National Service

The Government Pamphlet ‘National Service’ – 1939, outlines the Air Raids Precautions Service with the following established branches:

(i) Air Raid Wardens

In urban areas it was anticipated that there would be a warden’s post of five or six wardens per 400 to 500 inhabitants. They would be responsible for keeping in touch with and giving advice to the inhabitants of their sector. They would normally be the first on the scene of any air raid damage and would be responsible for summoning the proper form of help.

Normally ARP Wardens would be over the age of 30. Training provided was anti-gas, elementary first aid and elementary fire training. It was expected that wardens would serve on a part time basis with a number of full time paid senior wardens.

(ii) Rescue and Demolition Parties

Rescue and Demolition Parties would take out casualties from damaged buildings, shore up or demolish damaged buildings and generally clear up debris from air raids. Physically fit men between the ages of 25 and 50 were wanted for this service, particularly labourers from the building trade.

(iii) First Aid parties

First Aid Parties would be responsible for giving first aid to casualties and acting as stretcher bearers. Training was provided by the local Council. In addition, St John’s Ambulance, St Andrew’s Ambulance Corps or the British Red Cross could offer the same service if men wished to join these organizations instead.

(iv) First Aid Posts

Persons in First Aid Posts would give minor treatment to casualties. It was expected most would be women between the age of 25 and 50. Training was provided free by the Council.

(v) Ambulance Drivers and Attendants

Drivers were wanted for the ambulances, vans and cars that would be used for casualties in war time. Most were expected to be women between the ages of 18 to 50.

(vi) Decontamination Squads

Decontamination squads would remove all traces of dangerous and persistent gas from the streets. Physically fit men between the ages of 25 and 50 were wanted. Training was to be provided.

(vii) Report Centers and Communications

Persons in Communication Centers would be responsible for passing on swiftly and accurately messages to the various ARP branches. It was expected that men over 45 and women over the age of 18 would be most suitable.

Men and women were wanted to serve in the various ARP branches. Most would be on a part time basis but some would be full-time paid basis during war. Training was provided and compensation was to be paid in respect of death or disablement in the course of duty.

Other opportunities for National Service included:

  Special Constabulary: Role to help the regular police force (in peace time as well as war time).

Royal Observer Corps: Part of the Special Constabulary and its function was to man observer posts for spotting aircraft in certain country districts and certain towns.

Auxiliary Fire Service: Role to augment the Fire Brigade, either by manning appliances at auxiliary fire stations, provide patrol units, drive lorries/vans and undertaking various roles at fire stations.

Women were also asked to register with either St John’s Ambulance, St Andrew’s Ambulance Corps or Red Cross to provide Nursing and First Aid. They could also register with the Women’s Voluntary Services for Civil Defence. This was a national organization to advise and enroll women in Civil Defence Work, either in the various ARP branches as outlined above or in other work, e.g., Nursing or Evacuation services.

Finally Women could also join the Women’s Land Army. This was a mobile force consisting of women willing to undertake all kinds of farm work in any part of the country. They were paid by the individual farmers but accommodation and welfare arrangements were maid by the organization.

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