I have a section on the site where I post a few shots of WW2 Civil Defence re-enactors. The below was recently shared on a Facebook group and I did a little aging in Photoshop (noise, dust, scratches etc) and added a vintage style frame. Warden Hodgson's impression is most impressive.
An author is seeking any information regarding the bombing of an ARP Depot in Bexley. There are a few photos pertaining to the event but alas very little detailed information. If you have any information about this, please send me an email.
If you're in the Leicester area you have just one week left to see the Leicester Blitz exhibition at the Newarke Houses Museum (free entrance from open 11:00 - 16:30). The exhibition marks the 80th anniversary of the bombing of the city. The exhibition closes on Sunday 4th July 2021, so get your skates on.
See a video of the exhibition
Steve Crookes was kind enough to share images and information about LAAS driver Jean Campbell:
Rosemary Jean Campbell was born on the 7 August 1911 in Surabaya, Java. She was the daughter of Lady Edith Jane Warren (1880 -1951) and Sir Edward Campbell M.P. (1879-1945), Parliamentary Private Secretary to Sir Kingsley Wood (Secretary of State for Air – 1938-1940; Lord Privy Seal – 1940 & Chancellor of the Exchequer – 1940-1943). Sir Edward was the brother of Vice-Admiral Gordon Campbell V.C. and of Rear-Admiral J.D. Campbell. Her brother Flight Lieutenant Gillian Campbell D.F.C. was killed on 24 December 1942
Campbell joined the ambulance service before the war, and at the outbreak of hostilities was mobilised and posted to London Auxiliary Ambulance Service (LAAS) Station 141, Green School, Ainsty Street, Rotherhithe. In 1941 she was awarded the British Empire Medal (B.E.M.) for her excellent leadership and devotion to duty during air raids on London. In 1942 she was admitted to the Order of St. John as Officer (Sister).
She became a Volunteer Worker for the American Red Cross in Great Britain in September 1942. Lived at 41 Rotherhithe Street, London. Jean, as she was known, participated in the Victory Parade in London on 8 June 1946. She married John H. Hansard on 28 May 1943 and died on 10 July 1991 in Surrey.
Rescue Party Leader (two chevrons) William Shotton shows his BEM outside Buckingham Palace in 1944. The gentleman to the right is thought to be James Clay, a Depot Superintendent (three chevrons and star above).
Picture courtesy Clay family collection.
At around 4:30 in the morning of 13 June, 1944, the first V1 flying bomb struck the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) bridge crossing over Grove Street, Bethnal Green. The “doodlebug” killed six people and injured 26 others. As well as serious damage to the bridge, 12 house were completely destroyed and over 50 suffered various degrees of damage.
The line over the bridge carried important rail traffic between Liverpool Street and Stratford. Engineers from LNER assessed the damage to the bridge and decided to replace it.; trains passed over the new bridge in the evening.
A studio portrait of an ambulance driver or attendant with Harpenden's CD service. The standard Pattern 71 tunic and the ski cap with silver ARP badge to front.
Joan Thomas (nee Baynham) was a Civil Defence ambulance driver. On the night of 29/30 April 1941, Cwmparc was bombed by the Luftwaffe and she ferried the dead and injured from Cwmparc to Pentwyn Hospital in Treorchy. There were many casualties with some 27 dead, three of whom were evacuees, all members of the same family. The evacuees were all buried in the same grave in Treorchy Cemetery. The event was the largest loss of life that the Rhondda suffered in a single night of wartime bombing.
Her portrait below shows her wearing the ARP Pattern 71 tunic with private purchase side cap (most likely with old gold yellow piping). The side cap appears to not have any insignia nor ARP buttons to the front. Above her breast badge is a DRIVER badge, quite a rare badge to see worn in this position.
Image courtesy of Robert Davies - see his crowd funding page for information about a memorial to the bombing of Cwmparc.
A stand down photo (going by the war service chevrons) with an interesting beret badge. The embroidered and printed versions of the beret badges usually had a yellow circle; these don't appear to have that. Perhaps a local manufacturing oddity.
UPDATE: it's not peculiar at all... it's the printed version that doesn't have the circle. I should actually read my own content in future.
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.
The website Raids Over York covers the 11 raids on the city during the Second World War. York was one of the cities targeted as part of the Baedecker Raids, aerial attacks on targets chosen for their historical significance rather than their military value as a target.
Photo: Explore York Libraries and Archives / City of York Council
Members from the Emergency Rivers Services (RES) and American Red Cross enjoying a cuppa.
A Planet News photograph claimed to be taken in March 1944, showing a warden carrying part of a German 'raider' (aircraft) that came down somewhere in London.
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 guest blog by Bryan Jones - Scout Leader 16th Bermondsey Scout Group.
80 years ago, in 1941, Scouts from Bermondsey and Rotherhithe in South East London gathered at Manor Church for the presentation of Scout gallantry medals by the London Regional Commissioner, General Sir John Shea. Sadly, one Scout’s medal was to be awarded posthumously, received by his parents with their grief plain to see in the newsreel footage on YouTube.
But why were so many Scouts receiving awards in the midst of the World War Two London Blitz when children had either been evacuated to the countryside or took nightly cover in air raid shelters?
Today, it is not so well known that Scouts and Guides played a highly-active role in Civil Defence. The most dangerous work took them out into the open as the bombs fell around them putting out incendiary bomb fires, acting as stretcher bearers and riding through the destruction carrying emergency services' messages.
One Boy Scout who did this was 17-year-old Frank Davis. He lived close to the river, was part of the 11th Bermondsey and Rotherhithe Scout Group and worked for the Southern Railway at Bricklayers Arms Goods Station. At night Frank was an ARP messenger carrying messages between air raid posts and was based at Dockhead, close to Tower Bridge, where his father was the Warden in charge.
On the night of 8th December, 1940 there was yet another air raid. Frank and a fellow Scout were out when they came across an incendiary bomb. It was dangerous yet essential work to put smother the bomb with sand before the building caught fire. That meant getting up close and personal with a flame spewing monster.
That night Frank’s fellow Scout’s luck ran out and he was injured by the sparks. Frank carried his friend back to the Dockhead Warden’s post for treatment before returning to put out the incendiary bomb on his own. At some point, whilst doing this, explosive bombs fell close by killing Frank.
Having realised he was missing, the Wardens at the post set out to search for him. His lifeless body was possibly discovered by his father. Five days later, on 13th December, Frank was buried at Nunhead Cemetery in a grave that is today lost in undergrowth.
Frank was nominated for a Scout gallantry award; his Bronze Cross, nicknamed "The Scout’s VC", was announced on 5th February, 1941 with the medal being presented to his parents on 15th March, 1941.
Today, under non-pandemic circumstances, 16th Bermondsey Scout Group would still be meeting at Manor Church where the medal presentation was held. The church seen in the newsreel was lost to the bombing of London.
Read more about Frank Davis and the Scouts in World War Two
All images courtesy and copyright of the Scout Association Heritage Collection.
A very interesting and rarely seen portable air raid siren being used in Parliament Square prior to the Second World War. This was a photo in The Sphere, a British newspaper, published by London Illustrated Newspapers. The use of such a device was probably redundant due to the proliferation of electrically-powered sirens that local authorities were ordered to install.
A smart group of ARP/CD personnel from Gloucestershire. Interesting they all (bar one) have the small embroidered CD beret badge. I initially thought the chap seated in the middle has odd coloured rank insignia but when compared to the beret badges they are probably the standard old gold yellow rank chevrons. There's a smattering of the austerity pattern battledress and a number of St. John awards on the right breast pockets. I cannot see any war service chevrons but it has the look of a stand down photo at war's end. Quite a young looking group on the whole as well.
The Officer-in-Charge (three red chevrons on his bluette overalls) of a Stretcher Party provides first aid to a victim of a bombing incident in London.
Wearing the standard issue driver/attendant lancer coat and ski cap this portrait also shows the wearer using a helmet carrier. A number of companies manufactured helmet carriers but they appear seldom in photos (often anti-gas curtains are mistaken for carriers).
I am indebted to Donna Cook for sharing the following images of her grandmother and great aunt. Both were Civil Defence volunteers working with ambulances in Hull. The city was subject to 82 air raids during the second world war and an estimated 1,200 people were killed.
Alice Weston is shown wearing her silver ARP badge on her tie, which is somewhat unusual but was probably done especially for the portrait as she is not wearing any headwear. Emily Weston is wearing the Pattern 71 tunic and slacks with the drivers' ski cap.
George Medal for James Brennan, Divisional A.R.P. Operations Officer & Depot Superintendent, Willesden
A photo of James Brennan showing his George Medal to other medal winners (Flight Sergeant Archibald Murray, DFM & Leading Stoker Frank Tyler, DSM) at their investiture at Buckingham Palace in October 1941.
Brennan had helped rescue a women from a bombed building at Whitmore Gardens in Kensal Rise, London on 17 November 1940. He was awarded the George Medal on April 30, 1941 and received it at an investiture on October 7, 1941.
From the London Gazette, 23 May, 1941
James Brennan, Divisional A.R.P. Operations Officer and Depot Superintendent, Willesden.
A bomb partially demolished a house and a woman was trapped from the knees downwards beneath some debris. To effect her rescue it was necessary for the woman to be lifted almost to a standing position and held there to allow someone to work near her feet. While she was being held up, Mr. Brennan slid down into the crater on his stomach and worked there for some considerable time, removing bricks by hand.
Although there was a strong concentration of coal gas in the hole where he was lying head downwards, Mr. Brennan persisted in his efforts and after some time the casualty was released and removed to hospital. Throughout this incident Mr. Brennan was in danger from the wreckage under which he was working, from the ruins of the house, which were likely to collapse at any moment, and from the high concentration of gas.
A group photo of members of London's Auxiliary Ambulance Service. I assume this is early in the war given that only bluette overalls are in evidence. I've not seen many photos of LAAS insignia on bluette.
See this previous blog post on LAAS lapel badges.
Image courtesy of Matthew Smaldon.
On 15 December, 1940, Dennis Bingham, a 16-year-old member of Sheffield's Messenger service, was badly injured during a raid on the city. Though injured, Dennis still managed to relay a message to the Report & Control Centre regarding the incident. He was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for his devotion to duty.
From the Supplement to the London Gazette, 11 April, 1941:
"On leaving his Post with a message, Bingham was injured and rendered unconscious by the explosion of a H.E. bomb. Recovering consciousness, he endeavoured to get his message through. He had covered some distance over the debris of demolished buildings when he collapsed. He managed, however, to crawl to the home of another messenger and pass on his message. Bingham showed great devotion to duty although suffering from serious injuries."
The Queen's Messenger Convoys (some references state initially 18 convoys, later 21 in total) were created in early 1941 to provide emergency welfare assistance to areas affected by bombing. The then Queen donated towards the creation of the service and the vehicles were marked with "Gift of H.M. The Queen". Vehicles were also paid for/donated by the USA and a number of period photographs show a circular sign of the flags of the UK and USA with "American Committee for Air Raid Relief to Great Britain" written on it. Other dominions (such as Jamaica) also paid for vehicles.
The QM convoys were managed via the Ministry of Food. A standard eight-vehicle convoy consisted of two stores lorries (with 6,000 emergency meals), two kitchen lorries plus three mobile canteens and a water tanker (300-350 gallons). The convoys also contained several despatch motorcyclists. Later the size of convoys varied with some also containing a welfare vehicle. They had "Queen's Messenger Convoy" written above the cabs and "Food Flying Squad" written on the side of the vehicles and they had a distinctive yellow and blue paint job.
Most of the convoys' members were volunteers. Some of the convoys were staffed and assisted by members of the WVS (seen in period photos). Regional Food Officers could appoint paid drivers if necessary. Vehicles would add "battle honours" denoting the locations that they had assisted.
Following the Normandy Landings a number of the convoys were lent to UNRRA (United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration founded in 1943) to help people in the formerly Nazi-occupied countries.
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