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Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow

Civil Defence Association


George Cross

Civil Defence Volunteers 1935 - 1945

On 9 July, 1935, the Home Office, the government department charged with public protection, issued the First Circular on Air Raid Precautions (ARP). Shortly after, the local authorities start setting up and recruiting their ARP Services. In December 1937, the ARP Act was passed so that from 1 January 1938, running the ARP Services became compulsory for local authorities rather than the Home Office.

Soon after war was declared on 3 September, 1939, 'ARP' became 'Civil Defence General Services' and volunteer recruitment rose to a maximum of 1,900,000 men, women and included boys and girls between the ages of 15 and 18 years.

They were engaged in such duties as:

Wardens - responsible for providing advice and guidance on air raid precautions to the local community in their area, and for reporting damage and casualties to their local authority civil defence control centre.

Rescue - responsible for the extrication of victims trapped by bomb damage.

First Aid - provision of immediate first aid to casualties caused by air raids.

Welfare - this role was mainly undertaken by the Women’s Voluntary Service and involved the manning of rest centres and emergency feeding.

Firewatchers - observe and report the use of incendiaries by bombers.

Messengers - this role was mainly undertaken by boys and girls, in particular members of youth organisations such as the Church Lads’ Brigade, Boys’ Brigade, Jewish Lads’ Brigade, Scouts, and others. They took written messages between wardens posts and the local authority civil defence control centre.

During the air raids many acts of bravery were carried out, and a number of volunteers received awards including the George Cross, the George Medal, King’s Commendations for Brave Conduct, and many others.

Sadly, over 7,000 Civil Defence volunteers gave their lives during World War Two.