The silver Air Raid Precautions (ARP) badge was designed by the sculptor Eric Gill for the Royal Mint. Gill was paid three guineas (£3 & 3 shillings - about £210 in 2018) in January 1937 for his design. The first run of badges produced were only made with the half-moon style button hole lapel fixing and were available from April 1937. A design with a brooch pin for ladies came later. Men received their badge in a red box whilst ladies received theirs in a blue box.
All the badges produced between 1936* and 1939 were die stamped 925 sterling silver and measure 1 ½” down by 1” across (approx. 39mm by 26mm). Miniature silver versions of the ARP badge for manufactured for wear on civilian clothes showing the person was 'doing their bit' for the war effort.
Dates on silver hallmarked badges: 1936 (A), 1937 (B), 1938 (C) & 1939 (D) (some sources claim there is a 1940 E-dated silver badge but no photographic evidence has yet come to light).
The badges were announced by Home Secretary Sir John Simon, in Home Security Circular 701582/10 dated 23 February 1937 for issue to "persons who volunteer for ARP services and who undergo the necessary training". The badges were issued by the Home Office to local authorities which in turn issued them to people who had volunteered and completed ARP training.
By October 1938 the Home Office asked for authority to increase the number of badges ordered to 950,000. By February 1939, over 800,000 badges had been issued.
In 1939, the Home Secretary, Sir John Anderson (whose name later became synonymous withe the Anderson Shelter) explains to Parliament the badge:
"The air-raid precautions badge is intended as a recognition of the obligations undertaken by persons who volunteer for local authorities’ and other air-raid precautions services and persons who take special courses of training in order to enable them to carry out their normal duties under war time conditions are not, merely by reason of their having undergone such training, eligible for the badge."
For war economy reasons from February 1940 the ARP badges were made in nickel silver (though this contains no actual silver) by commercial manufacturers such JR Gaunt and Marples & Beasley. Both half moon and brooch varieties were manufactured.
A number of manufacturers starting to produce smaller versions of the badge in both sterling silver and base metals. Sir John Anderson commented on these to the House:
"I am aware that miniatures of the ARP badge are on sale in various quarters. No official permission has been given for such reproductions of the badge, but I am advised that their manufacture or sale does not contravene the law as it at present stands. In those instances which have come to notice, steps have been taken to enlist the co-operation of the vendors with a view to ensuring as far as practicable that miniatures are supplied only to persons who can furnish evidence that they are entitled to wear the official badge. I am considering whether any further action is desirable."
From 1941 the ARP badge was authorised for wear on the newly-issued Civil Defence berets for male wardens. Female wardens had already been wearing them (unofficially) on their felt hats for some time.
As part of Home Security Circular 49/1943, to further reduce metal use, the issue of ARP badges ceased in March 1943. For members of the civil defence services that did not have a metal badge, printed badges featuring CD were issued and sewn onto berets.
The same design of ARP badge was also issued in several overseas territories. Each area would add their own scroll below with the name of the locality - examples include Malta, Hong Kong, Kenya and The Straits Settlements (issued to wardens in Singapore, Penang Malaya and Malacca Malaya).
* ARP badges with the date letter of A are from 1936. It is currently unknown by this author why this is the case given the badges were issued from 1937. Perhaps the initial design was passed to manufacturers in readiness for issue.
The silver hallmarks found on ARP badges are as follows:
Silversmith's initials - commonly RJ (Robert William Jay) and JC (unidentified maker but definitely NOT Jacques Cartier)
Lion passant that certifies sterling silver (925)
Leopard's head - London assay office mark
Date letters - A (1936), B (1937), C (1938) & D (1939)