War Service Chevrons were issued to members of the Civil Defence Services from September 1944. For eack full 12 month period of service, an individual was entitled to one chevron. With some members then subsequently making a fifth year of service, a single additional war service chevron was issued. On many stand-down photos in May/June of 1945 it is possible to see the five chevrons (a set of four plus one) worn on the lower right sleeve. Images courtesy of George P.
A scarce appointment card for an Information Officer at a Rest Centre in Derbyshire. Appointment (sometimes called Warrant) cards are quite regularly seen for ARP Wardens and other Civil Defence services but it is quite rare to see one for an Information Officer or other position within the Air Raid Welfare organisation.
Rest Centres were set up in locations (quite often schools) where those who had been bombed out could find food, temporary shelter and also renew documentation if their originals had been lost. The Information Officer would be able to advise them on the ways they could seek further assistance from the local authority.
The ARP Pattern 44 felt hat is probably one of the scarcest survivors of all the headwear issued to Civil defence personnel during the second world war. Initially the hats featured a red and blue ribbon but with the official change in the name to Civil Defence General Services in 1941 this was replaced by a gold and blue ribbon (ARP Pattern 143) as shown below. Image courtesy of Jon Mills.
This photo shows members of Swindon's Fire Guard showing off toys they had made. The photo is interesting on a number off levels. Firstly, it's quite rare to see the diamond-shaped Fire Guard instructors badge being worn (two in evidence here). The lady bottom left also has one (probably the locally-trained Local Fire Guard Instructors (LFGI) badge) plus another instructor's badge of the type similar to the LARP version (Local Air Raid Precautions (locally trained silver badge)). She also has an ARP badge on here beret. There appears to be quite a text heavy shoulder board on her tunic but it is not possible to determine what this is.
At the beginning of the second world war the vast majority of badges on Civil Defence and other service uniforms were of the embroidered variety. With the growth in the numbers of personnel in uniform on the Home Front it was necessary to look at ways to minimise the cost of badge production. One method was to print badges and the Calico Printer's Association manufactured numerous badges, not only for the Home Front, but for the armed services as well. Below are original examples courtesy of Jon Mills.
A battledress has cropped up on eBay priced at £160. Nicely badged up with three rank chevrons denoting a Head Warden in Leicestershire. The owner was a First World War veteran and the left sleeve has a red wound stripe. Looking at the breast badge it appears to have been factory fitted. There are also war service chevrons on the right sleeve. The maker's label from Montague Burton sadly omits a date of manufacture but I would imagine this is probably an early example.
It all looks kosher but you never can tell whether the badges are all original to a battledress. It's known for a blank jacket to have had badges later added to help the item sell for a higher price.
The below Deputy Fire Guard Officer shoulder title badge cropped up on eBay and sold for £46. I'd not seen this particular shoulder title before and is has quite a unit shape. The rank was the second highest in the Fire Guard organisation (one below Fire Guard Officer (badge was square) and above Assistant Fire Guard Officer (badge was oval). Personnel holding this rank wore a white helmet with one broad band below one narrow band.
The Mechanised Transport Corps, a group of volunteer women drivers between 1939 and 1946, worked for a wide variety of government bodies. Originally an offshoot of the First World War Women’s Legion its 6,500 members, without official recognition in the early years of the war, offered their services to many Civil Defence organisations. Even before war broke out they were driving members of the newly-formed Women’s Voluntary Service and instructing women volunteers in the skills necessary to drive the ambulances of the London Auxiliary Ambulance Service (LAAS).
In Lambeth, forty members of the MTC’s No. 1 Company volunteered to drive the Borough’s ARP Stretcher Parties for the statutory ARP wage of £2 a week, their example followed in further areas in Greater London. By early 1940 members driving for Civil Defence had acquired their own arm badge. In March 1941 two Lambeth SP drivers – a housewife and secretary - were presented with the British Empire Medal by HM The King for helping rescue trapped casualties at a major air raid incident.
Medical assistance of another kind was performed by those driving for the American Ambulance Great Britain (AAGB), a fleet of large cars paid for by American donors to carry mobile surgical teams to bombing incidents. When Queen’s Messenger Food Convoys were created to take emergency food supplies to badly bombed cities, a large number of their vehicles were driven by the MTC. In Leeds thirteen MTC volunteers drove for the Regional Commissioner’s Volunteer Transport and Messenger Service, its Birmingham Counterpart working for the Ministry of Information calling itself the Auxiliary Drivers Association and wearing its own distinctive badges.
Apart from its work for Civil Defence the MTC also drove for – amongst many others - the Home Guard, the Blood Transfusion Service, the Admiralty, the Allied Free Forces, the US Army in Britain and the Inter-Service Research Bureau, a cover name of the Special Operations Executive. And they served in Africa, started the Girls’ Training Corps and formed the basis of the post-war Government Car Service. Not bad for an organisation that nobody originally wanted!
Back in 2008 I published No. 4 in my sadly-incomplete series Within the Island Fortress. Compiled from the personal papers of the Corps’ second Commandant Mrs. Resy Peake – who I was privileged to meet – this told the MTC’s story in detail, illustrated by some fifty original photos and examples of the Corps uniforms and badges.
I have recently had a small number of No. 4 reprinted which I am offering for sale for £15 inc. UK postage. If you would like a copy please email me at email@example.com.
For cost cutting purposes shoulder titles were printed from the mid-war period. The below shows how the printed titles were delivered to local authorities on long rolls. Individual titles would be cut from the roll and issued as required. I've seen two ways that these printed titles were applied. Firstly, applied as cut, and secondly, the edges folded over and then sewn to the shoulder of the battledress. This method provides for a much smarter appearance.
I am indebted to Jon Mills, the author of many books on WW2 insignia (see "A People's Army - Civil Defence Insignia and Uniforms 1939-1945" ) for the below images. A very rare AFS London helmet transfer and the cover of Display Patents Ltd catalogue plus the details of helmet transfers for the Civil Defence Services (the same company that was advertising in ARP & NFS Review magazine).
In all my years collecting and visiting various militaria sales (both online and in person), I have never come across any of the helmet transfers that were made during the war. The below advert from a company called Display Patents Ltd details their wares. Amongst the items are various transfers for helmets.
Of interest is the list of 'shoulder flashes' (usually called shoulder titles). I've not (yet) seen an example of "Ambulance Driver' or "Equipment Officer" being worn.
I manged to pick up some copies of the Civil Defence Journal - ARP & NFS Review. I've seen copies on eBay a few times but the below looked to be of keen interest for this blog. The magazines cover a wealth of Civil Defence news as well as copious amounts of adverts aimed at CD / Fire Brigade workers. Having the whole series would make for an excellent resource.
The introduction makes it clear how different the use of insignia within the Civil Defence Service could be:
"In Civil Defence the discretionary power vested in local authorities means that considerable variations are to be found; two men, of equal rank, on either side of a street forming a regional boundary may have different rank markings."
There is also some excellent information on helmet markings.
I recently posted a blog about the Rest Centre Service badge. I was contacted by a fellow collector that two versions of the badge exist - one with a blue enamel centre and one with a black centre. I've been collecting Home Front badges for many years and did not know about the variations (thank you Andrew S.)
Going by the colour difference and also the distinct difference in pin assembly I would imagine they are from different manufacturers. At present though almost nothing is known about who requested, designed or manufactured the badges (a presentation card from JR Gaunt with a blue centre badge is known to exist so it looks like that company may have produced that version). It appears that they were issued to Rest Centres in cities across the country .
I believe the blue centre badge was one of the very first badges in my collection, and I was able to pick the black version up on eBay last week (August 2020). I have to say that I have not added a badge to my collection for just a fiver in a long, long time...
The below lamp is a traffic obstruction lamps and although not specifically an ARP item, evidence exists showing one being used to mark an incendiary bomb. They are marked "Ministry of Supply Pat No. 1420/41" (production starting in 1941) and feature a paraffin burner that illuminated red hooded slits on the side. It appears one additional side had a sliding circle that would allow for more light to be shown when revolved.
They appear to have been painted an army green at the factory. A similar shaped lamp with white X s on four sides also exists. Some collectors have been informed that they may have been used to mark the entrance to ARP shelters.
The lamp below is available from stuart-bray-motorcycles.co.uk.
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