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.
A certificate issued by the London Passenger Transport Board (London Underground etc) in November 1938. This is quite an early date and shows that Mr Mills was keen to get his ARP training completed.
An interesting document I had not come across before. This "Orders To Parties" form from the Lambeth Civil Defence area in London covers a lot of information about an incident.
I've tried to decipher the abbreviations but one or two are not obvious:
SP - Stretcher Party (term used in London for First Aid Party)
CDP - not sure on this one - something Party
AMB - Ambulance
REP - Repair Squads (gas, water, electricity, sewage, telephone etc)
MU - Mobile Unit
R - Rescue
MC - ?
DCP - Decontamination Party
Warrant, appointment or ID cards for members of the Wardens' Service crop up fairly regularly online but cards for other Civil Defence services and quite scarce. This very simply ID card details the owner belonging to a First Aid Party in the city.
As the various posts for wardens and first aid parties were developed there was a need to mark these on maps. The below gives an outline of the symbols used for the Wardens' Service and Casualty Services.
It's hard to imagine the feeling in the summer of 1940 but the possibility of a German invasion of the UK was taken incredibly seriously. Following the Dunkirk debacle the Ministry of Home Security released a number of posters and pamphlets providing advice. Many included information about moving into air raid shelters should the invasion arrive in your locality. Below is the text from one such pamphlet.
Issued by the Ministry of Information on behalf of the War Office and the Ministry of Home Security
STAY WHERE YOU ARE
If this island is invaded by sea or air everyone who is not under orders must stay where he or she is. This is not simply advice: it is an order from the Government, and you must obey it just as soldiers obey their orders. Your order is “Stay Put”, but remember that this does not apply until invasion comes.
Why must I stay put?
Because in France, Holland and Belgium, the Germans were helped by the people who took flight before them. Great crowds of refugees blocked all the roads. The soldiers who could have defended them could not get at the enemy. The enemy used the refugees as a human shield. These refugees were got out on to the roads by rumour and false orders. Do not be caught out in this way. Do not take any notice of any story telling what the enemy has done or where he is. Do not take orders except from the Military, the Police, the Home Guard (L.D.V.) and the A.R.P. authorities or wardens.
What will happen if I don’t stay put?
If you do not stay put you will stand a very good chance of being killed. The enemy may machine-gun you from the air in order to increase panic, or you may run into enemy forces which have landed behind you. An official German message was captured in Belgium which ran:
“Watch for civilian refugees on the roads. Harass them as much as possible.”
Our soldiers will be hurrying to drive back the invader and will not be able to stop and help you. On the contrary, they will have to turn you off the roads so that they can get at the enemy. You will not have reached safety and you will have done just what the enemy wanted you to do.
How shall I prepare to stay put?
Make ready your air-raid shelter; if you have no shelter prepare one. Advice can be obtained from your local Air Raid Warden or in “Your Home as an Air-raid Shelter”, the government booklet which tells you how to prepare a shelter in your house that will be strong enough to protect you against stray shots and falling metal. If you can have a trench ready in your garden or field, so much the better, especially if you live where there is likely to be danger from shell-fire.
How can I help?
You can help by setting a good example to others. Civilians who try to join the fight are more likely to get in the way than to help. The defeat of the enemy attack is the task of the armed forces which include the Home Guard, so if you wish to fight enrol in the Home Guard. If there is no vacancy for you at the moment register your name for enrolment and you will be called upon as soon as the Army is ready to employ you. For those who cannot join there are many ways in which the Military and Home Guard may need your help in their preparations. Find out what you can do to help in any local defence work that is going on, and be ready to turn your hand to anything if asked by the Military or Home Guard to do so.
If you are responsible for the safety of a factory or some other important building, get in touch with the nearest military authority. You will then be told how your defence should fit in with the military organisation and plans.
What shall I do if the Invader comes my way?
If fighting by organised forces is going on in your district and you have no special duties elsewhere go to your shelter and stay there till the battle is past. Do not attempt to join in the fight. Behave as if an ai-raid were going on. The enemy wills seldom turn aside to attack separate houses.
It’s easy to say. When the time comes it may be hard to do. But you have got to do it; and in doing it you will be fighting Britain’s battle as bravely as a soldier.
I am indebted to a contributor to this blog for sharing the image below. The warrant identification card certifies Mr E Haddon as a Gas Identification Officer (GIO) in the County of Derby. Like a lot of GIOs, Mr Hadden was a pharmacist in civilian life.
An interesting piece of paper ephemera from the West Riding of Yorkshire. This 1940 pass allowed the bearer access to the report centre in Keighley,
A large selection of ephemera relating to the ARP and Civil Defence has cropped up on eBay. Amongst the various booklets, cigarette cards and other items was this poster about "Cleansing Facilities for ARP Services". It shows the generic layout of a cleansing station as well as a reminder to personnel how to prepare for duty
Throughout 1938 and into 1939 the numbers of people joining the Wardens’ Service rose slowly. Following the outbreak of war there was another burst of people joining and a number of senior positions within the Wardens’ Service were paid a full-time salary. However, 90% of wardens were part-timers and one-in-six wardens were women. The vast majority were middle-aged or elderly.
As the Phoney War dragged on the number of volunteers dipped. With the call for recruitment into the Home Guard in the spring of 1940 many men resigned. By the time the Blitz started in the summer of 1940 full-time ARP personnel were being paid £3 and 5 shillings (£3 5s.) per week; women received £2, 3 shillings and 6 pence (£2 3s. 6d.) Part-time members would have their normal employment salary topped up with a few extra shillings per week. No overtime was paid. Full-time ARP personnel received 12 days’ annual holiday and three weeks sick pay.
An appointment card for the Borough of Walsall in the Midlands. The bearer's name has been written in an almost Tolkienesque font, most unusual.
During the second world war the Royal Life Saving Society offered training to civilians in first aid and artificial respiration. Those who were members of the Civil Defence service were entitled to wear the society's woven 2" x 2" red on dark navy blue badge on their right breast pocket of battledress (I have not yet come across this badge on a ladies' Pattern 71 tunic). There was a separate oxidised metal badge that could be worn on civilian clothing (though at least one photo shows a full colour enamel badge being worn on bluette overalls early in the war).
The most interesting photo and description shows the destruction of street level air raid shelters. Dated April 1945 it shows that by this late stage of the war there was no longer any threat from the Luftwaffe or V-weapons (obviously the remaining airfields were way inside Germany and the range of V2s (about 200 miles) could no longer reach the UK).
Of all the civil defence services, the Fire Guard was to have the most members during the second world war. Compulsory registration was brought in during 1943 and hundreds of thousands of people were required to join Fire Guard parties. The below is an example of a training notification. Read a short history of the Fire Guard
A very interesting air raid warden's authority card cropped up on eBay recently. For the City of Birmingham and dated in 1940 it is for a Mrs. B. F. Jones who was the Lady Deputy Group Warden.
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