Problems with the centrally controlled siren system “Cuckoo” continued throughout the year. A test on Jan 11th resulted in the sirens being heard in some areas but not others. The cause was found to be faulty relays. On a test on Feb 22nd the Boyton Road siren failed and a strong westerly wind favoured some sirens being heard and reduced the sounds of others.
A further problem was discussed on a Committee meeting on Mar 10th – there were problems in getting a clear cut signal due to the overlapping of sounds from varying distances. Tests had revealed that a one second note followed by a three second gap was the best method of dealing with the problem of travel of sound from various sirens as heard at a given point. The signal, originally set for 30 seconds was increased to 40 seconds. The signal had been shortened as much as possible to assist in raid spotting and observation (for example a common problem of both a long signal and non centralized sirens sounding over a period of minutes was that sound locators were completely blanketed out and often could only be used again when the raiders had passed). The increase of the signal to 40 seconds was not considered to further interrupt raid spotting.
These problems were to some extent expected as Ipswich was the first place to use as many as 15 sirens with “Cuckoo” adaptors – Lowestoft for example only had six. However it seems that things were finally working well by the middle of the year – the Committee received several letters regarding the benefit of the preliminary “Cuckoo” alarm on the morning of a raid on Jun 2nd.
Air raid shelters continued to feature throughout the year. Work continued on strengthening existing shelters – for e.g. the Borough Surveyor submitted plans for the strengthening of domestic surface shelters in Stoke at a cost of £1,591.8.10 which would be re-imburssed by the Government. Plans were also suggested for repairs to public trench shelters, including tarring the roof to make them water-tight.
It was agreed that keys no longer needed to be kept at the entrance to school shelters if they had a resident caretaker who could open the gates on an “Alarm”.
Rats were a problem in the Central Cinema shelter. Other problems including continued damage to school trench shelters and also the theft of light bulbs at the trenches at Central Senior Boys Schools trench shelter during February. An increasing number of complaints were being received about shelters being used for “immoral” purposes. On Nov 11th concern was expressed about the practice for men to congregate at the entrance of the Stoke Hall Vaults shelter on the “Alert” and only taking cover when gunfire started. It was agreed to place warnings at all public air raid shelters against this.
A Ministry of Health circular on the potential of cut and run raids scoring a hit on a cinema or other public place had to be dealt with – this proposed a reserve of coffins to be available and the Committee agreed to adopt this measure.
There were two major reorganizations of the Civil Defence Services during the year. During May the Rescue and First Aid Parties were amalgamated (per Ministry of Home Security Cicular No 16/1943) but perhaps the biggest change was in Fire Watching. Up until the start of 1943 the Fire Watching service was largely run by the Warden’s Service but in May it was finally decided to divorce the two services in line with official policy (Circular 23/1943).
A Fire Guard Officer, Mr. Bates, was appointed on a probationary salary of £350 for six months, increasing to £400 if confirmed in the appointment. A Deputy Fire Officer, Mr. Robinson, was appointed on a salary of £275.
The Fire Guard Officer was tasked with drawing up a Fire Guard plan as specified in a Circular from the Regional Commissioner. The new organization was to be based around 122 sectors in the residential parts, each sector comprising of four to six streets, and 28 sectors in the business premises areas comprising of two to four blocks in each sector. A total of 10 Fire Guard Area Officers were appointed (four for the business areas and six for the residential areas). The difference in pay scale, which was set by Government, caused some resentment in Wardens.
On Nov 4th, Mr. Bates also proposed the following arrangements for the Fire Guard organization:
(1) All sector points in the business premises areas to be manned on “Alert” when the Fire Guard Plan comes into operation.
(2) The ‘Wakeful’ Watch, as introduced by the Eastern Regional Circular 96/1943 to continue throughout the night in business premises (‘Wakeful Watch’ was relaxed in December).
(3) In the residential street sectors, one member of each duty team to go out on patrol on the “Alert”
(4) Sector and assembly areas in residential street areas to be manned on gunfire or enemy action
(5) Relaxation of Watch duty in business premises areas during daylight on Sundays with one team to be “on call” and to report if there was an “Alert”.
It was hoped the new Fire Plan would be operational in Ipswich by Jan 1st 1944.
Above: Fire Guards with Stirrup pump
Another matter to be dealt with regarding Fire Watching was the repair of stirrup pumps – no proper organization was in place for this. Also the siting of wheel barrow pumps in relation to the static water tanks was to be addressed. Mr. Bates also estimated that 10,000 Fire Guards would need to be trained to deal with incendiary bombs and that further smoke rooms would be needed for training.
The housing supply in the Borough was partly affected by the emergency arrangements in place. The Housing and Town Planning Committee wanted to secure further housing as a large number of people were on the waiting list. It proposed three courses of action:
(1) For the Emergency Committee to release houses it was holding for bombed out families.
(2) For the Military Authorities to relinquish Corporation Housing.
(3) For the Town Clerk to requisition privately owned empty houses.
As a result the Committee decided to release 10 of the houses it was holding for bombed out families leaving 40 still retained for this purpose.
Housing was again considered following a raid on Nov 11th and is interesting as it shows the problems faced. During this raid 19 households had their houses completely demolished, 50 households would require repairs to their houses which would take approx. three months to repair and 30 households where repairs would take over six months. All were in temporary billets. There were 27 houses in hand which could be allocated at once and 12 houses in Reynolds Road which would be available in three weeks time on completion of repairs. It was decided to re-house the persons from demolished homes and those where repairs would take six months and to leave the rest in their billets.
Work also continued on Invasion planning. The Borough Surveyor submitted plans for the Stoke Hall Vaults to be fitted as an emergency casualty holding post during Invasion. An alternative Control Centre was to be sited within the Keep at “The Gables”, Henley Road, on Invasion. Plans were drawn up for mutual training of Civil Defence and Home Guard. The conclusions of one TEWT (Tactical Exercise Without Troops) on Oct 28th was that Civil Defence control should move to “The Gables” on “Action Stations” and that the Civil Co-ordinator would go to the Garrison HQ and would be the sole channel of communications between the military and Civil Defence. However some Invasion measures were being relaxed – in May it was agreed that the Borough Surveyor could remove and use wood in the Murray Road Recreation Ground, placed to prevent the landing of enemy aircraft.
The salvage of iron railings was still causing safety concerns, especially from certain piers in town where the mortar was disintegrating after removal of the railings. Several injuries had also been suffered, including children. The Town Clerk wrote to the Ministry of Works about the situation and received a reply intimating that the War Department in Cambridge had been instructed to remedy the defects in consultation with the Borough Surveyor.
Finally the Committee responded to a Circular from the Ministry of Health regarding the billeting of persons made homeless by the establishment of the Battle Training area at Orford, with the Committee’s opinion that it was undesirable to billet people in an evacuation area such as Ipswich.
Ipswich Emergency Committee Minute Notes, SRO