The key aims of the Haverhill Defence Plan are given as:

(a) To ensure co-ordinated by the various civilian interests in the event of invasion, especially in case Haverhill is cut off from outside assistance.

(b) To ensure appropriate co-ordinated action within the community in response to any call from the military for civil assistance.

The role of the invasion committee pre-invasion was to provide a channel of communication between the civil and military authorities. During invasion it would ensure the smooth running of civil arrangements, give all co-operations to the military and avoid the need of the military commander having to take charge of civil arrangements.

Official notice boards were set up at the Police Station, the Council Offices, Town Hall, the Old Independence Church, the Methodist Church and the West End. Police notices were colored yellow and military notices red. Military and Civil authorities were in nearby premises namely at Queens Place and Swan Lane Council Offices respectively. In invasion conditions, the key duty of all Civil Defence services was to keep essential roads clear, with their other roles secondary. Although actual road clearance was the responsibility of the Council’s Surveyor’s road gangs, if they were delayed work would have to be undertaken by any available Civil Defence services. Essential routes were:

(a) Cambridge to Colchester – from Spring Cottages to Nanchett End road junction.

(b) Haverhill to Bury St Edmunds from the schools to near the entrance of Boyton Hall

Role of various services:

Police (six full time staff and 18 Special Constables)

• Enforce traffic restriction
• Enforce immobilization of unlicensed vehicles and later all non essential vehicles if ordered by the military and finally essential vehicles if capture of the town was imminent.
• Enforce the Government Stand Firm Policy – roads must be kept clear for military reinforcements
• Evacuate people from certain buildings if needed for Defence Posts or to clear fields of fire.

ARP Wardens

• Four posts each manned by one senior warden and 11 other wardens. No 1 Post – Recreation Ground; No 2 Post – Wratting Road, adjoining the schools; No 3 Post – Baldocks Garage, Withersfield Road; No 4 Post – Town Hall, High Street
• Main duties were reporting of incidents, roping off craters and guiding rescue parties to the scene of incidents.
Rescue and decontamination
• One rescue party with lorry. One decontamination party with full equipment but would have to rely on borrowed lorry.

Casualty Services

• First Aid Post located at Lower Downs Slade (entrance off Queens Street). If this was for any reason unusable, the Isolation Hospital in Clements Lane would be used. All serious cases to be evacuated to Base Hospitals at Cambridge, Bury St Edmunds or Newmarket if road conditions allowed. If not Isolation Hospital would be used.
• First Aid Post for walking wounded also at the Town Hall.
• Three First Aid parties, which could be organized into six squads. Equipped with two four-stretcher ambulances and the Town two-stretcher ambulance and three cars.


• Messenger service recruited from cadets of Haverhill Air Training Corps.

Fire Brigade

• Fire station located at Swan Lane. Chief invasion role was to keep essential routes open and buildings along these routes were to be given priority.

Haverhill was short of air raid shelters. Shelter was required for approx. 4,000 people. A public shelter that could accommodate 200 people had been condemned. A replacement (that could hold 50 people) was under construction at Swan Lane while there was private shelter for 498 people. The balance of shelters was to be provided by slit trenches dug in householder’s gardens. These were to be dug on ‘Action Stations’ by householders. The Home Guard was to dig examples of slit trenches for householders on the recreation ground.

Civil arrangements

Water – if engines in pumping stations out of action, tractors, portable steam engines etc could be substituted. If the trunk main was damaged, people would be limited to 1 gallon of water per day, drawn from the Steam Laundry, Chauntry Mills or the chlorinated water from the swimming baths (65,000 gallon capacity). If the mains were intact an underground reservoir at the waterworks (150,000 gallons capacity) would last for several days. In all cases, if normal supply was cut, households would be notified to boil water. On ‘Action Stations’, households would be told to fill baths etc as a reserve of water. The public would also be notified that the use of W.C’s and water for baths would be prohibited. Advice would be given on trench latrines.

Burials – an unused plot of the cemetery was set aside for emergency burials. Graves were to be shallow incase of a wish to disinter bodies later for a more appropriate burial.

Food – Food Office was at the Town Hall. At some point following ‘Action Stations’ all shops would close and an inventory would be taken. Once the stocks were known, shops could reopen and trade on the new rationing restrictions (an emergency of 14 days planned for). A reserve of 15% was to be held to allow for stocks damaged by enemy action. However all milk powder, condensed milk and baby food would be requisitioned in case of failure of regular supplies. Arrangements were made to bring a limited number of cows into the town centre for fresh milk. Catering Establishments would only be allowed to serve refugees and essential workers. If occupation by enemy forces was imminent, food would be distributed as evenly as possible and people told to hide supplies to prevent the enemy getting hold of them.

Homeless and Refugees – these would initially be accommodated in rest centers and then found billets as quickly as possible to free up the rest centers. Rest centers were located at The Old Independent Church, Hamlet Road (eating capacity 250 people; sleeping capacity, 125 people) and West End Church, Withersfield Road (eating capacity, 250 people; sleeping capacity, 150 people). Every household had already been canvassed to make arrangements to move to a friend if their house became uninhabitable.


Haverhill was a nodal point and was to be defended by holding a Central Keep to delay the enemy's advance as long as possible. Several Home Guard patrols from surrounding villages were to withdraw to Haverhill when they could no longer carry out their role.

Although by the end of 1941 the threat of full scale invasion faded, raids were still considered to be a threat. Instructions were also issued for the case of raids (code word ‘Bugbear’). The Inspector of Police was responsible for passing on the code word to:

(a) Nearest military unit
(b) Wratting Common, Castle Camps and Stradishall Airfields
(c) Major Wiffon (or Capt. Webb) of Home Guard
(d) Mr. W.C. Blake, Deputy Civil co-ordinator; Mr. Webb would then pass on the warning to J.B Coster (Civil co-ordinator, the ARP sub-controller and the National Fire Service.

On receipt of the code word, a combined Civil and Military Battle Headquarters would be set up at the Council Offices, Swan Lane. The Home Guard would be called out by runners – warning alarms for full scale Invasion (Church Bells, sirens etc) would NOT be used. The Home Guard would place guards on the Telephone Exchange and the combined headquarters as well as manning Check Points if ordered to. All members of the public would be ordered indoors by the police. No immobilizations of fuel, supplies or equipment would be carried out. The Fire Brigade would tend to fires as they occurred but give priority to :

(1) Combined Battle Headquarters and surrounding buildings
(2) Food Buffer depot
(3) Telephone Exchange
(4) Town Hall
(5) Whole of Queen Street and High Street

  Above: Location map for Haverhill also showing Castle Camps, Wratting Common and Stradishall

Reference: Haverhill Civil Defence papers, Suffolk Records Office


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