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.
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