS ran a network of Clothing Exchanges for children where mothers could hand in items their own youngsters had outgrown in return for larger items donated by other mothers. These exchanges also distributed gifts of clothing supplied by overseas well-wishers, most notably from America, where they had been donated or purchased by organisations such as the British War Relief Society. WVS members were at the forefront of the ‘Make Do and Mend’ drives which encouraged housewives to remake old garments into new ones. Food rationing, a feature of life from 1940, saw the growth of locally-run communal feeding establishments – which Churchill said should be renamed ‘British Restaurants’, which, almost entirely staffed by WVS members, offered busy war workers good, wholesome meals at low prices.
WVS Volunteer Car Pools
When petrol rationing removed private motorists from the roads the WVS helped organise and provide drivers for the Volunteer Car Pools (VCP) which permitted car owners a small petrol ration if their car was used as transport for essential war work. So varied was the work done by the VCPs that a VCP driver in Kent recorded that in one week she not only drove passengers on government business but also transported loads of salvage, clothing, rose hips and chestnuts as well as boxes of cod liver oil and orange juice for the children’s welfare food schemes. When the American forces arrived in Britain, the WVS helped out in many American Red Cross canteens, Aero Clubs and Donut Dugouts even though American legislation prevented them from wearing WVS uniform.
In September 1945 Lady Reading told members that with the war over, the government had agreed that it could continue in existence ‘for a further period, possibly two years’ to help with the problems likely to arise from post-war reconstruction in Britain. Over 80 years later what is now the Royal Voluntary Service continues doing invaluable work for the community.
Text courtesy of Jon Mills - for more information see his book the Women's Voluntary Services (WVS).
An interesting little booklet from 1943 is the Rank and Badges in the Navy, Army, RAF & Auxiliaries. The booklet has a half page with the Civil Defence General Services. Not a great deal of detail for the CD but a useful chart nonetheless.
I recently posted an identification card for an Invasion Defence Organisation member in London. I was recently sent this Stationery Office booklet "Consolidated Instructions to Invasion Committees, 1942".
It would appear that terminology varied between areas - some use Invasion Committee and others Defence Committee - but it appears they provided a similar response to an area being invaded. Primarily to maintain a semblance of order in the area, ensure the roads were kept clear of refugees, assist the military where necessary and ensure the local populace were informed about water, food and cooking facilities in the event the electricity and gas were cut off.
All the Civil Defence Services were brought together along with police, Home Guard, local councillors and volunteer groups such as the WVS. All of these would have responsibility in ensuring the public were informed about what they should do.
Courtesy of George Pagliero.
A pair of these ARP Fire Fighter Goggles sold on eBay (June 2021) for £95 plus £4 shipping). They are quite scarce and prices for CD, ARP and Home Front items continue to climb to new heights.
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