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.
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.
In the 1939 Protection Against Gas & Air Raids - Pamphlet No. 3 Passive Air Defence (Provisional), reference is made to recognition surcoats (these are bibs of material that can be tied at the sides). With various personnel of the Civil Defence and Police wearing top to tail oilskins it would be impossible to differentiate between people and responsibilities. The coloured surcoats was an idea to alleviate this. It was not continued into the wartime period (but a similar use of coloured pennants at Incident Posts does seem to have been initially adopted before being dropped). Helmets were an easier way to differentiate people's roles at incidents.
Green - Rescue
Yellow - Decontamination
Green/White - Wardens' Service
and there were others.
Image courtesy and copyright of Chris Rock.
Passive Air Defence pamphlet courtesy of Adrian Blake.
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.
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.
Blacked Our Britain have posted some marvellous photos of original WW2 uniforms, starting at the left:
1. ARP Pattern 47 wrapover overall for use by control centre staff.
2. ARP Pattern 43 coat with lancer front overall worn by ambulance drivers and attendants.
3. ARP Pattern 42 female warden's coat.
The Pattern 57 Civil Defence battledress blouse jacket below sold on eBay for £137 (plus £10 shipping). It's a size 8 and manufactured by H. Leaning & Co Ltd. The date stamp is September 1942 and this corresponds with the letter O also stamped on the inside. A lot (but by no means all) manufacturing usually had a year on their labels. The ARP breast badge is in an unusual place. It was usually sewn onto the left pocket. Might be a hangover from the bluette overalls where the badge was sewn above the left breast pocket. A cynic might offer the opinion the badge was added post-war by someone not au fait with regulations.
Prices are edging up for good condition blouses in a good wearable size for re-enactors.
The first hat issued to ARP / Civil Defence personnel was the ladies' Pattern 44 Felt Hat. The first issue of the felt hats came with a red and blue ribbon. With the change in 1941 from ARP to Civil Defence a new gold and blue ribbon (ARP Pattern 143) was issued. From 1941 the beret was issued but the felt hat continues to make a few appearances in photos. By the time the Civil Defence General Services stood down in May 1945 very few appear on photos. Along with the drivers' ski cap, the felt hat is a rare survivor these days.
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).
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.
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.
This fabulous photo shows members of District P in Croydon undertaking their stand down photo (probably in May 1945). Of particular interest in the flag; I've never seen anything quite like this before. There's a real mix of head wear on show - the standard beret, felt hat and side cap plus three gentlemen sat at the front in peaked hats - this has been seen before but is quite rare.
A stand down portrait of ARP Wardens in Addlestone in Surrey show every possible way that a beret can be worn. The army way or over the right ear but this groups show the beret worn over each ear, centrally and also towards the back of the head. The shapes and style of beret also varies quite considerably. The ARP badge also varies from almost above the left ear to almost central on the forehead.
The local authority in Chelsea had issued several hundred brown ARP boiler suits to their ARP wardens and staff prior to the outbreak of war (it appears other services received blue overalls). This great photo shows the style of brown overall worn. It would appear from later photo that the brown overalls were worn into 1941 but sometimes the dates on photos cannot always be verified/trusted.
The blurb for this photo reads:
"Disappointment has been caused in Chelsea by the decision of the Home Office not to allow the borough's Air Raid Precautions volunteers to wear their smart brown and blue uniforms with yellow braided cuffs when the King's review of ARP services takes place in Hyde Park on Sunday. The reason is that Sir John Anderson wants all volunteers to be dressed alike at the review. 500 Chelsea ARP wardens have been issued with brown uniforms and 200 uniforms in blue have been issued to other sections. The uniforms are of the overall type and yellow braided rings on the cuffs are worn according to rank.
Photo shows Mr P. J. Fox (left), the Chief Enrolment Officer at Chelsea in his warden's uniform including a belt holding rattle, pouch for writing pad and other accessories, torch and incendiary goggles. With him is Major Harding Newman, Staff Officer to the Town Clerk. He has chain epaulettes which save the collar bones from being broken by falling masonry. 30 June 1939".
This very smart group photograph was shared by the Chingford at War Facebook group. The date given was October 1944 but I'm more inclined towards it being a stand-down photo in May 1945. There's an interesting selection of insignia on display including the gentleman sat bottom right who has a wound stripe below his Incident Officer badge (he is a First World War veteran so this may be the red stripe). A few have five war service chevrons and instructor badges. Several have a diamond shaped badge. It could be one of the Fire Guard instructor badges but I'm doubtful HQ staff would undertake that course. If you know of an alternative to this please let me know. One of the gentleman standing appears to have the Royal Life Saving Society embroidered badge on the pocket of his battledress.
A nice photo of an ARP Warden officer (two narrow "old gold" yellow horizontal bars on upper sleeve). The warden is wearing the ARP Pattern 71 tunic jacket with ARP Pattern 72 skirt and beret with her silver ARP badge.
Two photos of wardens from the Bromley area in south-east London. Going be the lack of war service chevrons and also non first aid badges in evidence I would say this was taken shortly after the group took delivery of the serge battledress blouses and trousers. The same group has posed with and without their helmets.
A London Post Warden (denoted by the three chevrons and six-pointed star on his sleeve) exchanges information with a member of the British Red Cross. The warden is also qualified as an Incident Officer. (Copyright BRCS IN2646)
With the Civil Defence services being stood down in May 1945, a large number of groups had 'stand down' group photographs taken. These provide a wealth of information on the insignia in use at the close of hostilities. The below photo shows a number of men that appear to be all in junior supervisory roles. The gentleman far left has the star above the three rank chevrons and five war service chevrons. There are a smattering of first aid badges on the right breast pockets but I cannot discern the area marking title (it looks to be quite short in length). As usual not everyone had a lanyard. A good number here are veterans of the first world war.
A very good photo showing five ladies wearing the Gabardine Coat ARP Pattern 81 coat with red piped collars and the special CD badge made specifically for this coat. Appears they have also applied a St John Ambulance Association first aid training badge to their coats.
One of the most frequently bought private purchase items was the side cap. Both men and women can be seen in period photos wearing the side cap. Most have applied their ARP badge to the front. This side cap is in dark blue almost black wool and is lined with the previous owner's name on a tag inside. To the front are two ARP buttons marked Cheney.
An excellent portrait of an early-war Gas Identification Officer - GIO - designated by two black diamonds on a yellow helmet. One black diamond was for an assistant to the GIO. Three black diamonds were for Senior Gas Adviser. From 1942 helmets were standardized across the country:
Gas Adviser - Senior Gas Adviser
GIO - Gas Identification Officer
GI - Assistant to GIO
FOOD - Food Decontamination Officer
DC FOOD - Food Treatment Squad
I've previously included this photo on the site but this is a better quality image. The Divisional/District warden here is helping a child with her Mickey Mouse style gas mask. The interesting part of his uniform is that he has the battledress jacket but is using the original red insignia on his lower sleeve (before the 'old gold' insignia was introduced in late 1941). The three bars with out star usually relate to a deputy chief warden (which clashes somewhat with the designation on his helmet). Again this is an example of the mix-and-match approach found on many period photos. He has placed his Kilburn area title above his medal ribbons and above this his ARP badge. The use of the Civil Defence armband was usually not allowed on uniform but this is probably a publicity photo and was used in this instance.
A group of ladies pose in their ARP Pattern 71 tunics and slacks. The lady on the far left appears to have double chevron stripes but with a star above - a most unusual combination. At the front there is a beret with the CD beret badge.
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