Ipswich 1942

No doubt due to the formation of Invasion Committees in 1942, the Ipswich Emergency Committee undertook a fair amount of Invasion planning (although as yet I have not tracked down the joint Civil / Military Defence Scheme). On Jan 19th it was noted that the Home Guard had made arrangements to ring Church bells at Stoke Church, St John’s, Ipswich School, Cemetery Chapel and St Augustine’s in case of landing by parachutists. It was also suggested to train the Rescue and Decontamination Squads in the use of fire arms, but was decided that this was not feasible at the moment.

On Feb 23rd it was agreed that suitable large air raid shelters could be used as improvised casualty stations in the event of invasion.

On Mar 16th a conference was held on feeding the local population in the event of invasion. If invasion occurred without evacuation, it would be necessary to feed a population of approx 80,000. It was decided the best way to do this was to divide the town into zones of approx 4,500 people, each zone run by a Food Chief in touch with wholesalers and retailers. It was considered that stocks of food would be satisfactory with the exception of meat. It was agreed to try and increase the stocks of bully beef. If this was possible and evacuation did take place, then a proportion of these stocks should also be taken away on the evacuation trains.

The Borough Surveyor submitted plans to extend the mortuary accommodation at the cemetery and also plans for a second line mortuary in the barn at Holywells.

On May 18th the Medical Officer submitted a list of premises available for casualty centers. Many were already earmarked as Rest Centers. It was agreed that these premises could appear on both lists.

Possibly as a result of this Invasion planning, false rumours were going around about an evacuation. The Regional Commissioner forwarded a statement to the Committee he had agreed with the Home Secretary to dispel these fears and the Chief Constable arranged for its publication.

It would appear that there was a shortage of labour to complete Civil Defence projects – the Borough Surveyor had to submit a report to the Office of the Regional Commissioner on which projects had to be stopped owing to a shortage of labour.

Meanwhile work was also undertaken to solve more mundane but immediate problems. The winter was a cold one and there were concerns over the coal supply. It was reported that there were 800 tons at Derby Road Depot and 1500 tons at Ipswich Station. But a good proportion of this would be unavailable for use as it was stored on the ground and would require screening. The Committee agreed to supplement the coal stocks by purchasing 150 tons of wood fuel. Attempts were made to save on the use of coal – on Mar 11th the Committee referred to the Regional Authorities the question if it was necessary to continually burn coal in order to ensure an instant supply of hot water at gas cleansing stations. In order to ensure the same problems did not occur in the following winter, the Committee decided to order 200 tons of wood fuel to be delivered to the West End Road dump.

The Committee was also involved in the salvage of iron railings for the Ministry of Works and Buildings. Many property owners tried to gain exemption – for e.g. the Committee received a letter from the secretary of Stoke Green Chapel that the railings around the graveyards be left to keep out children and dogs. This was not considered a case the Committee could exempt on instructions laid down by the Ministry. Many people actually reconstructed their forecourt walls in the belief that they could claim compensation from the Government. The Mayor was asked to write to the local paper pointing out the futility of making such a claim. However some arrangements were made for walls left in a dangerous state after iron railing removal.

Further arrangements were also made for fire-fighting. On Feb 20th it was agreed to issue axes to every Depot Superintendent or Officer of similar rank in accordance with Home Office Circular 28/1942. Also to be issued to Fire Guards were head lamps and weather protective clothing. On Mar 13th a further 14 static water tanks were agreed at a cost of £2,006.40 with a further nine agreed on Oct 28th. The problem of taking Fire Watching duties seriously continued to cause concern – for e.g. it was found that watchers were absent during a raid on the Co-Op stores at Foxhall Road on Aug 5th.

The Borough Surveyor also obtained permission to purchase shovels, picks and spades for the Decontamination Squads in accordance with the latest handbook.

Work also continued on strengthening communal domestic surface shelters (for example in Fore Hamlet area at a cost of £640.9.2 and Crown Street for a cost of £972.16.10). Work to repair the damage caused to a shelter in Silent Street on Oct 12th 1941 cost £272.16.0

A lull in air raids in the first part of the year resulted in a drop in the number of people reported sleeping in shelters. A survey by the Chief Warden on the night of Jan 5th found a total of 35 adults and four children sleeping in public shelters out of a capacity for 13,258.

Air raids picked up again from June onwards. After a raid on Jun 12th the Education Committee approved gas instruction training for children aged 11 and over. After some fire damage caused by an incendiary bomb, it was decided to leave supplies of sand by the roadside were possible. At first these were just to be left in piles, but the Borough Surveyor reported objections to this and suggested leaving the sand in three ft lengths of concrete tubes, which was agreed by the Committee. Nacton Road Junior School was damaged in this raid and as it was a designated Rest Center a new one was established at the adjacent girl’s school.

Despite a pick up in air raids the Education Committee agreed to close school trench shelters out of hours due to damage caused by vandalism. As only three school shelters were still being used by the public, the Committee decided not to object to this. A succession of raids in August raised the question of access to school shelters again. It was now suggested that a key in a box with a glass front should be put in position near the gate to schools with air raid shelters to allow access out of hours.

The question of bunks for Anderson Shelters was also raised again. A survey to determine the number of bunks required estimated a need for 10,000. Only a small number of children’s bunks were in supply which was being delivered as quickly as possible. The Committee asked the Regional Authorities if any additional bunks would now be made available due to the change in circumstances.

Progress on a centrally controlled air raid siren continued but it would not be until December that installation would be complete. On Feb 21st the Minutes note that the cost of modifications to the siren system to adopt the “Cuckoo” system stood at £1,442 with an annual line rental to the Post Office of £308.13.9 and installation charges of £50. The Regional Commissioner approved the system on May 20th. On Jul 22nd the agreement with the PO was finally signed for the “Cuckoo” system. Work had begun to fit the overhead service lines to control the relays operating the sirens by Aug 7th. The Control Center was to be the police station. It was also agreed to arrange alternative power supplies from two sub-stations by inserting a relay which would select the sound power supply if one was interrupted. The Minutes note that the system was still not installed as at Oct 2nd. The PO reported they were waiting for internal supplies which should be available in two weeks time and installation would be a further three weeks. It was not until Dec 23rd that “Cuckoo” was finally installed and ready for testing. Some defects were noted in the test and also further tests were required to see if “Alarm” and “Release” could be discernable from “Alert” and “Raiders Past”.

Finally the Committee received notification on Sept 28th that Anderson Hours would come into operation for early closing on Nov 1st.

Reference: Ipswich Emergency Committee Minutes, SRO

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