“The primary object of invasion preparations is to meet the military requirements and the well being of the civilian population must necessarily be a secondary consideration” – Consolidated Instructions to Invasion Committees, July 1942
Since the beginning of the war, government had largely been regionalized with the setting up of Regional Commissioners. Regional Commissioners were responsible to Government Ministers but in times of invasion they would assume the full role of Government in their region should reference to central Government become impractical. Although in times of invasion, military requirements would be paramount it was still intended that civil administration should continue – if it broke down this would likely hinder the military in its role of driving out or destroying the enemy. Although at Common Law, the military had the authority to impose powers over persons and property of civilians, it was hoped that there would be no need to impose these powers as it would divert military resources from its primary role.
In order to meet the requirements outlined above, Emergency Committees were established in Borough and Urban districts immediately after the outbreak of war - following government instructions and they formed the nucleus of an Invasion Committee. In towns, villages and rural areas with no Emergency Committees, specially constituted Invasion Committees were established in 1941. These committees were considered an important part of the defence arrangements of the country. Should invasion occur their key duty would be to ensure civil arrangements would function smoothly and all necessary assistance given to the military.
Right: Orford Invasion Committee
In case of invasion, civilian populations would experience shortage of all resources (this was already the case with rationing etc). Emergency / Invasion Committees would ‘ensure the best and most efficient use of existing resources and to exploit every opportunity for self help and improvisation’. All Civil Defence services remained under the authority of the Regional Commissoner under invasion conditions unless this became impractical, when they would then come under the command of the local military commander. In these circumstances the committees would have been of great value to the local military commander.
Recognizing that their area may become involved in the actual fighting and then relying on their own resources, Emergency / Invasion Committees work was two-fold:
• Ensure that the plans of the military and civilian resources have been properly formulated and ‘dovetailed’ into a local defence scheme.
• To keep the public informed of arrangements that would occur under invasion conditions.
Emergency Committees had the authority to act on behalf of the Council in invasion / emergency situations although the representatives of the various services (ARP, Police etc) retained responsibility for their own service.
Parish Invasion Committees were made up of the heads of the various services (ARP, Police, Fire, Food Organizer, Voluntary Organizations, military etc) in the parish. It was not an executive body – it had no authority over the various services but rather a body in which plans could be bought together and omissions identified, improvements made etc. The chairman could however, at his discretion, refer matters up to the level of the Regional Commissioner.
During May 1943, as the risk of Invasion had receeded, The Ministry of Home Security informed Regional Commissioners to instruct Invasion Committees to bring to completion any plans being drawn up for civilian defence during invasion but not to eleborate any further. Although Invasion / Emergency Committees were to continue in existance and be in a state of readiness, no further provision of additional equipment, material or premises was to be made.
By autumn 1944, invasion committees were no longer required:
Letter from War Office, Sept 1944 to Invasion Committees:
‘I am commanded by the Army Council to inform you, the continuance of invasion committees is no longer considered necessary……..
………signed G.W Lambert, Ministry of Home Security’.
Reference: Yoxford Invasion Committee papers, SRO
Raid Warnings, May 1943-May 1944, TNA