Air Raid Precautions

Hertfordshire Archives & Local Studies

When War was declared, the government put a series of air raid precautions into action that they had been planning since 1935 when it had started to look as though there might be another war.   Members of the official Air Raid Precaution service (or ARP wardens as they were known) appeared almost overnight in every street in Britain, providing services such as advice and training on how to wear gas masks, to enforcing lots of new rules that immediately became law such as the blackout.  They also had to sound the air raid sirens and supervise people getting in and out of air raid shelters.

ARP posts were initially set up in the warden’s home, or in a shop or an office, but they were later purpose built. Each post covered a certain area, and was divided into sectors with around three to six wardens in each sector.
E.A Harvey, ARP Warden, Standon, 1940 (ref HALS DE/X1029/3)
ARP appointment card of W Wheeler, Braughing Rural District Council, Aug 1940. Below, fire watching instructions, St Albans.
HALS (ref DE/X508/08)
By October 1940 it was reported that owing to constant bombing in rural areas in Hertfordshire, wardens were being called upon to perform their duties almost every night for hours on end. There were complaints from a St Albans post that it was cold and damp - it took an hour to boil a kettle and there were no facilities for heating food.
Fire watching instructions, Much Hadham 1940 (HALS ref DE/X508/05)
Page from warden Richard De La Mare’s log book, Much Hadham where he mentions a downed spitfire and machine gun fire, August 1940
HALS (ref (DE/X508/1)
Plan of incendiary bomb dressing room, St Albans
HALS (ref SBR 3858)
Sarratt ARP Control Centre
HALS (ref DE/X/548)
There was a lot of hostility towards wardens enforcing the blackout, as Richard De La Mare, a warden at Much Hadham made clear in a speech to locals: ‘some of you regard your warden with suspicion and show him half-veiled hostility, I agree that it is maddening to be told that your lights are showing - it is hardly to be wondered at if temper is shown sometimes on both sides.... for all us wardens, complaining about lights is an unpleasant task but the blackout must be enforced. The wardens don’t want to get you into trouble, but keep you out of it. It is the hardened offenders who must be made to suffer, although serious carelessness clearly ought not to go unnoticed.’
Air raid siren in a Watford street
HALS (ref WatGrv 0393-00-31)
Poster produced by St Albans Borough Council, June 1940
HALS (ref SBR 3857)
List of equipment for fire watching, St Albans
HALS (ref SBR 3858)
Instructions on what to do in the event of an air raid
HALS (DE/X548)
Baby in a gas mask at Watford, 1940
HALS (ref WatLns 0502-00-6)
Notice about gas masks and butterfly bombs by Richard de la Mare, Much Hadham, 1940
HALS (ref DE/X508/05)
This page was added on 09/07/2020.

Add your comment about this page

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Start the ball rolling by posting a comment on this page!