During the war many items of equipment were manufactured for the general population to purchase. These Broadsight Googles are claimed to be useful when fighting incendiary fires as they will dim the burning part of the incendiary.
Photo form Caring on the Home Front.
The Zuckerman helmet was a high domed, mild steel helmet that civilians could purchase and that was also allocated to fire watchers and fire guards. The design allowed the helmet was to withstand debris hits by denting and thus protecting the wearer.
As the below document from the Ministry of Home Security shows, there was a front to the helmet. However, many photographs from the war show people wearing the helmet back-to-front. Probably not much of an issue if the helmet saved your life either way round.
This is a fantastic portrait of Miss Rushton from Lewisham, She is a Red Cross volunteer at London Bridge ARP shelter.
She appears to be wearing a man's battledress (it looks very large on her frame) and trousers. Her BD features an area making to left breast pocket with another smaller badge on the pocket flap (probably a red cross badge). She wears the ARP badge in her right breast pocket. The lanyard will be white as this is the colour worn in London.
Her helmet probably features the letters MU for Mobile Unit as pictures that appear with this photo show other nurses belonging to a mobile first aid post wearing helmets with these letters. The helmet also has a battery powered helmet lamp - an item of equipment rarely seen worn in WW2 photos. The battery pack in fixed on her waist.
The photograph shows the ARP recruitment and information office in Westminster, London. The poster in the left hand window is shown in larger size.
The plethora of propaganda posters that appeared during the second world war can be seen in some of the original photographs and home movies made. Some Wardens' Posts were literally plastered with several posters. This Fire Guard recruiting poster from the Ministry of Home Security conveys the dangers being faced by German incendiary devices - or 'Firebomb Fritz".
As the Fire Guard was reorganised throughout the war, many people found they had to partake in long, boring evenings when nothing happened. However, their presence and ability to deal with fires and call in the fire brigade would save many buildings.
Fire Guards performed an extremely important role throughout the war years. Keeping an eye out all night for potential fires, they spent many boring hours waiting. This picture shows an all female Fire Guard section atop the Bank of England. All wear the Zuckerman helmet and one-piece overalls with "FIRE" armbands.
This is a photo of Mary Lock. She survived the Coventry Blitz of 14 November, 1940 and later joined the Fire Guard service becoming the only female instructor in the Coventry area. Her uniform features the special Fire Guard / CD breast badge for Coventry - based on the city's coat of arms of an elephant carrying a tower with the watchful cat on top. I cannot quite make out what her shoulder titles say - possibly starts with Fire Guard on the top (but there is no border to the badge which usually denotes the higher ranks). You can see her Instructor badge on the left pocket of her Pattern 71 tunic with a few service chevrons on her lower left sleeve. A remarkable lady.
Read about Mary Lock
I was reviewing the Fire Guard rank system and I asked the FB group for assistance. Owen was very kind to share the attached scan of a document that belonged to a Mrs Mitchell - who became the Deputy Fire Guard Officer for the whole of Liverpool (she was the only female senior rank). The document is undated but given the rank structure post 1943.
The document clearly shows the hierarchy of the city's Fire Guard organisation. The highest rank being the Fire Guard Officer and then descending to the Inspectors.
The whole time paid roles were: Fire Guard Officer, Senior Deputy Fire Guard Officer, Deputy Fire Guard Officers, Assistant Fire Guard Officers, Inspectors, Area Officers and Reserve Centre Superintendents.
The unpaid positions were: Assistant Fire Guard Officer, several part time Assistant FG Officers, Area Captains, Sector Captains and Street Fire Parties.
Mrs Mitchell was initially organising WVS for ARP from January 1939, and then became the Evacuation Officer for Lancashire. In August 1943 she is appointed Senior Deputy Fire Guard Officer for the whole of Liverpool at a salary of £400 per year. (It is interesting to note how she marks in red on a document how many officers are male; in her letter of application she talks about "the vexed question of Women Fireguards".)
Manufactured by Constructors Ltd at their Nickel Works in Erdington near Birmingham the Consol Portable Shelter was an armoured mini air raid shelter. Constructed from bullet-proof steel plate bolted to a concrete base it would protect those inside against bomb blast, falling debris and flying splinters, glass and shrapnel. An integral lifting eye on the roof allowed the shelter to be easily moved. Some accounts call the shelters "Fire Watchers' Bell".
Supplied in three sizes for 1 (3' diameter/9 cwt (457kg)), 2 (4' diameter/10 cwt (508 kg)) or 4 (4' 9"/14 cwt (711 kg)) people. Princes started at £57 (equivalent to £3, 600 pounds in 2018). Consol shelters used in factories to provide shelter for fire guards and also used by ARP wardens and the police.
Throughout the second world war a number of artists captured portraits of men and women in uniform. These four portraits are of Civil Defence personnel.
An interesting badge came up on eBay relating to the First Aid ARP section at Standard Telephones & Cables. The company with factories in London (New Southgate and North Woolwich) provided a lot of war related cables that were used in tanks and other vehicles. The factories were targeted by the Luftwaffe.
The New Southgate factory (in Barnet) was also the site of a devastating V1 attack. 33 people were killed and over 200 injured on 23 August, 1944. This is allegedly the highest casualty rate caused by a single V1 rocket.
Read more about this V1 attack
A member of the FB group (thank you Karen) posted a couple of knitting patterns. There were many of these for all the services.
Nurses that worked specifically with the ARP services had a dedicated uniform and insignia. The red on blue badge was located on the front of the uniform.
Though regulations did cover a lot of the positions where Civil Defence personnel were to place badges, there exists a wide array of difference (seen in photos and on war time uniforms). This battledress from Birmingham has the Royal Life Saving badge fixed to the right arm; the usual place was the right breast pocket.
Wardens were permitted to enter homes and business premises to verify that the householder or proprietor had undertaken the necessary black out precautions etc (in some areas, Wardens checked that all attics had been cleared of furniture or stored items to prevent the stored items being set ablaze by incendiary bombs). Wardens were nearly always local to their area as they would know who lived where, what kind of businesses there were and also where telephones calls could be made - all important information during an air raid incident. Wardens carried 'Cards of Appointment' (sometimes called Warrant Cards) to prove they were wardens and to gain access to houses and buildings.
Very interesting colour film from the BFI showing ARP ambulance training taking place in Cambridge during the later years of WW2.
Watch the 2-minute film
This is a fine study of Peter Sprack - a First Aid Party member from the Isle of Wight. Wearing his CD battledress blouse with ARP breast badge, Isle of Wight area marking above left breast pocket and St John Ambulance award. Lanyard may have been red in colour.
Special ARP armbands for chaplains were created and can be seen worn by the Reverend Paul Clifford in London, 1940. His helmet probably has the letters "W.H.C.M" for 'West Ham Central Mission', which became a focal point of relief efforts during the Blitz of the end end of London.
The ability to tackle fires caused by bombing and incendiary devices was crucial in preventing large scale fires. Simple to use stirrup pumps could be used to douse incendiaries. The bucket style pump would have a three person team - the pumper, the water re-filler and the fire tackler.
The Civil Defence Reserve was organised to provide extra support for bomb damaged areas. They had specific insignia on their berets and uniforms (often with Mobile Reserve on their shoulder titles). This is the printed version of the beret badge.
Bombed buildings could be easy pickings and the local authorities made efforts to protect the possessions of those bombed out of their properties. Punishments for being caught looting were severe.
Organising and managing the ARP services was of crucial importance. Wardens had to be tasked with their duties and areas had to be patrolled. This Section Duty Board gives a clear indication of the number of wardens involved and the various duties covered.
This interesting photograph - from an air raid incident in London - shows some interesting helmet markings and personnel. As a stretcher is brought out of the ruins of a bombed building, a Post Warden (far right with star above three chevrons) surveys the seen. Next to him a white helmet officer from the Light Rescue squad (possibly a surveyor) exits the scene. To the left an ARP women in a gabardine coat and another lady (from another service) talk to a senior officer (white helmet with double stripes - the helmet markings are not clear alas). The photo appears to be from the same incident that colour photographs were taken.
An interesting picture and story from an ARP Messenger based in Eastbourne from the BBC archives. Shows him wearing the rare single rank chevron as well as a very rare Dispatch Rider's sleeve badge. A most uncommon sight.
Read about George's story.
The number and variation of Civil Defence armbands is immense. As well as the officially sanctioned armbands, local authorities had ordered armbands before regulation and as such the myriad of designs and lettering is huge. This rare armband for an Assistant to the Report & Control Controller is one such example.
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