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.
Direct from the garden shed of a notorious eBay scammer is this absolute monstrosity. A post-war Civil Defence Corps battledress that has had a fake GWR ARP breast badge applied (these badges are complete fantasy items) with more fake GWR circular collar patches. To top it off with have Slough shoulder titles (eh???) for some reason, a couple of GWR buttons to replace the black plastic epaulette buttons and then finally out came the John Bull printing kit to add a touch of "authenticity" to the inside. So hilariously fake it's a surprise anyone would be taken in. Alas someone may will bid.
We've seen a similar attempt made to create an LNER jacket in the past. A little research can save you a bob or two people...
Marlows Military Auctioneers have an upcoming sale on 5 November, 2020 that includes a number of lots with ARP and Civil Defence interest. One lot contains a variety of celluloid matchbox covers - for the ARP, Auxiliary Fire Service, Home Guard & Civil Defence, a collectable ARP ashtray and ladies' compact.
A group photo of members of London's Auxiliary Ambulance Service. I assume this is early in the war given that only bluette overalls are in evidence. I've not seen many photos of LAAS insignia on bluette.
See this previous blog post on LAAS lapel badges.
Image courtesy of Matthew Smaldon.
The collecting of second world war home front paper ephemera has seen increased interest over the past few years. Before and during the war a plethora of magazines, booklets and pamphlets were issued by the government, local authorities and various newspapers etc with regards to air raid precautions. The below, subtitled "A Comprehensive Guide in Graphic Narrative", is one such example. They often contain very interesting photos of Civil Defence personnel as well as information on air raid shelters (often showing perfectly dry, well appointed Anderson shelters and not the damp, flooded, freezing hovels many remember the shelters to be).
Prices for these magazines continue to grow and many are now reaching into the £20+ mark. I can recall seeing many such magazines literally in pieces in crates at militaria shows twenty years ago...
An interesting chart detailing the common bombs dropped by the Luftwaffe during the second world war. Probably used as a teaching aid (with the cheeky dig that "Ours Are Better"...). Thanks to George for sharing.
The German air force dropped mainly High Explosive (HE) and Incendiary Bombs (IB) plus some anti-personnel bombs (such as the butterfly cluster bombs) on Britain during the second world war. HE bombs were used for their destructive force and blast effect on buildings; IBs were intended to caused major fires. An aircraft might contain both types.
Initially, the more common German HE ordnance were the 50kg and 250kg bombs. Bombs types were defined by SC, SD or PC, for example, a SC250 would be a general purpose 250kg Sprengbombe Cylindrich. HE bombs would also be fitted with different fuses - short or long delay. The majority of bombs dropped on Britain during the war were of the SC type. The largest 1,100lb shown below equates to 500kg (not shown are the 1,000kg 'Hermann' or 1,800kg 'Satan'). The last bomb on the chart is a 250kg oil bomb (German: Flammenbombe).
The armour piercing bomb shown was prefixed SD (Sprengbombe Dickwandig). They came is various sizes from 50, 250, 500 to 1,700kg and due to their penetration qualities were used primarily against ships and concrete emplacements. The PC (Panzerbombe Cylindrich) armour piercing bomb had a thicker nose and shell with only 20% of the total weight being explosive; these were used against ships and fortifications.
To read more about how unexploded bombs were dealt with see Chris Ransted's Bomb Disposal in World War Two. To learn more about the various bombs dropped by the Luftwaffe see Air Dropped Ordnance.
On 15 December, 1940, Dennis Bingham, a 16-year-old member of Sheffield's Messenger service, was badly injured during a raid on the city. Though injured, Dennis still managed to relay a message to the Report & Control Centre regarding the incident. He was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for his devotion to duty.
From the Supplement to the London Gazette, 11 April, 1941:
"On leaving his Post with a message, Bingham was injured and rendered unconscious by the explosion of a H.E. bomb. Recovering consciousness, he endeavoured to get his message through. He had covered some distance over the debris of demolished buildings when he collapsed. He managed, however, to crawl to the home of another messenger and pass on his message. Bingham showed great devotion to duty although suffering from serious injuries."
Something new to me cropped up on a Facebook group over the weekend. Someone posted a few pages from a wartime magazine called the "Police Journal" (dated to the third quarter of 1941) that mentioned individual Civil Defence services would use coloured pennants at incident posts so the service could be quickly identified. The pennants were triangles 12 inches at the broad end and 2 foot long. The colour scheme used:
Ambulance - White with red cross pennant
Casualty (First Aid Parties with ambulances) - Black and White divided horizontally pennant
Fire - Grey with 6 inch diameter red disc pennant
First Aid Parties - White pennant
Police - Dark Blue pennant
Public Utility Repair / Rescue - Green pennant
Decontamination - Yellow pennant
How well used this system was is up for debate. It was probably after the major blitz period of 1940 into 1941 that liaison between services was crucial and possibly not very well coordinated initially. The pennants were an attempt to rectify this but with the lessening of raids they perhaps were not widely adopted. To date, there is no photographic evidence of them in use (either training or for an actual post raid incident)
The marking of Incident Posts during daylight was with a 3 foot square chequered flag of six inch squares of Cambridge blue and white. The night time marking was two stacked lamps (both blue and purple colours have been mentioned in original references).
For major incidents where a large number of services may be called in to assist, a Rendezvous Point may be set up by the police. This is marked by a 3 foot square flag of six-inch wide vertical Cambridge blue and white stripes. At night, the rendezvous point was marked by two blue/purple lamps side by side.
Thanks to Graham Murray and Austin Ruddy for the information.
Here's an interesting item sent in via the website (thank you Wayne). This looks to be a homemade instructional poster about the dangers of incendiary bombs - especially the ones containing additional explosive material. Two IBs have been made from wood to show scale no doubt. Possibly someone that had attended an instructors' course returned to his area and made this to show his fellow wardens. A rare survivor.
Currently there appears to be some remarkable prices being asked (and in one case £115 paid) for plastic WW2 Junior Salvage Steward Cog In The Wheel and related badges.
The cost of the "Junior Salvage Steward Cog In The Wheel" red plastic badge is extraordinary (it has also sold for £35 on eBay as well). There are a few copy cat sellers chancing their arm that it will sell again at this absurd price. The tin button badge (possibly a tad scarcer) and one on eBay at the moment (starting at £23).
The most common variety - the red plastic Salvage Steward - is usually selling for between £20 (one sold on eBay recently for £18) and £50. A number of militaria sellers have the badge at the £40 mark.
I once saw the red, green and blue Salvage Steward badges for sale at War & Peace Show for £80 the lot (which I turned down...d'oh...). Home Front badges do go through fits and starts and as ever the rarer factory ARP badges always go for a premium.
All the way from Canada this badge. Sent in by Scott this badge was amongst his grandfather's personal items. I have seen similar badges with green and blue enamel but this is a first for the red. I am assuming that the colours were used by different CD services (first aid probably using the red).
Following on from yesterdays' blog about the The Queen's Messengers Convoy, Adrian Blake was kind enough to share two helmets from his collection. Adrian is the author of Helmets of the Home Front. the reference bible for all things helmet related on the British home front in WW2.
The Queen's Messenger Convoys (some references state initially 18 convoys, later 21 in total) were created in early 1941 to provide emergency welfare assistance to areas affected by bombing. The then Queen donated towards the creation of the service and the vehicles were marked with "Gift of H.M. The Queen". Vehicles were also paid for/donated by the USA and a number of period photographs show a circular sign of the flags of the UK and USA with "American Committee for Air Raid Relief to Great Britain" written on it. Other dominions (such as Jamaica) also paid for vehicles.
The QM convoys were managed via the Ministry of Food. A standard eight-vehicle convoy consisted of two stores lorries (with 6,000 emergency meals), two kitchen lorries plus three mobile canteens and a water tanker (300-350 gallons). The convoys also contained several despatch motorcyclists. Later the size of convoys varied with some also containing a welfare vehicle. They had "Queen's Messenger Convoy" written above the cabs and "Food Flying Squad" written on the side of the vehicles and they had a distinctive yellow and blue paint job.
Most of the convoys' members were volunteers. Some of the convoys were staffed and assisted by members of the WVS (seen in period photos). Regional Food Officers could appoint paid drivers if necessary. Vehicles would add "battle honours" denoting the locations that they had assisted.
Following the Normandy Landings a number of the convoys were lent to UNRRA (United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration founded in 1943) to help people in the formerly Nazi-occupied countries.
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