Like all Invasion Committees, the Bury St Edmunds Committee had no executive powers of its own. Its main task was consultation, explanation and co-ordination of various plans. They did have authority to execute high priority measures as directed by various superior authorities. If communications were cut or hostilities broke out in the area, the Military Commander would assume control under common law. The Military Commander would give instructions regarding Civil Defence through the Controller and the civil population through the Invasion Committee.
The Headquarters of the Committee at times of invasion was at first Borough Offices, Angel Hill, with an alternative HQ at The Cricketers’ Arms, Kings Road. A Civil Defence Exercise held on July 26th 1942 showed the difficulties caused by the Invasion Committee HQ (Borough Offices)and Military HQ (Gibraltar Barracks)being located at a considerable distance from each other. A possible solution was to establish a combined HQ at a dug-out at Boby’s Works under the machine shop, which was to be the Battle HQ of the Suffolk-Sub Area on “Stand To”. The location was suitable from the Invasion Committee’s point of view but not the military commander as it would mean he would be separated from his mobile reserve. In the end, it was decided to move the Invasion Committee HQ to Boby’s Works, but keep the military HQ at Gibraltar Barracks. A representative of the Invasion Committee would be dispatched to Gibraltar Barracks and the Suffolk Sub Are Battle HQ would undertake to keep the Invasion Committee informed of the military situation.
The main duties of the Committee with regards to invasion were:
Phase A – Large scale bombing immediately defer bombing
Direct responsibility would fall on the ARP Services, Fire Service, Food and Billeting Officer. The Invasion Committee would help in co-ordinating assistance from local resources if the Civil Defence services required additional support.
Phase B – Invasion had begun but the enemy was still some distance away
The community may have to rely on its own resources if communications broke down. The Committee would assist the Food Executive Officer in bringing in supplies from the neighbourhood including arranging additional transport.
Phase C – when battle locally is imminent or taking place
The Military Commander would assume control. The Invasion Committee was to assist him in every way, especially in the distribution of food. The primary role of the Committee, under the direction of the Military Commander, would be to ensure roads were kept open for military traffic, which would take precedence over steps to save civilian life and property. The Military Commander, aided by the Civil Authorities, had a duty to hold the town until relieved completely regardless of the cost to civil and military life and property.
Civil Defence – Roles and Invasion Conditions
The Police Station was at St John’s Street. The police strength was one Chief Constable, two Superintendents, two Inspectors, five Sergeants, 32 Constable and 77 Special Constables. There main roles were traffic control and immobilisation of vehicles.
The main object of traffic control was to keep essential military roads open. This would be carried out in conjunction with the Military Police. The main routes were:
- Newmarket Road – Westly Road as far as the junction with West Road – West Road – Hospital Road – Westgate Street – Southgate Street
- Crown Street – Angel Hill – Mustow Street – Eastgate Street
- Northgate Street – Fornham Road
Once Phase B or C had been reached, these routes could not be used for access to the town for local supplies. Refugees would not be allowed into the town after “Action Stations”, although residents living outside the anti-tank ditch (about 3,000 people) could on showing their identity card. They would be notified by loudspeaker.
- The ARP Control Centre was at Shire Hall and the Report Centre at Borough Offices.
- Wardens Service organised into four Divisions. Originally it had been recruited up to the level recommended by the Ministry of Home Security. However, call up into the Armed Forces and the number joining the Home Guard would mean the ARP services available to deal with invasion conditions would be meagre. It was a constant problem to recruit up to full strength.
- Six First Aid Parties (consisting of five persons each), six ambulances and two cars for sitting cases. Each ambulance was equipped with four stretchers and eight blankets. The cars could carry three to four persons.
- Mobile first aid party (consisting of a doctor, trained nurse and seven assistants)
- Two Decontamination Parties (consisting of six persons each). In invasion its main role was to decontaminate and repair roads required for military movements.
- Gas Identification Officer and assistant. To report on the presence of gas to the Military Commander and the Decontamination Party.
- Four Rescue Parties (consisting of 10 men each). Each party was mobile with a lorry equipped with hoisting and lifting tackle, ladder, wheelbarrow and other tools. It was to rescue trapped persons, including the Military and Home Guard. Two men in each party had First Aid training. The parties also helped in demolishing unsafe buildings following a raid.
- One mobile cleansing unit
- Two mobile canteens
Air Raid Shelters
Air raid shelters had been provided on a basis of 7 ½% of the population. Public shelters could accommodate 1,100 persons and there was existing private shelter for 7,090 persons. In the event of invasion, arrangements were in hand to provide slit trenches for the rest of the population. Example trenches had been dug in the Abbey Gardens. The labour reserve would dig trenches for those residents unable to dig their own trench.
Public Air Raid shelters were located at: