The first hat issued to ARP / Civil Defence personnel was the ladies' Pattern 44 Felt Hat. The first issue of the felt hats came with a red and blue ribbon. With the change in 1941 from ARP to Civil Defence a new gold and blue ribbon (ARP Pattern 143) was issued. From 1941 the beret was issued but the felt hat continues to make a few appearances in photos. By the time the Civil Defence General Services stood down in May 1945 very few appear on photos. Along with the drivers' ski cap, the felt hat is a rare survivor these days.
On 9 December, 2020 Bosleys Auctioneers are auctioning a large number of ARP and Civil Defence-related badges, armbands and insignia. Amongst the lots is a grouping of Civil Defence Instructors' badges including the very rarely seen CAGS and Rescue badges. The auctioneer's estimate of £40-£60 is low but the CAGS badge does appear to have some damage to the enamel which will lower the price. The Rescue badge has appeared on eBay a few times and was nearly the hundred pound mark alone.
The lot can be found here
Does anyone have further information about the "Hitler Hate Club"? This badge crops up now and again online (eBay, militaria shops) and it would appear a fair few were issued but finding any information about the club (when it started, who started it, etc) is proving immensely difficult. There must have been some marketing of the club but I've drawn a blank so far.
It was once assumed that gas attacks would be the main threat to civilians during the second world war but it soon became apparent that fire would be the main enemy on the Home Front.
As a result, Fire Parties and Fire Watchers stood by in their millions, armed with just a helmet, a stirrup pump and a bucket of sand in most cases. Their role was to spot, report and, if they could, neutralise the threat. Helmets, either the Civilian Protective Helmet (“Zuckerman”) or one of the Mk. II types, were often marked ‘SFP’, ‘FW’ or just ‘FP’. These markings are therefore probably the most numerous of all applied during the war.
There were two groups which operated under the ‘SFP’ banner, although in reality both undertook the same tasks. The main difference was one of recruitment with Street Fire Parties being recruited and trained by the Wardens’ Service to cover their local area whilst Supplementary Fire Parties were organised by the Fire Service. Despite this they are often referred to in the same breath. In LRC No. 324 (6 March, 1941) the Chief Administrative Officer, states “Where supplementary (street) fire parties are given helmets, the letters “S.F.P.” should be painted in black at the front and rear of the helmet.”
Supplementary Fire Party members were issued with blue armbands with ‘SFP’ in red in 1940 and the use of red sometimes extended to the markings on helmets (see above) whilst they were still under the control of the Fire Service. The provision of helmets was another matter, with one part of the SFP having them provided as part of the ARP Storage and Loan of Equipment Regulations, whilst the other part had to provide their own.
The two sets of parties operated alongside one another for a while and it is probably fair to say they operated below par. Recruitment and leadership were less than satisfactory despite a rallying call by Herbert Morrison in late 1940. In addition, with the Wardens’ Service, the Local Authorities and the Fire Service, there were too many bosses. Changes came on 6 August, 1941 with the introduction of the Fire Guard. Those who joined the Local Authority Fire Guard were instructed to overpaint their ‘SFP’ helmet markings and replace them with ‘FG’ in white, whilst those who didn’t retained their old markings. This means that some helmets retained their original grey base colour with “FG” in white on the front whilst others, belonging to ex-SFP members, will have been less consistent.
In addition to the SFP, Fire Watchers were also looking out for fires although, at first, they lacked organisation and structure. It wasn’t long before simply looking out for fires wasn’t enough. The risk to commercial premises was too great and in September 1940, under the Fire Watchers Order, the role was formalised. Later, in 1941, the Government wanted to “knit together the Fire Watchers in the residential areas and thus to constitute them into a homogeneous and effective organisation” (HSC 174 / 1941, 6/8/41). It was deemed important that this new group should recognise that they were delivering an “important national duty” and as such they too received a new collective identity as the Fire Guard, operating as part of the Wardens’ Service.
Theoretically at least, helmet markings should have then undergone a large-scale refresh but whilst the aforementioned communication touched lightly on the replacement of armlets (‘FIRE GUARD’ replaced ‘SFP’) no mention was made of helmets or their markings. However, that same year, where people previously with a Fire Party became a member of the local authority Fire Guard, they were instructed to repaint their helmets and apply ‘FG’ in place of ‘SFP’. This became the first iteration of the Fire Guard.
The use of ‘W’ for the senior ranked Fire Guards was deemed inappropriate so a hybrid marking ‘W(F.G.)’ was agreed and this was communicated via HSC 139/1942 on 9 July, 1942. In London, seniority was represented by a white stripe (one inch and two inches wide) on grey helmets and these were marked ‘W/FG’ front and back (LRC No. 705 27/10/42 – consolidated). Unsurprisingly, variants exist as shown in this grouping.
It was standard practise to mark helmets of deputies with the same markings as their bosses as their role was to stand in for the senior rank as required. However, records show on more than one occasion seniors didn’t appreciate “their” markings being shared with subordinates. In the case of this collection, not only has a “D” (Deputy) been added for clarity but a new unofficial thinner stripe has been introduced. This resulted in two different stripe widths for the same role. The 1-inch stripe was worn by the Senior Fire Guard and the 2-inch stripe by the Head Fire Guard.
Other rank markings are perhaps more common, although the upper echelons are understandably harder to find nowadays.
The Fire Guard was to undergo a further change in 1943 when it was detached from the Wardens’ Service to stand alone (HSC No. 23/43). A totally new set of helmet marking was discussed early that year with the most senior staff having black helmets with white stripes running front to back but records show that these were “discussed in general terms….no action required at present”. An explicit instruction was contained within Circular HSC No. 63/1943, issued on 9 April, 1943 that read, “To facilitate recognition, the helmets of all members of the Fire Guard Organisation will be of the civilian type, as at present issued to rank and file Fire Guards. Service type helmets will be withdrawn by the scheme-making authority from persons transferred from the Wardens Service. The civilian helmets of Party Leaders and higher ranks will be painted white, with the appropriate rank markings. The letters F.G. may be painted on the helmets of rank and file Fire Guards if facilities are available; but this is not essential. No rank other than those specified in Appendix 1 are authorised and no other markings of any description may be painted on helmets.”
It would appear therefore, that it was to be Zuckermans for everyone! Whilst all the official changes and nationwide instructions were being issued, regional and local variations continued. Region 6, headquartered in Reading, adopted stripes over the top of their Fire Guard helmets and in HSC 63/43 it was felt necessary to stress that stripes should run “parallel with the rim of the helmet” and not front-to-back (as in Region 6) suggesting that misinterpretation had been a challenge.
The Fire Guard was eventually stood down in September 1944 having experienced tremendous growth, change, a confusing leadership structure and the introduction of several helmet marking schemes along the way.
Adrian Blake, author of the book Helmets of the Home Front.
Derbyshire, Manchester, Kesteven, Lindsey & Civil Defence Rest Centre & Air Raid Welfare Enamel Lapel Badges
A small selection of the more commonly found WW2 Rest Centre / Air Raid Welfare badges that can found.
Miss Georgina Nelly Adams was a 28-year-old ARP Warden in Birmingham. During the longest sustained German raid on the city (over 13 hours on 11 December, 1940) she was awarded a Commendation for rescuing injured and trapped wardens in an incident behind Albert Road in Handsworth. Her award appeared in the London Gazette on 14 March, 1941.
Before 1943 recipients only received a certificate and a mention in the London Gazette. From 1943 a plastic badge was instituted (it appears some received two of these in a box and others just a single badge) and the badge was replaced by the silver laurel leaf in 1944. I assume that previous recipients of the certificate were sent the badge and then the laurel leaf. The laurel leaf could be worn on the Defence Medal.
The term King's Commendation for Brave Conduct did not start until September of 1945.
Thanks to Brian Woodall for the images.
There are a number of counties and cities/towns that issued specific badges to their corps of air raid wardens. Below is an example from Salford which is relatively scarce in red enamel (a blue enamel version can also be found) but similar ones are known from Cheshire (which must have issued quite a few as the badge is quite common).
The Officer-in-Charge (three red chevrons on his bluette overalls) of a Stretcher Party provides first aid to a victim of a bombing incident in London.
Wearing the standard issue driver/attendant lancer coat and ski cap this portrait also shows the wearer using a helmet carrier. A number of companies manufactured helmet carriers but they appear seldom in photos (often anti-gas curtains are mistaken for carriers).
I am indebted to Donna Cook for sharing the following images of her grandmother and great aunt. Both were Civil Defence volunteers working with ambulances in Hull. The city was subject to 82 air raids during the second world war and an estimated 1,200 people were killed.
Alice Weston is shown wearing her silver ARP badge on her tie, which is somewhat unusual but was probably done especially for the portrait as she is not wearing any headwear. Emily Weston is wearing the Pattern 71 tunic and slacks with the drivers' ski cap.
This sign measuring approx 33cm by 43cm recently cropped up on an auction site. With so many reproductions and out right forgeries on the market it's often difficult to determine the originality of items such as this. The maker "Franco Signs" is a well known manufacturer that was based on Oxford Street, W1 in London from the mid-1930s.
Information is sought regarding the below badge. If you have any knowledge of where this badge was issued please let me know. The plume of feathers may be taken from the county's coat of arms / emblem. The three ostrich feather plumes emerging from a coronet is often seen associated with the Prince of Wales so possibly a Welsh connection.
George Medal for James Brennan, Divisional A.R.P. Operations Officer & Depot Superintendent, Willesden
A photo of James Brennan showing his George Medal to other medal winners (Flight Sergeant Archibald Murray, DFM & Leading Stoker Frank Tyler, DSM) at their investiture at Buckingham Palace in October 1941.
Brennan had helped rescue a women from a bombed building at Whitmore Gardens in Kensal Rise, London on 17 November 1940. He was awarded the George Medal on April 30, 1941 and received it at an investiture on October 7, 1941.
From the London Gazette, 23 May, 1941
James Brennan, Divisional A.R.P. Operations Officer and Depot Superintendent, Willesden.
A bomb partially demolished a house and a woman was trapped from the knees downwards beneath some debris. To effect her rescue it was necessary for the woman to be lifted almost to a standing position and held there to allow someone to work near her feet. While she was being held up, Mr. Brennan slid down into the crater on his stomach and worked there for some considerable time, removing bricks by hand.
Although there was a strong concentration of coal gas in the hole where he was lying head downwards, Mr. Brennan persisted in his efforts and after some time the casualty was released and removed to hospital. Throughout this incident Mr. Brennan was in danger from the wreckage under which he was working, from the ruins of the house, which were likely to collapse at any moment, and from the high concentration of gas.
Issue 280 of The Formation Sign covers uniforms, insignia and armbands worn by ARP Wardens during the early years of the war. The first two pages are shown below courtesy of the journals's editor, Jon Mills.
The Formation Sign is the Journal of the Military Heraldic Society and covers a wide range of insignia each quarter. For more information visit their website.
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