George P. was kind enough to share these sheet music covers for "Mister Brown of London Town" and "When They Sound The Last All Clear". Throughout the war many songs were written with regard to the events that were happening; quite a number played on the warden, air raids and the black-out.
I wonder if the Mister Brown one had an input into the famous Dad's Army theme "Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Mr Hitler?". There's a line in that song that goes, 'Mr Brown Goes Off To Town On The Eight Twenty-One, But He Comes Home Each Evening And He's Ready With His Gun'. Although thought by some to have been a wartime song, it was actually written by Jimmy Perry and Derek Taverner and performed by Bud Flanagan in the late 1960s.
By early 1942, London's Civil Defence Organisation had been through the Blitz and was developing into a substantial organisation. The below, a confidential booklet from February 1942, details the various positions of authority within the Civil Defence, from the over-arching regional hierarchy to the heads of the individual groups within the city and boroughs. It also details London Regional Council members such as Sir Ernest Gowers (Senior Regional Commissioner) and Admiral Sir Edward Evans (Regional Commissioner).
Included are details of all the various branches, such as "A" Branch (the Fire Guard organisation), "G" Branch in charge of shelters and "K" Branch covering the National Fire Service (plus other branches).
The page for south-east London (shown below), headquartered in Lewisham, shows the various Group Officers (this was repeated in the other nine groups, many also containing sub-groups).
An interesting document detailing the scope of the Civil Defence Organisation in London at this point in time.
Images courtesy of Bryan Jones.
A nice little pre-war grouping from Barnet. A certain Mr Skinner had passed the examination to be an Air Raid Warden in October 1938 and also received alongside his certificate a card "AIR RAID WARDEN" display sign for his window.
A fantastic collection of medals and commendations to ARP Rescue Squad member Mr. Albert Dore. The collection for sale at Dix Noonan Webb on 11 March 2021 (est. £200-£240). Dore was in a group that rescued the inhabitants of a bombed house in Streatham, south London, on 11 January 1941.
Included are a Defence Medal, in original box of issue, two King’s Commendation for Brave Conduct plastic pin-backed badges in box of issue, two King’s Commendation for Brave Conduct silver laurel leaves in box of issue and the Albert Dore's ARP silver lapel badge.
Initially titled as a single page wall sheet and later a double-sided broadsheet, The Midnight Watch included news relating to the Fire Guard and was "To be displayed in Fire Guard posts and wherever Fire Guards gather". Although there is a date of 1940 on the footer of this sheet, I believe it was issued after the formation of the Fire Guard in August 1941. It would appear it was initially published bi-monthly and later quarterly; issue No. 18 is dated October 1943 and issue No.19 is dated February 1944 for example.
Of note on this sheet is the Battle Honours section relating to Holborn ARP Warden Maurice Cohen Starr (George Medal recipient) and Warden Clifford Arthur Thomas Stratton and Fire Guard Walter Alfred Ricketts (both British Empire Medal recipients). The London Gazette snippet details their award. Ricketts was the first Fir Guard to be awarded a bravery medal.
Kilburn Heroes in the Blitz details the events behind the awards but sadly it omits Ricketts name:
Seventeen-year-old Clifford Stratton was an electrical engineer’s assistant who lived at 42 Buckley Road in Kilburn (later in the 1950s and 60s he is shown at No. 48). He had been a volunteer warden for six months.
On the night of Wednesday 16/17 April 1941, 685 German bombers attacked London. This was the largest attack since the Blitz began and some planes made two or even three sorties that night. A huge number of buildings were destroyed, and 1,720 Londoners were killed in what became known as 'The Wednesday'.
Clifford was part of a team of stretcher bearers who rescued a man and two girls trapped on the fourth floor in flats in Portpool Lane, off the Grays Inn Road Holborn. The building was on fire and more bombs were falling. Climbing to the top of their ladder they found it was too short, so they jumped onto a windowsill, and after tying the girls and the man to their backs, they were lowered to other wardens on the ladder. They were incredibly lucky, a few minutes after the rescue, part of the building collapsed.
The team leader, 30-year old Maurice Cohen, was awarded the George Cross, and Stratton was given the British Empire Medal (civilian). Clifford was a scout in the 15th Holborn troop, and he was also given a Silver Cross scout award. He had only recently returned to warden duty after an operation on his foot."
The threat of invasion across the Channel remained a concern through the spring and summer of 1941. The below directive, sent though the Regional Commissioner for Civil Defence Eastern Area, details the requirements for vehicle owners to ensure they undertake measures to deny their motor vehicle to the enemy.
A certificate of service for a part-time volunteer in the Messenger Service. Dates gives are between February 1939 and the stand down of the Civil Defence Services in early May 1945.
Always interesting to see, especially if of an area you know, are the wardens' posts and sector posts maps. The below is for the area of Mayfair designated as Group 'D'.
The German SD 2 "butterfly bombs" were small air-dropped anti-personnel/fragmentation devices. Dropped in containers that opened at a pre-determined height, the 'wings' opened and rotated the device thus arming it. It could be fitted with a variety of fuses - from impact to delay. Various colours from green/grey to yellow were dropped, some with red or yellow stripes on the wings.
The first use of the butterfly bombs was in Ipswich in late October 1940. Later attacks on Grimsby, Cleethorpes and Hull in June 1943 caused tremendous loss of life and disruption to the area.
The Ministry of Home Security issued warning pamphlets regarding the bombs. A Ministry of Information film detailed the dangers of the butterfly bombs.
Southern Railway memorandum number 2 from March 1943. Interesting note about the use of butterfly bombs (the mention of colours proves both were being dropped) and a DIY fix for the canvas mittens protectors that were worn over the anti-gas oilskin gloves.
Thanks to George P. for the image.
Although not directly related to Civil Defence this telephonist certificate from 1941 was probably similar to those issued to Report & Control telephonists. Not an overly exciting piece of paper ephemera but the last line is intriguing: "You are expected to comply with the instructions issued to you by the Post Office Authorities respecting your teeth if you have not already done so." Now what is that about...?
Thanks to George P. for the image.
Two course completion certificates issued in 1942 and 1943. It's quite rare to see LAAS certificates.
A certificate issued by the Central Wandsworth Division, Fire Guard Organisation in November 1942. The attendee had passed a course in dealing with incendiary bombs.
An interesting Warden's Warrant Card issued in Coventry. I've not seen a card where the covers have been used to convey such detail. Shame it had not been filled in more.
London Underground shelter tickets are avidly collected. The three here recently sold on eBay - Paddington and Goodge Street for £75 and South Wimbledon for £57. Several other stations have appeared and there was some discussion on forums about whether these were being reproduced.
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.
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.
Send me items to blog about via my contact page