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.
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.
War Service Chevrons were issued to members of the Civil Defence Services from September 1944. For eack full 12 month period of service, an individual was entitled to one chevron. With some members then subsequently making a fifth year of service, a single additional war service chevron was issued. On many stand-down photos in May/June of 1945 it is possible to see the five chevrons (a set of four plus one) worn on the lower right sleeve. Images courtesy of George P.
A scarce appointment card for an Information Officer at a Rest Centre in Derbyshire. Appointment (sometimes called Warrant) cards are quite regularly seen for ARP Wardens and other Civil Defence services but it is quite rare to see one for an Information Officer or other position within the Air Raid Welfare organisation.
Rest Centres were set up in locations (quite often schools) where those who had been bombed out could find food, temporary shelter and also renew documentation if their originals had been lost. The Information Officer would be able to advise them on the ways they could seek further assistance from the local authority.
The Mechanised Transport Corps, a group of volunteer women drivers between 1939 and 1946, worked for a wide variety of government bodies. Originally an offshoot of the First World War Women’s Legion its 6,500 members, without official recognition in the early years of the war, offered their services to many Civil Defence organisations. Even before war broke out they were driving members of the newly-formed Women’s Voluntary Service and instructing women volunteers in the skills necessary to drive the ambulances of the London Auxiliary Ambulance Service (LAAS).
In Lambeth, forty members of the MTC’s No. 1 Company volunteered to drive the Borough’s ARP Stretcher Parties for the statutory ARP wage of £2 a week, their example followed in further areas in Greater London. By early 1940 members driving for Civil Defence had acquired their own arm badge. In March 1941 two Lambeth SP drivers – a housewife and secretary - were presented with the British Empire Medal by HM The King for helping rescue trapped casualties at a major air raid incident.
Medical assistance of another kind was performed by those driving for the American Ambulance Great Britain (AAGB), a fleet of large cars paid for by American donors to carry mobile surgical teams to bombing incidents. When Queen’s Messenger Food Convoys were created to take emergency food supplies to badly bombed cities, a large number of their vehicles were driven by the MTC. In Leeds thirteen MTC volunteers drove for the Regional Commissioner’s Volunteer Transport and Messenger Service, its Birmingham Counterpart working for the Ministry of Information calling itself the Auxiliary Drivers Association and wearing its own distinctive badges.
Apart from its work for Civil Defence the MTC also drove for – amongst many others - the Home Guard, the Blood Transfusion Service, the Admiralty, the Allied Free Forces, the US Army in Britain and the Inter-Service Research Bureau, a cover name of the Special Operations Executive. And they served in Africa, started the Girls’ Training Corps and formed the basis of the post-war Government Car Service. Not bad for an organisation that nobody originally wanted!
Back in 2008 I published No. 4 in my sadly-incomplete series Within the Island Fortress. Compiled from the personal papers of the Corps’ second Commandant Mrs. Resy Peake – who I was privileged to meet – this told the MTC’s story in detail, illustrated by some fifty original photos and examples of the Corps uniforms and badges.
I have recently had a small number of No. 4 reprinted which I am offering for sale for £15 inc. UK postage. If you would like a copy please email me at email@example.com.
In all my years collecting and visiting various militaria sales (both online and in person), I have never come across any of the helmet transfers that were made during the war. The below advert from a company called Display Patents Ltd details their wares. Amongst the items are various transfers for helmets.
Of interest is the list of 'shoulder flashes' (usually called shoulder titles). I've not (yet) seen an example of "Ambulance Driver' or "Equipment Officer" being worn.
I manged to pick up some copies of the Civil Defence Journal - ARP & NFS Review. I've seen copies on eBay a few times but the below looked to be of keen interest for this blog. The magazines cover a wealth of Civil Defence news as well as copious amounts of adverts aimed at CD / Fire Brigade workers. Having the whole series would make for an excellent resource.
The introduction makes it clear how different the use of insignia within the Civil Defence Service could be:
"In Civil Defence the discretionary power vested in local authorities means that considerable variations are to be found; two men, of equal rank, on either side of a street forming a regional boundary may have different rank markings."
There is also some excellent information on helmet markings.
An area showing a continuing growth in interest is the collecting of WW2 paper ephemera relating to ARP and Civil Defence Services. Whilst the common HMSO booklets are regular sellers on the likes of eBay, a number of other items are also now generating a lot of bids. Prices are certainly going up for rarer items like Christmas cards and postcards. The below was kindly shared by GO, a regular contributor to this blog.
Even though the heavy bombing of British cities was yet to come the Ministry of Home Security was developing and producing training and operations memoranda. The attached file is from May of 1940 and over four pages defines the roles of the police, fire services and ARP services as well as creation of incident posts for air raid incidents. Within a few short years a whole booklet of 76 pages would be produced regarding the managing of Air Raid incidents (Civil Defence Training Manual 4 - Incident Control - 1st Edition. November 1943).
ARP warden appointment cards are now avidly collected and prices have seen a marked upswing over the past couple of years. This Borough of Wandsworth card also comes with a certificate of service. There was no nationwide system for these cards and although they follow a certain format (borough name, date of issue, signature etc) it appears that local authorities were able to decide what was included. Some include areas for sector post numbers and other details; this one is probably at the more basic end though the borough's crest on the cover is often seen om these cards.
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.
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.
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 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.
In September 1944 war service chevrons were issued to Civil Defence personnel. Each red chevron was issued for each complete 12 months' service. The below document also shows that members of the Fire Guard could also apply the chevrons to their Fire Guard armband. I have seen the chevrons also sewn onto the Civil Defence armband.
I recently picked up this very interesting book entitled “Lloyd’s Under Fire”. It is a tribute to the company’s civil defence forces and was published in 1947. The copy I bought also came with a few letters addressed to a G. L. Knowles. According to the book he was the Officer Commanding Fire Squad No. 6. There is also a drawing of this person.
The book contains information about how Lloyd’s prepared its buildings for air raids and how during the war staff volunteered at both the company’s own air raid shelters but also at public shelters within the London Underground system. This is very interesting as it mentions the “New Tube Shelters” and also that the deep station at Goodge Street was a female-only shelter.
Contained in the book are a wealth of photographs and also one very interesting double page layout showing the destruction caused by bombing around Lloyd’s London headquarters. Amazingly, for such a large building in an area of London that received a lot of Luftwaffe attention it survived the war unscathed.
On 13 June 1944 the first V1 flying bomb was launched from ramps in France. For a further 290 days another 10,385 missiles were fired towards the UK from France and Holland. The majority were aimed at London and the south east England with 40% of the V1 missiles falling on the County of London. The constant alerts and drain on the Civil Defence services led to a call for wardens in other areas to volunteer to go to London for short periods to assist. The below documents highlight the secret communiques seeking assistance, in this case from Cornwall.
I am indebted to George P. for sharing these documents.
I am indebted to Chris Chandler for sharing this very rare brochure detailing various signs for use during wartime. Produced by a company called Gowshall Limited it lists various types of oil, gas or electric signage and portable road signs; it includes Warden, Shelter, Cleansing etc. The full catalogue is available in this downloadable PDF:
I am indebted to a regular contributor to this blog for the following items. NARPAC - National Air Raid Precautions Animals Committee - were a charity aiding the welfare of animals (both domestic and farm). The items below come from West Worthing and were probably used on a vehicle being used by NARPAC volunteers. The item bottom left may be a helmet decal.
A form used by households to claim a shelter (I assume this will be the Anderson-style shelter for the garden). Hundreds of thousands of these must have been printed but it's an item you rarely come across these days.
Here are 16 cartoons created to explain the role of a WW2 Bomb Reconnaissance Officer during the second world war. The cartoons were created by No. 2 Bomb Disposal Group, Royal Engineers for use by the Civil Defence Services. I am indebted to Chris Ransted, author of Bomb Disposal in World War Two, for sharing these images.
In slide 3 'köpfring' refers to a a metal ring, triangular in cross section, designed to prevent a bomb penetrating the ground. In slide 10, the term 'camouflets' is an artificial cavern created by an explosion. If the explosion reaches the surface then it is called a crater.
The threat of chemical weapons being used during WW2 was taken extremely seriously at the Ministry of Health. Large scale information campaigns involving posters, leaflets and cinema shorts were released. The below is a leaflet designed to update the population of the various gases that could be employed by the enemy. See also WW2 Gas Identification Disk
I am indebted to a visitor to this blog for sharing the following images. They include the Certificate of Enrolment, First Aid examination pass note and the B.R.C.S. (British Red Cross Society) ARP Reserve armband. The enrolment certificate is quite a scarce item to see.
An interesting letter appeared on eBay concerning Post Warden stripes. Sent to a Fire Station in Pinner, the letter (dated June 1943) outlines the badges received are the printed variety and not the material (I assume embroidered) type (that were hoped for it appears). The letter from H.U.D.C (Harrow Unitary District Council) details that existing badges will need to be returned when these are issued. Clearly the person receiving the badges wasn't overly enamoured with the printed badges and simply filed the letter. Slightly curious is the whilst the letter is dated 2 June 1943, the letter's date stamp is 25 May 1943.
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