yeovil at war

Air raid precautions wardens

Later part of 'Civil Defence'



In September 1935, local authorities were encouraged to organise Air Raid Precautions (ARP). In April 1937, an Air Raid Warden Service was created and by the middle of 1938 this had some 2,000 recruits. By September 1939 there were more than 1.5 million ARP Wardens nationwide. Women as well as men joined the emergency services as an ARP warden.

The ARP was responsible for the issuing of gas masks, pre-fabricated air raid shelters (such as Morrison shelters and Anderson shelters), the upkeep of local public shelters and the maintenance of the blackout. The ARP also helped rescue people after air raids and other attacks, and some women became ARP Ambulance Attendants whose job was to help administer first aid to casualties, search for survivors, and sometimes help recover bodies.

At the start of the War, before uniforms had been issued, ARP Wardens wore their own clothes, plus a steel helmet and wellington boots. They also wore a locally produced armband and a silver badge - as in the centre poster at left. The bottom photograph at left is my granddad's hallmarked silver ARP badge - I used to have his steel helmet with the 'W' on it which I wore as a young lad when playing 'war' with my friends in the early 1950's.

Later in the War they wore a one-piece boiler suit in dark blue with their steel helmet and wellingtons - as in the lower poster at left. The rubber Wellington boots were worn as protection in case mustard gas was used. Men could wear a woolen serge battledress (waist length jacket and trousers). Women wore a jacket with trousers or a skirt and a battledress blouse and tie. An ARP warden had to carry three electric torches, three whistles, two hand rattles and a bell.

Many ARP Wardens were volunteers and had to use their own coupons to get their uniforms. There were around 1.4 million ARP wardens in Britain during the war, almost all unpaid part-time volunteers who also held day-time jobs. Initially, wardens were expected to be on duty three nights a week, but this increased as the bombings grew worse.

The Civil Defence Service was a civilian volunteer organisation established by the Home Office in 1935. In 1941 the Civil Defence replaced the pre-existing ARP. The Civil Defence Service from this time onwards included the pre-existing ARP as well as wardens, the Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS), latterly the National Fire Service (NFS), fire watchers, rescue, first aid post, stretcher parties, etc.

Members of the various services were issued with service gas masks and helmets - often marked with an abbreviation of their specific role. For example, W for Warden, FAP for First Aid Post, SP for Stretcher Party or FG for Fire Guard. Over 1.9 million people served within the CD and nearly 2,400 lost their lives to enemy action. The Civil Defence Service was disbanded on 2 May 1945.



Courtesy of Jack Sweet

Every household was notified of the name and address of their local ARP warden and their closest ARP Post with a card like this.


Courtesy of Chris Priddle

Wilfred A Brooks and his daughter Joyce (Chris's grandfather and mother) photographed in their ARP uniforms on the corner of North Terrace and Grass Royal - not too far from, home since Wilfred was the owner of the Grass Royal fish & chip shop.


Yeovil Air Raid Wardens of ARP Warden's Post 'K', Highfield Road (see below) pose for a (colourised) photograph. Note the man at extreme right wearing a one-piece issue boiler suit in dark blue and a couple of pairs of Wellington boots being worn in the front row. And only one lady!

The name of just one person in this photo is known - Ernest Harold Waddleton - at top right in civvies. Can you name anyone else?


In Yeovil there were several ARP Warden's posts. Details of the known posts are as follows -

ARP Warden's Post, Westfield Hotel, Stiby Road - Post C
A warden's post for twenty four wardens, designated as Post C, was established behind the garden of the house in Stiby Road immediately north of the Westfield Hotel.

ARP Warden's Post 85 Ilchester Road - Post E
The Old Cottage, Ilchester Road, Yeovil. During World War 2 a warden's post for twelve wardens was established here in a building which was specially strengthened for this role. It was designated as Post E.

ARP Warden's Post, Queensway Place - Post G
An ARP Warden's Post was established at Seaton's Garage, Clarence Street, during World War Two. The post was 'Post G'. The garage no longer exists, the area having been redeveloped.

Warden's Post, 11 Vicarage Walk - Post H
A warden's post was established 11 Vicarage Street, Yeovil. It was designated as Post H. It was adjacent to the Borough Council Yard.

ARP Warden's Post, Sparrow Road recreation ground - Post J
A warden's post for twelve wardens, designated as Post J, was located on the recreation ground in Sparrow Road and backed onto gardens in Goldcroft.

ARP Warden's Post, Highfield Road - Post K
A warden's post for eighteen wardens, designated as Post K, was located on the western side of Highfield Road, just north of King Street.

ARP Warden's Post, adjacent to 125 St Michael's Avenue - Post L
A warden's post for twelve wardens, designated as Post L was located on land adjacent to No 125 St Michael's Avenue.

ARP Warden's Post, St Michael's Avenue - Post M
A warden's post for twelve wardens, designated as Post M, was located on the western side of St Michael's Avenue, about 200 yards south of the junction with Mudford Road.

ARP Warden's Post, recreation ground behind Rosebery Avenue - Post O
A warden's post for twelve wardens, designated as Post O, was located in the recreation ground entered from Rosebery Avenue opposite Monmouth Road.

ARP Warden's Post, allotments behind the Royal Marine PH - Post P
A warden's post for twelve wardens, designated as Post P, was located on the right immediately on entering the allotments behind the Royal Marine pub in Great Western Terrace. There is a brick building at the site but I'm pretty sure this is later.

ARP Warden's Post, corner of West Street and Huish - Post R
A warden's post for twenty four wardens, designated as Post R, was located on the western side of West Street, close to its junction with Huish.

ARP Warden's Post, West Coker Road - Post U
A warden's post for twelve wardens, designated as Post U, was located on the western side of West Coker Road, opposite Windermere Close.


Courtesy of Jack Sweet

 ARP Wardens of Post U, West Coker Road.


Courtesy of Jack Sweet

A colourised photograph of an informal gathering of the ARP Wardens of Post U, West Coker Road, and their wives.

Those who are known are -
Back row: Percy Atkins (4th in from left) and Bert Beale (far right).
Middle row: Percy Atkins' wife (6th from left) and Kathleen Beale née Sartin (4th in from right).