The worsening diplomatic condition across Europe saw a drive to recruit the general public into the Civil Defence Services. This leaflet, no doubt influenced by events in the Spanish Civil War, details the various opportunities for those inclined to volunteer. I am indebted to regular contributor GP for sharing this leaflet.
A number of owners of Civil Defence armbands had them embroidered during the war. Here we have another adaptation with a Head Warden badge added to an armband.
This fabulous photo shows members of District P in Croydon undertaking their stand down photo (probably in May 1945). Of particular interest in the flag; I've never seen anything quite like this before. There's a real mix of head wear on show - the standard beret, felt hat and side cap plus three gentlemen sat at the front in peaked hats - this has been seen before but is quite rare.
For the love of Mary, will people please stop buying the fake ARP Shelter keys on eBay. A few weeks ago a key went for the eye-watering amount of £143. And that key was almost certainly knocked up in a shed. Since then any old key (and this is clearly an old wardrobe key) has had ARP SHELTER (poorly) stamped onto it. They are fake!
There are a number of different designs for Fire Watcher badges and prices online are showing a marked upward swing. Here are two badges of the same design but one with the half-moon lapel fitting and one with the brooch pin fitting.
A visitor to the site sent through the following items after seeing a previous blog post regarding a cigarette case with The Times ARP badge on it. Below is another cigarette case but this time in the original box of issue and with a letter for the recipient. This is dated October 1939 and I assume goes to show that The Times had been undertaking ARP duties for some time.
Also sent along were three ARP badges issued by The Times. I assume there may have been some reason behind the various colours.
An interesting piece of paper ephemera is this postcard concerning the Civil Defence Review that took place in Hyde Park in July, 1941. The postcard was created to send Christmas wishes to family or friends at the end of 1941.
This OFFICER I/C ARP SERVICES armband OFFICER I/C CD SERVICES sleeve insignia is held at Chertsey Museum. I'd not seen either before. Also listed from the same donation are "Report And Control" shoulder titles for and the rank insignia of a thin bar over a wide.
The Lambeth Shelter Marshal armband sold on eBay on 14 June 2020 for the princely sum of £510 (thankfully the item came with free postage...). In total there were 25 bids from eight different bidders. There is certainly a growing market for British home front memorabilia but I do not recall an armband reaching anything like the amount this one did. The same seller had a Paddington ARP Messenger armband that sold for £285.
Regularly appearing on eBay are mementos featuring German incendiary bomb fins. These "souvenirs" of various city blitzes usually all have a find plonked onto a block of wood and a made up label added for that extra level of "authenticity". From Coventry Cathedral to Liverpool Docks, the London Blitz to Southampton fire-bombing, fraudsters have been faking these items for years. The sad fact is that collectors new to the hobby fall victim to the fakes. It may well be a real incendiary fin (but again these are now reproduced - I've seen them for sale at £30 a pop at militaria fairs) but the provenance is completely made up. The one below isn't even German and claimed to be a captured French example dropped in Reigate... They often come from the very same sellers who always seem to have them available. The below sold on eBay in June 2020, fools and their money...
It is assumed that the badge below was a private purchase badge that was worn by member's of the Wardens' Service who had passed the LARP (Local Air Raid Precautions) instructors' course. The silver coloured enamel badge is regularly available but to date the below badge has not been seen on any period photographs. I have seen several of these badges over the years and they all appear to have the same style of manufacture.
A shelter ticket issued in 1942 for use in one of the Borough of Wandworth's ARP shelters. The current Tooting Bec London Underground station was originally called Trinity Road (changed name on 1 October 1950). The address shown is a couple of hundred yards from the tube station.
This stand down photo features a Civil Defence Reserve group. Of particular interest are the two despatch riders that are rarely seen in photos. Under magnification is appears they all have the Civil Defence Reserve shoulder titles and the berets have the rare printed CDR badge. A number have war service chevrons. Curiously, a number of the battledress have no breast badge; they are the austerity pattern and they may have been issued especially for the photo.
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.
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