This card covers the courses and training that Fire Guards underwent. Inside the card are details of various courses including dealing with incendiary bomb knowledge (listed as IB) and first aid and gas. Photos courtesy of R. Harvey.
A stand down portrait of ARP Wardens in Addlestone in Surrey show every possible way that a beret can be worn. The army way or over the right ear but this groups show the beret worn over each ear, centrally and also towards the back of the head. The shapes and style of beret also varies quite considerably. The ARP badge also varies from almost above the left ear to almost central on the forehead.
The large areas of London that had been bombed led to a call for more men to assist in its clearance. I initially thought that this may be a post-war poster but a reference in a book appears to date it to the war years.
Prior to the release of the serge battledress and trousers, Manchester's Wardens' Service wore the below uniform. Similar in cut to a policeman's tunic the uniform featured two Manchester Wardens Service insignia badges to the collar as well as similarly named buttons. The below picture shows a warden wearing the uniform somewhere in Manchester probably summer 1940 to summer 1941. The 'H' on the helmet is yet to be determined but may represent an area in Manchester (for example, Hulme). Original tunic photos are courtesy of C. Boddington.
I am indebted to Chris Ransted (author of the excellent Bomb Disposal in World War II) for the image below. The cigarette case belonged to his grandfather, a printer and fire watcher at The Times in London. There are a great number of fake items featuring ARP badges (eBay has a few rogue sellers regularly slapping an ARP badge onto cigarette cases, vesta cases and lighters).
This letter is dated 30 September 1938, the same day that the Munich Agreement (or as it should really be called the Munich Betrayal) was signed. Throughout 1938 the ominous signs of German expansionism grew and British and French diplomats finally betrayed Czechoslovakia to maintain their own thinly-held grip on peace.
With the dark clouds growing many local authorities saw the writing on the wall, or as this mayor said, "...the grave possibilities of an emergency in which our Country may become involved". How very prescient... This letter encourages the people of Hornsey to volunteer for ARP and other civil defence duties. The council estimates they are a thousand people short at this time.
The fantastic photo shows workmen finishing off a display of ARP recruitment posters in Whitehall, London. It is dated 28 September, 1938 and the dark clouds are a looming war were getting thicker with each passing month.
I've added a slideshow below of the recruitment posters seen here.
This sign has been up on eBay for a few weeks now. The general consensus amongst a number of collectors is that is is probably a post-war sign made for re-enactment or possibly a historical TV programme. The sign looks well made but probably uses too heavy a wood for wartime. The lettering on the front looks well made and the font appears to be similar to those used during the war. These WVS Incident Inquiry Points were very much pop-up affairs and it's unlikely that a sign like this would be lugged around. The mirror plates have post war screws but could obviously have been added much later.
Some people thought the spelling of "Inquiry" was incorrect. However, the IWM has a sign using this spelling and also the official records of the WVS note that Incident Inquiry Points (or IIP) was the preferred spelling.
The local authority in Chelsea had issued several hundred brown ARP boiler suits to their ARP wardens and staff prior to the outbreak of war (it appears other services received blue overalls). This great photo shows the style of brown overall worn. It would appear from later photo that the brown overalls were worn into 1941 but sometimes the dates on photos cannot always be verified/trusted.
The blurb for this photo reads:
"Disappointment has been caused in Chelsea by the decision of the Home Office not to allow the borough's Air Raid Precautions volunteers to wear their smart brown and blue uniforms with yellow braided cuffs when the King's review of ARP services takes place in Hyde Park on Sunday. The reason is that Sir John Anderson wants all volunteers to be dressed alike at the review. 500 Chelsea ARP wardens have been issued with brown uniforms and 200 uniforms in blue have been issued to other sections. The uniforms are of the overall type and yellow braided rings on the cuffs are worn according to rank.
Photo shows Mr P. J. Fox (left), the Chief Enrolment Officer at Chelsea in his warden's uniform including a belt holding rattle, pouch for writing pad and other accessories, torch and incendiary goggles. With him is Major Harding Newman, Staff Officer to the Town Clerk. He has chain epaulettes which save the collar bones from being broken by falling masonry. 30 June 1939".
The is a very well known photo showing wardens from Hackney parading with dummy rifles. I only recently came across this hi-resolution image on the Getty website with the description as "7th August 1940: Hackney air raid wardens on the march during training. The rifles they are carrying are dummy ones, used to give a smart effect ! ".
A large number of fake and reproduction items are up at auction at East Bristol Auctions on 22 May 2020. The description of most of the fake ARP badges says "unknown origin" and for the buyer to ensure they know what they are buying. A large number of lots are from the same militaria forger found on eBay. Included is another fake London Underground Zuckerman as well as a Straits Settlements ARP badge added to a Zuckerman. There is also a pair of faked splinter googles. There'sa fake GPO Warden helmet and a stencilled LCC Ambulance helmet. There is also a fake Women's Home Defence enamel and embroidered badge.
Amongst the other lots are other items regularly offered for sale on eBay by shysters - fake First World War airplane fabric, WW1 tank metal face masks and WW2 linen flags. Caveat emptor...
Here are the four common ARP plaques or wall signs that are regularly sold as originals. These light weight cast aluminium signs have been doing the rounds for many years now. One is particularly egregious having two crowns on it and another replicates the use of "ARP" twice. Some have been painted, some sanded and shined. A few even have spurious marks on the back in an attempt to prove originality. There are even a few examples in brass rather than aluminium. As far as I can tell there are no original photos showing any of these designs being used during the war. They often appear on eBay (from the same sellers...there's a clue to authenticity...) and have filtered through to auction houses and regularly crop up on militaria websites. Prices vary but usually they sell in mid twenties but have been known to go for a lot more.
75 years after VE Day, today's celebrations are somewhat muted by the COVID-19 pandemic. There has been a number of documentaries on TV covering the anniversary with some excellent colour footage available to view. The below shot on The Strand in London demonstrates the exuberance of the public at the news of the end of hostilities in Europe.
It seems I am spending an inordinate amount of time at the moment detailing fake WW2 ARP items on this blog. We have had a whole slew of fake ARP badges and faked helmets recently appearing on eBay. The seller of both the fake badges and helmets also has fake splinter googles for sale every six weeks or so.
The fake splinter googles are always the same and never have the original padding around the nose and forehead found on originals or the original adjustable head strap. There appears to be a few original styles with some articulated at the centre. Clearly the faker cannot manage to copy that but is listing these regularly. He's also using his acid bath to age the goggles. Sadly, they are always selling for over £40.
I should add that these googles are often marketed as being for RAF use. It appears a single reference in a book has led to this being taken as gospel. The truth is that they were not ever used by the RAF in WW2.
A few weeks ago I received an email from a collector asking about a recent purchase he had made. The item was bought on eBay from a notorious faker of militaria and I informed the buyer he had been conned. The buyer subsequently found the badge had been glued with modern adhesive and bent to fit on the helmet. The helmet had also been slightly dented to accommodate the badge. The fake blue residue was an attempt at enamelling but was just blue paint. Thankfully, the seller complained to eBay and managed to get their money back (over £150). The seller continues to hawk fake items and con collectors alas.
This remarkable 1943 colour film shows various Civil Defence Services undertaking training demostrations. First there's a First Aid Party retrieving a casualty from a bunker. This is followed by a demonstration of fire fighting in front of dignitaries included Home Secretary Herbert Morrison. The Wardens' Service, Fire Guard and fire services are involved. The final chapter covers Home Guard.
The film is free to watch via the BFI website
Send me items to blog about via my contact page