Ipswich 1940

Shelters, not surprisingly, took up most of the Committee’s time in 1940. On Feb 22nd the Borough Surveyor reported that 8,594 Anderson shelters had been delivered. There were problems with offers for shelters being accepted but when delivered people refusing to accept them. On occasions the resident changed their mind and asked for it to be redelivered. The Committee agreed to increase the charge form 2s.6d to 5s.0d for redelivery. By May 18th 14,508 Anderson shelters had been delivered with a further 100 still to be delivered. After the invasion of Belgium and Holland, there was an increasing demand from people who had originally refused a shelter.

  Anderson Shelter - these were supplied in kit form, free to poorer households and at a
  reduced cost to others who wanted them. It was expected that householders would
  erect them.

The Committee still had to warn people who had a shelter delivered but had not erected it. On Jun 10th the Committee discussed the request by one resident for an extension in the time to erect his shelter so his potatoes could mature and be lifted! By Jul 13th the Borough Surveyor reported that 14,745 Anderson shelters had been delivered and that there would be no further supplies of shelters. An increasing number of households now asked for sandbags as Anderson shelters were no longer available. The Committee agreed to supply these. On Nov 15th the Committee was notified of a further delivery of Anderson shelters.

Communal shelters were suggested for roads were the soil was waterlogged and Anderson shelters could not be dug in (e.g. Gatacre Road). A communal shelter was also suggested for Stoke, where gardens were too small for Anderson’s. Communal shelters were also proposed for Corporation housing tenants (e.g. at Portman Road, Canham Street and Little Gipping Street).

Circular 2037 was received from the Ministry of Health on Jun 4th which recommended the population keep under shelter during an air raid. The Committee was also under pressure from the Regional Commissioner’s office to ensure all public shelters being open on ‘Yellow Alerts’. In light of this much time was devoted to making trench shelters in schools available after school hours. Schools which offered their trenches to local residents after hours included California school, High School, St Matthew’s school and Whitton mixed school.

It took a little longer to persuade the Committee to open the parks after hours so that the trenches could be used. For example on Jun 27th one resident of Fonnereau Road asked for the park gates to be opened at night so residents could use shelters in the park. The request was refused, the Committee suggesting that she strengthen her basement instead. The Committee finally agreed to have park gates open at night to allow public use of the shelters on Jul 5th.

During May tenders were invited for the first Communal Domestic Surface shelters. Locations mentioned in the minutes where these were constructed included Felaw Street, Black House Lane, Crown Street, Charles Street, Fore Hamlet, Long Street, Cavendish Street, Trinity Street, Cauldwell Hall Road, Orwell Street, the Mount area and Princes Street. The programme of providing shelters was disrupted by a shortage of cement. On Aug 27th the Borough Surveyor reported his weekly allowance of cement of 6 tons was only 1/5 of his average consumption.

A report to the Committee on Oct 14th stated that virtually no use was being made of these surface shelters. This may well have been due to lack of lighting and seating. The Committee discussed the provision of lighting and seating on Sept 6th – the Borough Surveyor reported that lighting could be provided at £11 per shelter and seating made of asbestos cement strips supported on brick piers at £7 per shelter. On Oct 14th he requested a grant to salvage timber from demolitions for the use of seating.

Further trench shelters were also provided in the following parks:
  No. of people accomodated
Bourne Park 100
Gippeswyk Park - near bowling green 50
  - near London Road 50
Chantry Park - near tennis courts 50
  - near Hadleigh Road 50
Pipers Vale - near swimming pool 300
  - near Gainsborough Lane 50

Due to the national timber shortage, timber was only to be used to revett those in soft soil. The rest were dug with sloping sides and turfted.
Another improvised type of shelter was constructed by adding 14” thick blast walls to certain pedestrian tunnels.

In September there was a switch in emphasis in the provision of shelters to giving recommendations to households on how to strengthen their homes against air raids, no doubt due to the shortage of materials as already mentioned. Also as a result of either the shortage of materials or the fact that Surface shelters were not used, a decision was taken in November to provide protective walls in living rooms in the Mount area and Princes Street as well as surface shelters.

Other matters that occupied the Committee with regard to shelters included the question of people sleeping in shelters – one warden complained he could not be on duty all night then go to work in the morning. The Committee pointed out that he should only be on duty during air raid alerts. The matter of people sleeping in shelters was for the Chief Constable to deal with. Refuse was also a problem – a two ton second hand lorry was purchased for £75 to collect refuse from public shelters.

The first air raid mentioned in the Committee minutes occurred on the night of Jun 21st – the minute’s note all services functioned well. A Casualty Bureau was established at Elm Street where all enquires should be directed with regards to casualties. One problem that had to be dealt with was the question of public transport during air raid alerts. It was noted that Norwich, Cambridge and Peterborough had adopted a system where buses etc would stop at the nearest shelter during a raid alert for 10 minutes, giving passengers the option of going to a shelter or continuing their journey. The Committee agreed to adopt this procedure. This was not without problems – at one stop, Foxhall Road, passengers frequently crowded into a shelter which could only accommodate 50 people.

The first use by the Germans of the ‘butterfly bomb’ during October, which caused the death of seven people after handling them, also caused problems – Holywell Park was declared unsafe as there may be other bombs present. The park (and its trench shelters) was closed until December.

Above: German Anti-personnel ('Butterfly') bomb

Sirens also cropped up now and then on the Committees agenda. Complaints were received that certain sirens could not be heard. One example was the sirens at Valley Road. It was agreed to replace the existing ½ hp siren with a 5 hp siren. Instructions were also received to limit air raid siren warnings to one minute but keep the ‘Raiders Passed’ signal to two minutes but this was also later reduced to one minute. On Oct 5th it was agreed to provide ½ hp sirens with thermostat heating and wire netting to protect impellers.

On Sept 30th the Report Center Controller was authorized to approach the Eastern Counties Omnibus & Co as to the use of buses for speedy evacuation of areas due to unexploded bombs.

The question of the homeless due to enemy action was also raised, with the Office of The Regional Commissioner urging more action. The Committee felt that the steps it had taken were satisfactory – these included establishing some rest centers, repairing damage where possible and encouraging bombed out families to move in with friends and other family.

The Committee also dealt with some matters relating to ARP Wardens and other Civil Defence personnel. One particular problem was Wardens wanting to join the new Local Defence Volunteers. It was agreed that Corporation staff could not join the LDV without permission. Another problem was volunteers not turning out for duty. The Committee considered the question of women ARP wardens. Head Wardens were against this as they thought it may lead to the resignation of male Wardens. The Committee decided to take no action on the question of appointing women. Steel helmets were eventually issued and instructions received on Aug 8th to mark Civil Defence helmets as per instructions received from Government. Protective works for ARP Group Centers also suffered due to the shortage in cement – brick was to be used instead.

Fire fighting arrangements continued to be developed. As at Jun 5th the Committee noted that 352 stirrup pump parties had been formed. More were still needed and a request for volunteers was printed in the East Anglian on Jun 6th. On Nov 22nd the Chief Officer of the Fire Brigade asked that the number of pumps be increased to 503 (approx one for every 58 houses). It was also agreed that ARP Wardens should canvass householders to form stirrup pump parties to deal with incendiary bombs. On Dec 30th the Borough Surveyor was also asked for his views on delivering to households three partially filled sandbags to deal with incendiaries. A further four 5,000 gallon water tanks were received – suggested locations were Upper Orwell Street, next to St Michael’ s Church, St Georges Avenue and Lloyds Avenue. Towards the end of the year the Fire Watching Order came into force and the Fire Brigade Controller was asked to submit his proposals for fire watching on Oct 8th. The Fire Brigade established observation posts in the tower in Bond Street and at Cliff Brewery. However the Order was not taken seriously by commercial interests – many applying for exemptions.

Medical matters seemed to center around the Chief Medical Officer trying to get authorization for trickle chargers for batteries for his ambulances. It was finally agreed that he could obtain one second hand battery per seven vehicles as a back up for flat batteries. It was also noted that Ransome & Rapier Ltd had reinforced springs and provided steps for a number of vehicles to be used as ambulances. A bus was converted to a mobile 1st aid post which could be sent to Martlesham in case of emergency. It was noted that a total of 150 First Aid posts had been established.

For all Civil Defence services the Committee also dealt with arrangements for feeding, resting and equipping personnel. It was noted that difficulty was experienced in obtaining chocolate for rations. Eight old trolley buses were purchased for Fire Brigade staff to sleep in.

Camouflage was also discussed during meetings. Members of the public were continually suggesting that certain buildings be camouflaged (Fisons Works being a particular concern). Valley Road was also apparently highly visible from the air. It was agreed to treat it with a dark spray such as creosote – the area to be treated was 1,700 square yards and the estimated cost was £70. One question that was solved was the issue of the visibility of trolley buses from the air during darkness. An RAF officer reported that although flashes from buses were visible, they were not bright enough or frequent enough to constitute a danger. They were not visible at all above 5,000 feet. As a result it was decided to keep the buses running at night.

The case of evacuated children from Ilford has already been mentioned (Ipswich – 1939). With no bombing raids, all had returned back to London by May 17th. On the invasion of France thoughts turned to evacuating the Ipswich population. On Jun 5th the Ipswich & District teachers Association offered their services should children need to be evacuated. However not much was done until the September Invasion scare. On Sep 9th a plan for evacuating the civil population was drawn up. Bed ridden people were evacuated to Bedfordshire while plans were put in place for evacuation of the general population by bus. It was not desired to have anyone settle anywhere east of Bury St Edmunds. The Committee was urged by the Regional Commissioner’s Office on Sept 15th to speed up evacuation. It was agreed to send all school children home on the morning of Sept 16th at 9am with an invite to parents to attend meetings to urge them to evacuate their children. The Ministry of Health arranged for a train to run from Ipswich to Loughborough at 12 noon on Sept 18th for evacuees.

A question arose to the evacuation of inmates at mental institutions – it was noted that the Deputy Commissioner had stated that such inmates were not to be evacuated.

A problem that arose due to the evacuation was the increase in the number of stray cats and dogs as a result of abandoned pets. The grant to the RSPCA was increased to deal with this.

With the immediate invasion threat over by October, the Regional Commissioner relaxed restrictions on movements in coastal districts during the hours of darkness. As a result the Committee enquired into the possibility of evacuees retuning and by November large numbers were returning.

The invasion threat also saw anti-invasion measures feature in the Committee minutes. During June the matter was raised that Gippeswyk Park was a likely landing place for enemy aircraft. The matter was referred to the Borough Surveyor who was to organize some sort of obstruction. Similar concerns were expressed with other parks / open spaces. The minutes do not detail if, or what, works were carried out although the entry for Jun 13th which notes that the Mayor was not satisfied with arrangements taken at Chantry or Gippeswyk Park do prove that some work was carried out.

On Jun 17th it was agreed to delete the word ‘Ipswich’ from all ARP vans, House Agents boards and school signs. Also all school playing fields should have obstacles placed on them to prevent enemy planes and paratroops from landing.

On Sep 20th the Borough Surveyor reported on defense works constructed on Corporation land on which compensation could be claimed. These included “16 barricades of concrete tubes and 16 concrete pillboxes on public roads” and “18 concrete pillboxes on open spaces, allotments etc accompanied in some cases by trenches”.

Finally a slightly odd entry to end on – Major Pearce of 32nd (AA) Battery enquired whether his lorries could be parked in a car park without fee. The Committee noted “this did not appear to be practicable” and suggested to the Major he contact Cobbold & Co about parking on land in front of the Saracen’s Head!


Ipswich Emergency Committee Minutes, SRO


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