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.
I recently posted a blog about the Rest Centre Service badge. I was contacted by a fellow collector that two versions of the badge exist - one with a blue enamel centre and one with a black centre. I've been collecting Home Front badges for many years and did not know about the variations (thank you Andrew S.)
Going by the colour difference and also the distinct difference in pin assembly I would imagine they are from different manufacturers. At present though almost nothing is known about who requested, designed or manufactured the badges (a presentation card from JR Gaunt with a blue centre badge is known to exist so it looks like that company may have produced that version). It appears that they were issued to Rest Centres in cities across the country .
I believe the blue centre badge was one of the very first badges in my collection, and I was able to pick the black version up on eBay last week (August 2020). I have to say that I have not added a badge to my collection for just a fiver in a long, long time...
Members of various Civil Defence services that had undertaken and passed the St John Ambulance Association (SJAA) first aid courses could wear a cloth badge on their right pocket. This badge is often seen on period photographs. This photo below shows a member of a FA Party wearing a small metal St John Ambulance Association badge. There are a few versions of this badge but his appears to have a black enamel centre - see the second photo. This badge is available with both the half-moon lapel fitting and the pin brooch. The SJAA also issued collar insignia but it would appear that these are always in plain metal without any enamelling.
With the threat of war building through the spring and summer of 1939, the London County Council undertook measures to assist people affected by air raids. in August 1938 the Ministry of Health made London County Council (LCC) responsible for organising the Rest Centre Service.
Across the 28 metropolitan borough (plus the City of London), ten areas were created headed by an Area Control Office. Each of these offices provided reports to County Hall. Each area sought out schools and church halls that could be used for assisting bombed out citizens. At the start of the war some 98 buildings had been selected. By may of 1940 over 500 buildings had been selected that could house up to to 100,00 refugees.
Support to run the centres came from the Public Assistance Department but was also assisted by the WVS and other volunteer groups (especially those drawn from church groups).
As the Blitz on London commenced the service came under enormous strain. Many more refugees than expected arrived and they stayed longer than hoped for (either bombed out or unable to return home due to unexploded bombs).
The Rest Centres provided a place to stay and also provided food. Additionally the centres could provide identity cards and other documentation lost during a raid.
The below badge is a very common badge that can usually be obtained very cheaply (for a fiver or less). Although there seems to be thousands of these badges I have yet to see one in a period photograph. The design has a rather complex centre motif of the letters R, C and S intertwined. Every example I have seen to date has a pin brooch fitting. There is a rarer version with black rather than blue enamel as well.
The badge appears to have been issued nationwide as well as in London.
This officer in the Wardens' Service has placed his rank insignia on his epaulettes. The prescribed location was just below the shoulder title. Alas, there's no area marking on the uniform but the photograph has a photographer's studio address in Barnsley. It could be that CD officers in that particular area took to wearing their rank insignia on their epaulettes.
These badges are from the wonderful collection belonging to Roger. See the Incident Officer page for more information.
There are a number of different designs for Fire Watcher badges and prices online are showing a marked upward swing. Here are two badges of the same design but one with the half-moon lapel fitting and one with the brooch pin fitting.
A visitor to the site sent through the following items after seeing a previous blog post regarding a cigarette case with The Times ARP badge on it. Below is another cigarette case but this time in the original box of issue and with a letter for the recipient. This is dated October 1939 and I assume goes to show that The Times had been undertaking ARP duties for some time.
Also sent along were three ARP badges issued by The Times. I assume there may have been some reason behind the various colours.
This OFFICER I/C ARP SERVICES armband OFFICER I/C CD SERVICES sleeve insignia is held at Chertsey Museum. I'd not seen either before. Also listed from the same donation are "Report And Control" shoulder titles for and the rank insignia of a thin bar over a wide.
I am indebted to Chris Ransted (author of the excellent Bomb Disposal in World War II) for the image below. The cigarette case belonged to his grandfather, a printer and fire watcher at The Times in London. There are a great number of fake items featuring ARP badges (eBay has a few rogue sellers regularly slapping an ARP badge onto cigarette cases, vesta cases and lighters).
A large number of fake and reproduction items are up at auction at East Bristol Auctions on 22 May 2020. The description of most of the fake ARP badges says "unknown origin" and for the buyer to ensure they know what they are buying. A large number of lots are from the same militaria forger found on eBay. Included is another fake London Underground Zuckerman as well as a Straits Settlements ARP badge added to a Zuckerman. There is also a pair of faked splinter googles. There'sa fake GPO Warden helmet and a stencilled LCC Ambulance helmet. There is also a fake Women's Home Defence enamel and embroidered badge.
Amongst the other lots are other items regularly offered for sale on eBay by shysters - fake First World War airplane fabric, WW1 tank metal face masks and WW2 linen flags. Caveat emptor...
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