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.
There were many thousands of different lapel badges produced throughout the war - ARP factory badges, volunteer badges, charity badges, civil defence service badges and various mufti badges for those showing they were Doing their Bit. However, one particular badge I see a lot on the tat bazaar (that's eBay) that is nearly always called a second world war badge is the below - the white metal HG badge with HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE written around the edge. IT'S NOT WW2!!!
It dates from the period the Home Guard was reintroduced in the 1950s. The Imperial War Museum (how long before the woke brigade clock the name of this museum and decide it needs cancelling...) have a sealed pattern of the badge dated to 1956.
This has jack-all to do with WW2 or Civil Defence but I was getting fed up seeing it misidentified and people possibly buying it thinking it was WW2 period. I promise that's the last time I dirty these pages with Home Guard badges. Rant over...
A fantastic colour film entitled "War Weapons Week 1942". Includes shots of various Civil Defence services (wardens, FAP, ambulance), WVS volunteers, Home Guard, ARP nurses, Fire Services and other groups in Bearsden, northwest of Glasgow. Some excellent shots of Fire Guard members all kitted out in Zuckerman helmets.
A dignitary called Sir Steven Bilsland is seen in a couple of clips inspecting the services. He has a white helmet with red lettering, but it's not clear what it says. He also appears to have a gold coloured armband with silver Civil Defence rainbow.
Also of note is the OPX (an observation post) - at the 6.30 mark - being manned by a couple of chief wardens (three diamonds on white helmets).
A great piece of film that's worth watching in its entirety.
I have a keen interest in the way fonts and lettering are generated and these pages from a British Standards book in 1940 detail the exact methodology used to generate the 1940s font used on ARP / Civil Defence / Fire signage.
Also included is the exact size of the various signs. I was somewhat confused why 7/8" was used instead of 1" on the Shelter 'S' signage but someone mentioned saving material (which makes sense) but it doesn't seem to follow through on vertical signs.
I'm including the files as downloads as well.
Courtesy of Roger Miles.
Steve Crookes was kind enough to share images and information about LAAS driver Jean Campbell:
Rosemary Jean Campbell was born on the 7 August 1911 in Surabaya, Java. She was the daughter of Lady Edith Jane Warren (1880 -1951) and Sir Edward Campbell M.P. (1879-1945), Parliamentary Private Secretary to Sir Kingsley Wood (Secretary of State for Air – 1938-1940; Lord Privy Seal – 1940 & Chancellor of the Exchequer – 1940-1943). Sir Edward was the brother of Vice-Admiral Gordon Campbell V.C. and of Rear-Admiral J.D. Campbell. Her brother Flight Lieutenant Gillian Campbell D.F.C. was killed on 24 December 1942
Campbell joined the ambulance service before the war, and at the outbreak of hostilities was mobilised and posted to London Auxiliary Ambulance Service (LAAS) Station 141, Green School, Ainsty Street, Rotherhithe. In 1941 she was awarded the British Empire Medal (B.E.M.) for her excellent leadership and devotion to duty during air raids on London. In 1942 she was admitted to the Order of St. John as Officer (Sister).
She became a Volunteer Worker for the American Red Cross in Great Britain in September 1942. Lived at 41 Rotherhithe Street, London. Jean, as she was known, participated in the Victory Parade in London on 8 June 1946. She married John H. Hansard on 28 May 1943 and died on 10 July 1991 in Surrey.
It would appear a spate of Zuckerman helmets are now appearing with spurious (i.e. fake) markings. We've seen this before but this summer has seen them regularly appearing on the tat bazaar (we even had a Zuck with the Austin Warden stencil poorly used...). Most can be quickly categorized in the "Known Shyster Shed Crap". They continue to sell though and that continues the cycle. I doubt a Decontamination Food expert would be caught dead in a Zuckerman but it's an interesting helmet.
Rescue Party Leader (two chevrons) William Shotton shows his BEM outside Buckingham Palace in 1944. The gentleman to the right is thought to be James Clay, a Depot Superintendent (three chevrons and star above).
Picture courtesy Clay family collection.
At around 4:30 in the morning of 13 June, 1944, the first V1 flying bomb struck the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) bridge crossing over Grove Street, Bethnal Green. The “doodlebug” killed six people and injured 26 others. As well as serious damage to the bridge, 12 house were completely destroyed and over 50 suffered various degrees of damage.
The line over the bridge carried important rail traffic between Liverpool Street and Stratford. Engineers from LNER assessed the damage to the bridge and decided to replace it.; trains passed over the new bridge in the evening.
I've come across a few items relating to invasion defence but haven't managed to read a full account of the organisations yet. From what I gather, local authorities created the organisations and members were taked with maintaining local systems in the event of invasion. I believe this included assisting the army in the area (advising on locations of petrol, food, shelter etc) and also to manage refugees passing through the area.
The little I have encountered on the subject seems to relate to the period when the threat of invasion was at it highest - summer 1940 through to summer of 1942. This card is dated 1943 and the organisation was still being maintained.
If you know more about the Invasion Committees and Organisations, please let me know.
These Lancashire CD with King's crown buttons recently turned up in a job lot of other items I received. I've not encountered county-marked buttons like this before. Although they have the King's crown I am uncertain of a date. They could be WW2 or post-war. If you have more information please drop me a line via the Contact page.
A studio portrait of an ambulance driver or attendant with Harpenden's CD service. The standard Pattern 71 tunic and the ski cap with silver ARP badge to front.
Send me items to blog about via my contact page