I have recently been in email communication with Raymond Sweetman. He’s been doing a great deal of family research and one area of interest has been the positions held by relatives within the ARP/Civil Defence Services in Battersea. He has made several visits to archives in London and has been generous in sharing some of the information and documents he has reviewed. I would reiterate here that it appears the Battersea ARP Records (held at Wandsworth Heritage Service) appear to be some of the best in the capital.
Here’s Raymond’s research and why it’s always worth checking the records for accuracy.
“The 1939 Register (a census survey of the civilian population of England and Wales taken just after the outbreak of the Second World War) lists my great aunt, Ivy Maud Sweetman, as being an ARP Warden. Right from the start I viewed this information as 'provisional' and 'possibly suspect' for a number of reasons.
A couple of months ago, I printed out the page from the 1939 Register (see below) and, using a pencil and ruler, matched up the page entries to check that the right-hand page entries matched up with the individuals named, and with their addresses, on the left-hand side. This still showed my great aunt being listed as an ARP Warden.
However, contemporary newspaper reports had covered my great uncle, Arthur Milton Sweetman, as being the 'Hon. Secretary' (sic) for the Battersea 'ARP Association' (Ref: 'South Western Star', 28th July, 1939). It also mentioned a number of other personnel, but not my great aunt.
A visit to Wandsworth’s Archives cleared up the mystery. Despite his enrolment papers not surviving in the (still pretty comprehensive) Battersea ARP Warden enrolment forms, Document Reference: MBB/2/1/2, ARP Minutes 1939-40, clarified things perfectly. His ARP Reference Number, 403, matched exactly the entry in the 1939 Register ('ARP Warden, Battersea, No. 403').
So, what happened? Having amassed a wealth of family history research, in my experience it can be ascribed to another case of a transcription error. In this case the Enumerator either mis-heard, or simply made the entry in the wrong column, perhaps being in a hurry, etc.
The fundamental thing is that my great aunt did NOT serve as an ARP Warden. This is not a minor thing. It is so important, in any kind of research, that accuracy is retained at all times whether it be academic or 'only' family history research.
For my first cousin, Alfred John Sweetman, the 1939 Register finds him living in the Borough of Ealing - quite a distance away. However, the right-hand page (correctly aligned!) describes him as being: 'Part-time Air Raid Warden, Battersea Borough, No. 770'. This did not come as a surprise as he lived in Battersea with the rest of the family, from his birth in 1904, and he later became a prominent local church warden. He and his wife also ran the local Scouts’ group.
So, when I consulted Document Reference: MBB/2/1/2 ARP Minutes 1939-40 (January 1940), I found him listed as ARP Warden Ref: 770. His address was given as 34 Bolan Street. Until the MoD supply Arthur's military service record (been waiting for ages) as he joined the Royal Engineers during 1940 (Railway Movement Control, 2nd Lieutenant), I can't clarify reasons for the earlier move in 1939 to Ealing. However, the stretch of Bolan Street that he and his family lived in was later destroyed by enemy bombing.
So, in my experience, the 1939 Register should be taken as a guide only. Unless ARP service can be authenticated and verified by other documentation, sadly, 1939 Register entries should be a gateway to further searching rather than a final confirmation of a relative's presumed service.”
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