Safe guarding the Nations food supply was of prime concern - during 1941 the Government considered the fire risk to crops as a result of incendiary bombs. The Eastern Regional Commissioner requested the County Emergency Committees to get in touch with all Senior ARP Wardens, local Home Guard commanders and local police to constitute a committee to organize a scheme to deal with incendiary bombs. Where a parish Invasion Committee had already been set up, it was considered a suitable role for the committee.
It was considered imperative that a constant watch should be kept on crops during the danger period – when crops were nearing ripeness until after harvest. In most cases the farmers and workers would be able to keep watch and act as fire fighters during the course of their work in the fields but at times it would be necessary to supplement farm personnel with outside help, especially during the hours of darkness. Every assistance in this was expected from the Home Guard, local police and Civil Defence personnel.
The first line of defence to prevent the spread of fires would be the use of fire beaters – a Ministry of Home Security leaflet had diagrams of beaters with the suggestion that school children be enrolled to make these beaters.
Arrangements were also being made to build up a stock of stirrup pumps to protect farm buildings etc from fire. These were allotted to the police who were then responsible for distribution. It was also recommended to utilize as many containers as possible to hold water and the carrying capacity of ditches, streams and ponds to be increased. Other measures included fire breaks in very large fields or having a tractor plough located nearby so that a fire break could be ploughed to isolate any fire.
Left: WW2 Stirrup Pump (BBC WW2 Peoples Right: Beater made of old tyres - Ministry of Home
War - BBC Scotland). These pumps were for Security Pamphlet - Fighting Fires In Crops.
fighting fires caused by incendiary bombs.
ARP Department, County Hall, Ipswich, also put in place a warning system for meteorological conditions that would increase the fire risk in crops. If suitable conditions were expected in the next 24 hours, the code word ‘Matchless’ would be issued to controllers of Fire Watching schemes. It would be valid only for 24 hours and if no further warning was received it could be assumed that period of high risk had passed.
References: East Suffolk ARP papers, SRO
Ministry of Home Security Pamphlet - Fighting Fires in Crops
BBC WW2 Peoples War - BBC Scotland