An aide memoire for wardens not use to using the 24 hour clock.
80 years ago today, on the 1 September 1939 (two days before war was declared), the British government introduced blackout restrictions. From the Lord Privy Seal's office this message was communicated: "A lighting order has been made under Defence Regulation No. 24 and comes into operation at sunset tonight as a further measure of precaution. The effect of the order is that every night from sunset to sunrise all lights inside buildings must be obscured and lights outside buildings must be extinguished, subject to certain exceptions in the case of external lighting where it is essential for the conduct of work of vital national importance. Such lights must be adequately shaded”.
Every house, shop and factory was now under strict blackout rules. No light must escape from any source including from car headlamps. Preparations for the blackout had been taking place for years previously. The recruitment of ARP wardens had begun in March 1937 when the Home Office sought to recruit 300,000 volunteers (take up was initially slow but as the threat of war increased numbers grew). Trials of the blackout had started in 1938 and the crises in Europe intensified. The government also sent every household a number of information leaflets in 1939; leaflet number two covered the requirements for the blackout with details on masking windows.
During the previous couple of years the Air Ministry had reviewed how bombers may attack the UK. They thought that bombers would primarily attack at night. To counter this threat they advised the extinguishing all ground light sources would hamper the navigation of enemy bombers and affect the accuracy of their bombing.
To ensure no light escaped every house was expected to place heavy cotton fabric or brown paper over every window to stop light creeping out (or paint windows or place cardboard or wood panels over the windows). Preparing a house each evening for the blackout soon became a chore. And with no air raids happening people quickly tired of the process and also of the ARP wardens who enforced the regulations.
With fines for those breaking the blackout, wardens soon became the bane of many households. Newspapers published that day's blackout times which would be 30 minutes after sunset and 30 minutes before sunrise.
For shops and pubs, the need for customers to leave their premises without light escaping led to the introduction of double curtained entrances. Somewhat cumbersome and expensive to deploy.
In factories, the same blackout regulations were enforced. Many businesses permanently covered windows and skylights which led to increased use of interior lighting at all hours. The impact of this was both expensive in extra electricity consumption and also a lowering of employee morale due to the lack of natural light in the day.
For car drivers the blackout became a motoring nightmare. No interior lights were to be shown and only one headlamp could be used, pointing immediately downwards, which also had to have a special housing to limit the amount of light (introduced in 1940). Indicators and rear brake and running lights also had to be dimmed and screened.
The immediate impact of the blackout was a dramatic rise in car collisions and pedestrian accidents. Over a thousand people had been killed on the roads of the first month of implementation. By early 1940 handheld torches were allowed but batteries became scarce and expensive to obtain. The speed limit during the blackout was also lowered to 20 mph. White lines were painted on the roads and also on kerbs, telephone kiosks and post boxes. A number of business sold items that claimed to be luminous (badges and armbands) which would aid people in the dark, but in reality their usefulness was extremely limited.
The blackout also saw a large rise in reported crime - from muggings, looting and burglary to assaults and murders.
The Ministry for Home Security issued a plethora of posters and leaflets to inform the public how to better navigate in the blackout. These included how to hail a bus in the dark with their torch to taking extreme care when exiting from a train carriage. As elsewhere all train carriages were screened and accidents at railway stations rocketed.
Blackout restrictions were not eased until September 1944 when the dim-out was introduced. Lighting equivalent to that on a clear full moon night was allowed but had to be extinguished if an air raid alert was sounded. It was not until April 1945 that full street lighting returned to Britain - in London this was symbolically started with the lighting of the four clock faces on Big Ben on 30 April 1945.
A standard civilian gas respirator was posted on a Facebook forum and on it was a certification mark I had nor comes across before. The five-side shape with "Home Office Certification Mark written around the circumference had a stylised monogram in the centre. This combined the 'HO' of Home Office with 'ARP' letters. An interesting symbol.
Fire Guard Appointment Card issued by Risca Urban District in Monmouthshire in south Wales, 1943.
During an air raid it was required that people head to public shelters to their own shelter. Police and wardens would direct anyone found on the streets to the nearest shelter. The card below allows the holder to proceed during a raid to the ARP Control Centre at Handsworth Park in Birmingham. A very simple pass that was probably updated and replaced.
An interesting pre-war recruitment pamphlet that sets out the needs for various volunteers to join the ARP and Civil Defence services. Covers areas such as First Aid Parties, First Aid Posts and Hospitals, ARP Wardens, Auxiliary Fire Service, Women Ambulance Drivers and Attendants and Communication Personnel.
An informative disk that allowed the user to determine a host of potential war gases. Spin the various disks depending on the properties and you get to the gas.
A very interesting book is currently up for auction on eBay. The Warden's Manual by S. (for Samuel) Evelyn Thomas looks to be jam-packed with interesting detail. It's a book I have not seen before, but I came across the author's name whilst researching at Hackney's archives. He was a very active member of the ARP and wrote a number of books about the service including "A Practical Guide To A.R.P.".
In the late 1930s a number of cigarette manufacturers (such as Ogden's, Churchman's and Wills) used a similar set of 50 cards in their cigarette packets; Churchman's were of a slightly larger size than Wills or Ogden's. The set included information about home protection, dealing with incendiary devices and the various military equipment that might be used against enemy bombers, some of it antiquated even when issued.
I've scanned my copy and added a download link below - it's a large file - 40MB - but good quality.
A collection of badges and paperwork has been listed on eBay for an ARP Messenger in Ealing. The bundle includes a number of badges for the battledress blouse but also a rare identity card for the messenger service.
An interesting piece of paper ephemera is this volunteer enrolment form from the West Suffolk region.
An interesting piece of Wardens' Service ephemera is this pressed cardboard identification card. Possibly attached to the owner's keys this was an additional form of identification if injured during duty.
An interesting original message form showing the times of various raids. The colour coding used can be found here and here.
Much as ARP Wardens were issued with an appointment/warrant card, Fire Guards were also issued with identity cards to allow them access to buildings. This one is for the Borough of Wembley in north London.
This ARP Pattern 57 battledress jacket and warrant card cropped up on eBay recently (with a price of £160). It's the first time I have seen a double area marking - one for the county of Staffordshire and one for the local area of Rowley Regis (southeast of Dudley). Very unusual to see the Rowley Regis badge sewn to the upper flap of the breast pocket. The CD breast badge appears to be the merrow edge variety that was attached to the jacket when made. The rank stripes don't appear to be the usual WW2 variety and look a bit like those that the Civil Defence Corps issued from 1948. Again, they may be original but hard to say. Oddly the lanyard is white - I would have again expected it to be yellow for Staffordshire. It appears that a metal Police type chain in connecting the whistle to the lanyard. The jacket also features four war service chevrons.
An appointment card for a warden in the County of Derby. Quite a simple card with the most basic information required.
The most common air raid whistle found is the J. Hudson whistle that has "A.R.P." engraved on it. Also manufactured during the war was the Adie Bros. (Brothers) version that appeared in 1941, identical in design to the Hudson one. This company, also based in Birmingham, had previous government contracts for whistles and many appeared with the Ministry of Defence broad arrow - crows foot mark /|\ - and some with a year date.
In 1941 Adie Bros. received a contract for 40,000 ARP whistles (previously it appears that just Hudson has been manufacturing ARP whistles). Hudson's received a contract at the same time for 60,000. The reason for so many was that a change in how the alarm for the fall of incendiary bombs was to be made. Short blasts would indicate incendiaries. At this time whistles were now issued to all reserve wardens and fire guards/ fire watchers. Oddly, Supplementary Fire Parties did not get them. The Adie ARP whistle features the maker's name (ADIE BROS), city (BIRMINGHAM), royal cipher (GR VI) and year (1941). The 1941 ARP whistle omitted the MoD broad arrow as the contract came through the Ministry of Works & Buildings.
Read more about the history of ARP whistles
Here's an Air Raid warden appointment card from one of the rarer areas of the UK - the Royal Burgh of Rutherglen in Scotland.
An interesting poster that shows the general layout requirements for an ARP cleansing depot.
A rather straightforward appointment card for warden's in the Metropolitan Borough of Hammersmith. Other area had more detail but this one has probably the shortest text I have come across. There appears to have been no standard appointment card design and councils and local authorities were free to design them as they please.
There's not a great deal of information about the Women's Auxiliary Wardens Service. There are some badges in the Northampton area that feature the service. This document shows that in 1942 (12 August) the WAWS was rolled into the main Wardens' Service. It would be very interesting to learn more about the origin of the WAWS.
I am indebted to Alan Piddington for sharing some information from a book called "The Diary of an ARP Warden" by EJ Carter of Waltham Abbey. The book contains a series of excellent photographs from the latter half of the war. The below photo shows a rarely photographed mobile incident control post.
A Department of Home Security pamphlet from 1941 advising wardens on how to manage the public in the event of an invasion.
An identification card for a Supplementary Fire Guard within the Urban District of Chadderton in Lancashire.
An interesting piece of document ephemera is this ID card for the Ambulance Transport Services in Cardiff.
News about interesting insignia, ARP related info and period photos that turn up.