Ipswich 1941

By 1941 all the ARP services were up and running and the Committee minutes mainly deal with the administration of the various services. Such matters included the provision of equipment, clothing and canteen services and to dealing with disputes within individual services (especially the ARP Wardens). For example the Committee agreed to issue steel helmets to trolley bus drivers (but did refuse a request by the Turret Green Baptist Church that its minister be provided a steel helmet with a cross on it). The Committee also agreed to provide new uniforms for First Aid Parties and Rescue Parties as recommended by the Ministry of Home Security. On the whole, reports after air raids suggested that the ARP services were working well together.

One particular issue that continued to cause problems was fire watching. The Committee, which advised on fire watching schemes, had to continually remind commercial property owners that any scheme they devised could not replace the obligation upon the owners of certain premises to appoint a fire watcher. The legal obligation upon business premises was further increased with the Fire Prevention (Business Premises) Order, 1941 which the Committee received notification of through the Office of the Regional Commissioner on Jan 21st. The Corporation itself instructed each of its establishments to appoint fire watchers with a rate of pay of 10/10d per night. By March many fire watching schemes were in place and the Borough Surveyor was advising on the erection of hutting for watchers (to ensure no bye-laws were infringed) or the exemption from rates for buildings used by watchers.

On Jun 10th the Committee received a circular from the Office of the Regional Commissioner relaxing the duties under the Fire Prevention Order during daylight. At first the Committee decided not to take the initiative to adopt the circular as policy but when individual businesses began to question the situation, it decided to advertise the relaxing of the restrictions.

There is evidence that the Committee experienced a shortage of fire fighters – reference is made to expenses totaling £39.2.0 for the transport by coach and lodging for 60 firemen from London in the minutes of Jan 19th.

Measures were also put in place to train supplementary fire parties. Some questions arose during one such training exercise and the Committee agreed to insert an article in the press dealing with ladders, access to roofs and the use of garden hoses.

The Committee was also occupied with measures to deal with incendiary bombs for householders. On Jan 3rd the Committee discussed a proposal to deliver sandbags to every household to deal with these bombs. The Borough surveyor estimated 90,000 sandbags would be required in which there was apparently an adequate supply at the store in Orchard Street. A partially filled sandbag would be delivered to each household along with a leaflet instructing the householder to approach an incendiary bomb holding the sandbag in front of their face and then dropping it on the bomb. The estimated cost of delivering the sandbag and leaflet was £500. The Committee continued to organize the supply of stirrup pumps (e.g. the Committee agreed to supply pumps to fire parties on the Primary Heath Estate on the request of the Deben Rural District Council).

  Above: Dealing with an incendiary bomb - Fire Guards Handbook

Along with householders, the Committee also agreed to supply each trolley bus with two bags of sand.

On Jan 13th the Chief Officer of the Fire Brigade requested that the Broom Hill swimming baths should be kept full. On Feb 14th the Committee agreed to purchase 2,000 petrol cans for firewatchers. On Jun 6th the Committee agreed to Fire Brigade proposals to establish an emergency water section with its HQ at Cavendish Street School.

Ensuring that the various ARP services could continue to function in the event of a serious air raid was of key concern to the Committee. On Jan 13th the Committee discussed what to do in the event of the Control Centre being disabled during a raid. The best approach considered was to set up an Administrative Centre in the Bramford Road area (preferably Bramford Road School). The Committee was in dispute with the Post Office on the location of its emergency exchange at Museum Street – the Committee wanted the exchange further out of town. The matter was referred to the Regional Commissioner but his decision is not recorded in the minutes. It was also recognized that runners would be needed if communications broke down – 150 had been enrolled by Jan 20th.

Another problem which taxed the Committee was businesses choking the communications of the Control Center during a raid. The Committee agreed to approach the Chamber of Commerce and emphasize that their members were not to contact the Centre with general enquiries and also to instruct Centre staff not to answer them.

In the event of a serious raid, the radial roads (Henley Road, Westerfield Rod and Tuddenham Road) were agreed as a suitable rendezvous for the ARP services.

The Committee also discussed the event in early Jan where a lone raider dropped a bomb in Fletcher Road. Untrained people attempted rescue before the arrival of the Rescue Squad. Similar problems had also been experienced with ambulance work. The Committee decided no effective steps could be taken to prevent this.

Air raid shelters featured regularly in the Committee’s minutes. On Jan 8th the Committee was notified of a further delivery of 600 Anderson Shelters along with extension sheets for a further 450 small shelters. On 21st Feb the Committee received notification from the Ministry of Health that bunks would be provided for Anderson shelters, but only to full size shelters. The Committee decided to invite application for these bunks by placing an advertisement.

The programme of extending Anderson shelters seems to not have met the required demand. The Borough Surveyor estimated 8,000 extensions were required of which by Mar 13th 1,500 had been allotted and the rate of erection was 15 per day. Work was still being carried out right up to Nov to enlarge Anderson shelters as is shown by a letter received from the Principal Clerk (Cambridge) drawing attention for the need for baffles in front of Anderson Shelters. The Borough Surveyor estimated a need for 45,000 sandbags to replace baffle walls, which had to be removed when extending shelters.

Due to the continuing shortage of Anderson shelters, on Jan 20th the Borough Surveyor proposed Communal surface shelters in the Victoria Street, Wellington Street and Cumberland Street areas at an estimated cost of £2,840. Work was also under way to salvage Anderson shelters no longer in use. For example, in May, No’s 6/8 Romney Road were demolished in an air raid but the Anderson shelters were still intact. The Committee agreed to salvage these plus any others that remained intact where houses had been demolished. To ease the problem of shortage of shelters for domestic houses, the Morrison shelter (or ‘Table Shelter’) was introduced in 1941. The Committee inquired if these would be made available to the Borough of Ipswich, especially for those households which did not have the space or suitable ground conditions for Anderson shelters. On Jun 30th the committee was informed that no more Anderson shelters would be issued to the Borough but up to 1,000 Morrison shelters may be available. It was decided to give priority to households whose premises were deemed unsuitable for Anderson shelters.

 Above: Left - Morrison Shelter in use. Middle - alternative use for the shelter! Right - drawing of a Morrsion Shelter c.1941

As well as household shelters, the Committee also had to deal with issues relating to the Communal Domestic Surface shelters. On Feb 7th the Borough Surveyor reported that outer walls for these shelters now had to have 13 ½ inch thick brickwork instead of 9 inches. This increased the estimated cost for the shelters in Victoria Street, Cumberland Street and Wellington Street from £2,840 to £4,265. Existing shelters could be eligible for Government funding – on Aug 22nd the Borough Surveyor reported seven shelters were eligible to be strengthened at a cost of £1,000 each in accordance with circular 290/1940. These works were expected to take 12 months and Morrison shelters were to be issued to affected householders.

Concrete lined trench shelters were also subject to Government funding for strengthening works, and as a result this work was to be carried out on these trenches at a cost of £1,020. Other trench shelters which had not been constructed to a satisfactory standard in the first place would not be eligible for the support – the Committee decided not to follow up on these ones. Timber lined shelters (of which there were about 43) were also considered for reconstruction using modern methods of air raid trench construction provided the Government met the cost.

In order to try and increase the number of available public shelters in the town centre, the Committee wrote to principal commercial places in the town centre asking if their shelters could be opened up during the weekend. Many stores apparently objected to this, for example both British Home Stores and Woolworths & Co pointed out that if their shelters were made available to the public, their stocks would be unprotected. Two schemes for deep shelters were also considered – one at Pipers Vale Estate at an estimated cost of £14,500 and one at Alexander Park. The one at Alexander Park was certainly turned down by the Office of the Regional Commissioner but the decision on the shelter at Pipers vale is not recorded in the minutes.

Shelters for Civil Defence Posts were also improved. The First Aid Post at 18 Orford Street had the basement strengthened for 20 male personnel at a cost of £35 and part of the building was converted to a surface shelter for 20 female personnel at a cost of £100. A reinforced concrete post was proposed at the Felixstowe Road post at an estimated cost of £160.

The Committee was keen to utilize the Stoke Hall Vaults as an air raid shelter. The Office of the Regional Commissioner had graved doubts about this, primarily concerns with ventilation and heating. However following a meeting with Col. Haywood, Divisional Inspector of the Ministry of Health and Mr. Norris, technical advisor the proposal was agreed.

Other problems that cropped up with shelters included access (e.g. the road leading to the shelter at Woodbridge Road was churned up by vehicles rendering the shelter useless) and sanitation. On Jan 21st the Medical Officer was advised to arrange for the supervision of shelters for infectious disease, vermin and sanitation.

Gas decontamination was also considered. The Borough Surveyor proposed additional supplementary cleansing shelters at North Eastern Senior Boys & Girls School, the Western Senior School, the E.I & J Sports Pavilion, Churchman’s Sports Pavilion, St Matthew’s Baths and Northgate School. The Committee also asked the Laundries Association to send a deputation to discuss the question of using laundries for cleansing contaminated clothing. They attended on Mar 11th and were willing to assist. But they did point out that despite Government statements that decontamination would not affect laundry machinery, the laundrymen contended that grease at the bearings and also other parts would retain contamination. A supply of gas curtains was also received for air raid shelters.

Dealing with bombed out people was also a frequent subject for the Committee. On 21 Feb a plan from the Regional Commissioner’s office for temporary hutting was discussed – the committee decided to point out to the Commissioner that the suggestions locations were unsuitable; Red House Park was under pasture and Castle Hill and Highfield Estates under cultivation. A list of suitable builders was drawn up who could be used for “First Aid” repairs to buildings. A third canvass was sent out encouraging householders to make mutual aid pacts. An enlarged list of food and rest centers was also drawn up on the request of the Ministry of Health – most were to be in school premises. Arrangements had to be made to blacking out these schools.

Other matters considered in the event of a severe raid included the question of Doctors Surgeries. If some were put out of action the Committee considered an emergency surgery. However doctors already had mutual assistance agreements. Arrangements were also drawn up for temporary shopping premises for essential supplies following a severe raid.

If communal feeding was ordered by the Ministry of Food or the Regional Commissioner, the Committee decided to use Tower Ramparts. Other food matters including resisting plans submitted by the War Agricultural Executive Committee to plough up Chantry, Bourne and Gippeswyk Parks.
Voluntary evacuation continued throughout 1941. By May 16th a total of 881 had been evacuated. The committee also continued to draw up plans should a compulsory evacuation be ordered.

The only military matter that is recorded in the minutes regarded the case of the Deputy Mayor who collided with the pillbox at Rushmere while driving at night. The Chief Constable was in conversation with the military authorities as a result re providing lighting for pillboxes! Some temporary lighting was arranged at road barriers at least.

There were still issues surrounding air raid sirens with many still complaining about not getting an “alarm”. Three centralized control systems were considered – the “Spotter” system, the “Cuckoo” system and “Ripplay” system. Metropolitan Vickers Electrical Co Ltd, who produced the "Ripplay" system stated they could have it installed in 22 weeks. But in the end the Committee decided to use the "Cuckoo" system although it not be until Dec 1942 that this system was finally installed!

Reference:
Ipswich Emergency Committee Minutes, SRO

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