The below beret sold on eBay for the princely sum of £135 (including shipping). That is currently the highest figure I have seen paid for a Civil Defence beret.
This "REPORT CONTROL" shoulder title (shared by Austin Ruddy) is believed to be an official 1941 issue, but either a rare variant or manufacturers' error (missing the 'AND'). A similar shoulder title was featured in Jon Mills' book "A People's Army - Civil Defence Insignia and Uniforms 1939-1945".
A WW2 British Ministry of Home Security Instructional Diagram Number 3 of the German 1KG incendiary bomb with explosive nose (IBEN).
When it came to marking your helmet with a Warden's 'W', there were virtually limitless options. Although there were some diktats on size - two-inch high letters - the variances are rather amazing. Various font styles were used, with or without serif, stencilled to 3D designs, large and extra small, detailed to quickly applied. Here's 50 that barely scratch the surface.
At Chatham Militaria recently there was a seller with a bag full of the fake ARP signs and plaques we see regularly on eBay. All the designs previously covered on this blog; all at £10 a pop. If you are in any doubt about the originality of these signs, I hope this photo disabuses you of that opinion.
I had not seen this particular ARP Warden sign before. It's quite small, just 7.5cm across and shows age related wear to the enamel. A collector on a Facebook forum commented that he had had a similar one in his collection for 30-odd years.
Jon Mills, author of many Home Front books, shared the following personal anecdote with me recently.
In the early 1970s I was a trainee librarian working in my local library in Putney, south west London. Knowing my interest in WW2 one of my colleagues suggested I have a look in the library's basement which had "something to do with the war". What I discovered was a small ,abandoned ARP sub-control centre now used as a store. Over the next few weeks I spent many lunch hours down there exploring the debris and rubbish, In one room the anti-gas ventilation/filtering system was still complete, in another was a pile of wartime fund raising flags and collecting tins of the Their Day campaign, in a third a pile of paperwork and ledgers, one of them a record of ARP equipment issued to local wardens which contained the signature of my grandfather a local warden, for receiving a steel helmet.
The best find in the largest pile of rubbish was a German MG 15 aircraft machine gun, complete with ball mount and a piece of the fuselage surrounding the mount. The barrel was complete but bent at a right angle about half way down, evidence of some great impact on landing. I decided that much as I would have liked it , eyes might have been raised amongst my fellow staff and I reburied it in the pile of dirt whence it came. As far as I knew no German aircraft crashed in the Borough of Wandsworth but I'd be happy to be proved wrong.The basement disappeared in a subsequent rebuilding.
I did however rescue the stores ledger which still resides in my collection some 50 years later.
Wardens, who quickly became the CD ‘jacks of all trades’, found that one unexpected consequence of enemy bombing was the number of bombs which failed to explode – UXBs in the language of the time. As false reports of UXBs made the job of the newly-formed Royal Engineers (RE) Bomb Disposal Sections more difficult the Home Office suggested in late 1941 that selected police and wardens could be trained to investigate UXB reports as Bomb Reconnaissance Officers. The army’s Southern Command already trained wardens for this job and it was suggested that those who successfully completed a training course should be issued with a badge.
In March 1942 the Southern CD Region reported that Hampshire County had already approved unofficial badges ‘…for issue to Bomb Recognition and Recce volunteers who have qualified at Southern Command Bomb Recognition School or on County Instructional Courses’. Those qualified wore a badge on the left sleeve of their ARP uniform four inches above the cuff seam, oval if qualified on the Southern Command course, round – as here - if qualified at a recognised County Instructional Course.
Although the Home Office agreed that the Hampshire oval badge could serve as a model for a national scheme, progress was delayed by NFS objections to the use of qualification badges on uniform. The compromise solution was found in the form of the red and black armlet shown which was quickly altered to red on blue. As discussions continued on this the Home Office noted that ‘local authorities are designing their own BR badges’.
This design was not liked and, revised by using the army bomb disposal badge as its model, it was approved on 8 August, 1942. Shortly before production of this red and blue armlet began the Inspector of Bomb Disposal at GHQ Home Forces suggested that the armlet ‘ought to be on a light colour background to enable easier recognition by night. May I suggest a black bomb on a yellow band to avoid confusion with the Regular RE badge which is of the same design but yellow on red’. An order for 4,000 armlets was placed in September and they were announced to Civil Defenders in December 1942.
Just to make the modern collector’s mouth water they were originally four shillings (that’s 40 pence) per dozen! (Details from National Archives file HO186/2792 Bomb Reconnaissance Badges).
Article originally published in 2009 by the The Military Heraldry Society and copyright remains with this publication.
As researchers of ARP/CD, just like any other militaria collectors, we often seek surviving uniforms that are badged up as much as possible, providing a full example and display of the various types of insignia that were issued. This blog has shown some great examples in recent weeks.
However, for a variety of reasons, not all ARP and CD uniforms found today are badged up like the proverbial ‘Christmas tree’. Regional variations, badges never issued or since removed, even the limited knowledge of those wishing to reproduce or fake a uniform can explain the different variations encountered. Indeed, as contemporary photos show, many CD personnel were simply issued with a battledress tunic bearing only the CD chest patch, sometimes applied during the garment’s manufacture.
Very often, both ARP and CD uniforms carried a city, town or county area title, worn on the chest below the service insignia. These are now very collectable, even more so if the named area was heavily blitzed. Some years ago, I found a ‘LEICESTER’ yellow CD area title for my home town, but try as I may, I could not find any examples of the city’s preceding red ARP area title.
Scouring through contemporary photos of the city’s ARP personnel with a magnifying glass, I noticed that although they wore the standard red ‘ARP’ service chest insignia on their ARP 41 bluette overalls, no area title was present. ARP personnel of many, if not most, towns and cities wore an area title, not least for reasons of esprit de corps, so, why did Leicester, a city with a long and proud history, not have one, especially as an area title was worn on later CD uniforms?
I discovered the answer whilst researching my book, Tested By Bomb And Flame: Leicester Versus Luftwaffe Air Raids, 1939-1945. As is so often the case, archive records provided the explanation. Fortunately, the ARP Minutes of the City of Leicester Corporation survive at the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland, at Wigston. These minutes reveal the thinking behind the decisions and expenditure made by the city’s ARP Committee.
Leicester’s ARP started receiving their uniforms from March 1940, with the receipt of ‘864 ARP 41 bluette combinations for male personnel’ at a cost of £453.12.0d (around £24,000 today or around £28 each – a bargain today!). However, when it came to purchasing an area title, it would appear the committee drew their purse strings tight and the spending ceased.
It was only two years later, with the official Ministry of Home Security instruction that the city’s ARP Committee minuted on 9th February 1942: ‘in accordance with the provisions of HSC 189/1941, a local marking (the name of the City) be provided for each new uniform issued to CD personnel, named ‘LEICESTER’.’ The county area would follow six months later, with the issue of a ‘LEICESTERSHIRE’ CD title.
This was not the only example of Leicester ARP Committee’s minimalist and thrifty-thinking. Unlike elsewhere in Britain, Leicester ARP Committee’s VE Day celebrations were muted, to say the least: ‘In view of the circumstances and subject to there being no further guidance from the Government on the matter, this Committee are of the opinion that no arrangements should be made for a final parade of CD Services.’ Likewise, on the question of a commemorative service certificate for CD personnel, as issued in neighbouring counties, official instruction said ‘that such a Certificate should be issued is left to the discretion of the local authority.’ On 16th July 1945, the ARP Committee resolved that ‘in view of the fact that typed letters of thanks have been sent to the personnel of the local authority Services, the suggestion that a further Certificate of Thanks be issued, be not entertained’ – hence why no official illuminated Leicester CD certificate of service will be found by collectors today or ever!
A footnote: Around 2010, whilst attending a 1940s reenactors event on the Great Central Railway, at Quorn station, Leicestershire, I did a double-take to see an ARP reenactor wearing a red ‘LEICESTER’ ARP area title, contrary to contemporary records and photos. A close gawp suggested that if this was a reproduction badge, it was very well made. To get to the bottom of the matter, I asked the reenactor how, if it was original, he had such a research-defying badge – his answer was that he used a red felt tip pen to colour in an original yellow ‘LEICESTER’ CD area title! Some years later, this amended badge appeared for sale on eBay. Occasionally, reality defies your eyes and logic…
Tested By Bomb And Flame: Leicester Versus Luftwaffe Air Raids, 1939-1945, by Austin J. Ruddy, Halsgrove Publishing (2014), £19.99.
George P. was kind enough to share these sheet music covers for "Mister Brown of London Town" and "When They Sound The Last All Clear". Throughout the war many songs were written with regard to the events that were happening; quite a number played on the warden, air raids and the black-out.
I wonder if the Mister Brown one had an input into the famous Dad's Army theme "Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Mr Hitler?". There's a line in that song that goes, 'Mr Brown Goes Off To Town On The Eight Twenty-One, But He Comes Home Each Evening And He's Ready With His Gun'. Although thought by some to have been a wartime song, it was actually written by Jimmy Perry and Derek Taverner and performed by Bud Flanagan in the late 1960s.
I am once again indebted to Jon Mills for the following images of the insignia/badges issued to members of London's River Emergency Services (RES). For more information on the RES see this previous blog.
The sheer amount of fake and forged militaria hitting eBay is immense. The inability of eBay to efficiently tackle this avalanche of fakes is thought by many of us to support this criminal endeavour. A number of well-know forgers continually ply their trade there (and elsewhere). I have a dedicated page regarding the faking of ARP badges but the Home Guard Auxiliary Unit badges are now being faked. Sadly, buyers are not doing anywhere near enough research before purchasing these badges.
Auxiliary Unit badges are somewhat scarce and command a premium price - originals often go for in excess of £400. The below badge, from a well known shyster, has all the hallmarks of the faked ARP badges - the most obvious being the rear of the badge. So far, thankfully, the fakes have not been able to replicate the rear of the badges. The fitting on this badge is a fantasy and the addition of an acid dip to generate the verdigris is a scam seen many times on other fakes. Sadly, someone ponied up £196 (including shipping) for this piece of worthless crap.
Buyers, for the love of Mary, do some research. One of the best resources for the Auxiliary Units is the British Resistance Archive (maintained by the Coleshill Auxiliary Research Team (CART)) - this details everything you need to know about the stay behinds - the resistance forces engaging German invaders had they landed.
See an example of a genuine Auxiliary Unit stand down enamel lapel badge.
Some ARP Wardens and Policemen were trained in the reconnaissance of unexploded bombs. This was an extremely dangerous undertaking as Delayed Action bombs were designed to explode a short time after impact. Other bombs were designed to explode if disturbed. Their detonation could be caused by vibration from a passing vehicle, or by other bombs nearby. ARP personnel did lose their lives carrying these important duties. Those trained in Bomb Reconnaissance wore an armband, later a sewn on patch.
Norfolk based Bomb Reconnaissance Officers examine where an unexploded anti-aircraft shell struck a wall before hitting the ground. (Notice that both men are wearing the Bomb Reconnaissance arm band. The chap on the left is wearing it low on the sleeve, no doubt to avoid covering his other insignia.)
One Warden killed investigating a UXB was Charles Gaetjens. On outbreak of war he signed up and went with the Royal Artillery to France. Evacuated at Dunkirk, he was invalided out and joined the ARP.
Gaetjens was killed as a result of injuries sustained by a bomb that exploded 52 minutes after it hit the BBC’s Broadcasting House on 15 October 1940. At that time a number of people, including Gaetjens, were assessing how to remove the bomb. Six others were also killed by the blast, the muffled explosion heard by listeners to the nine o'clock news as it blew a hole in the side of the building.
Many properties had parachute mines crash through their roofs without exploding. These could be temperamental and detonate if disturbed. One such mine hit 21 Quernmore Road, Harringay, London.
In the early hours of 27 September, 1940, a message was received at the Borough’s Central A.R.P. Depot, stating that a Rescue Party was required at this property.
ARP personnel departed at once, under Leader Sidney Harold (a 36-year-old carpenter) and Deputy Leader Joseph Sweetlove (another carpenter, aged 33). On arrival, Harold ordered his men to leave their steel helmets and other un-necessary equipment which might affect the mine magnetically, in their lorry at the end of the road.
The property was a large house with four floors. On entry through the front door, it could be seen that an unexploded mine was lodged in the first floor with its nose protruding through the ceiling over the entrance hall. An an old lady was known to be on the top floor.
Harold judged it unsafe to attempt to go upstairs, as this might explode the mine. He therefore had a ladder put up in front of the house and ascended it, followed by his Deputy, Sweetlove. They could plainly see the old lady who was very frightened, lying in bed. She had locked the door of the room before retiring.
To reassure her, the men lit their badges up with their torches and then forced an entry through the window. They explained the situation but she seemed unwilling to accompany them. Eventually, however, she asked for time to put on some clothes. To this Harold consented, but when he found that she was evidently intending to make a ‘full-dress’ occasion of it, he would have no more. Sweetlove put her over his shoulder and went down the ladder, assisted by other members of the rescue squad, plumber, George Denton and bricklayer, Charles Johnson. Other members of the squad, Hymms, Hutton and Brodie, were also at hand waiting in front of the house. They were all very much at risk from the mine.
During the whole incident, shells were bursting overhead and shrapnel was falling, while a nearby gun was making the whole building vibrate in such a manner that it threatened to dislodge the mine from its precarious position and explode it at any moment. In fact at 03.33 the mine did explode, destroying number 21, and the adjoining houses, whilst blast rendered almost every other house in the street uninhabitable. The evacuation had been so effective, however, that there were no serious casualties.
It is my intention to put a number of similar stories of the bravery of people like those above into a book. It will focus on ‘civvies’ who spent time around UXBs during WW2 in order to help others. Watch this space!
If you are interested in UXBs, please check-out my previous books, ‘Bomb Disposal in World War Two’, and ‘Disarming Hitler’s V-Weapons’.
The website Raids Over York covers the 11 raids on the city during the Second World War. York was one of the cities targeted as part of the Baedecker Raids, aerial attacks on targets chosen for their historical significance rather than their military value as a target.
Photo: Explore York Libraries and Archives / City of York Council
Members from the Emergency Rivers Services (RES) and American Red Cross enjoying a cuppa.
A Planet News photograph claimed to be taken in March 1944, showing a warden carrying part of a German 'raider' (aircraft) that came down somewhere in London.
By early 1942, London's Civil Defence Organisation had been through the Blitz and was developing into a substantial organisation. The below, a confidential booklet from February 1942, details the various positions of authority within the Civil Defence, from the over-arching regional hierarchy to the heads of the individual groups within the city and boroughs. It also details London Regional Council members such as Sir Ernest Gowers (Senior Regional Commissioner) and Admiral Sir Edward Evans (Regional Commissioner).
Included are details of all the various branches, such as "A" Branch (the Fire Guard organisation), "G" Branch in charge of shelters and "K" Branch covering the National Fire Service (plus other branches).
The page for south-east London (shown below), headquartered in Lewisham, shows the various Group Officers (this was repeated in the other nine groups, many also containing sub-groups).
An interesting document detailing the scope of the Civil Defence Organisation in London at this point in time.
Images courtesy of Bryan Jones.
Will was kind enough to share the following images. The Fire Guard Officer helmet (two narrow bands over a broad band) has FG front and rear. It belonged to his great-grandfather. This was the highest rank within the Fire Guard Organisation.
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