1939 - ARP and Fire Watchers

Air Raid Precautions

The Air Raid Precautions (ARP) Wardens were responsible for the issuing and testing of respirators (gas masks), the upkeep of public air raid shelters and maintenance of the blackout (imposed from 1st September 1939 until April 1945). They also helped rescue those trapped after the raids. The wardens were part-time volunteers who had day jobs (usually reserved occupations).

Their uniform consisted of overalls, ARP armband and a black steel helmet with a white W (chief wardens had a black W on white helmets).

In Chelveston, George Edward Brittin, a farmer, was the ARP warden. He carried out an inspection of the villager's respirators on the evenings of 6th & 7th March 1941 in the Village Institute.

In 1941, the ARP became part of the Civil Defence Service, though maintained its own identity during the war. The ARP uniform changed to the dark blue battledress of the Civil Defence.

In May 1942, the Parish Council enquired about the District Council's provision of domestic air raid shelters, and was advised that only the dwellings in Caldecott would be eligible for consideration.

There are no records of any bombs falling on Chelveston, though the proximity of the airfield would have required the blackout regulations to be rigorously enforced.

Fire Watchers

The Fire Watchers were set up by the Fire Watchers Order in September 1940, which could require men to watch for fires for up to 48 hours per month. They were renamed as the Fire Watchers Service in January 1941 and then renamed again as the Fire Guards in August 1941 when they became part of the Civil Defence Service.

"The duty of a Fire Guard is to take turns in watching for the fall of fire bombs; to warn the neighbourhood when they fall in the area for which he is responsible; to help promptly to control them and thus to prevent small fires from becoming big fires; and to fit himself by training to perform the work efficiently.

It is work which sometimes requires courage and endurance; it involves the sacrifice of time that can sometimes be ill spared, and often entails a great deal of tedious waiting and watching; but it is work which must be done if the homes and industries of the Nation are to be saved ..."

Extract from The Fire Guard's handbook. HMSO. 1942.

They monitored the fall of incendiary bombs and reported them to the fire service. Armed with a stirrup pump and a spade, they could deal with a single magnesium "electron" incendiary bomb (B-1E Elektronbrandbombe or Stabbrandbombess) by dousing it with water or smoothing it with sand or earth. They wore the blue battledress of the Civil Defence, but had the white letters FG on their steel helmets.

Mr W S Abrahams, of Apiary Cottage, ran the Chelveston Fire Watchers and in April 1941 asked if they could use the Village Institute as their HQ. However, the Home Guard already had use of the building for their drill nights, so instead their HQ was set up in an unused Alms House in May 1941 (by 1945 this had been converted into the village Buffer Store - an emergency food store for use in the event being cut off).

Also in April 1941 he asked the Parish Council for a supply of sand, however the Clerk responded that the cost of any equipment would have to be funded by the parishioners themselves!

There are no records of any incendiary bombs falling on Chelveston.