Air Raid Precautions ARP:

Horace (Uncle Jack) Barnes in ARP uniform

1938 ARP Ladies (as denoted by the pin) badge made by the Royal Mint in .925 silver. It is stamped with the London assay mark (the leopards head) and carries the date letter 'C'. Rollover image to see the back of the badge.
1939 ARP lapel badge of .925 made by the Royal Mint. It has the date letter 'D'. Rollover image to see the back of the badge.


The ARP badges were issued after the completion of training and first appeared in 1937 (although some are hallmarked with the 1936 date code) and produced until 1943. They were made of .925 silver up until 1940 after which time they were made of a white metal. From 1941 it was permitted to wear them as a cap badge when the wearer was in uniform.  There were complaints that the badges were too big and smaller versions were made, some in red and blue enamel. Both versions were initially in silver. The badges pictured above are from my medal and badge collection. The larger badges measure one and one half inches (38mm) from top to bottom. Soon after war was declared the ARP service was renamed as "Civil Defence General Services" and the term ARP was phased out from 1941.

Exactly when Uncle Jack joined the ARP is not known, but as his uniform (incidentally based on the British Army battledress but with the jacket and trousers joined together) displays the ARP patch and not the CD patch it must have been before the war or at the start of the war. Although the battledress uniform was not introduced until after the ARP service was renamed as the "Civil Defence General Service" those members that had joined the ARP were permitted to wear an ARP patch. The CD patch was worn by those that had joined later.

Aware of the dangers of an attack on Britain, successive governments had, from 1924 started to make plans for the defence of the civilian population if the unthinkable should happen - another European war. London had been bombed between 1916 and 1918 by German Zeppelins and Gotha bombers. In 103 bombing raids, 1,413 civilians were killed and 3,407 were injured. A sub-committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence had been set up in 1924 to deal with Air Raid Precautions (ARP) and was transferred on the 9th July 1935 to the Home Office.

In September 1935, the British Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, published a circular entitled Air Raid Precautions, inviting local authorities to make plans to protect their people in event of a war. Some towns responded by arranging the building of public air raid shelters. These shelters were built of brick with roofs of reinforced concrete. However, some local authorities ignored the circular (local authorities thought funding should come from government) and in April 1937 the government decided to create an Air Raid Wardens' Service and in January 1938 the ARP Act came into force compelling local authorities to create Air Raid Precaution schemes - central government contributing between 60 - 75% of the costs. During the year the ARP service recruited around 200,000 volunteers.

In September 1938 (the Munich Crisis) the British government began to fear a war with Nazi Germany and Neville Chamberlain ordered that Air Raid Precautions (ARP) volunteers to be mobilized. Cellars and basements were requisitioned for air raid shelters and trenches were dug in the parks of large towns. The government also ordered the flying of barrage balloons over London. In November 1938, Chamberlain placed Sir John Anderson in charge of the ARP. He immediately commissioned the engineer, William Patterson, to design a small and cheap shelter that could be erected in people's gardens. Within a few months nearly one and a half million of these Anderson Shelters were distributed to people living in areas expected to be bombed by the Luftwaffe. Made from six curved sheets bolted together at the top, with steel plates at either end, and measuring 6ft 6in by 4ft 6in (1.95m by 1.35m) the shelter could accommodate six people. These shelters were half buried in the ground with earth heaped on top. The entrance was protected by a steel shield and an earthen blast wall. Anderson shelters were given free to poor people. Men who earned more than 5 a week could buy one for 7. Soon after the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, over 2 million families had shelters in their garden. By the time of the Blitz this had risen to two and a quarter million.

During World War Two Britain was served by 1.9 million wardens (including boys and girls between 15 and 18). Their work was essential and often dangerous; they provided help following bombing raids, rescuing people and looking after them until the emergency services arrived and they would demolish buildings rendered unsafe by bombing.  They enforced the night-time 'black-out' and supervised air-raid shelters. Over 7, 000 Civil Defence volunteers gave their lives during World War Two. As a result of the heroic actions performed by the ARP/CD volunteers that the King instituted a new medal, the George Cross for bravery.

1939 hallmarked ARP lapel badge shown with later, much smaller non-silver lapel badge.
Reproduction ARP breast patch (as seen in the photograph of Horace Barnes), provided by Monty's Locker (link will open in a new window). 

Original Bakelite ARP Wardens' Post sign
From my own collection.

The Civil Defence Service was disbanded in 1945, but in 1948, due in some part to the threat of nuclear war, the Civil Defence Corps was formed. The Civil Defence Corps was in turn stood down in 1968 by Prime Minister Harold Wilson - a money saving exercise.

Today, voluntary organisations such as the British Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Age Concern and many, many others provide the services previously provided by the government sponsored Civil Defence organisations.

ARP Whistle by J Hudson of Birmingham
From my own collection


Robinson's Jam Golly "ARW" Badge 1998
From my own collection.