For Glamorgan Archives’ second decade, the 1940s, I decided to look at our collection of Air Raid Precautions records for Glamorgan. The Air Raid Warden Service was established in Cardiff in 1939. Its headquarters was based in Cathays Park with local control centres setup throughout Glamorgan.
Air Raid Precaution Services consisted of Wardens, Report & Control, Messengers, First Aiders, Ambulance Drivers, Rescue Services, Gas Decontamination and Fire Guards. The Fire Watcher scheme was introduced in Jan 1941. Fire Watchers had to keep a 24 hour watch on certain buildings and could call on the rescue services if required. The role of ARP warden was open to men and women of all ages. The majority were volunteers but there were some who were paid a salary.
One of the duties of an ARP warden was to enforce the blackout. This led to some wardens being regarded as interfering or nosey. Who can remember the portrayal in Dad’s Army of ARP Warden Hodges shouting ‘Put that light out!’?
This entry from the Barry Control Centre Logs [DARP/2/2] records a complaint of a light showing:
Other duties of the ARP Warden included sounding the air-raid siren, helping people to the nearest air-raid shelter, handing out gas masks and watching out for the fall of bombs within their sector. The booklet 250 ARP Questions Answered [DARP/3/24] would have been a familiar sight.
Part-time wardens were supposed to be on duty about three nights a week, but this increased greatly when the bombing was heaviest. As you can see from the log below [DARP/1/10], the wardens on duty weren’t averse to moaning about the conditions in the control room. The state of the cups seems to have been an issue, with one warden scrawling a reply What would you like? Fire watching at the Ritz??!
The following entry from the Pontypridd Control centre log book from 25th April 1943 [DARP/13/9] shows a report of a crater 5ft by 2 and ½ feet deep near Forest Uchaf Farm on Graig Mountain. The ARP liaised with the police at both Pontypridd and Llantrisant as well as Central Control to ensure the bomb had exploded.
ARP were kept up to date of any changes in enemy tactics and were needed to feedback information from the ground. The following message from the 15th June 1943 [DARP/13/9] describes how the enemy have started dropping anti-personnel bombs after incendiary bombs in order to hamper any fire-fighting.
ARP also took part in regular drills and exercises. One such exercise took place on October 19th 1941 [DARP/1/7] ‘Enemy cars discharging soldiers at Caegwyn Road, Manor Way Crossing…’
During the height of the Blitz there were approximately 127,000 full-time personnel serving in Civil Defence, but by the end of 1943 numbers had dropped to approximately 70,000. In total 1.5 million people served in the ARP/Civil Defence Service during the war. The Civil Defence Service was eventually stood down towards the end of the war after VE Day.
Melanie Taylor, Records Assistant, Glamorgan Archives
- Air Raid Precautions Records, Glamorgan 1939-1946 [DARP]