Wardens, who quickly became the CD ‘jacks of all trades’, found that one unexpected consequence of enemy bombing was the number of bombs which failed to explode – UXBs in the language of the time. As false reports of UXBs made the job of the newly-formed Royal Engineers (RE) Bomb Disposal Sections more difficult the Home Office suggested in late 1941 that selected police and wardens could be trained to investigate UXB reports as Bomb Reconnaissance Officers. The army’s Southern Command already trained wardens for this job and it was suggested that those who successfully completed a training course should be issued with a badge.
In March 1942 the Southern CD Region reported that Hampshire County had already approved unofficial badges ‘…for issue to Bomb Recognition and Recce volunteers who have qualified at Southern Command Bomb Recognition School or on County Instructional Courses’. Those qualified wore a badge on the left sleeve of their ARP uniform four inches above the cuff seam, oval if qualified on the Southern Command course, round – as here - if qualified at a recognised County Instructional Course.
Although the Home Office agreed that the Hampshire oval badge could serve as a model for a national scheme, progress was delayed by NFS objections to the use of qualification badges on uniform. The compromise solution was found in the form of the red and black armlet shown which was quickly altered to red on blue. As discussions continued on this the Home Office noted that ‘local authorities are designing their own BR badges’.
This design was not liked and, revised by using the army bomb disposal badge as its model, it was approved on 8 August, 1942. Shortly before production of this red and blue armlet began the Inspector of Bomb Disposal at GHQ Home Forces suggested that the armlet ‘ought to be on a light colour background to enable easier recognition by night. May I suggest a black bomb on a yellow band to avoid confusion with the Regular RE badge which is of the same design but yellow on red’. An order for 4,000 armlets was placed in September and they were announced to Civil Defenders in December 1942.
Just to make the modern collector’s mouth water they were originally four shillings (that’s 40 pence) per dozen! (Details from National Archives file HO186/2792 Bomb Reconnaissance Badges).
Article originally published in 2009 by the The Military Heraldry Society and copyright remains with this publication.
As researchers of ARP/CD, just like any other militaria collectors, we often seek surviving uniforms that are badged up as much as possible, providing a full example and display of the various types of insignia that were issued. This blog has shown some great examples in recent weeks.
However, for a variety of reasons, not all ARP and CD uniforms found today are badged up like the proverbial ‘Christmas tree’. Regional variations, badges never issued or since removed, even the limited knowledge of those wishing to reproduce or fake a uniform can explain the different variations encountered. Indeed, as contemporary photos show, many CD personnel were simply issued with a battledress tunic bearing only the CD chest patch, sometimes applied during the garment’s manufacture.
Very often, both ARP and CD uniforms carried a city, town or county area title, worn on the chest below the service insignia. These are now very collectable, even more so if the named area was heavily blitzed. Some years ago, I found a ‘LEICESTER’ yellow CD area title for my home town, but try as I may, I could not find any examples of the city’s preceding red ARP area title.
Scouring through contemporary photos of the city’s ARP personnel with a magnifying glass, I noticed that although they wore the standard red ‘ARP’ service chest insignia on their ARP 41 bluette overalls, no area title was present. ARP personnel of many, if not most, towns and cities wore an area title, not least for reasons of esprit de corps, so, why did Leicester, a city with a long and proud history, not have one, especially as an area title was worn on later CD uniforms?
I discovered the answer whilst researching my book, Tested By Bomb And Flame: Leicester Versus Luftwaffe Air Raids, 1939-1945. As is so often the case, archive records provided the explanation. Fortunately, the ARP Minutes of the City of Leicester Corporation survive at the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland, at Wigston. These minutes reveal the thinking behind the decisions and expenditure made by the city’s ARP Committee.
Leicester’s ARP started receiving their uniforms from March 1940, with the receipt of ‘864 ARP 41 bluette combinations for male personnel’ at a cost of £453.12.0d (around £24,000 today or around £28 each – a bargain today!). However, when it came to purchasing an area title, it would appear the committee drew their purse strings tight and the spending ceased.
It was only two years later, with the official Ministry of Home Security instruction that the city’s ARP Committee minuted on 9th February 1942: ‘in accordance with the provisions of HSC 189/1941, a local marking (the name of the City) be provided for each new uniform issued to CD personnel, named ‘LEICESTER’.’ The county area would follow six months later, with the issue of a ‘LEICESTERSHIRE’ CD title.
This was not the only example of Leicester ARP Committee’s minimalist and thrifty-thinking. Unlike elsewhere in Britain, Leicester ARP Committee’s VE Day celebrations were muted, to say the least: ‘In view of the circumstances and subject to there being no further guidance from the Government on the matter, this Committee are of the opinion that no arrangements should be made for a final parade of CD Services.’ Likewise, on the question of a commemorative service certificate for CD personnel, as issued in neighbouring counties, official instruction said ‘that such a Certificate should be issued is left to the discretion of the local authority.’ On 16th July 1945, the ARP Committee resolved that ‘in view of the fact that typed letters of thanks have been sent to the personnel of the local authority Services, the suggestion that a further Certificate of Thanks be issued, be not entertained’ – hence why no official illuminated Leicester CD certificate of service will be found by collectors today or ever!
A footnote: Around 2010, whilst attending a 1940s reenactors event on the Great Central Railway, at Quorn station, Leicestershire, I did a double-take to see an ARP reenactor wearing a red ‘LEICESTER’ ARP area title, contrary to contemporary records and photos. A close gawp suggested that if this was a reproduction badge, it was very well made. To get to the bottom of the matter, I asked the reenactor how, if it was original, he had such a research-defying badge – his answer was that he used a red felt tip pen to colour in an original yellow ‘LEICESTER’ CD area title! Some years later, this amended badge appeared for sale on eBay. Occasionally, reality defies your eyes and logic…
Tested By Bomb And Flame: Leicester Versus Luftwaffe Air Raids, 1939-1945, by Austin J. Ruddy, Halsgrove Publishing (2014), £19.99.
I am once again indebted to Jon Mills for the following images of the insignia/badges issued to members of London's River Emergency Services (RES). For more information on the RES see this previous blog.
Marlow's Auctioneers have a selection of ARP- and CD-related items in their sale on 7 April, 2021. Amongst the items is this battledress with Wimbledon area marking and five war service chevrons. It features the wings of the Royal Flying Corps. There are a number of photos showing former airmen wearing wings on bluette and battledress. Accompanying the battledress is a photo of the alleged owner but alas he is wearing a bluette overall and not the battledress.
The battledress has an estimate of £260 to £360. It is Lot 441.
A splendid uniform grouping belonging to Albert Edward Smith (called Eddie), a Head Warden and Incident Officer in New Tupton, Derbyshire. Head Warden rank chevrons to arms of battledress and overcoat, war service chevrons, IO badge. LARP instructor badge and a rare survivor, a blue Incident Officer helmet cover.
Images courtesy of Rob Whyman.
I often get contacted to identify certain badges and insignia and quite often it relates to the post-war Civil Defence Corps 1949-1968 - yes the Act of Parliament was passed in December of 1948 but the CDC didn't really exist until 1949.
I've created a page all about Civil Defence Corps insignia including rank badges, first aid badges, area markings, shoulder titles, enamel and embroidered instructor badges and proficiency stars, etc.
Introduced in early 1944 (the sealed pattern tag has 9 March 1944 on it) wound stripes were thin 1.5 inch gold on dark blue and issued to Civil Defence personnel injured in the course of their duties. The designated position (as per ARP Memo 17) was midway between the sleeve seams with the bottom of stripe four inches from the end of the sleeve.
The gold was for injuries sustained during WW2 (multiple awards could be made) and a single red was for any injury suffered during WW1.
This interesting Despatch Rider badge with possible CD connection was recently shared on a Facebook group. I have previously published a blog about despatch riders with one of the few photos showing a DR badge being worn. The badge used on that blog was to exemplify the general shape of the badge. The badge below is more inline with the colour scheme worn on WW2 civil defence battledress, i.e. old gold yellow.
All DR badges were unofficial and individuals purchased what they liked. There exist a huge number of variations of the colour of the thread used and backing material. It is possible the variations were to enable the badge to be marketed to as many units as possible. To date no original period list of styles exists.
Quite a scarce photo showing the London area title on an ambulance driver/attendant's ARP 71 tunic. The London title was used by the London Auxiliary Ambulance Service (LAAS) but it's not frequently seen. Also of note is the use of an Ambulance shoulder title on her side cap.
I've finally managed to fill a gap in my badge collection with the CAGS Civil Defence Instructor badge. It was issued to those that had attended and successfully completed the Civilian Anti-Gas School instructors' course. It's in the nationally trained gold colour (same as the ARPS Air Raid Precautions School badge). Although CAGS appears to have been a regular course run prior to, and throughout, the war at the Civil Defence Schools at Easingwold (in N. Yorshire) and Falfield (in Glos.), the instructor badge is extremely scarce (I've only seen this one and two other examples in 20 years). This popped up on eBay recently - I was just lucky enough to be online at the right time.
The CAGS course certificates below were kindly supplied by Jon Mills.
The CD and crown breast badge introduced for wear with the battledress and tunics was made by several different manufacturers. A pattern copy would be sent to each to copy. This gives rise to variations in both shape and backing material. The below of examples of several.
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
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.
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.
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).
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.
The ARP Pattern 44 felt hat is probably one of the scarcest survivors of all the headwear issued to Civil defence personnel during the second world war. Initially the hats featured a red and blue ribbon but with the official change in the name to Civil Defence General Services in 1941 this was replaced by a gold and blue ribbon (ARP Pattern 143) as shown below. Image courtesy of Jon Mills.
This photo shows members of Swindon's Fire Guard showing off toys they had made. The photo is interesting on a number off levels. Firstly, it's quite rare to see the diamond-shaped Fire Guard instructors badge being worn (two in evidence here). The lady bottom left also has one (probably the locally-trained Local Fire Guard Instructors (LFGI) badge) plus another instructor's badge of the type similar to the LARP version (Local Air Raid Precautions (locally trained silver badge)). She also has an ARP badge on here beret. There appears to be quite a text heavy shoulder board on her tunic but it is not possible to determine what this is.
At the beginning of the second world war the vast majority of badges on Civil Defence and other service uniforms were of the embroidered variety. With the growth in the numbers of personnel in uniform on the Home Front it was necessary to look at ways to minimise the cost of badge production. One method was to print badges and the Calico Printer's Association manufactured numerous badges, not only for the Home Front, but for the armed services as well. Below are original examples courtesy of Jon Mills.
A battledress has cropped up on eBay priced at £160. Nicely badged up with three rank chevrons denoting a Head Warden in Leicestershire. The owner was a First World War veteran and the left sleeve has a red wound stripe. Looking at the breast badge it appears to have been factory fitted. There are also war service chevrons on the right sleeve. The maker's label from Montague Burton sadly omits a date of manufacture but I would imagine this is probably an early example.
It all looks kosher but you never can tell whether the badges are all original to a battledress. It's known for a blank jacket to have had badges later added to help the item sell for a higher price.
The below Deputy Fire Guard Officer shoulder title badge cropped up on eBay and sold for £46. I'd not seen this particular shoulder title before and is has quite a unit shape. The rank was the second highest in the Fire Guard organisation (one below Fire Guard Officer (badge was square) and above Assistant Fire Guard Officer (badge was oval). Personnel holding this rank wore a white helmet with one broad band below one narrow band.
For cost cutting purposes shoulder titles were printed from the mid-war period. The below shows how the printed titles were delivered to local authorities on long rolls. Individual titles would be cut from the roll and issued as required. I've seen two ways that these printed titles were applied. Firstly, applied as cut, and secondly, the edges folded over and then sewn to the shoulder of the battledress. This method provides for a much smarter appearance.
I am indebted to Jon Mills, the author of many books on WW2 insignia (see "A People's Army - Civil Defence Insignia and Uniforms 1939-1945" ) for the below images. A very rare AFS London helmet transfer and the cover of Display Patents Ltd catalogue plus the details of helmet transfers for the Civil Defence Services (the same company that was advertising in ARP & NFS Review magazine).
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.
Send me items to blog about via my contact page